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For You! Free Resources to Help You Do Your Own PR

With the holidays upon us, I thought about what I could give readers as a gift this season. What better than a list of my favorite resources, many of them free, that I often use and tout in my PR talks. If you’re interested in doing your own PR and are on a budget, check these out before spending any money on pricier solutions.

Here’s hoping they help you achieve great results with your PR efforts in the coming year! Happy holidays to all!

1) Free press release distribution services: If you need to distribute a press release, you may want to consider using what we in the biz call a wire service. There are MANY free wire services out there, but the two I use—and find get good results—are PRlog and PR.com. I use both in tandem. Here’s why: PRLog allows the use of links and even video within the release at no additional cost. PR.com gets the release on the search engines.

One additional note: Reporters who’ve seen a client’s release on PRlog have contacted me directly, so they DO work! If you have no budget for pricier services, this is the way to go.

And, if you do have budget to spend, PRWeb usually offers a discount on your first release. Look online for a $50 off code. PR Newswire is also good, but another notch up the ladder as far as pricing.

2) If you’re looking for editorial opportunities, there are a number of free resources to help you:

The most popular is probably HARO (Help a Reporter Out). This is completely free—and it works!! I’ve gotten my clients (and myself) in stories through HARO.

Founded by branding/PR expert Peter Shankman, here’s a description: Everyone’s an expert at something. Sharing your expertise may land you that big media opportunity you’ve been looking for.

Here’s how it works: Reporters who are looking for sources for their stories post opportunities that are then sent out a few times each day via email to HARO subscribers. You can follow the instructions to submit yourself as a source. There’s a deadline, so pay attention to that when responding. It’s best to read these as soon as they hit your mailbox and reply as quickly as possible, as they do receive many, many responses in some cases.

Two others I don’t use as often, but they are free, are PitchRate and SourceBottle.

3) Related to #2, if you’re in need of editorial calendar opportunities, you can try using Cision’s free ed cal site, http://us.cision.com/edcals/edcals.asp.

You may also visit each publication’s site. Many list their editorial calendar online (sometimes it can be found under “Advertising” or “Media Kit”), so it’s possible to build your own calendar of opportunities that may be a fit for free. Paid services (e.g. Myedcals) are also available: http://www.mymediainfo.com/myedcals.html

4) For awards and speaking opportunities, try ITDatabase’s TechCalendar, a great free resource geared toward the IT industry. You can sign up here: http://itdatabase.com. http://itdatabase.us1.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=e179f3d5fb981a768db456f5c&id=6a0dfa05f0

5) For research, use Google News or Bing News. Type in your company name or whatever search term you like and news stories will come up. I use these to track announcements made by my clients, as well as to do competitive research, all completely free!

For those on a budget—and so many smaller businesses are—these resources can definitely help get the job done. For more tricks, tips and helpful advice, keep following!

 

7 Ways to Think Like a Reporter

PR and communications pros have a lot of complaints about reporters. Rest assured that reporters have just as many complaints about them, if not more.

How can PR pros and communicators bridge the gap and make the relationship more harmonious? Thinking like a reporter is a good start.

reporterHere are seven ways to do just that.

1. Make the news your first priority. When PR pros pitch reporters, are we thinking about the news value of our pitch? Or are we just focusing on our product, service or company? If you can tie your pitch into a trend or a bigger story that goes beyond the product, you’ll increase your chances of grabbing the reporter’s eye. Always ask yourself what makes your story newsworthy.

2. Consider their deadlines. Reporters have deadlines every day. So when a reporter calls, do you get right back in touch, or do you wait a couple of hours, or worse, a couple of days? Do you ask what the reporter’s deadline is? When a journalist requests something, you need to make that your highest priority. You also need to train clients to share that mentality.

3. Prepare to answer requests. Speaking of getting right back to reporters, try to have what they might need before you reach out. That would include customer references, images, logos, and answers to questions about finances. Whatever it might be, marshal your resources so you’re ready to go.

