Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
A small business owner walks over to his/her computer, they email an editor they know covers “their section” and even go as far as to mention (sincerely) to the editor how much they liked one of the last articles said editor wrote and what specifically it was that they enjoyed. They then go on to write a brief and concise pitch to the editor about their product/service/expertise that is clearly a great fit for the outlet. The editor is thrilled because it’s a pitch that is on point with that they cover, they got some appreciation and they know that the person is pitching them from a sincere place and not spamming them along with ten other editors. The editor writes back, they begin and back and forth email relationship about the pitch, the editor makes sure they feature the business on the website first just to give the small business owner some PR “love” quickly, and within a few months the small business owner’s story has landed in his/her DREAM section. Everyone is happy.
Is this a fantasy? Is this a random anecdote? No….It’s what happens every day when people handle their DIY PR program in a well thought out and strategic way. This small business owner can be you. I promise. I’m so sure of it that I will say the below statement publicly (until I'm blue in the face) and in BOLD font:
You are guaranteed to get more press if you really know and care about the outlets you are pitching.
You Google a man or woman you’d like to date, you “Yelp” a new salon or restaurant you want to go to, but you don’t think you have time to research a magazine that could change the course of your product sales or expert status forever? Not anymore!
You gotta put in the work! Plan your work, work your plan! Getting a placement anywhere, whether a small but influential blog or a major magazine isn’t something you should take lightly. Yet some people put more work into picking out an Italian restaurant for a Friday night out than they do into pitching a major, national publication. I continue to not understand this…I have actually laid in bed thinking “why do people do this and wonder why they aren’t getting results?"
Think about the field we’re working with here when talking about pitching – it’s part of the job if you work in public relations. Public Relations. Relationships. It also involves research. Publicists do it for a living. If you can’t hire one, the buck stops with you. You have to work on relationships. You have to get to know the places you want to pitch. There is no shortcut. Well, okay, there are a few, which I’ve detailed below, but if you REALLY want to succeed, the faster way is to spend a little bit more time doing your homework, which will lead to a lot of success.
In order to make this easier for you, I’m going to tell you what you can do RIGHT NOW for better press. Guaranteed.
Go to your local Barnes & Noble, magazine stand, library – heck if you’re in an airport on the way home from your holiday vacation stop over at a Hudson News stand or whatever bookstore is on hand.
Find every magazine you would like to be in (we’re talking Glamour to Inc. to Fast Company to Brides – you think you belong in it, you grab it and put it on your “to buy” list).
First just read it. READ IT. Get to know the tone of the magazine, look at the different columns, look at the sections that are in every issue (often they are in the table of contents in an area called “in every issue”).
Look for stories that include products/experts/stories like yours. This is where you should be. Look at how they talk about them, what parts of the magazine they are found in, really study it.
Look to see who writes those sections, and if it’s not noted, look to see who covers those general categories. You can find this next to the actual article, or you can find it at the front of the magazine in the “Masthead” (which is where the entire staff is listed).
Ideally, you should subscribe (or buy the magazine regularly) so that you can see how these columns and categories, editorial lay outs and product recommendations play out every week, month or for some outlets like newspapers, every day.
OKAY SO I FINALLY GOT INTO MY OUTLET RESEARCH GROOVE, BUT WHO DO I PITCH?
Same rules apply here, you need to hit up the right contacts. Don’t be discouraged it’s not as bad as you think. Here are FOUR ways to do this (no publicist needed).
See if you can figure out who writes the column or magazine section or blog simply by looking for their name. This is fairly easy for online outlets, they usually list their contacts on the website. Newspapers tend to list the actual email address right in the newspaper (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc).
If you cannot figure out who writes a certain magazine article, go to the Masthead (front of the magazine) and find their name under the topic they cover. Then find their contact via the Tin Shingle media contacts, find them by using Google, find them on Twitter, or find them by simply calling the magazine and asking for the correct editor. Yes it’s that easy.
If you have no luck in the above ways, just reach out to an editorial assistant at the outlet. They are the "gatekeepers".
- Record their information in the tracking sheet you use to track your pitches. Then you always have it.
That is IT! You’ve learned the secret! Sure, you may be telling me “but I don’t have time to put in all that work”. What? What was that? I can’t hear you? I don’t listen to unreasonable arguments that don’t produce awesome, positive results. If you only have time to research two magazines a day, that is ten magazines a week (see, I gave you weekends off). If you only have time to research ONE a day that is five a week.
The truth is, you’ll soon get into this habit and you’ll begin to see blogs, newspapers and magazines in a new way. You’ll remember names, sections and series that you could be a part of. You’ll read new outlets when on airplanes, lounging at home, on the train and you’ll start jotting down names of the people who write the sections you’re supposed to be in.
Even BETTER? You’ll start seeing the positive result that comes from doing things the right way. It may be a little bit of work in the beginning but hey, you started a BUSINESS, you know what hard work is, this is just part of it.
Try it out, for the first couple months of the year! Report back! We are here for you!