TLDR: Public Relations is meant to build and maintain a relationship with your public not necessarily to get leads, traffic, or sales (though, if done right, it will indirectly lead to this). To get started, nail down your brand message and the audience you’re targeting. Reach out to journalists, reporters, and bloggers and start providing “insider” value. Start pitching, sending samples, checking competitor backlinks (to see where they’ve pitched), and writing newsworthy press releases about your brand. Then join the Copy Identity Facebook Group where we’re working to help Makers make a difference in their businesses by providing free content and access to experts in everything a small business owner needs to grow online.
Public relations what we mean when we talk about the relationship between a brand, organization, persona, or idea, and their public. Which can include all the activities related to keeping your public engaged and interested.
The goals of any PR efforts are to create a clear message to a specific group of people for the purpose of maintaining that relationship. So it's not about sharing just anything to just anybody: it's about making sure you share the right message with the right people.
PR is very closely intertwined with marketing. Often, brands will use a combination of PR, content marketing, and digital marketing for brand awareness, to attract potential customers, and make sales.
Here’s what PR isn’t meant for.
It isn’t meant to be a big lead generator, and it does not directly increase sales. PR might achieve these things indirectly, but that's not the main goal. “But,” you might say, “shouldn’t increasing sales always be the main goal?” From the surface, that sounds logical, but buying patterns are determined by many things, not just out of necessity or availability.
First, let’s say Orange Company and Apple Company are both online fruit vendors. I do a quick search and both companies are at the top of the search engine results page (SERP). Now, I've never heard of either company, so at this point, I have an equal chance of choosing either one. I might click on one over the other because of the meta description, which one shows up first, or whether I like apples more than oranges.
And the decision becomes even more difficult if both companies offer the same items, the same services, for the same prices. Which one do I choose? Who knows?
Now, let’s rewind and say I recognize one of the companies in the search results. I remember reading an article in Gardener’s Digest about Apple Company and how it donates Apples to inner-city schools every year. I decide to click on the Apple Company link as opposed to the Orange Company's link. Even though both companies sell the same items for the same price the recognition that came from the Apple Company’s PR efforts helped me decide to choose them over their competitor.
You can't promote a brand image that doesn't exist, so your first task should be to define what your brand means (your message) and what you want it to be associated with (your identity).
CamelBak does this exceptionally well. CamelBak believes in going on outdoor adventures, solving problems, and helping to create a cleaner Earth for everyone to enjoy. They associate themselves with other sports equipment and sustainable brands.
Brands today are looked at the same way people look at thought leaders, and people turn to them for advice. And many e-commerce brands have a blog, where they can educate their audience on their own terms for just that reason. And when we break it down, content created by big industry players is often seen in the news (when Amazon or Apple have something to say, the world takes notice).
So, if you want to become known as a household name, you need to be okay with having a public presence. And you're going to have to tell the same story many times, answer lots of questions, and talk to lots of people.
Ideally, you can outsource this role constantly network with the media, build outreach lists, find and coordinate public relations opportunities, etc.
Your target market isn't necessarily interested in you, your brand, or your news. They're interested in the benefit that information has to them. When creating news around your brand, always think about what's in it for your market.
But don’t let that box you into just one niche. It’s likely your news item is of interest to different audiences, but the message for each audience must look like it was created specifically for them. There is no one right way. But you can get a good eye for what your audience will respond best to by consuming lots of content.
Let’s talk about angle: the angle is the theme of your message or the perception you want to create around it. For example, how you would report a national news event for the New York Times versus your hometown newspaper. What's the juicy tidbit in your news item that will make those readers care?
The three types of channels you need to know about as a business operating in a content-driven online world are owned, earned, and paid. Paid channels are those that fall predominantly under the category of marketing and include any kind of visibility you have to pay for.
Owned channels are easy. They’re the ones your brand owns and controls like your website, your social media accounts, press pages, etc.
Earned channels are not owned or controlled by you, and they don’t necessarily cost you anything. You can't control what they publish, nor can you buy your way in (hence, earned). For example, news media, business partnerships, influencers, bloggers, thought leaders, etc. You might get tagged, get a shoutout, do an affiliate or collaboration deal, or create guest content for someone else’s channels to earn this visibility. This is the most valuable type of coverage and what your PR efforts should be working toward.
Where you promote for PR depends on the angle of the news, the channel you chose to promote on, and the type of content your audience is consuming:
To make sure your message is clear and easy to consume, follow the five Ws.
I’m [NAME], the CEO of [COMPANY]. We manufacture [PRODUCT] for [TARGET MARKET] that helps them [VALUE PROPOSITION]
Use this template to create 4 or 5 messages to address the different people your PR efforts will focus on:
Let’s say, for example, your online store sells consciously-made, paraben-free cosmetics. When addressing the “why this matters” PR angle, and to get customers to shop at your store you need to educate them about the dangers of parabens.
You’ll need to come up with a few pitch ideas which are simply the press stories you hope to place. Two this company might consider are:
Once you have a pitch idea, it’s time to create the content. If you’re creating an infographic or guest blog post, find 10 writers or reporters who’ve covered this topic or a related topic recently and send them a message.
If you can't find the contact info for the writer, look for the section editor. Either way, find an actual person to email and use their actual name in the email.
Make sure to be intentional when building a list of people to pitch. Think about the angle of the pitch. In the paraben-free makeup pitch, You'd probably have better luck pitching a writer or reporter who recently covered organic food rather than a writer or reporter who recently covered general makeup tips. At its foundation, this pitch is more about conscious consumerism than mascara.
