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Cut Through the Online Noise. 5 Publicity Tips From a PR Pro.

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By now it's common knowledge that digital technologies have made it far easier for entrepreneurs to build a network for sharing their messages. Company founders can stay in touch with business acquaintances, press contacts and colleagues simply by signing into LinkedIn.

And through daily Facebook updates, tweets, Instagram posts and old-fashioned emails, anybody can be his or her own personal brand manager. Everyone is a publicist now -- whether he or she admits it or not.

But as a newly minted entrepreneur might tell you, these technologies have also made it harder to stand out and forge strong professional and press connections. It turns out that having the tools to blast your message to everyone you’ve ever met doesn’t instantly make you a publicist.

That’s not to say that entrepreneurs should not do what they can to promote themselves and their businesses online. But there’s a right way to go about it.

What follows are a few tips I’ve learned in my years as a public-relations professional for cutting through the online noise, using my time and energy effectively and getting calls and emails returned: 

Related: The Do's and Don'ts of Press Releases (Infographic)

1. Target your message. 

If you’re feeling the temptation to blanket the web with your latest press release, resist. A one-size-fits-all pitch isn’t going to cut it, whether you're selling a service, an idea or yourself.

Ask yourself why your product is relevant to each specific person or group you’re trying to reach and tailor the message accordingly.

The widget you designed might have one set of benefits for small-business owners, another for big corporations and still another for industry journalists. It’s not enough to list everything that’s great about your product, drop in a few self-congratulatory quotations and hit send. 

2. Don’t be lazy about research.

A lot of the individuals whom you’re trying to reach won’t be easy to contact. Take the time to figure out which key decision-makers you need to connect with and how to get in touch with them. Stay away from email addresses like

What you're after are personal email addresses and direct phone numbers. They’re easier to suss out with 30 minutes of Internet searching than you might think. You just need to put in a little time. And always, always follow up after you send the message.

Related: The 6 Worst Press-Release Topics That Startups Pitch

3. Avoid selling just anything about your business. 

It’s hard to admit, but not everything about your business is worth bragging about. So don’t. Emphasizing less-than-amazing aspects of your products only distracts from your promotion of those features truly worth people’s attention.

What’s more, if you become known as someone who wastes people’s time with empty hype, you’ll be a lot easier to ignore. 

4. Don’t reach out just when you need something.

I make a point of emailing contacts regularly with interesting news stories and useful information or to introduce them to people I think they should know.

This not only ensures that my emails get read. It makes me more than just another LinkedIn contact who only corresponds when he needs something.

5. Get reporters on the phone. 

Email and social media are great for making the first contact with journalists. But if you’re serious about getting press, you won’t get far unless you can get reporters on the horn.

Short of meeting face-to-face, it’s the single best way to accurately sell your story and answer questions. Be prepared: Reporters don’t want to talk on the phone if they can avoid it. But if you’ve piqued their interest over email, you’ll be on your way.

Follow up with a phone call, establish a rapport and keep them talking.

Related: How to Get the Press to Write About Your Company