If you’re a startup or a small business looking for press, the world of PR can seem like a dark and lonely place. It’s especially difficult if you believe that sending a press release is your only option. (It’s not.)
No company is newsworthy by virtue of existence. That’s why boring content and conventional PR tactics often lead to disappointment.
The secret to landing media coverage comes down to your approach. If you’re willing to get creative and apply that entrepreneurial hustle, you’ll get results.
When you’re a scrappy startup fighting for every win, creativity is your best weapon. Go outside the traditional PR playbook to find the press you’re looking for. Here are 12 ways to approach PR to get the coverage you deserve.
1. Pitch in 140 characters or fewer.
Once you’ve identified your target journalists (tip: use MuckRack) that you’d like to pitch to, add them to a private Twitter list and follow them. You can share their content, like their posts, and chat about shared interests. After several months (and asking permission) you can send a snappy 140-character pitch.
2. Become a trusted source on Haro.
The mass pitch has died -- and that’s largely because news travels a lot faster than it used to. To get up to speed, subscribe to HARO (Help a Reporter Out).
HARO is one of the best free ways to land valuable media coverage. When you subscribe, you’ll get a newsletter with source requests three times a day, five days a week. These newsletters contain hundreds of requests from journalists and provide the perfect opportunity for you to contribute to topics that are relevant to your industry. Monitor your inbox at 5:25 a.m., 12:25 p.m., and 5:35 p.m. ET for source requests.
3. Find relevant stories on #journorequest.
Bloggers and journalists use the Twitter hashtag #journorequest to find useful sources and interviewees for stories. It’s worth checking in once a day for relevant requests or subscribing to the hashtag. There are a lot of opportunities for small businesses.
4. Chat with people in real life.
The internet is an amazing way to connect with people, but it’s hard to beat the energy of an in-person connection. Whether it’s a conference, local event or coffee date -- sometimes you just need to get outside to give your company a boost.
5. Tell a weird story.
Nothing puts a journalist off like a predictable, repetitive pitch, so avoid the self-serving product launch narrative. You’re better off to pitch a story with a totally unique and unexpected angle. What can you glean from the weird world of starting a business? Promise actionable tips that will provide real value for readers.
6. Craft a click-worthy headline.
Many journalists use email as their main mode of business communication, so if you’re sending an email pitch, you need a hook in the subject line. Think of your subject line as your mini pitch. It needs to grab the attention of the journalist and make them intrigued enough to take action. As Copyblogger says, a magnetic headline should make “a compelling promise that turns a browser into a reader.”
7. Offer to write a guest post.
Reach out to a small news agency or online publication that covers your industry. You have a much better chance of getting coverage when you share the same niche industry and location.
Related: How Social Media Can Help With PR
8. Use data to inform new story angles.
If you know what topics are getting traction, you’re that much closer to being newsworthy. Tools like Buzzsumo, Google Analytics and SEMrush can give data on keywords and topics in your industry that are performing well. Take note of high volume, low competition search terms and use tools like Google Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest to play around with different content ideas.
9. Build authority through content.
It’s much easier to get press when you’ve put in the work. Why? Because relevant, educational content gives you authority and that’s exactly what journalists are looking for. They want experts on niche topics. Blogs and ebooks are a great place to start.
10. Speak for free.
Like good content, speaking gigs are an excellent way to share your expertise and build authority. Volunteer to speak at local conferences, schools or business seminars. Always network after events -- you never know who you might meet.
11. Give back by hosting an event.
If you’ve got free space for an event, do it. You can give back to your community with things like local fundraising drives, learning sessions for students or lunch and learns for new business owners. It’s an easy way to do good and get some local press.
12. Run a contest on social media.
With so many ways to engage your audience (and a great way to get a little buzz for your brand), social media is the best place to run a contest. On Facebook, for example, you can run a contest or sweepstakes campaign directly through your Facebook company page.
When you’re running a small business, you can’t afford expensive media placements. Your only option is to get creative in your approach. By testing out different PR strategies, you’ll discover what makes your company newsworthy. It’s a lot of hustle and you’ll work hard for everything you get -- but that’s half the fun.