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Getting Free Publicity for Your Startup
Good press can increase interest in your business and bring in new customers. It’s also a way to get free publicity for your business. Yet, journalists are constantly pitched by companies who are looking for media coverage, so if you want them to be sold on your story, your messaging has to be solid.
“Reporters want credible resources, someone who’s available 24/7, and someone they can refer to as an expert in a niche industry,” says Robin Samora, a small business marketing and PR expert in Boston. Another tip: Keep pitches brief. To get started, try this strategy to secure press coverage that establishes your brand as an authority.
Step 1. Build a strong online presence. Everything from your website to your blog to your social media platforms should have a consistent look, feel, and brand messaging. “When interested media outlets look at your company, they want to see that everything is buttoned up and that you’re constantly adding to your expert status with compelling content,” says Samora. Also, create content that is relevant to your business’s expertise. For example, if you own a farmers market, you might blog about organic foods. Three ways to get started:
- Blog weekly.
- Start a podcast.
- Post YouTube content.
While you don’t have to dive into everything at once, practice on these platforms in order to gain traction, she says. As a result, your company will start getting exposure.
Step 2. Study up on your media target. The best way to align your expertise with the appropriate media outlets is to do your homework. “I search Google to learn about the Top 25 blogs or the Top 25 publications in a niche industry,” says Samora. Armed with this intel, she uses an Excel spreadsheet to conduct data analysis. She includes information like the editor’s name, the beat he or she covers, whether her content fits in their site’s or publication’s format, recent hot topics, and links to the editor’s work.
Step 3. Position yourself a thought leader. Samora recommends signing up as a source at Help A Reporter Out, a well-respected site for journalists seeking experts. “I’ve gotten a lot of free press through HARO,” she says. “Before answering a media query, develop a template pitch, and then customize it to fit the media outlet and audience.” Her best advice: Include who you are, what you do, and address the reporter’s questions succinctly.
Step 4. Brainstorm for ideas. First things first, look at what’s going on in the news and formulate an opinion, whether in agreement or contrarian. It’s what PR folks call ‘newsjacking.’ In addition, our expert checks out what’s trending on sites like Buzzsumo.com, which analyzes the topics that perform best across any topic or competitor.
Step 5. Perfect your pitch letter. You should always sandwich a pitch, says Samora. For instance, when writing a journalist, say something like this: ‘I’ve read your article on x, y, z, and I really liked it. I agree with you except for these three reasons.’ Then you can talk a little bit about yourself and tell them you would like to be considered as an expert on future stories. Include a few hot topics and just enough information to entice them to ask for more.
“Everyone is so worried about making the sale, but [getting exposure requires] you to build the relationship,” says Samora. She likens it to dating: Engage press contacts by sending industry news or attending similar events, she says. Once you’re considered a trusted source, both the rapport and your company’s free press coverage will grow.