4. Paint the picture. It’s a good idea to offer a reporter resources right up front to make it easy for them to write a complete story. Connect the dots by supplying a customer, an image, or an infographic that will make it a no-brainer for them. They are strapped for time and resources more now than ever, so filling in the gaps for them right up front will be appreciated.

5. Bend over backward for them. Reporters sometimes receive hundreds of pitches in a given day. Occasionally, their decisions for whom to contact are fairly arbitrary. So why not go the extra mile to make sure your client is the one who gets the interview? Adopt a service-oriented approach, treating the reporter as you would a client. Do they need a particular piece of data? Track it down for them. If they request a high-resolution image? Have it ready to send.

6. Understand the business. Sometimes, stories get superseded by other, more pressing news. It just happens, even when you have a great rapport with a reporter. While this may be frustrating, especially to clients, it’s part of the biz. Be patient and understanding. There are times when this is beyond the reporter’s control, so you have to roll with it. Never complain or pester them if your story is pushed out. Patience always wins the day.

7. Remember that stuff happens. There are times when a reporter does an interview and expresses interest in a story, but then nothing happens. For whatever reason, the story just doesn’t run. These are the times when you have to remember that the job of PR is opening the door. Perhaps the reporter will revisit the story or contact you for a different story six months or even a year down the road. One of your priorities needs to be opening the door and establishing the relationship, whether or not the payoff is immediate.

(Originally published on Ragan’s PR Daily)

Without Media Relations, Is It Really PR?

This post by Geoff Livingston caught my eye this week:

PR Cannot Escape Media Relations. In this post, Livingston talks about the inescapable connection between PR and media outreach and how some in the PR profession struggle with this.

This struck such a chord with me, because I, too, came to a point in my PR career when I was really resistant to continue doing media relations. I struggled with this—I’d really rather just write, I told a few trusted  PR-savvy colleagues. “Well, then, is that still PR?” some of them replied.

So, I took some time to think. When I looked closer at the needs of my clients, I began to realize what an integral part of PR media relations is. What did my clients really want, in many cases? Media coverage. And why? Because media coverage:

  • Adds to a company’s credibility
  • Raises visibility
  • Paves the way for your sales force
  • Is shareable
  • May be repurposed
  • Feeds content marketing

When you think about all that media coverage can do for a company, it makes sense that businesses are looking to include media outreach in their PR efforts.

So, instead of distancing myself from media relations, instead I embraced it. And what have I found over the years since? This has become a differentiator for me. I don’t how many PR pros I’ve met who say, “Oh, I don’t really do media relations.” Then, how can you call yourself a PR practitioner, I would ask. As Livingston mentioned, “You can run, but you can’t hide” from media relations.

Further, I get the impression that some PR practitioners tend to look down at media relations—almost as if it’s something beneath them. This was what I encountered when I worked at an agency, as well. The “smile and dial” approach was often used, which is probably why people didn’t enjoy doing it. And, it would be assigned to the most junior person on the team…further demeaning it and its value to the client. If this is the most important thing to the client, why would you look down on it and assign to a junior team member? If it’s so important, as Livingston points out, wouldn’t you want to assign to someone who has some experience and even skill doing it?

“I believe a media relations pro or agency that can open those doors and facilitate that story breakthrough is even more valuable today than ever before,” writes Livingston. “Practicing public relations without media relations is much like playing the lottery. Assuming the media will stumble upon your business story may as well be a raffle, one that loses probability every year.”

As long as media relations provides value to clients, it will continue to be a vital part of PR. “PR pros who no longer want to offer media relations could position their service offering a little differently. They can clearly offer marketing communications services, or social media marketing or simply content,” Livingston continues. I like this line of reasoning. And they can leave the media relations to those of us who understand its value and truly embrace it.

 

Proof Positive That Reporters Actually DO Use Press Releases

These days, it’s not uncommon to read about the supposed death of the press release. Interesting how some seem to want to see it go away, as it’s still widely used by reporters to prepare stories, especially now when we see so many staff cuts and even witness entire publications folding.

But, Business Wire, a leading news wire service, just published a report stating that 89 percent of reporters had used a press release within the last week. Hmmm….something doesn’t add up here!