Remember that bloggers are writers too. They can carry just as much or more influence as a traditional journalist. But unlike reporters who work for traditional media, bloggers pay themselves (sponsored posts, etc). Check their PR guidelines before pitching, and decide if you’re willing to pay before you reach out.
Your pitch should be short, to the point, and friendly. Use bullet points to break out the details and make it easy to read. Or, take this approach (a personal favorite). Write a blog post you plan to publish on your own site and paste it under your email signature. That way they have all the info they need!
It’s easy to have the upper hand in an industry when you’re the only player, but being the sole player is rarely newsworthy enough to make headlines. What gets bloggers and journalists excited is up-and-coming trends and the companies leading the way.
Warby Parker, for example, is credited with shaking up the eyewear industry by offering direct-to-consumer pricing and the buy-one-give-one approach to charity. But instead of partnering with other eyewear companies (which would give other brands free publicity), Warby Parker modeled itself after TOMS, the social-conscious shoe company that donates a pair of shoes for every pair bought.
When flash sales started trending, Groupon and Gilt were the first to do it to such a large scale. Industry news on daily deals always mentioned one or both of these companies.
During the height of their success, ShoeDazzle and BeachMint held the product subscription industry market. Now BirchBox, Dollar Shave Club, and Naturebox are some of the most popular examples of successful subscription-based businesses.
When journalists start calling your brand one of the market leaders lighting up a new trend, you’ll start to benefit from the “ Cascade Effect ”, coined by internet marketing expert Ken McGaffin.
“Journalists will often quote, comment or enlarge upon other journalist's work. Bloggers are also constantly citing other stories. So if you get your story covered in one prominent media outlet, you'll quickly see a cascade of similar stories and links spring up. You'll get links you never even asked for.”
In Public Relations, one of the most impactful actions you can take is to explain to a select number of influential reporters how your business contributes to, or impacts, an industry. With the goal being that they begin to permanently associate you with a specific trend and others will adopt that same thinking too.
As your brand starts collecting media mentions, start developing a list that includes the names, email addresses, Twitter handles, LinkedIn profiles, and other social handles of writers who mentioned you and your business in their work. And don’t stop there! If a journalist covered you before, they’re more likely to do it again...and again. So aim to build friendly and familiar blogger/reporter relationships.
After that, add value to those relationships, share information, and share it often, which helps those writers better understand your business and industry. Make connections between journalists and other people those journalists might want to interview. Basically, help them do their job and they’ll Essentially, the more you help them do their job, and they’ll want to repay that kindness by sourcing you in their work.
Okay eCommerce stores, this is a big tip. Write it down. Research writers who mentioned competitors in their past work. Good journalists are always on the hunt for additional sources with unique perspectives, data, and opinions on what's going on in an industry.
Go to majestic.com and type in your competition’s URL. Click that little orange magnifying glass and you’ll instantly see the number of external backlinks, referring domains, referring IPs, referring subsets, types of links, backlink history, and a bunch of other useful information.
Go to the Google Search Console Google.com/webmasters. Click “Search Traffic” on the left side. Click “Links To Your Site” And Voila! you’ll see the total number of backlinks to your site.
An email with a little info about your products and brand might not be enough to get someone excited about your business. Images and videos definitely help, but there’s nothing quite like the real thing. To really reel in a writer's attention, send them some product so they can see how awesome your offerings are IRL.
Product reviews (looking at you E-commerce brands) are a pretty upfront way of earning media coverage. And while the angle is ultimately up to the journalist, giving them the chance to test out your product can go a long way for your business.
Full Disclosure: PR can get expensive. Know that you’re giving away product with no guarantee of coverage, so pay attention to your marketing budget. And try not to go overboard or it could be seen as an attempt to bribe the writer for coverage. Consider shipping your product out with a pre-paid return label, letting bloggers and journalists try your product for a few days or weeks before sending it back. This decreases poor perception and saves you the loss of the product profit.
A press release is a straightforward article that tells a story about your online store. Some topics a press release might cover include:
Your press release should be interesting and compelling, and make it easy for writers to use. It should use proper style and grammar, clear and concise language, and include quality multi-media (images and video).
One option to publicize your press release is to use a distribution service, also called newswire. Distribution services already have established relationships with sometimes thousands of traditional and new media (blogs) journalists. Newswires send press releases to all of the journalists in their database - for a fee, of course.
A few examples of distribution services include:
Another option is to target specific influential publications or blogs in your industry.
If you sell golf equipment, for example, target a golf magazine or a particular golf blogger, and contact them via phone or email. Bring up the press release topic with the writer with the goal being to share exclusive or semi-exclusive information, like an interview providing quotes other than what’s already available in the press release.
When your press release is live, follow up encouraging the journalist or blogger, and thanking them for the coverage. Work toward building a relationship.
If a journalist writes about your new product collection, leave a well-throughout comment on their blog.
“Thanks for including COLLECTION in your review. We’re super excited about these new products, and it’s an honor to be mentioned on your site.”
Or go the extra mile and send a handwritten thank-you card.
“Thanks for writing about our store. We loved the article and really appreciate the mention.”
And last, make sure to follow key journalists, comment on the articles and social posts, even if it’s not about your store.
Here’s why Copy Identity loved Yarnspiration’s Press Release:
Yarnspirations’ product launch press release effectively positioned itself as an industry disrupter, which made it newsworthy. The deadline-driven journalists with little time to spend studying long press releases can make an immediate decision on the value this provides to their audience.
And, they can access the information needed to consider different angles, without having to search for more information.
Their new offerings include options for a segment of the audience that the industry hasn’t been able to reach before. And they use patented technology reinventing a tried-and-true product. And, important to note, these newsworthy angles are strategically placed in the first paragraph of the release.
Not to mention other newsworthy indicators like:
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