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Whether you’re a PR pro or just starting to think about pitching yourself, there’s always more you can be doing to get attention for your brand and products.
You don’t need an expensive PR firm to help you get visibility for your brand. There are a lot of things you can do yourself to get your name and product out there and in the press.
Today on Rebel Boss Ladies episode 013 I’m joined by Katherine McDermott, creator of Slightly Savvy and the podcast Swipe Up, and she’s going to share all of her tips and tricks for DIY-ing your PR.
Katherine has been working professionally and online in PR for years and she’s got a TON of strategies and suggestions to help you get your name and digital product more visibility.
Katherine says she was introduced to PR during college, when she got elected as the VP of PR for her sorority. It ended up being a life-changing year.
“It ended up being a really crazy year at Florida State… We won a national championship, we had a school shooting, and we had a big football scandal so we constantly had ESPN knocking at sorority house doors for comments and things like that.” All of these events meant Katherine had a lot of exposure to the world of PR, and she pursue it after graduation.
Two days after she graduated, Katherine started a job working professionally in PR and she quickly worked her way up. Within 6 months she was managing the department and getting some great experience, “we were doing tons of press and media and publicity in really large places.”
In July of this year, Katherine realized that she was tired of building other people’s brands for them, and it was time for her to build something for herself. She decided to build up her blog Slightly Savvy, which focuses on PR and working with brands and influencers, and turn it into her full-time job.
Katherine made this transition carefully and deliberately. “I didn’t just jump and fingers crossed hope I make money from having my blog and then having clients and having and influencer clients and brand clients on my own. I had already built it up basically where I had people waiting on deck, I had programs that I had built that were still bringing in revenue so I knew it would be profitable.”
While she wasn’t nervous about the profitability of her brand, she was a bit nervous about running a business. “It was scary… finally running your own business and there is no one to depend on for a paycheck.”
While building her online business, Katherine drew on her experiences working in PR. “I stepped back and looked at my own business and I was like, ‘if I was a client what would I do to myself? What would I say to myself and how would I grow it?’”
After seeing the power of publicity and media mentions, she knew that her PR strategy could be the game changer to help her grow her business quickly. She focused on it early, and started getting a lot of attention after a few guest appearances and mentions.
Katherine says that there’s a common misconception about when business owners should start focusing on PR. “I think a lot of people, especially entrepreneurs, look at PR and say “I need to wait 5 years before I do something like this.” She disagrees, and stresses that it’s never too early for business owners to start working on their PR.
Katherine emphasizes that getting visibility for your brand is a lot simpler than most people think. She recommends that everyone, whether you’re a new business just starting out or a million dollar tech startup, think about 3 important categories to develop a PR strategy.
First, think about the goal of your press. Do you want to drive more sales or get your name out there? Think carefully about what you want your outcome to be, and design your strategy around that.
Next, focus on your timeline. A lot of things in the PR world can be very time constrained. “There are events and deadlines and we work with the seasons differently in some way.”
If you want to pitch your product, think about when you want your press to be released and plan accordingly. Don’t save your pitches for too late, or you may miss the key times for your launch.
“If you have a big launch coming up and maybe you want some personal press for yourself or your business in March, that pitching should start in a week or two and just work backwords from the date where you want to be mentioned and figure out when you need to start pitching yourself.”
Finally, don’t forget to think about your dream media placements. Where is most valuable for you to be seen the few weeks before your launch?
Katherine recommends that there are a lot of great places for online entrepreneurs to create press. Writeups in places like Forbes, the Fast Company, Inc., or other small- and medium- tiered publications, an interview in a podcast, and even making connections with other people in your niche can generate a lot of attention for your launch.
“It’s as simple as making a list, finding some emails, finding contact info for them, reaching out and just pitching yourself.” DIY-ing your own press can be pretty easy, and you certainly don’t have to hire an expensive firm to bring attention to your launch.
Katherine explains that the definition of press depends on who you are and what your business is. For digital product sellers, press can include media mentions, podcasts, and writeups in publications and blogs. She emphasizes that you should look at what your goals are, and how different press outlets can help you achieve your goals.
Guest posts are another great way to get press for you or your product. “You’re posting or writing something for someone else's audience, you’re getting front of them, you’re getting mentioned by them.”
Katherine generally defines press as “getting in front of another audience that’s not your own.” The important part about press is exposure. It doesn’t necessarily matter how you do it, as long as it’s promoting and exposing you to a larger group of people.
If you’re ever worried or feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, Katherine says you’re not alone. “A lot of people are more confused and in the dark about PR/press than you think so I wouldn’t worry if you feel confused too.”
Katherine says that the basis for getting any press is that you have to ask.
