I had the privilege of writing the following post for REDFworkshop:
Building PR momentum in a way that is both effective and manageable should be at the top of every social enterprise’s sales and marketing agenda. Not only is editorial coverage free, it also lends unmatched credibility to a brand’s cause while activating its target audience(s).
Keep in mind top tier media and national bloggers get thousands of emails a day (not an exaggeration!) They often have tight deadlines and don’t respond to the first pitch. The good news is that reporters are always looking for a great story to share; one which will resonate with their audience and editors alike. Read below for tips on how to stand out from your competitors and maximize earned media with a small team and budget.
Pitch writing and a ‘call to action’
When it comes to “pitching” reporters, your story is your biggest asset. Given your combined social/consumer mission, you are already way more interesting than a typical product. When introducing your social enterprise to a reporter via email, start with a couple sentences describing what the enterprise does and who it serves. Consider the introduction your 15 second elevator pitch. Expand in the second paragraph with examples of problems you solve and highlight the quality of product/service which makes up your business model. If applicable, bullet a few data points/statistics which highlight the growth trends of your enterprise, program successes and number of people served. Wrap up your pitch with a call to action. This is the most important part, don’t be afraid to ask for a profile, quick call or a product review. That is, after all, why you’re reaching out. Remember – attention spans are short and reporters are usually on deadline, so keep it short, snappy, and compelling.
Know who to pitch
While our firm uses an extensive (and expensive) media database called Cision, your team can easily build a media list for free. Start by determining the 25 – 50 or so outlets you think best reach your target audience, and then go to each site and find the writer that seems to be the best fit for your product/service. If you can’t find his/her email, connect with the writer on LinkedIn or tweet @ their handle.
It’s also becoming more common mainstream media outlets to have dedicated social good columns with multiple writers: Forbes has several columnists focused in the social impact space including Devin Thorpe, MeiMei Fox and Vanessa McGrady. Same goes for Mashable, Fast Company Co.Exist, New York Times’ Prototype column and countless others. This approach takes more time but also allows you to read and reference some of the articles each contact is turning out.
Eventually, your marketing team may want to expand their media searches in a more time effective manner. I’ve rounded up a few inexpensive media databases which allow you to access the contact information for journalists interested in covering stories like the ones about your business.
- Journalisted: a non-profit run by the Media Standards Trust, a registered charity set up to foster high standards in news on behalf of the public, and funded by donations from charitable foundations.
- WooPitch: allows you to identify media, build and export media list and search contact details using a scaled pricing model ranging from free to $299/month.
- ANewsTip: allows you to search for relevant media contacts by what they have written or tweeted. Pricing ranges from free to $149/month
Have a plan
Every PR firm will develop a strategy for their clients which details who they are planning to pitch and when. The firm will take into considerations time of year, holidays, client news, milestones or new product launches and break down week-to-week action items the team will execute against. Your team should do the same thing then share the plan with other facets of the business such as the social media manager and sales team.
When fleshing out your PR plan, take into consideration media timelines and editorial calendars. For example, if you manufacture consumer products and one of your goals is to be included in as many gift guides as possible, you’ll want to be aware that national print magazines work at least 6-9 months out so you’ll want to first contact the outlets’ gift guide editor in May or June. Then your team should plan to target online outlets starting October for digital gift guide inclusions.
More tricks of the trade
- Include searchable keywords within your email pitch: often writers file story ideas while tackling their current deadlines. Many times they may not remember the name of the company but will instead search their inboxes by using keywords such as “social entrepreneur” or “LGBTQ youth”.
- Monitor those unconventional holidays. There are national Bean day, national Mutt day and a slew of other holidays you can use to brainstorm a newsworthy initiative.
- HARO: an acronym for Help A Reporter Out, HARO is a tool all PR firms use to receive thrice daily newsletters full of reporters and writers looking for products and sources for their articles.
- Offer samples when possible. Many journalists require a sample to review before endorsing a product to their readers. If you offer a service, be able to put the journalist in touch with a customer or source who uses your service.
- Assets: before sending your pitch, be sure to have the following on hand to help streamline the process:
- High and low resolution images (product on a white background and lifestyle images)
- High and low resolution logo
- one-pager which includes mission, background, quick program stats
- CEO bio and high resolution head shot
- if budget allows have a 30 second and 60 second video as an option to include in a post or as b-roll for a segment opportunity
- Don just blast a press release to everyone. There’s a time and a place for a press release (which could itself be another article). As mentioned before, you’re dealing with people who receive thousands of emails per day and don’t have time to read a whole press release. They want a concise, targeted pitch which immediately shows its appeal to their readership.
First and foremost, make sure you have a Google Analytics account. Google Analytics shows who’s coming to your website and what they’re doing once they get there. The potential to use Google Analytics to measure goal conversions should be a cornerstone of any business with an online presence. When building out your Google Analytics account, you should be defining all of your goals: product sales, clicks on the About us page, donations, etc… A goal conversion assesses the impact each site visitor makes on those high-value actions. PR pros looks for the traffic spikes on days our client’s articles go live as well as at the source of the traffic. Sometimes it’s interesting to note that a smaller blogger with a highly engaged audience drives more traffic and sales than an outlet with millions of monthly readers. It’s also interesting to use Google Analytics to note which pages on your site are most popular and which aren’t’t adding value. We encourage our clients to tell us which links to their site they see value in sharing with media. For example, in a product review it makes sense to share the shop now page rather than the homepage. I could write 10 more articles on ways data can streamline and strengthen the PR process but this should suffice as a jumping off point. For more on PR ROI check out these additional creative and simple tips.
Lastly, for those of you looking to hire a PR firm or an in-house media relations specialist, start by checking out these intuitive questions put to us by the Marketing team at New Moms/Bright Endeavors. These questions should not only help you understand the process, but they can be used as a navigational tool when deciding which firm is best for your social enterprise.