I had a call the other day with a leader in an emerging industry, one set to legalize in a few months 🙂 and she asked me an excellent question as we went over the ins and outs of building her thought leadership campaign: what is the difference between a PR Professional and a Publicist?
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.
It’s always nice to stop mid-year – as we are simultaneously embroiled in summer pitching and long-lead holiday gift guide outreach; product launches and trade show scheduling – and reflect on the excellent client coverage we’ve garnered the past quarter. Per usual our team has managed to secure earned media in some of the most recognized, respected and widely circulated outlets in the world from Mashable to Fast Company to Christian Science Monitor to Forbes.
We look forward to a successful second half! Prost!
Women’s Bean Project: Weight Watchers Magazine, April issue
My team has had the pleasure of working with Chicago based social enterprise Bright Endeavors for several months as part of a larger partnership with REDF, a San Francisco based non-profit dedicated to investing in double bottomline enterprises. Bright Endeavors employs at-risk young moms in candle production and aims to break the cycle of poverty through job training.
Over the months, I’m proud to say we’ve successfully garnered a fantastic media mix of product reviews (Earth911, Inc.com, Business News Daily, ) and social good company profiles (Christian Science Monitor, Forbes, Unite:4Good) resulting in increased site traffic and sales. Because REDF has many non-profits which could benefit from Public Relations, our campaigns must wrap after several months’ time to spread the opportunity throughout the portfolio. Recently I received the following list of questions from Bright Endeavors’ Sales & Marketing Coordinate, Allie Sundet on how to best continue to leverage the momentum created by Remark. I’m sharing these here as I believe these are questions all social enterprises should be considering when looking towards towards a building or maintaining a PR campaign that is both effective and manageable.
- How does Remark determine the appropriate news outlet/type (blogger, influencer, online magazine, gift guides, etc.) to reach out to? About how many/week?
How do you divide your time between reaching out to the various outlets, is more time spent on bloggers than another source, for example?
What are some tips for building a media database?
What tends to be an initial ‘pitch’ or ask? Do you have any tips for creating an engaging story that will hook the influencer/publication?
How many times do you typically follow up after the initial pitch? Are product samples necessary for each outlet?
What are some tips for creating a successful PR strategy?
How do you measure success of this strategy?
How much lead time do outlets typically need to ensure timely publication? For example, when is a good time to start pushing stories for the holidays?
9. What are some strategy ideas around promoting our candle rental service in the spring/summer months?
It’s hard to believe it’s almost tax time for 2017 as I type this. Where has the quarter gone? Our team’s been busy securing phenomenal coverage for our amazing clients and it’s always fun to pause for a minute, reflect and share.
Bright Endeavors: Forbes, BeautyNewsNYC, Hippie and Heart, Caravan Style Studio, Simply Annie, Chic Metro Magazine, Across the Avenue, Posh Beauty Blog, Daily Mom, Sugarly, My Style Spot, Shabby Chic Boho, Beauty Style Watch
Mile High Workshop: Forbes.com
RecycleForce: Your Mark on the World
(Photo courtesy of www.sugarthegoldenretriever.com)
From Inc.com and CNNMoney to HelloGiggles and Today.com, we delight in seeing our clients clean up when it comes to earned media. Whether your thing is quality or quantity, December’s roundup has something for everyone:
Bright Endeavors: shines in Inc Magazine, Chicago Woman, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Hunter Collector, Hello Glow, ShabbyChicBoho, PRCouture, MarinoBambinos, EcoCult, Fountain of 30, Studio Matsalla, The Bottle Blonde and TomKat Studio
Slammers Snacks: satisfied the tastebuds of The Supermarket Guru and Triathlete Magazine (print)
Total 3D Solutions: Essence Magazine recommends the Cinemizer for it’s luxury travel gift guide
Women’s Bean Project: enjoyed delicious coverage in BuzzFeed, POPSugar, Food 52, Petite Foodie, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, OnMogul, Sandi Klein Show, With Our Best, Cookistry, PBFingers, Tonia’s Kitchen, Soulicious Life, TeresaBergen, BeachBody and Queen of Reviews
Whenever I see a headline offering to help measure PR ROI for clients, I get really excited and hope to learn something useful on such an elusive topic. To be able to quantify the work we do for clients in a real way would be extremely rewarding to the media relations discipline at large.
In the past, firm data has been largely absent with many PR pros showing clients what an ad buy (or Advertising Value Equivalent) would cost in the same outlet the client’s brand was featured in. While showing clients how expensive advertising in top tier media is (vs. paying a PR firm a monthly retainer to get inclusion for free in multiple outlets) indeed eye-opening, it’s not the same as showing how many eyes see the August issue of say, Shape Magazine, or the viewership of a specifc segment on Good Morning America. Comparing PR to the cost of advertising also isn’t an indicator of sales potential. If a brand’s $20,000 bicycle gets a mention in Shape Magazine and the ad value of the mention is $336,700*, it’s a pointless effort if the price range is out of reach for Shape’s readership.
