Our final instalment of PR tips comes from Ella Gascoigne, founder of StartupPR, an agency that specialises in launching exciting new start-ups.
If someone has just launched a business and wants to get media coverage, what’s the best way to go about it?
It is important to remember that PR isn’t just talking about your product and why it is so great. You need to create something that the media will want to talk about, so think about what makes your product unique or interesting, or maybe link it to anything newsworthy or seasonal that journalists will be looking for. You might also try a slightly more subtle approach like sharing your expertise in a comment piece or article and getting a plug for the product off the back of that.
Of course PR may not always be the way to go – depending on your business, the best PR opportunity may not be for the launch but actually once the product is more established. Consider other marketing options, whether that is email marketing, social media or direct sales, to see what will get you the best ROI. PR can be really powerful, but it can also be time-consuming so think about the time you will need to invest in finding the right angle, writing a strong release, pitching and importantly following up. You may only get one shot at a launch campaign, so plan it well and think about whether you can do it yourself or if you need help from a PR professional to really make it count.
Contacting the media about a launch isn’t enough to get featured. How does someone make their story interesting or relevant enough to get featured?
It is all about giving the media angles that they will want, and making it as easy as possible for the journalists to create content that their audience will like. That might be relating your product to a subject that is topical or seasonal, offering your product for reader competitions in exchange for exposure or providing samples for the journalist to review. Some media will also feature good quality by-lined articles or advice pieces, as long as they’re not too self-promotional, so consider what advice you can give as an expert.
On a practical note, always have good high resolution images ready – these can be what gets you into certain publications, so research the types of images your key publications use and get them ready in advance so you can act quickly when opportunities come up.
What are your top tips for putting a press release together?
First and foremost, know your angle and what makes your product or service worth talking about. Remember that this is not a sales or marketing piece, so while you can feature an attention grabbing headline, you should stick to facts and not get carried away with superlatives so the writer can judge for themselves if it is of interest.
Be clear and tell the journalist what you can offer to make it easy for them to see the angles and stories.
What are the common mistakes people make with press releases?
Overselling a product without making sure it is newsworthy. People are often used to writing about how great their product is in marketing materials, but when it comes to PR nobody wants to read that kind of fluff so focus on facts. Also, it might sound silly, but contact details are completely crucial so don’t forget to include them.
Editor’s must receive thousands of press releases. What tips can you offer to ensure a press release gets noticed?
The key is making it as relevant as possible to the journalist and their publication. If you have written a good quality press release they shouldn’t have to work too hard to understand the story, what you are offering and why it would be of interest to their readers.
Also, don’t be afraid to be a real person. A few targeted emails can get much better return than a blanket email to hundreds of contacts, so include a personal email to the journalist and maybe research the publication and suggest in the email where you think it would fit.
How do you build relationships with key media contacts?
In short, be a help, not a hindrance. It is a PR expert’s job to give media contacts what you want, in a way they want it. If you can package whatever you are promoting so it is truly useful to them, and provide quality information, advice or products you’ll quickly build relationships.
Journalists are often up against tight deadlines to be sure to respond quickly to their requests, and be helpful even when you might not benefit in the short term because it might mean favourable coverage in future. Remember that if it is done well, PR can make journalists’ lives easier, so if you are talking to them ask what areas they would be interested in for the future. However, don’t pester for responses and replies – follow up is useful, especially if you have new information or images, but more often than not if they want to use it they will.
Perhaps most importantly, be honest. NEVER try to BS a journalist, they won’t like and they won’t forget it. They have a job to do and while you might love to be included in a feature, if something doesn’t fit don’t try to blag it as it will just waste everybody’s time.
What is the best way to contact editors?
It depends on the editor, but I find most prefer email. That way they can read and get back to you when they like, but don’t be afraid to ask them what they prefer for future – it is all part of building a relationship and giving them what they want and how they want it.
Editor’s work far in advance of the publication date. Generally what is the rule?
As a general rule for features, long lead glossy magazines will be around 4 months while national or regional newspapers will be 1 to 2 months. The nature of online publications means they can work more quickly, but you should allow 1 month, while broadcast media such as radio and TV is more like 2 to 3 weeks.
How can we position ourselves as experts and contribute to their features with our expert opinion?
First figure out where your expertise really lies, then create a strong profile of yourself to present you as such. If you can identify a list of topics you are happy to write about or be interviewed on you can then offer these articles or guest blogs to the media. Usually a brief synopsis is fine to start with, and you can then write each piece according to the style, word count and deadline the publication specifies.