New York City is brimming with powerhouse public relations firms, but do you need to pay a retainer fee to make it here? Nope. With a bit of savvy and dedication, DIY PR can go a long way, whether you’re a business owner, entrepreneur or have a side hustle that you’re looking to grow without quitting your day job (yet).
“Public relations is one of the most incredible tools to get your brand name known, but it does have a nasty reputation of being for traditional corporate brands with big budgets only,” said Meg Androsiglio, founder and president of Meg Androsiglio PR in Syracuse, NY. “In reality, PR and media relations are about visibility, creating mutually beneficial relationships and increasing your impact. Every entrepreneur should have a PR strategy in their marketing mix.”
Gabie Kur of Long Island, senior vice president of PR at marketing and content agency Codeword, agreed. “While hiring an agency is an effective solution when you’re ready to scale PR efforts and need more firepower, you can tackle PR internally by being scrappy, resourceful and creative.”
Use these strategies to be your own flack.
Do this exercise for a week
Androsiglio’s first tip on how to secure media coverage has nothing to do with pitching.
“For a week, take note of how you talk about your brand’s business and products. Write down any one-liners that come up or descriptive words you use,” she said, adding that you should be sure to pay attention to what resonates with your audience, team members and on social media. “At the end of the week, do an audit of your one-liners. Keep those phrases that are the most clear, and lose the rest. You’ll have a start of your master brand messaging, which is a north star when doing your own PR”
Make a targeted roster
“One of the biggest factors to getting coverage is being deeply aware of the types of stories, angles and conversations happening within your space and who’s leading those conversations,” said Kur.
She suggests creating a VIP media list of the Top 10 to 15 publications and their beat reporters who would most likely care about your business and its POV. (Note: Don’t ignore freelance journalists who write for a slew of pubs, too.)
“From there, make it your business to follow their discussions on Twitter, religiously read their coverage and get to know exactly what they care to feature,” said Kur.
Then it’s time to “find value-add reasons to engage with them,” said Kur. “Jump in on threads they’re having on Twitter and add interesting insights. Give them access to data, intelligence, your network or other valuable resources that would help their beat. The first time a reporter sees your name in their Twitter notifications or inbox should not be when you’re pitching them. Instead, you want to be seen as a well-connected expert in your field that can provide something of value to them.”
Create Google News alerts
For example, if you are a personal trainer, Androsiglio recommends setting up Google alerts for phrases like “personal trainer tips,” “exercise trends,” “mind-body connection” and popular terms in your industry.
“The alerts will show you daily what the news in your niche is looking like, and you’ll be more educated on the editors who are writing the pieces and which publications are sharing your news,” she said.
Track down editor contact information
Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and writers’ personal websites are all places where you can sleuth out contact information. “You can honestly find a lot of direct emails through a simple Google search,” said Androsiglio.
Pen your company bio
Having your company bio or founder’s story in clear and eloquent terms is a must for your website, and you can repurpose sections of it for media outreach, social media copy and more.
“Start with your origin story — a simple letter on why you started your company,” said Jesse S. Gaddis, an account supervisor at RLM Public Relations in Midtown East.
Make your story heartfelt. “Show your passion and knowledge for what you do — consumers and decision makers generally tend to relate,” said Gaddis. “Put these words on your website under your ‘about us’ and any other relevant marketing materials.” As your company gains notoriety, journalists will already have your story at their fingertips when it’s time to interview you.
Use tools to get ahead
There are sites on which you can apply to be a quoted expert in your field, promoting visibility and authority.
“Journalist query sites like HelpAReporter.com and Qwoted are two free ones that are very useful,” said Brian Hyland and Jesse Nash, co-founders of Cricket Public Relations, LLC of Whippany, NJ. “But be quick to respond. There is a lot of competition out there.”
These sites also have premium versions which unlock additional features like keyword alerts and search functionalities.
Another route worth pursuing is the path paved with proverbial golden trophies. “There are likely several awards (industry trade, local business and national) that you are eligible to receive,” said Hyland and Nash, ticking off examples like “30 under 30” lists, “the best local marketing campaign,” “the best product design,” etc. The cost to enter tends to range between free and $500.
“Win the award, and promote it!” they said.
Don’t pester journalists
You need to know when to back off in your pitching attempts.
“Even if you feel certain your business or a story angle might be perfect for a reporter, it just may not be at that very moment. Following up incessantly, or being overbearing on social media is a surefire way to get a reporter to blacklist you,” she said. “Revisit and optimize your approach — perhaps the timely hook just wasn’t right at that time. Or maybe they were just plain too busy. Then, in a few weeks or months, try again with a fresh hook.”