A few of you have emailed me asking how you can get covered by newspapers and magazines. The easy answer is to pay a public relations firm, but that can cost thousands of dollars. Because of this I decided to interview Chris Winfield who has been covered by USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times without paying a public relations firm.
1. You have been covered in many magazines and newspapers. Do you mind sharing the first time you got covered in a magazine or newspaper and how the opportunity came about?
The first major newspaper I was ever in was the NY Times. I had met the reporter at a party and told her my story. When I got home that night I followed up with all of my contact info and said “If there is ever ANYTHING I can help you with, please let me know.” At the time my wife and I were running our company out of our apartment in Brooklyn. A few weeks later I got emailed by this reporter saying she is doing a story for the Sunday edition about what people who work at home wear. I got on the phone with her and told her that I wear a suit everyday because it makes me feel more professional (stick out). I was in the story and it did two things for me:
- I could now tell clients, prospects and business partners that I have been in the NY Times’
- It led to an introduction to another reporter from the tech section of the NY Times which then led to being in the world’s #1 newspaper twice more
2. Millions of people want to be covered in trade publications but don’t have money to spend with a PR agency. Do you have any recommends or steps they should use to get some coverage?
Just like with most forms of marketing if you are smart and hungry, you can do it yourself. A professional PR person (good ones at least) have the contacts and they know how to leverage them. But as you said, they can be really expensive. So in order to do it yourself you need to build up your own list of contacts and begin to us them to your advantage.
- The first thing you should do is figure out what your message is and where you want to be covered.
- Then you want to create a spreadsheet with a list of the newspapers, websites, trade journals, etc
- Then identify the specific reporters that write on the topics you want coverage for
- Get their contact info. Sometimes it’s a simple as looking at the bottom of one of their articles (for example, The Wall Street Journal look at the bottom). Sometimes you have to get creative (Google searches, LinkedIn, calling the media outlet)
- Make contact with the reporters. Read some of their work and send them an email letting them know how much you enjoyed their latest piece. You will be shocked at how quickly most will respond to a simple congratulatory note. When they write back, tell them what you do and let them know that you are here to help them in anyway you can.
- Once you have built your media list and made initial contact, start contacting the reporters when breaking news happens with your own unique perspective. Make sure you keep it short and sweet and always include your short bio.
- When you talk to a reporter for a story, always go above and beyond. When you get off the phone with them, send them follow-up info via email (links to research, supporting materials, etc).
- With this you become indispensable to them and this will lead to a strong relationship and introductions to other reporters and bigger press opportunities.
3. You have had a lot of PR coverage the past few years. How do you feel PR has helped you brand yourself?
In terms of growing my company and differentiating myself, press has been hands-down the most important element. The first time that SEO was ever covered in USA Today, I was in that article. The couple of sentences I had lead to accounts with two Fortune 500 companies and probably about 25 other clients. When my wife and I were profiled in Entrepreneur Magazine, same thing.
To me, the closest thing that you can get to a strong human referral (friend, client, contact, etc) is press coverage. That’s because people trust the newspaper they are reading, they respect the author and they take what they are saying (many times) as the final word.
4. How can others brand themselves using traditional media?
Being looked at as an expert is a major asset to any business. Consistent press coverage on a certain topic can help brand you as an expert. If someone is consistently seeing your name associated with blue widgets in the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, etc and you know what you are talking about, you are going to be looked at as an expert. That type of branding is priceless.
5. I personally am an impatient person and am always looking for press right now. In general PR is a long process, but is there anything that can be done to speed it up?
Well one way is something I mentioned earlier. Get quoted on timely topics, breaking news, etc. Start getting that critical mass going. There are times when this can lead to amazing exposure (for example, the SEO article in USA Today I was in).
On top of that, be spectacular. If you’re doing something that no one else is and you can get that out to reporters, you’re going to get coverage quicker.
6. Are there any PR secrets that can increase your chances of getting covered?
A few things that I go by:
Have a really good USP (Unique Selling Proposition) for yourself in addition to your company. Who would you rather speak to?
- A guy who runs a marketing company that helps companies succeed online.
- A 22 year old entrepreneur who is still in college while running three companies, two blogs and advising Fortune 500 CEOs on their successful social media strategies.
Be prepared. When you get on the phone with a reporter, make sure you know the subject inside and out.
Be friendly and energetic. Sounds simple but a good deal of the people reporters talk to during the day are boring (that’s coming from them). One of the jobs of a PR person is to coach their clients on how to talk to a reporter. Be different, be fun, energetic, and funny and make them your friend.
Be able to adapt. Not every opportunity is going to be exactly what you want. But being able to adapt to a reporter’s story and still work your message in is key.
7. Any last words on PR for all the Quick Sprout readers who are looking to brand themselves?
Some of the most successful people in the world have used PR to brand themselves. The ones that stay successful are the ones that know how to constantly keep their personal brand consistent and treat their press relationships like gold. Determine what you want to be known for, build your contacts and attack it everyday. One major press piece can be the difference between $1 Million and $5 Million…