Entrepreneurs Who Speak for Themselves Don't Need to Hire PR
If you’re keen to get press coverage for your business or brand it’s tempting to think outsourcing your PR is great idea. You pay a specialist to write a press release and send it out to a bunch of journalists -- while you get on with doing the things you’re good at.
But in reality there is no such thing as a ‘set and forget’ approach to PR. In fact, handing your PR over to someone else could actually stop you from getting press coverage.
Here’s why outsourcing your PR can be a bad idea:
A press release is no guarantee.
Most journalists get hundreds of press releases every day -- many of which get deleted, unopened. So unless you’ve got a huge story on your hands (and, realistically, how often does this happen for most entrepreneurs?) sending out a press release is a bit like throwing a pack of playing cards in the air and hoping one of them lands in the right place. A couple might, but do you really want to leave your PR to chance?
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to PR. If you’re serious about getting press coverage, you need to invest time researching the publications and programs you’d like to be featured in and work out what kind of story would be of interest to each -- which might mean creating several versions of your press release.
Sadly, however, there are people out there who will happily take your money to write you a generic press release without knowing --- or caring -- if it’s newsworthy.
Journalist contact databases are not reliable.
Some business owners try to save time by paying for contact databases of journalists. But these are not always up-to-date and don’t include the kind of information that can make all the difference to your pitching -- that a particular journalist is on a short sabbatical or secondment to another desk, for example.
Relying on databases can also encourage lazy PR. If you’re serious about getting media coverage, you need to build relationships with journalists, which is difficult to do if your idea of ‘networking’ is looking up email addresses on a spreadsheet.
While creating your own database (or getting someone to do this for you) using information from social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn -- or just picking up the phone and asking -- does mean investing a little bit more time up front, it will pay off in the long-run.
If you’re short on time, paying for a press release distribution service - which will send your story out to all major the media outlets -- can seem tempting. But emailing a press release to hundreds of journalists doesn’t mean any of them will actually open it. If your story isn’t newsworthy, they won’t cover it.
There is more than one kind of press coverage.
Press releases are very similar to news stories in style and form. So in the days when media outlets mainly published news, they were the perfect way to communicate with journalists. In fact, a well-written press release could easily be turned into a story -- without you even speaking to a reporter.
Today media outlets publish a huge variety of content including interviews, features, first-person "confessionals," listicles, pictures galleries and ‘how to’ articles (to name just a few). The good news is there are far more opportunities for you to get media coverage for your business. The bad news is -- if you’re just sending out ‘blanket’ press releases -- you could be missing out on opportunities to get media coverage.
Journalists don’t have time to scan every press release to see whether there is potential for an interview, feature or ‘how to’ article. To increase your chances of getting media coverage you need to invest time researching the publications or programs you’d like to get coverage in and sending tailored pitches that are aimed at specific ‘slots’ or sections.
Journalists prefer dealing with business owners.
Many business owners I speak to are under the impression that journalists prefer dealing with PR specialists. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Most journalists would much rather talk to business owners direct; not only is it generally quicker (they don’t need to get anyone’s permission to set up an interview for starters), no one knows or loves your business like you do -- which means they’re bound to get better content.
This is not to say you should never outsource. But if you hand over your PR - without at least a basic understanding of how the media works - how will you know if you’re getting value-for-money? Handling your own PR -- at least for a time -- not only helps you build better relationships with journalists. It also means that when you’re ready to outsource, you’ll be much better placed to make the right hires.