The Tin Shingle Blog - #PRCampaigns
I often find that a few small tweaks in a company's do-it-yourself PR campaign can make a world of difference. A change in follow-up strategy or pitch copy can mean the difference between a reply or placement from your target outlet and radio silence.
So how can you be sure if you're doing things the right way if you're not a trained public relations professional? Turn to the pros for help! Lucky for you Tin Shingle is proud to be friends and colleagues with some of the best publicists in the business. Today we pulled some advice from two such PR Gurus: Malorie Kaye Goldberg of Cameo PR, and Connie Wong (a Tin Shingle herself) who is the founder of Moderne Press. Both are well versed in working with new and small business brand and both were more than willing to share with you one of their favorite tips for entrepreneurs when pitching themselves to the press.
Want more tips? Be sure you regulalry check in at our Ask the Experts section of the website where we carry tips, tricks and insider scoop along with answers to YOUR questions about PR, business strategy, legal scoop, accounting and more!
1Tip for an Entrepreneur Pitching Themselves to the Press (from the Pros)
From Malorie Kaye, Cameo PR:
When introducing your brand to members of the press & media, the most important thing to remember is the age-old adage, "first impressions are everything." It is imperative to ensure that every element representative of your collection is exactly as you would like it to be prior to presenting to editors, as their first glance will be the one that makes them come back for more or pass you by without a second thought.
The most essential tools to have in place are aesthetically pleasing linesheets that include your entire assortment along with retail pricing, an easy-to-navigate website that is clean and simple yet cohesive with your brand, a bio that captures your background and inspiration in a few short paragraphs and a full sample set, properly tagged and ready to go out to magazines at the drop of a hat. With the right foundation, you will offer editors a stress-free way to incorporate your collection in to their daily routine and hopefully secure the press placement appropriate for your designs.
Follow Malorie & Cameo PR on Twitter HERE!
From Connie Wong, Moderne Press:
Time is of the essence. Remember that the world of media can be very fast-paced, and editors are usually on tight deadlines. If an editor requests information/images/samples, make sure to ask when they need them by
- and deliver them on time! It could mean the difference between your product being featured or not
Follow Connie & Moderne Press HERE!
When giving PR tips we often talk about best practice ways to get you or your brand into the press. As with any skill, there are definite do's when working with the media. There are also definite "don'ts". As we always say here at Tin Shingle, the foundation of public relations is the relations portion. It's all about creating great relationships. In the same way you know to respect our personal and professional relationships we must respect your PR relationships because as in any other situation, a media relationship that took you months or years to create, can just as easily be damaged in minutes by a mistake you may not have realized was a "no no".
Never fear, we're here to guide you away from these mistakes that are surprisingly more common than you may realize with some honest and straight forward advice.
We've compiled a list of easily avoidable PR Don'ts that you should commit to memory and share with everyone involved in your company's DIY PR team to ensure great media relationships and great press, in the future!
WHEN DOING YOUR OWN PR BE SURE YOU DON'T EVER:
Make it time consuming to reach you. We're actually NOT a fan of the fill in the blank "Contact Us" forms on websites. That is not only an extra step for press who are often working on deadlines, but it leaves them wondering when you will actually get the message. Always have an email address at the very least, and if possible a phone number for "press" listed.
Fail to track your outreach. Every single pitch you make should be tracked in a spreadsheet. If you don't do this you will never remember who you pitched what to and when. This will lead to both overpitching and underpitching, both of which will prevent you from getting the press you're working so hard to get. Spreadsheets are also great ways for you to keep track of pending press you have on the horizon, what you were supposed to send to an editor/producer, job titles of the media, contact information and so much more. An organized PR program is the only type that will work.
Think someone in the press is beneath you or too little to give your time to for an interview/soundbite/etc. Yesterday's little guy is today's Editor in Chief or Executive Producer. Just as I can assume you would never mistreat a waiter, receptionist, janitorial staff member, etc....But I digress....When I began my career as a publicist, I was always polite, prompt and gave of my time to editors big and small. I tried to be as available as possible to them and treat everyone with respect. The same people who were editorial assistants at the magazines I was working with them are now the directors, executive editors and in some cases, have started popular blogs that carry nearly as much power as magazines. The production assistants at some shows have become EP's (executive producers) at others. And ya know what? I still work with them. I can promise you that you would be hard pressed to find someone in the media who I have ever burned a bridge with, because I haven't. It's made outreach that much easier and made a huge difference in all the press work I do.