So have we made strides in measuring PR ROI? Unfortunately where posts on measurement are concerned, the headline usually ends up being the most interesting part of – I’ll be honest – the fluff piece that follows. By fluff piece I mean the article is vague stating tips such as ‘you should measure coverage impact on a brand’ without sharing insights on how to do it. At Remark, we try and take an imperfect science and simplify the process of quantifying our media and social reach on behalf of our client’s brands. Below are three specific ways Remark measures ROI:
- Media Relations: In addition to overall unique monthly views (UMV) across an outlet, increasingly bloggers and digital media sites will often have number of reads, reach or shares on each article. When we receive coverage, It’s always interesting to take the number of reads from a specific post and compare to our clients’ resulting Google Analytics report to show how much traffic each piece drives to their site. From here PR pro’s can easily calculate the conversion rate from the number of shares or reads the article has garnered overall, coupled with it’s outlet’s listed monthly reach and finally compared to a brand’s site traction per outlet. We recommend cherrypicking a few media hits weekly to see which hits are driving the most traffic. Then figure out if the spikes in traffic are also correlating into spikes in sales and/or customer acquisition through app downloads. Interestingly, many of our clients report spikes similar to national coverage resulting from posts by smaller outlets with hyper-engaged audiences. Here the writer has devoted time testing the product or service, taking his or her own photography and videos to accompany the post and sometimes even introduces a use case for the product our client had never considered before. Not only does Remark often recycle these blogger insights into new pitches, we also tend to treat these folks like ambassadors, offering first looks at upcoming launches and news.
- Media Contests: Ah. The popular sister to any media review. If our client can spare product, we encourage giveaways as often as possible to pump up excitement and interaction from their target audience. After the contest ends, many bloggers will send over a recap of total engagement but you can also see how many entries a contest garnered and check out the comment thread by revisiting the post once the contest wraps. For example, one of our Consumer Product clients makes snacks for school-aged kids and is very generous about participating in blogger run contests. For the price of between $25 – $50 worth of snack prizes we can easily accumulate upwards of one thousand participants, each of whom increase their chances of winning by tweeting, pinning, sharing on FB, Google+, Instagram and commenting on the thread below the post… you get the point. During the contest’s run we ask the brand’s social team to track each channel and let us know if they also see a spike in followers and fans and overall activity on those platforms.
- Survey through Social Media: Just ask! We encourage established clients to put their social networks to work and a great first step is simply asking their fans and followers how they found out about the product/service/company. If the client can incentivize the audience by randomly rewarding a couple respondents with said product/service, there’s an even better chance at increasing feedback and engagement. And what better way to focus PR efforts than in the very places our clients gain the majority of customers. Going deeper into surveying an engaged audience, we encourage our clients to take quarterly polls of their fans, asking questions which help with say, R&D, and then we take the responses and turn them into infographics to share with media or brand studies to share with buyers. Using our snack client again as an example, we may ask their 30,000 Facebook fans how they ensure kids eat healthy while at school or how they pick snacks to include in lunch boxes. Then we distill the responses down into the top five or so categories and post these in infographic form back to our channels and provide them to the media as assets. The sales team can use these while calling on purchasers at supermarkets.
These are just a few examples on how we simplify a complicated and debated and surprisingly creative topic. Our team is constantly on the search for new best practice insights, so please, share your PR measurement strategies and exciting new technologies we may not have heard of. We look forward to being inspired.
*reference is from CisionPoint media database
At Remark we realize how lucky we are to do the work we love with inspirational clients and thought leaders in one of the greatest cities in the world. Recently our team was asked by Ardice Farrow, founder and director of NET Effects, to help come up with a remarkable (see what we did here?!) tagline for her company. NET Effects, is built on championing disenfranchised women in Cambodia – employing and training women who have been disfigured by land mines, blinded and are hearing impaired – and paying them a fair wage to create beautiful bags and totes. In fact every 15-20 pieces sold in U.S. provides fair wage for one month for a woman in Cambodia.
The branding assignment got us thinking: how do we succinctly convey what NET Effects stands for? Do we focus on the fact that the brand provides a net to a family in need with every sale? Do we focus on the women creating the beautiful accessories who have lived hard lives and are prospering because of conscious consumerism? Do we take the zero waste angle because NET Effects repurposes remnants and end pieces of agricultural and industrial netting for their bags?
This exercise resulted in a healthy dose of reflection. We’ve always believed in the importance of giving back. Remark has worked with many deserving clients on a pro-bono basis and felt especially fortunate we are able to do so. More importantly we get to work with clients who are truly leaving the world a better place.
We are fueled knowing our success will help sell bags and ultimately allow Ardice and NET Effects to hire and train more women in Cambodia and supply nets to reduce the spread of disease to families around the world. And that is something our team can be proud of.
Most companies already know PR is the first step to ‘getting found’ and pushing leads into a brand’s Marketing Funnel. However PR also trickles down into every layer within the funnel. Earned media is often shared across a brand’s social channels along with PR provoked user generated content to create a constant stream of robust social activity. Follow up PR often spurs testimonials from media and consumers which can be used in a brand’s digital ads as well as in new pitch angles when reaching out to relevant media.
The cycle never ends. Even after leads are converted into sales, a good PR team will then mine for a brand’s genuine advocates – whether they are consumer or business use cases – dropping the resulting case studies, success stories, surveys and testimonials back into the top of the funnel so a brand can engage new prospects while continuing to build brand credibility.