The Secrets of Public Relations Revealed

pr

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…

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Comments

  1. This is the single greatest blog post i’ve ever read. Thank you neil, I just learned a ton from this dialog with you and chris.

  2. Great read, Neil. Chris has a wealth of experiences to share and I’m glad you interviewed him. Found some very useful gems there. :)

  3. That was some great interviewing there Neil. Chris gave a lot of good information we all can use.

    On another note. You know you kinda look like the guy from the show Human Giant on MTV.

    http://thehumangiant.com/2007/05/02/escalating-interview/

    Haha funny joke. (okay… I thought it was funny)

    Great post again.

  4. Hey Neil –

    It was great speaking to you about this. I am sure that most of your readers here will have no problems taking some of these tips and getting some serious coverage.

    If anyone has any questions or needs help with something ping me at cwinfield [at] 10e20.com

    Best,

    Chris

  5. This is a fascinating and truly resourceful article on PR. I’m going to refer to this consistently.

    Thanks so much Neil and Chris.

  6. Lots of great points, Chris (and Neil). I’d like to add that once you’re covered in the media it’s always good to send the reporter a “thank you note”, again telling them that if there’s anything you can do to help them in the future feel free to contact you.

    Plenty of people will send out emails–but nowadays you can really stand out to a reporter/journalist if you take the time to send them a quick thank you note on your letterhead. Then they have something in their hand that they can tack up in their office cubicle or put in their scrapbook.

  7. In my experience PR agencies are pretty minimum flair unless you’re a huge client. They’ll punt your releases out to a blast email list and leave it at that, sitting back and waiting for anyone interested to contact them for more details. Sure they have a solid email list of journalists etc., but it’s nothing you couldn’t build yourself over time as this post shows.

    Most journalists are open to you contacting them directly provided you quickly make it clear what you can offer them as an authority or reference, basically what makes you a unique source.

    • Geordie, when I was first looking for an agency I contacted Outcast who quoted me $15,000 a month (from what I remember). I did not have the chance to pursue anything with them because they were booked, but it seems that good PR firms charge a decent fee.

  8. $15k…ouch:) We’ve dropped as much as $25k over three months, but like everything else, you get get what you pay for…or at least one would hope…It probably differs as well if you’re promoting yourself as a brand vs. a new product/solution. Another good sign that you might be looking at a bum PR firm is if they have tons of time to take you on. The good ones probably make you put some effort in to get in the door. At the end of the day, if they care about their rep with the journalists they have contacts with, they won’t want to pitch just anything/anyone.

    • I hired a small PR firm that would take me on… they are $3500 a month. So far they got in in OC Metro and OC Business Journal… have spent a total of $10,500 in 3 months.

  9. Brent Csutoras :

    I was very impressed with not only the story and the interview but how between the lines you can see Chris working his magic inside this very post.

    Your a genius man and if anyone can see through the lines in the way you market yourself third person then can truly get a feel for taking the chances to really pimp your PR.

    Congrats on all the success.

    Brent Csutoras

  10. Boris Mordkovich :

    In terms of PR firms, there are quite a few of them out there that work on a Cost-Per-Exposure basis. In other words, you only pay them IF they get you in somewhere. Of course, the fees will range based on the type of the publication or media, but it does offer a peace of mind and doesn’t force you into paying thousands per month without any guarantees.

    However, speaking as a Publisher of a print publication, I have to say that it really doesn’t take that much to get coverage. It really comes down to researching the publication in advance, figuring out what it typically covers, and then approach the editor/reporter with a few unique and original story ideas that you could cover. If you show that you did your homework and have interesting ideas, that will get the ball rolling.

    I can’t tell you how many times we get press releases from PR agencies who don’t even realize that we are a quarterly publication and would have no use for them. Or PR people that contact us to setup a conversation or a meeting with their client without even knowing what is it that they would want to cover.

    Boris

  11. Nice Post! I am sure to be referring back to this article frequently over the coming months.

    And I am sure my clients will benefit from this info. One of them, right now, is shelling out big bucks for minor returns from a PR agency.

  12. Quite a gem piece, especially for us, Brand strategists, who spends a fortune on PR and advertising to stay in top of our customer’s minds.

  13. Good info. Nice Neil.
    Cheers all the way from Mongolia.

  14. Great post. I am a PR consultant from Singapore. Not enough businesses here understand the power of PR. I think this post got the gist of it! great work!

    Will include a link to this article on my own recently started blog http://www.the-newsmaker.com

    cheers!

  15. I’ve red this from somewhere else. I can’t remember but this is great stuff.

  16. lol I’ve red this here in Jan. Just saw my comment.

  17. Many people would say that Chris was just lucky. I think we should help luck like Chris did and the success will come sooner or later.

  18. I’m finding this one of the hardest areas to deal with at the moment. It sounds so easy but it never is…

    I’ll try these out and let you know how I go.

    Thanks!

  19. You dispensed some very sage advice here, Neil. It is amazing what opportunities some good press at the right time led to for you, and I would like to leave with this piece of wisdom – Winning starts with beginning.

    • Opportunities come up all the time, but winning starts with taking action. People can talk all day long but if you don’t get off your butt, nothing will happen.

  20. PR is important especially in a corporate world. It determines how you run your business and how do you handle also your costumers.

  21. I never thought about trying to go about reaching out the newspapers and magazines myself. That is a great idea. My friend got picked up on a local news station just for doing a good job at landscaping and got a great response from something he wasn’t even looking into.

  22. Saved as a favorite, I really like your blog

  23. .) I’m impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

  24. If you own a small company, the biggest headeache is how to PR. We have been struggling with PR for years as there is always no budget or no resources or even the correct approach. I like what you have highlighted. A good ice breaker I would say. Thanks

  25. I tend not to leave a response, however I read a
    few of the responses on The Secrets of Public Relations Revealed.
    I do have a couple of questions for you if it’s allright. Is it only me or do some of these remarks come across like they are written by brain dead visitors? :-P And, if you are writing on additional sites, I’d like to keep up with everything fresh you have
    to post. Would you make a list of the complete
    urls of all your social sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook
    page or twitter feed?

  26. How would you apply these to a business that sell lingerie or adult clothing? PR will be hard unless it’s done within the industry publication but how would one go out side to the mass?

  27. Hey Neil and Chris thanks for the sharing, Now i know how there is 20++ year old boy in my country copying your strategist.. He is doing good.. Just got interviewed.by press in my country and he is also my mentor.

    The key to success is to copy and paste the trace to success. Simple as that. By sharing information that priceless like this. Already want to try this method i’ll keep this in mind..

  28. really this site is very good site and the post include a lot of resource.thanks for share with us.good bye.

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