Think the reporter "owes you" a placement. Ever. So you sent in segment tips and ideas and they didn't use them. So you sent over cookies. So you have pitched them 15 times and they have told you they'd love to do something with you in the future. It doesn't matter, the nature of media is such that it is ever-changing and the producers and editors selecting the content have tons of reasons why things will and won't work at any given time. Conveying to them that they "owe you" is a fast way to kiss a great media relationship goodbye. Sound crazy? We've actually heard reporters tell us of people who have said this to them. Those people will never be called back again. Ouch.
Be unavailable or difficult to work with. No matter how fabulous you and your brand are, you are at the mercy of the media and their schedules. Just accept that (we as publicists did years ago). This means that unless you are a major star, no one is working around your schedule as much as you need to work around theirs. They want you to meet them at their office? You say yes. They want to meet next week at noon? You make it work. You do not say you cannot because you are on carpool duty. You just don't. They also often have the final say in TV segments if you're an expert, so unless it's honestly compromising your integrity as an expert, you must be flexible. Your reputation gets around and the media world is small, if you are known as a difficult brand/product/expert it will be very hard to get work in the future.
"Steal" email addresses from queries and hit them back with a completely different pitch. This is an old trick that admittedly, can work in your favor at times, but only if done correctly. Basically, if you see a PR query on our Tin Shingle PR Leads, HARO or any other lead source and then you say to yourself "oh hey this person from XXX media outlet would be great to pitch my story to, even though they are asking for something totally different now" and you proceed to pitch yourself to them by taking their contact from the query, you are making a mistake. Let's think about it - they aren't asking you for your story, they are clearly working on another story. They are not fools, they will know you lifted their email from a PR lead list (I can bet you this is why HARO emails are now anonymous). This is "contact abuse" and another fast way to ruin a media relationship. If you cannot physically stop yourself from lifting a useful email address, store it in your contact database and research the contact. If you still think they are a good fit, wait a bit before you pitch them.
Take ages to follow up. When someone contacts you, there should be some system in place in your business to be sure they are replied to within an hour if it's on a weekday. If not, believe me, there will be 10 other people ready to take your place in the story.
Fail to introduce yourself. Do you walk up to someone you don't know at a party and immediately start talking to them about yourself before an introduction? Of course not! Then don't do it with the press. If it's via email, a simple "Hello, this is XXX from XXX" will suffice. If it's via phone you should not only introduce yourself (briefly) you should also ask if they have a few seconds before you launch into your elevator pitch.
Be unprepared in terms of press materials: You should never have to scramble to get the media what they want. What does this mean? You should have the following items ready to go so that when a media contact asks for them after pitching, you can email it to them immediately:
- Product Shots (high and low res)
- Headshot (high and low res)
- Media Kit (with an About the Company, About the Founders, Tip Sheets if you're an expert, and any other relevant information)
- Product linesheets if you're a product based brand (with retail pricing only)
- A website you can direct them to (even if it's a classy looking WordPress site)
Pitch an outlet without doing your research. It's not enough to say "Oh I'd love to be on XXXX (insert dream outlet here). You need to know if they cover experts/products similar to you, how they deliver the information, if they've ever worked with anyone like you in the past, who covers the section/segment you want to be in (if you can find this out...) etc. The more you know the better your chances are. ****BONUS TIP**** If you can site a segment/story they did in the past that you enjoyed you're sure to win brownie points!
Say to yourself "I'm not a publicist, so a lot of what Sabina mentioned above isn't really my job". Oh really? Let me break it down for you "tough love style" : It is your job. Unless you hire a PR agency to make relationships for you and do your research and carry out your campaign as professionally as possible, you are the one in charge of your DIY campaign. Even if you're getting help or taking classes or getting contacts from somewhere/someone, having them isn't enough. If it was that easy, everyone would be in the press. Whether by Twitter, by phone, by email, by deskside, by boat, by plane.....however you need to make it happen, it's your job to make this DIY campaign work. The buck stops with you. If you don't take it seriously, you will not get serious press.
Are you really ready for Daily Candy? What does it take? A few Tin Shingle members have been featured on Daily Candy - and not just once! Tin Shingle member Amy Demas of Bestow Boutique was featured in Daily Candy, Rachel Dooley of Gemma Redux (twice, once in article and once as a produced video), Jill Frechtman of Fretzels by Jill for a gift guide edition, and more!
Rarely a day goes by that a designer or entrepreneur fails to ask me how to get on Daily Candy, and I have decided that in the interest of everyone, it's time to get down & dirty with Daily Candy, and talk about how to get in, who they are looking for, and how it will affect your brand. The latter is extremely important because as much as we fantasize about getting that hit, if you aren't prepared it could break your brand.
