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Saturday, February 11, 2012

5 Step to Make your PR Effort

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it's something that every company knows they should do, but only see two ways of making it happen -- hire an expensive PR firm or cross their fingers and hope for the best. The latter is, well, not really much of a PR strategy. There is a third option, however.

Step 1 - The Mirror Check

The first step is what I like to call the mirror check, something that gets glossed over far too often. You need to put yourself in the mind of a writer. People don't want to read shit stories, and writers don't want to write them; it's a simple relationship. Before you dig into the rest of the process, make sure you've got a story that you'd be interested in reading. Honestly. If you can't look yourself in the mirror and say that you would love to read what you're pitching, hold off. 

Step 2 - Building Your Publication List

Once you've got a solid story, it's time to start building your list of publications. I've found it helpful to break it into larger categories, such as tech blogs, mainstream media, local press, niché publications and so on. That'll give you a good outline to begin digging into the specific publications you're looking to reach out to. 
It's important to note that PR isn't a numbers game, as many think. It's a quality and relevance game, not a shotgun spray. To determine relevance, you really need to engulf yourself in the content of the publication -- read at least 5 articles. Without reading the content, you aren't able to truly understand the writing style and typical news they cover. Once you've done this, add only the publications that would be interested in your story, and omit those that wouldn't. It'll save you time when we get to the next step.

Step 3 - Finding the Right Contact

This is so important that it deserves its own step. Again, it's all about relevance, even more so when you're looking for the right person to pitch your story to. What's the sweet spot for one writer, may be completely irrelevant to another. If you pitch the wrong one, well, you blew your shot. You've got to dig deep on this step. Here's the info that my list usually contains:
The first three fields are fairly self explanatory, then we get into the meat of it. The "relevance point" refers to the overlap with the writer's past work. A good way of finding the right person to pitch your story to, is to go to the publication and search for relevant content.
For example, if I'm looking pitch an article on company culture, the best way to find the right person is to search the publication for the term "Company Culture". Crazy, I know. This will bring up a great list of past content that you can dig through to find the writer that normally covers the type of story you're pitching.

 Step 4 - Crafting Your Pitch and Subject Line
A lot of people mess up on the pitch, the eventual email that gets sent off. They get wordy, dance around the purpose of the email, attach a press release and ultimately fail miserably. The pitch needs to show relevance, be compelling and maintain brevity.

Step 5- Let It Rip
This is the culmination of all the work you've put in. Obviously, you can't always time your news in the case of product launches and breaking news, but I've found that Sunday evening is a great time to put it out there. Most folks are lazy, and they aren't willing to put in the time on a Sunday, this leaves a nice window for your pitch and a Monday release date in most cases. It's not a necessity, but it may give you the best odds. 
Also, this sounds obvious, but make sure you're ready for responses to your pitch. If the writer is interested, you'll hear back and they'll want more info. Respect their time and get back to them as soon as you can.
 Some General Don'ts 
Before we wrap this up, I want to go over some general don'ts with PR. By no means is this list comprehensive, but it'll steer you away from the big screw-ups.
  • Avoid the Embargo - Generally speaking, writers don't like embargoes. It's a liability and a pain in the ass that many would like to avoid. Send your news out when it's ready and available for consumption.
  • Lose the Press Release  - In my mind, the press release is dead. They're bloated, impersonal and a thing of the past. If you just want links on Yahoo! news, sure, go for it. It's not going to give you the coverage that's really valuable, though. At the very least, make sure not to attach a press release to your pitch. Do it for me, please.
  • Don't Double Pitch - Don't send the same pitch to multiple people at the same publication. It shows that you're just firing off as many emails as you can, and it's a sure way to get you ignored.
  • Skip the General Address - Most publications recommend that you send to a generic email address like, it's the catch-all for poor pitches. People that don't want to see success usually go this route, it's the easy way to spray the shotgun, but it rarely yields results. Use it as your last option, but not the default.
  • Put Down the Phone - This may be unconventional for most folks that do PR, but I believe that we live in a digital age, where phones are a secondary thing. Sure, if there's interest, hop on a call by all means. But don't do your pitching via a phone call. It catches folks off guard, and makes the encounter confrontational, with only a few seconds to tell them what they want to hear. 
  • Don't Suck - Most importantly, don't suck. Be a good person, not someone that's just on the hunt for links. Provide the writer with value, help them do their job and be awesome. It's amazing what good intent can do.

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