Many of you reading this have your products (or you are your own product), and you want to get on themor you on television, in magazines, or on a great website. Actually, if you didn't want these things I would wonder how you intend to have a viable business. Press is necessary when building your brand and increasing visibility which leads to sales. Nevertheless I see the same mistakes being made by entreperneurs and small businesses EVERY day, and this week I decided to list my current "top mistakes you should avoid" to be sure you never fall into these traps that will slow down your press campaign!
*Prompt Response Time - If you want to be in the press you have to be available to the press. If you work for your company full time you must always ensure that you or someone at your company can return a press request in less than 2 hours, preferably within 15 minutes. I cannot tell you how many people I have seen lose placements because they were not able to return an email or call with information an editor or producer needed. They were passed over, because there were other "fish in the sea" that were returning calls. I know this can be tough, but it's the truth. For example, just this week we were pulling products for Parenting, and when I asked them when they wanted all the photos and products sent they said "3 pm". As in, 2 hours from when they called. Had I not returned the call or email, someone else's photos would be headed off to a printer, and another person's product would be at a photoshoot. Fortunately we worked fast and some of your submissions were sent in!
Moral of the Story: Make a game plan, figure out who will return calls and requests on what days, and be so prepared for those calls that it only takes you seconds to get them what they need. How can you be prepared? Keep reading....
*Linesheets - I am not expecting you to have a look book that rivals Marc Jacobs or a Martha Stewart catalogue, but be conscious of the fact that even if you are a small business, or a one woman show, you are competing with all different sizes of companies with large and small staffs, and at the end of the day the editors and producers do not care if you work 70 hours a week, or that you don't know how to do photoshop, or that you haven't had time to get a line sheet together...sorry but they just don't. What they do care about is that whatever product you want them to put in their media outlet is shown clearly and nicely in some sort of line sheet, with the RETAIL price listed. This product must be available for them to see live and in person as a sample whenever they request it. That said only put products in a line sheet if you actually have access to it. Too many times I've sent out look books, editors get excited, they try to pull the product for a photo shoot, and they can't get it. Guess what? They won't call you again. You don't have to hire a professional for this if you don't have the time, but you do have to take the time to somehow get your products on a document in an organized manner. I have seen people copy and paste from their website and make rows of images, type in prices below them and one line descriptions, PDF the document, and get placed on major morning news shows when they pitched that way. Keep it simple, but keep it good looking and also....keep it down to 1MB or below. I prefer things in small sizes. Also keep it to one document, they will not take the time to open multiple large documents from an unknown source every time - play it safe!
*Samples - you need them if you want someone to want your product. You need a nice looking, clean, functioning sample of everything you have to offer. Sometimes magazines will just use a photo, often times they will want to see and test out your product to see if they like it. I don't recommend sending out samples willy nilly. I rarely send them to blogs unless they have a relationship with me and a good reputation. I track EVERY sample that leaves my office and I follow up on every one of them to be sure they are returned. I make sure people know they must be returned....But I have them. If I don't have enough product (1-2 samples at least of all I am pitching) to share with the media, how can I make them believe I'll have enough to sell to the public?
*Functioning website that is a good fit for your brand - this is your calling card. This speaks for your brand. It has to be easy to use, in tune with your brand image, and should have easy to find contact information. If you have one of those boxes where people have to write you a letter to contact you - change it! This means it takes me longer to reach you and I wonder when I will hear back, thus I'll most likely pass you over if I'm on deadline.
*Reel if you are an expert - If you want to go on TV (national) you have to have a 2-3 minute reel showing your presence and delivery on screen. You can do this at home with a camera and a good attitude. See here Michele and Andy of www.michelebaratta.com created this at home, in one weekend. As a side note, Michele is a rock star in the world of selling parties and direct sales, which as you may have seen in the press is a hot, hot topic in business! She will be teaching a teleclass this summer to teach you the tips and tricks of bringing in money this way for your business...and she always has samples availabe!!
*Media Tracking Sheet - Let's say you're doing a great job pitching and interest is coming in because you are following the above rules and remaining persistent and patient...All of that is worthless if you can't keep track of who wants what and when...and then when your placements are coming out. That means you need a media tracking sheet. It should track: Outlet, Contact, Phone, Email, Status, Next Steps...and anything else you need to keep track of. I promise, if you don't do this even if you have a mind like a steel trap, you will forget. You are running a business you already have too many things in your head!
So heed my words of advice! Very few things make me freak out....I used to teach high school and on a ninety degree day I could handle 30 teeangers without losing my cool. The one thing that makes me lose it is when amazing brands like yours miss out on opportunities because of easily and cheaply corrected mistakes!
Good luck - and let us know how we can help! We have FREE pr teleclasses every month for Core members, and if you want us in person, check out here!