In the article, we will cover:
- What Daily Candy looks for in a product
- Your website and how you convey your brand
- Was a similar brand covered recently?
- How you pitch Daily Candy
- How to contact Daily Candy once you're ready
- How to prepare once you are picked to be featured on Daily Candy
We at Tin Shingle make Media Contact Lists available to small businesses and independent brands like yours as a benefit of professional membership with us. By becoming a member, you would have isntant access to Media Contact Lists that include contacts to national magazines and online outlets, from Daily Candy to Vogue. You could search for a contact in a particular area of interest, such as a Beauty editor at Daily Candy. We also offer cultivated PR Leads, and inclusion in our PR Matchmaking program. Click here to learn more about membership with us.
How do you get your product on the Today Show? Practice, practice, practice! And then, replace the word "practice" with the word "pitch," and you should be good to go!
That said, the Today Show fourth hour has become quite a showcase for interesting, unique or must-have products. Nearly daily, Kathie Lee & Hoda place different products from both indie brands to creations from international corporations on their table, and during their hour long segment they periodically pick one up, show it off, talk about what it is and where to buy it. This, my friends, is often product placement gold! The Today Show has a large, loyal audience and getting a plug by either of these two women can bring you instant validation (not to mention a spike in sales).
So how do you get your product on the Today Show? As with everything in public relations, nothing is ever guaranteed. However, after placing products on the 4th hour myself, as well as talking to the producer of the 4th hour segment, we have a few tips that will make the road to Today Show fame a little less bumpy for you.
Part of every PR campaign will inevitably mean reaching out to local press. This could mean telling your success story to your hometown press, or it could also mean that you're planning to visit cities other than your own and you need to figure out what outlets there need to be pitched. Publicists do the same thing, if we have a client doing a media tour in a city we aren't familiar with we need to quickly figure out the press outlets that are located there, determine which ones are relevant to our campaign/client/pitches and begin outreach.
Here's another time you should begin to think about media outlets in diferent cities: anytime you are visiting one. If you are an expert or entrepreneur with a story or tips to share, and you find yourself in another city for a few days, why aren't you trying to reach out to the news media there and tell them your story? There is no reason you shouldn't be spending a little bit of time allocated for PR outreach to see if you can do a segment while you're in town. Okay scractch that, there is a reason: if you have nothing relevant to share with them, don't reach out to them. If you're in Dallas and you run a company that does NYC bus tours, this may not be your scene. That said, if you are a home organizer and you can take your tips on the road, it's worth a try!
Often the first step here is the hardest - which outlets do I reach out to? Well long story short, that's the point of this blog entry. Even though publicists have access to great databases filled with names of outlets that span from newspapers to radio shows for nearly every geographic location in the country (which we pay for), we still need to start somewhere. I personally often struggle with hunting down the tv stations for different cities - in New York City local NBC is WNBC - what is it in other parts of the country, like Columbus, Ohio? Detroit, Michigan? Atlanta? Sure I can seach within databases but I want a quick lay out of all the tv stations in a city at once and I want it fast. Sometimes I want to see every newspaper in Miami, or another time recently I wanted to find every Home Decorating & Design media outlet that was a national outlet.
Where do I go for these things? I go to the Mondo Times website. It houses over 27,670 outlets in over 212 countries! Now it's not going to specify which reporter you should call or their contact info but it will tell you things like what it covers, a description, how often it comes out etc. It's the best place to start, especially if you don't have access to a fancy media database. Several entries even take you to the outlet's website where you can find more contact information.
Keep this website in your back pocket, it's worth it whenver you need to find outlets locally, nationally and even internationally! Sure you can pay for fancy contact lists but wait for the time when you can really spend your overhead on that. For now, use tools like this to get the job done!
If you told me a few years ago that I would be participating on Facebook and Twitter I would have laughed at you....yet these days Facebook is one of the first windows I open up on my laptop after checking the morning's headlines. Once I shunned Twitter, and now I can thank it for connecting me to editors, new business, Tin Shingle members and in many cases, breaking news before CNN gets to it. Once I was embarassed about telling friends I was a member of these sites, now I include my Twitter & Facebook addresses in my email signature (a MUST in my opinion if you use either of these networks).
The point is - social media is a must in my life, and not just personally....for me, and probably many small business owners, their social media accounts have become one of their most powerful - and affordable - marketing and PR tools. When people tell me that social media is just not part of their business strategy I honestly want to ask them, "is a cell phone?". Point being, you need to be where the customers eyes and ears are, and connect to them - go to the customer/client/media. These days in many cases that is Facebook and Twitter, who knows what it will be in five years, but you better bet any businesses I work with will be there finding how best we can reach and connect with our audience in whatever the new medium may be.