That’s a LARGE percentage, no matter how you slice it. For any naysayers out there, this should be yet another proof point that press releases still play an important role in our PR programs. (See more here on my thoughts on this topic, in this article published on Ragan’s PR Daily.) While there are certainly best practices that should be applied so that releases are actually providing value to reporters, if anyone tells you they’re not vital to an effective PR effort, they’re just plain wrong.

The report went on to say that 75 percent of reporters prefer graphics/infographics be included in a press release, while more than 70 percent like photos to be added. And, almost 80 percent say they turn to a company’s online newsroom when researching a company or organization. Many companies don’t even have an online newsroom–meaning it’s time to add one!

So, the bottom line is this: The press release is, in fact, alive and well, and absolutely has its place in today’s PR world. Don’t overlook this important tool in your marketing and PR arsenal!

Does a Change of Season Signal a Time for a Change in Strategies?


plant
May roared by and we’re now into June and summer…not long ago, it felt as though the long winter would never end. As we change seasons, it’s a good time to assess what we’re doing to further our small businesses. I don’t know about you, but I feel as though I need to see my business through fresh eyes. This means taking a look at new and better ways to manage the time and effort we pour into our work. Are there some things that need tweaking? Could we be doing less of the things that don’t move us any closer to our goals while spending more time on initiatives that get us farther faster?

As we examine what we could do versus what we’re currently doing, let’s be sure to remember to let others know about all the great things happening at our places of business. One of the best ways to do this is to factor PR into the mix. If you’ve tried direct mail, advertising and other traditional marketing tactics but aren’t seeing the return on investment you’d hoped, why not give PR a try?

PR is so effective because of the credibility it brings your company for a nominal cost. Granted, it isn’t a “given” like buying an ad, but if you’re able to get a reporter to cover your story, that carries so much more credibility with potential customers. Why? Because it’s an impartial third party espousing your virtues, instead of you trying to tell people why your company, product or service is so great.

How do you get started? Plant seeds—that’s what PR is. You plant the “seeds” of a story in reporters’ minds and then nurture those “seeds” and hope for something to grow. It doesn’t always happen right away, but when it does, it’s so rewarding.

One of the main reasons I do what I do is that there’s no higher high for a media relations expert like me than getting a response from a reporter—it’s absolutely exhilarating to get them to take notice, especially in today’s noisy world. If your pitch stands out in the field of all the pitches they receive, it’s incredibly gratifying. And, if the story actually runs/appears, that’s even better!

It needn’t be an extensive campaign to yield results. Just start by looking at what you may have coming up that may be newsworthy. Then, consider some ways to share that news, perhaps through a press release, blog post, social media updates or customer success story. Many times, just one piece of news can be leveraged for multiple uses.

Start today to plant the seed that may grow into a story tomorrow.

Press Releases – Alive, Well and Working to Do Their Job Of Getting the News Out

“The press release is obsolete,” they said.  “It’s lived its useful life. It’s dead.”

I can’t recall how many times I’ve read about the death of the press release in the past year. Yet, I’ve always believed in press releases to help companies get the word out. And today, I have a client story to support the fact that press releases DO work!!

Here’s the story:

I work with a local entrepreneur who’s developed a patented product in the bedding category. We’ve been working together for a couple of years now, and I’ve watched the progression of the product and the company to where it is today.

We’ve selectively issued a few press releases throughout the course of our working relationship. About two months ago, we issued a release to announce they’d launched an ecommerce site. Up to this point in time, we’ve done mostly local media outreach, with plans to go more national/vertical in the coming months. So, just a few days ago, a leading _national_ publication proactively contacted me after finding the press release to request a sample be sent for consideration to be in an upcoming story. What?!?! Yes, it REALLY happened! And, to go one step further, the reporter contacted me via the press release service we used. And, it was a (gasp!) a FREE press release service!