It’s easy to be worried about what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it and the possibility of getting rejected. “When I was kind of starting out as a publicist pitching to reporters and journalists I was definitely worried about that too.”
The most important part of pitching, though, is just sending the email. “You have to get it out there and come at it from the best place you can of A) offering value and B) trying to solve a problem for them first and then asking for that publicity for yourself is kind off a secondary point.”
Receiving a ton of nos can be overwhelming at first. Katherine recommends to not be too attached to your pitches, because nos are a regular part of this process.
“Someone once told me… if everyone is telling you that they love the idea and it’s amazing then you’re on the wrong path, if people are telling you that they hate the idea and it’s crazy and it’ll never work, you’re on the right path.”
PR can definitely be time consuming, especially during a product launch. Katherine recommends, “when you’re DIY-ing your PR, you have to make it as simple and streamlined as you possibly can.”
Katherine suggests creating a running list of brands, places, and people that you want to connect with throughout the year and recording their contact information whenever you come across it. This is a great way to “make it easy on yourself by keeping track so you’re not sitting there four weeks before launch and you’re like ‘OK I need to be in all these places, how do I even start?’”
She also recommends that you carve time into your schedule to focus on PR, especially right before a product launch. “It’s as simple as an hour every Tuesday you sit down and fire off 30 emails or 20 emails just kind of copy and pasting your pitch, it can go a really long way.”
Press is also about momentum, Katherine adds. Just getting a few placements can lead to a lot of other opportunities organically.
Katherine says that the number of pitches you send depends on how well you craft your pitch. You want to balance the time spent with the quality of the pitch, and not cross the line where “the quality of your pitch goes down where the number of yeses you’re going to get is going to go down as well0”.
Katherine’s personal strategy is to find 15 to 20 key places to pitch. “Really write a strong pitch that A) addresses their pain and B) offers them kind of some value for their own work in return.”
Organization is key in planning a PR strategy, and Katherine recommends a couple different tools and apps to keep your PR plan on track.
First, how do you monitor your brand online? “In terms of true PR media monitoring, if you’re really looking for mentions of your brand there is a software called Mention.” This tool can help you keep track of where you or your brand is being mentioned, and help you find where you’re being talked about.
There are also resources online to help you reach out to media sources and find contact information. “If you’re truly going that journalist, reporter route, Muck Rack is really good.” LinkedIn can also be a great way to find the emails of people you want to reach out to.
To keep track of pitching and planning, there are a number of organizational tools. “I personally use Trello and Google Sheets to track literally everything I do,” says Katherine.
A great way to stay organized is to hire some extra help. Finding an intern who can do time-consuming work, like searching online for contact information, can help you use your time more efficiently.
Katherine likes to find interns to help with her list building, so she can focus her efforts on the more important things like crafting specific pitches and communicating with brands. It’s easy to find a college student or an intern on Upwork to help you organize your PR.
“You're spending where anyone can find an email address that doesn't take a lot of expertise, but you’re honing in on what that person that you're pitching to needs and also you honing in on the own messaging behind your product. You spending time on that is so much more valuable than you trying to piece together someone's email and find their contact info.”
Katherine recommends that if you don’t hear a response from a pitch you’ve sent, you should wait a week to follow up. Your follow up should also depend on when and what you’ve pitched.
She also suggests checking whether or not they’ve actually opened your email by using tools like HubSpot. “I like to say a week for waiting to follow up if you truly didn’t get a response and you saw they opened your email.”
A big part of following up is adding new information to what you previously sent them. “When you send somebody an email and it just says ‘hey, following up, thanks,’ that doesn’t make me any more enticed to open your email to respond to you.” Katherine recommends that when you’re following up, add something new like “’I just crossed this threshold’ or ‘I just booked this guest for the next two months,’ something that could pique their interest a little bit.”
A great way to follow up is to play on a competition or urgency angle. Mentioning other brands or individuals you’ve engaged can also help you generate interest from other possible sources. “They’re a lot more inclined to be like this is important, this is a big deal, let’s get on board too.”
Katherine’s biggest piece of advice for digital product sellers that want to take the step to start working on their PR?
“100% I guarantee you people are going to say no to you and that is the best thing for you. You learn what pitch works, what pitch doesn’t.” Trying pitches can help you learn what type of pitches work, what time of year to pitch, and can help you keep an eye on trends and patterns.
“The sooner you can get over [the rejections] and all that matters is the ones who will say yes, I think you’ll be a lot more confident and a lot more willing to get yourself out there and at least try it.”
One really important thing to remember? You guarantee a no if you don't even send an email.
//LINKS IN THE SHOW//
Check out Katherine’s website, Slightly Savvy, here – https://slightlysavvy.com/
Mention – https://mention.com/en/
Muck Rack – https://muckrack.com/