Today Forbes reported that reports show 54% of small and midsize businesses (SMB) use social media to promote their businesses which is DOUBLE what it was in December 2009. These businesses aren't only members of these social media communities, 35% are ACTIVE members (after all why buy a gym membership if you don't use it - muscles don't just grow themselves) that post daily.
I encourage you to read the article, and reflect on how you're using social media in your brand's outreach campaign. Ask youself if you're continuing to educate yourself about which social networking communities work for you, read great case studies to inspire you, and remember to start conversations with your followers, don't just talk at them!
If you haven't checked it out yet, you can read the Forbes piece HERE.
See you online!
How to Pitch & Get Featured in Time Out New York's Designer Profile: Member Sabina Les Shares Tips & Lessons Learned
No matter what city you live in across the country, your local newspaper or perhaps city-focused magazine covers exciting things locals are doing. This is because everyone loves a hometown hero, a local success story and to cheer on someone from their own community. If you're in New York City, one of these coveted profiles is the Time Out New York designer profile series. Landing on these pages means you're sure to get more validation as a brand and designer, not to mention exposure to potential buyers, customers and other members of the press.
That said, landing Time Out New York or any local publication's profile section can be a challenge. To get some straight-up, honest scoop about what it takes to make something like this happen, we went to member Sabina Les, founder and designer of Sabina Les scarves, who was featured in this section recently. Not only did she land this feature, she did it on her own, without the help of any PR firm and with no previous relationship with Time Out New York! She started with a contact she found in our members-only list of Media Contacts (join today for access to the list and much more), and went for the pitch.
CE: Some designers may not even realize opportunities like Time Out New York’s Designer Spotlight, or similar types of columns, exist in their hometown. How did you find the section, and had you been reading it prior to pitching?
SL: Time Out New York isn’t perceived as a typical “fashion magazine” and gets overlooked by designers. I’ve been a fan and subscriber of the magazine for a long time and always read their Designer Spotlight sections to find about new and upcoming designers. Usually, the section covers 3 designers on one page. I was totally blown away when they gave me alone a full page.
CE: When did you decide it was time to pitch TONY your story?
SL: I waited until I felt confident that I had a comprehensive collection to pitch.
CE: Tell us briefly about the outreach process (did you email, call, send photos, follow up).
SL: I emailed the contact person a brief email stating top 5 facts about my scarves and the website link. Fortunately, I got a response the same day from the fashion editor. Her assistant set up interview meeting with the editor and the photographer.
CE: There are few people who are patient when waiting for a possible press placement. How long did you have to wait from when you initially pitched TONY to when the article landed on the newsstands?
SL: Yes, waiting after the initial pitch is the hardest part. It took about 4 weeks from the initial email to the issue with my interview to hit the newsstands.
CE: What are one or two tips you would give a new designer who is hoping to share their designer story in a section like Designer Spotlight or something comparable in their hometown?
SL: Research your local media and think outside the box. There are a lot of media outlets that specialize in new designers and it’s less intimidating to approach them then a major fashion magazine.
Thanks to Sabina Les for taking time from her ever-growing business to share this insider information with us. We also appreciate the reminder that patience is so necessary during a PR campaign! Remember that your public relations outreach is truly a marathon not a sprint!
Take it from both Sabinas contributing to this blog!
Sabina (Ptacin) & Sabina (Les)
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that they were perfect for the Today Show, that a segment on Good Morning America would change their life or that The View would love their story I'd be rich. Well I'd at least be on the Saks Fifth Avenue shoe floor a good part of every weekend. Though these statements may at times be true, there's another place that your story could be perfect for, that could change your life and an outlet that could love your story even faster....This place is your local morning news show.
Before you scoff at redirecting your energy towards local television when you know that Al Roker & Meredith Vieira just don't know what they are missing yet, let me remind you that landing segments on your local television station has huge benefits, whether you're in New York City where local segments are the closest thing to national morning news you'll get without being national (where the national producers are often also tuning in) or a smaller town like Battle Creek, MI (my hometown) where you'd actually be surprised at the amount of eyeballs on your segment (as you're actually often getting larger metropolitan area newscasts - in our case in Michigan, the Grand Rapids & Kalamazoo stations).
That said, today we're going to cover the two questions we get most often here about local morning shows:
So Why Spend Time on Local Press?
What To Do Before, During and After Getting a Local Morning Show Segment?
FOR THESE ANSWERS & MORE CLICK HERE!