This proves a few points that I often mention in the talks I give about PR:

1)      Press releases DO work to reach the media. Reporters like press releases because they’re written in a format they’re familiar with. Releases are written in inverted pyramid style, which is the way news stories are written. They contain the pertinent information reporters need to cover a story. In many cases, PR practitioners and reporters both attend journalism school, so this is a medium we both know and understand.

2)      You don’t have to spend money to issue a press release on a wire service. The free services get the word out, too, and get you on search engines to help your SEO (search engine optimization). Undoubtedly, the reporter at the national publication found our press release while doing research for a story she was putting together.

3)      While you should proactively reach out to the media you’re targeting (and yes, you should figure out who you want to target), just issuing the press release does get it out there and allows it to be found, should a reporter be searching.

4)      The above two points underscore the need to work in your keywords, so in the event a reporter is searching, he or she finds your press release.

Given, the product hasn’t yet appeared in the magazine (just imagine the celebration, if that happens!), but this is already a “win” in so many ways:

  • It’s a win for the client, whose product is being seen by a high-level press and may appear in an upcoming issue of a top magazine
  • It’s a win for me, because I worked with the client and wrote the press release
  • It’s a win for PR because look at the power of what it can do, and
  • It’s a win for our friend, the lowly press release, who some have too quickly deemed obsolete.

It’s OK, press release—we know you’re not dead. We believe in you and your power to help us get the news out!

 

Media Pitches: To Pitch or Not To Pitch Via Social Media?

Vocus just published a study regarding pitching reporters via social media. They asked them via which social media platform they prefer to be contacted with story pitches. Although I suspect some would rather not be pitched at all (fodder for another blog post!), a large percentage (45%) responded that they don’t like receiving pitches via social media.

This comes as no surprise, in spite of the many volumes of articles you can find out there talking about how to pitch reporters via social media. So, how do reporters prefer to be pitched? The good old-fashioned email came out on top. For those of us who’ve been using this method with success for some time now, this article vindicates our approach. No changes are necessary.

For those who are primarily using social media to contact reporters, perhaps consider using that method as a backup. Of the social media platforms, Facebook came in on top, followed by Twitter. It certainly can be effective in some cases, so use it when it feels like the right way to go (i.e. when email isn’t working and the reporter looks to be active on social media). For example, I used Twitter recently to reach a reporter, simply sending a tweet to ask how she preferred to receive pitches as her email address was unpublished. She replied with her email. I then I sent her a pitch that way. However, in general, it’s tough enough to keep a pitch brief even in an email, let alone boil it down to 140 characters.

It never hurts to include social media in your media relations strategy, but focus most of your time and attention on email pitches. And to improve those, you can:

  • Focus on the subject line to grab attention
  • Make sure to spell check and proofread your email
  • Keep it short and include data, if applicable
  • Offer resources, such as customers or partners to speak with and visuals such as photos and video
  • If you don’t receive a response, follow up with another email perhaps a week or so later.

Bottom line: While social media has its place in media outreach, don’t rely it on for everything.

 

Leaner Times for Publications Mean More Opportunities for PR

With Time being the latest to make major cuts to its staff (see this story: Time Inc. Expected to Cut 500 Staffers, http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowlny/time-inc-expected-to-cut-500-staffers_b202042), it seems that reporters need good PR resources more than ever.

That’s exactly how to view PR–not only are you working to promote your company, product or service, you want to be viewed as a resource to for reporters. You want to be there to help them with their stories. That’s the type of service-oriented approach and attitude PR practitioners should adopt. 

In these times when there are fewer and fewer reporters to put together stories, hopefully they will look to PR practitioners to help fill the gaps — and we’ll be ready to answer the call with the resources and information they need. 

In Honor of Halloween—Are Your PR Tactics Scary?

When it comes to PR, there are a myriad of approaches to media relations. Your approach can determine whether you get “treats,” in the form of coverage—or “tricks,” in the form of no response—or maybe simply, “no.”

So, in the spirit of helping you get some “treats,” here are some simple Dos and Don’ts when it comes to media outreach:

DO provide valuable content: That includes offering customer references and including numbers, as in time or money saved, in your pitch.

