By Sweta Patel
Most businesses believe public relations means they have to hire a large firm to manage a campaign that could cost thousands of dollars. This is just the myth. I was raised in a frugal environment and learned to be resourceful at an early age. There are some things I just won’t pay for, and that includes online public relations. I want to share my secrets so that you can make a decision. What you learn may save you a bundle your next public relations project.
The Moving and Inspiring Message
You may have already heard this many times, but what is your unique selling point? What are you an expert in? What’s your distinction and how are you positioned in relation to your competitors? Every message and story needs to have a specific differentiator as well as something unique. For example, my friend @KathleenGlass shows a great example of this with her pink hair. What can you do to stand out?
Once you have these answered then go back and research the reporters you want to be covered by. What is your specific topic? Then you need to find their contact information. Usually if you click on their name within an article it will show you all the social media networks they are apart of. My favorite national columnist recommends stalking reporters on social networks. It really works!
When I create online public relation materials for my clients, I usually create a spreadsheet with all their contact information and commentary about them to keep organized. The other suggestion would be to use a website like MuckRack.com.
Best Practice: Determine if you are going to go for national PR or keep it local. Then create a list of where you would like to be covered: newspapers, blogs, websites, journals, etc.
The Slam Dunk Research
It is time to dive into the reporter’s mind. It is vital to read all of his or her work and write down your biggest thoughts from it. Then check if the reporter’s email is at the bottom of the article. Usually most journalists have two addresses, public and private, so how are you going to get through? One way is to have a killer subject line and powerful email message.
My favorite way of attracting reporters is by keeping a track of what they respond to or comment on. This helps me understand what their biggest interests are. There are listbuilding services out there that provide information about how journalists like to be approached.
Best Practice: Find out what social media platform they rave about and share all of their value-added content and make sure to comment with insight.
The Powerful Email Message
The research is required to send the right email message. Google Trends, Talker Walker, Pinboard Popular, and PopUrls.com help us find stories that have not become popular yet. An email message is powerful when you stay on top of “What’s Hot.” Then create an email which is useful, unique, urgent and laser-specific to your niche. What’s your secret sauce? The first part of the message should explain how much you enjoy the reporters’ work.
The other rule of thumb is to keep the email short and don’t add any attachments. Then always be ready to help when the reporter responds.
Best Practice: Sometimes your client will not be the subject of an entire article but you may be able to get quoted. This should be an option. Of course, include a short bio and picture to share with all your content pieces. This should already be in your media kit.
The Outbound Work
Yes, every business is in the business of sales. This means making outbound calls. These aren’t necessarily cold calls but just calls to the journalists who do not like to be approached via email They would prefer a phone call instead, mostly because they are in a hurry to get information.
The best advice for outbound calls is to know what you are talking about inside and out. If there is any hesitation at all then chances are you won’t get the gig.
The more likable and energetic you are the better the chances you will succeed.
The last tip is to tell the reporter something unusual or unexpected. This will almost always help you stick out and break through the clutter.
Best Practice: When you are on the phone with the reporter, always be definite. If you are on the fence about anything at all then it will not work in your favor. The more clear, concise and knowledgeable you are, the better your chances are. Oh, and don’t forget the fun factor.
The Inbound Work
We all know relationship building is important online and offline. This means treating reporters like royalty, being adaptable to anything thrown at you from them, and always going above and beyond. I like to send thank you notes with a Starbucks or Amazon gift card to anyone that writes a story about my clients.
LinkedIn is a goldmine for journalists. When you connect with journalists on LinkedIn you want to be sure you send them a personal message. This does not mean send the same message to all your journalist connections across the board. Want to understand how journalists use LinkedIn? Here is a great resource: Understanding Journalists On LinkedIn.
Best Practice: Have an optimized profile and be very active in journalist groups. They will start seeing who you are and what you do. Then when they look at your profile make sure you have all your contact information, they should not have to search for this.
You want to follow all the right journalists on Twitter. Here is a compiled list of journalists to follow: Journalists on Twitter and MuckRack Directory. Then retweet and share their stuff like crazy. Also @mention them any chance you get. They will start to notice you. I’ve made four different lists in my twitter accounts for journalists so everything is one place.
If you are trying to go local then LocalTweeps is a great resource for you.
In order to really find a journalist who can help you with your needs, you must understand them. Facebook has developed a hub just for this: Facebook for Journalists. We can also subscribe to them and follow them on Facebook.
The best way to catch the attention of a journalist is through interaction. What does this mean? It means you have to “like” the publication page and the journalist page, start commenting, and “share” their stories.
Best Practice: Reciprocity is powerful. When you share their stuff five times or more, then the next best thing to do would be to include them in your content sources. Why not create a landing page that showcases all your other press releases and stories?
This is the best part and the part where most people fail. Create a spreadsheet that has these columns: Links, Lead Generation, Referral Traffic and Social Shares.
Pay attention to the organic search traffic and the referral traffic. In terms of the leads, just ask them how they found out about you or use a form on your website that asks them: “Where did you hear about us?”
Best Practice: Keep track of these four metrics and always tweak them for better results. I tend to start local and work national after I’ve refined the campaign several times.
Enjoy your DIY public relations journey. It is not half as bad as you think it is.
Sweta Patel is a San Diego-based marketing entrepreneur whose company is Global Marketing Tactics.
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