If you've ever been on any PR Tune Up calls or attended any of our Tin Shingle PR training sessions online or in person, you know that one of my BIGGEST pet peeves is when people try to pitch an outlet without actually knowing who writes for it or how that outlet works. It is 100% your responsibility as the person pitching your brand to be aware of who covers your beat, what stories they've covered in the past (to see if you are a good fit for them in terms of coverage), and how they prefer to be contacted. The latter tends to be trial and error often (I know that the majority want to be pitched via email, but sometimes a phone call is the fastest way to connect), but the former isn't as hard as it seems.
As I tell people daily - before you pitch a magazine, READ it. Know how it works, the sections, the writers and understand the masthead. The same goes for newspapers.....pick up a copy for a week and look at who is writing what in the sections.
One newspaper that many small businesses and experts that I speak with are interested in is USA Today. Why wouldn't it be? It's a fantastic paper that brings you great, validating natoinal coverage. That said, knowing you want to be in USA Today isn't enough, you need to know who to pitch as well!
Sure you can find contacts in the Tin Shingle media contact database, but how will you know who you should really be reaching out to? Fear not - those questions can be answered without even leaving your desk to grab the latest edition of the paper. Instead, go to the newspaper's website and check out the Reporter Index, which I've linked to HERE. In it you will find a list of the reporters who work at the paper, a profile for most of them, and links to all the recent articles they have done for the publication. Talk about one-stop-shopping for your pitch research!
I still recommend reading the publication as much as possible if you intend to pitch your story to them, but this is a great place to refer to when you find potential editors and writers to pitch.
Remember - research may seem tedious, but it will help you guarantee your pitches are headed in the right direction and that the relationships you are creating are with the people who really want to tell your story as much as you want your story to be shared!
It's Oprah Time!
Unless you've been living under a rock you are aware that The Oprah, Oprah Winfrey herself, announced that she will be ending her show. While loyal viewers and fans shed tears and all other talk show hosts around the country began spiffing up their media reels, enterpreneurs everywhere went into a panic. I know it - I received over 15 emails in about a half an hour asking everything from "what does this mean for my brand" to "you NEED to get me on there". You'd think this would begin to affect me and that I'd be swept up into the Oprah Mania as well, but truth is, if you're a publicist, you've been hearing these things from nearly every brand you encounter from day one. Tell someone you know someone at Oprah and you get more best friends than a celebrity with an bottomless bank account.
The truth is I could tell people that yes, Oprah is a great goal and yes, Oprah can change your life but no, you should not make this the end goal of your company or your vision. I could tell them that being on the Oprah Winfrey Show means much more than insta-fame and fortune. It means you have to be ready asap when they call, that you have to be able to support national sales and everything that entails (both online and in your shipping center), that you have to be tv ready in appearance and message and know your goals for that appearance (being on Oprah in itself is NOT a goal)....I could tell them all those things but it doesn't matter because everyone still dreams of Oprah all day long.
I won't lie, I drink my morning coffee from my Oprah mug and work on manifesting amazing stories about Tin Shingle and my clients at Red Branch PR on a daily basis....But I only send pitches when they are both Oprah-prepared and Oprah-ready and Oprah-worthy. And I never depend solely on Ms. Winfrey to bring my brands success - I work on telling my story, our story, and other stories to multiple outlets in multiple ways. But nevertheless, this turning over of the hourglass and shortening of time for which one can debut on Oprah is finally here. There is no longer a limitless amount of shows left on the channel - and not every brand will make it.
That said, it's time to do a few things now:
Make Your Story Count: tell it well, make it relevant, make it Oprah and make it TRUE!
Share Your Story: Email it to the show, pitch the correct producer (do your research, watch the show, call the show), send a letter, share your story via their Oprah.com website (they do read those), look at what stories are coming up and see how you would fit into those already planned stories.
Grow your buzz outside of Oprah: When Oprah finds a great story online or in another magazine, or if her producers read about something big and that everyone is buzzing about, that story has a better chance at getting on the air than one that has never been heard before. So go out and create buzz about yourself and your brand. Make it exciting, make a producer WANT to tell your story. Keep doing what you are doing and doing it well, and the press will find you. Of course keep sharing great things with them, but make yourself so buzzed about that they can't help but hear about you!
Believe! Imagine Oprah calling your name, share your story with friends and colleagues and what your goal is, connect via your business with others and do it so well, believe in your mission so much, that others will find that belief infectious and want to help tell your story!
Now go forward with hope for Oprah, yes, but moreso with hope for a great pr campaign, a great story, and a great time making your brand the best it can be and affecting others in a good way as you do it!
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