DON’T forget to respond promptly when a deadline is involved: I stress this to clients—media opportunities are a “drop everything” kind of situation. You can’t wait until next week to respond, if the reporter has given you a deadline of tomorrow at noon.

DO follow up: One contact isn’t going to cut it when it comes to reaching to the media.

DON’T be a pest: Reporters generally prefer email to phone calls, which is good to keep in mind before you pick up the phone. On the other hand, there are situations when it’s appropriate to make the call.

DO proof your pitch before sending: Nothing will take you down faster than failing to proof (and proof again!) before you send your pitch. If it’s filled with misspelled words, grammatical errors and the like, no reporter will take you seriously. (I know, this seems like PR 101, but it can’t be overstated!)

DON’T forget that the media will want to know who your competition is: I’ve worked with companies who believe they have no competition. Trust me, if you tell reporters this, they may laugh in your face! AND, they’ll lump in with other companies, anyway, so it’s best to just map it out for them if asked.

DO be service-oriented: Be sure to offer your company as a resource for any upcoming stories that may be a fit. Then, be sure to provide anything they request in a timely fashion. I always look at it as if the reporters are my clients, as well, and treat them that way.

DO be respectful of their time: Reporters are busy people. If you’re lucky enough to get their ear (or eye, when it’s email), try to keep it brief and get to the point. Don’t prattle on about everything under the sun.

DO remember to thank them for their time: Always remember that the reporter’s time is valuable and thank him or her for it. And, if they do publish an article, it doesn’t hurt to send a note thanking them again.

DON’T forget that this is about relationship-building: Media relations, like a lot of other situations in life, is about building relationships. This means over time. Get to know them, and allow them to get to know you. Providing them with valuable news and information will go a long way toward building a lasting relationship.

 

From a Reporter’s Perspective—What Are You Doing Wrong When It Comes to PR?

I came across a recent Inc. article in which reporter Minda Zetlin talks about what you might be doing wrong if you can’t get the media’s attention:

Can’t Get Good PR? 4 Things You’re Doing Wrong, 

http://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/cant-get-good-press-heres-what-youre-doing-wrong.html

This piece resonated with me because a) this is what I help clients do every day and b) it has some great reminders for those trying to do PR themselves—or even for those who have help, but don’t seem to get why their PR person can’t get them ink.

Point 1: Assuming a journalist has the same agenda as you:

I often view the job of the PR pro to get the client the opportunity to speak with a reporter. Once the interview’s taken place, it’s out of our hands. It does happen sometimes that while the reporter seemed interested in the story at the time of the interview, their editor may not be as interested. It may be a timing issue—perhaps the space planned for the article was cut. There are many reasons, in fact, why an interview may not lead to an article. If it doesn’t, this isn’t the fault of the PR person (and sometimes, not the reporter).

Point 2: Lying to yourself about what is and isn’t newsworthy:

This is what I help clients determine. Many times, something the client thinks is very much headline material simply isn’t. In these cases, it’s better to wait to contact the reporter or issue the press release until something more newsworthy comes up. You don’t want to waste reporters’ precious time by pitching story ideas that cause them to yawn as they delete your email.

Point 3: Staying relentlessly “on message:”

Even I preach to clients to prepare their “nuggets” of key information before an interview, but she makes a valid point here. You have to be willing to branch off in other directions, if that’s where the interview goes. If the reporter wants your expert commentary on a topic related to, but not directly on, what your company does, it’s OK to comment and not try to constantly steer the conversation back to your key messages. As she mentions, she’s more likely to quote you if you provide more bits of useful information versus less.

Point 4: Not being available.

This one I could absolutely rant about! NEVER—and I do mean NEVER!—be too busy to speak with a reporter in a timely fashion. If you’re lucky enough to get their time, take it! Do whatever it takes to make yourself available. Keep in mind how busy reporters are, how many companies are competing for their limited time and mindshare and how much that real estate is worth in their piece. And, let’s not even talk about cancelling or not showing up….the cardinal sins of media relations.

Read Minda’s piece in Inc. for all her valuable tips on what not to do when it comes to PR.