PR Your Self delves into practices for earning media coverage without a Publicist
By Melissa A Vitale
It may be surprising to hear from a professional publicist who companies hire to execute and maintain campaigns that garner media attention that earning media coverage is actually very easy for entrepreneurs and startups even without a PR agency or freelance publicist. News publications get their classification because they cover what is new, exciting. The very existence of a successful startup that hasn't been featured before is newsworthy. Like the journalists who covered Apple or Microsoft in the 80s and 90s, editors and writers want to feature the latest solutions, technology or products on the market.
Earning one article about your company great, but I like to think of aiming for only a single article as playing checkers. Media relations plays Chess. Rather than focusing on placing one story about your company, prioritize creating a relationship with a journalist. The resulting coverage from a single relationship can be meaningful profiles, company announcements and thought leadership in industry-turning trend stories. Journalists often refer back to their own network for sources of insight or quotes in an article.
If you don't have any journalists in your network who covers your industry, don't worry! When I was growing up, I was given lectures by my parents, girl scout leaders, teachers, and even a priest who told us not to make friends on the internet. Now, I've made initial acquaintances with most of my colleagues and friends through online sources. Social media is your best friend for meeting new journalists and editors who could cover your company or expertise without a publicist. Almost all journalists have public social media handles for their writing, often aimed at keeping in touch with sources. Some journalists will immediately reach out if your social media bio raises their interest. Linking your companies handles, website and relevant awards always helps.
When you're reading an article about your industry or related to your expertise, especially if you think "Wow, I should've been in this article," find the journalist on social media. Most journalists have their social media profiles linked to their author page when you click on their byline in the article. Make it a practice to follow journalists whenever you read an article related to your industry. Journalists regularly make calls for commentary on stories they're working on. Even if they're not following you, they are often looking at their DMs and replies for new sources. This is a great way to start a long-lasting relationship.
Social media makes it easy to stay in touch with journalists and editors you've connected with. Unlike emails where you have to go out of your way to contact them and then wait for a response, with social media, their updates wind up on your feed. A quick like, comment or reply is an easy way to easily maintain a relationship. Once you've been doing this for a while, it gets easier to get a follow back. When editors and journalists see that other mutual connections following you, they assume you're an industry source and will immediately follow you back. Always send a quick introduction if they follow you back. You can send an intro without a followback, but they may not see it as their DMs are much like their email inboxes: full of cold outreach.
Like building any relationship, media relations takes time. It's unreasonable to think that following one editor on social media will lead to a report's-worth of press coverage. Take fifteen minutes today to find and follow ten key editors in your industry. Editors will often tweet out stories and tag the writers who wrote the story. Follow anyone relevant these new connections tweet about. Make it a point every quarter to follow ten to fifteen new media connections. Over time, you'll go from not knowing anyone who could cover your company, to having a soft or even a close relationship with a number of leading journalists who want to feature your brand.
After you've been covered in a published story, prioritize keeping in touch with a journalist; writers often tap their past interviewees first for new stories. Let these connections know about any launches you have coming up in advance in case they want to break the news or cover the launch. Bonus points if you meet up with your journalist connections for drinks or lunch a few months before the announcement; they will appreciate the special attention to the relationship. While social media is a great way to keep up with a journalists' achievements, those who will want to know about your company's news, won't like finding out with everyone else on social media. Make a point to tell them in advance; embargo if needed.
Before embarking on your social media relations journey, make sure you remember your etiquette 101. As stated above, journalists inboxes and DMs are often full of cold pitches. Avoid pitching them in their DMs. Start with an introduction to yourself, and an offer to support them on related articles. Ask them how they would like to receive company announcements or pitches from you. Respect their boundaries and if they don't respond, don't get disheartened. If you followed ten other people like I told you above, someone else will respond. In my experience, non-response is often due to missing the message or being too busy to respond, and they will usually respond well to a follow up at a later date.
It's easy to get attention around the initial launch and big announcements from an exciting startup. Day-to-day however, entrepreneurs typically don't have the time to constantly come up with new angles for the many journalists and editors who could cover your brand. Maintaining consistent media coverage can be a full time job. Once you've seen a slowdown of initial media coverage is a great time to speak with a publicist. Your brand will still be fresh enough in recent coverage and a publicist can come up with unique campaigns and angles to revive interest in your company, even without a launch.
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