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I’m sure you’ve heard the term “public relations” before, but what is PR for product sellers? And how the heck do you add in a PR strategy on top of everything else you’re trying to do to sell your digital product – marketing, social media, and more?
Don’t stress and look no further! Today's episode of the Rebel Boss Ladies Podcast is going to cover everything you need to know about PR for product sellers – everything surrounding your brand and how it's an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to building a successful digital product business.
Joining us today is PR expert LaKeithea Nicole. LaKeithea is the founder of For Us. the Agency, a creative agency that works with black owned brands and talent to expand, reach and impact. Her services include public relations and marketing, brand strategy and storytelling, event planning and management, as well as talent relations.
LaKeithea didn’t start out wanting to work in PR. She actually used to be a fashion major, but when she went to New York Fashion Week she realized that her interest wasn’t in designing clothes, it was in helping people get to events like fashion week.
She went back and changed her major, and now she’s been working as a publicist for over eight years. Since then, she’s also done marketing, sales, booking talent, brand management, consulting, website design, event planning, communications and PR.
LaKeithea has proudly tried it all and found the area she loves – PR and communications. Today she’s going to simplify PR for product sellers! We’re going to cover:
- Why digital product sellers need to take PR seriously in their launch strategy
- The difference between PR and marketing
- How you can get started with DIYing your PR
- Some tips and strategies you can use for developing a small business PR strategy
Let’s get started!
Why Digital Product Sellers Should Take Product PR Seriously in Their Launch Strategy
PR is one area that seems so often neglected in the online marketing space because it’s not necessarily traditional marketing PR, and people often break the rules and do their own thing online.
So why should digital product sellers take PR seriously in their launch strategy?
LaKeithea says that PR is a long term game. It’s about reputation, and that’s why it’s so important. When it comes to PR, digital product sellers should be thinking about their whole brand and reputation overall, instead of just their individual products.
Today, with the invention of social media, your audience has direct access to you and can share what they think about your brand and your product, how it’s being used, how it fits into their community, and more. All of that matters to them, and they are able to just put it out there for the world to see on their social media platform.
This is why your business’s reputation is so important, and that’s where PR comes in.
PR for product sellers is all about making sure your products and your brand have positive stories out there. This positive narrative is what’s going to continue to drive people to your business and products and leave them with overall good feelings when it comes to your brand.
PR is also about finding a way to fix a business or brand reputation if something goes wrong (but hopefully it won’t get to that point!).
LaKeithea says that it's important for brands to make sure that they are taking care of their customers, they're taking care of their brand, and they're taking care of their community. All of that comes into play with PR.
What’s the Difference Between PR and Marketing?
A lot of people see PR and marketing as the same thing, but that’s not true.
LaKeithea likes to tell people that they’re like sisters, but not twins. While you may be implementing different strategies in your marketing, that doesn’t necessarily mean they contribute to your PR.
PR is focused on a positive reputation for your company as a whole, not just a specific product that you’re selling. Marketing that focuses on a very particular product you’re selling is not PR, it’s a selling strategy.
That being said, you want your product marketing and your overall PR to be closely linked. You want your products themselves to also have a positive reputation.
Whether you hire someone to help you or DIY your PR, this is going to be much more focused on your business as a whole and how it’s seen by your audience and the public.
Getting Started with product PR for a Small Business
Even though PR for product sellers is a long game, don’t let it overwhelm you. There are some baby steps that you can take to get started with PR and build up a positive reputation for your business and brand.
LaKeithea recommends starting with bite sizes in strategy. Your product PR plan shouldn’t start with “I want to be on Oprah” – instead, come up with a few tangible goals that are actually achievable and that you’ll be able to work towards.
For each goal, decide on a strategy. And then break down your strategy by quarters, so that it’s even more manageable and easy to focus on for just a few months.
For example, you may decide that for quarter one you want to pitch to press about what you’re doing in the local community. That should be your only strategy – don’t go too big here! This will mean doing a few different things – putting stories together, sending pitches to local journalists and news stations, or organizing events and activities that you can pitch as a story.
A lot of people make the mistake of trying to build out a huge strategy. If you’re trying to do everything, you won’t know where to start, and then you’ll get overwhelmed and give up with PR. This is why you should start small, so you can achieve those tangible goals and start with baby steps.
What to Pitch: Stories You Can Tell For Positive Product PR About Your Brand
If you’re so focused on marketing for one specific product, you may be forgetting about that big umbrella of talking about yourself, your brand overall, and the work that you do generally.
So how do you get started with storytelling that goes beyond just the products you sell and your marketing?
The biggest thing here is to look at your brand as a whole, and focus on what problems you’re solving and your expertise in that area.
We all have a story and a reason why we started our business. We all have something to do within the communities that we work in. This is your most important brand story. In order to continue press as a long game, you have to figure out why you’re here and what you’re doing.
In the stories you tell, start by highlighting your business, the values you stand by, and the human elements. Ask yourself a few questions, and find ways to highlight these elements in the stories you tell:
- What does your business do for people in the niche or area you’re working in (that other businesses or brands don’t do)?
- Who is using your products and how do your products help them?
- How do your products tie into your overall values and purpose of your business?
- What kind of products are you displacing? (For example – a business selling sustainable and environmentally friendly cleaning products is displacing more harmful chemical products)
Use the questions above (and more!) to write stories about who you are, what your business is and why it matters, and what you stand for.
You also need to have a really clear idea of what work you’re doing, the benefits of that work from a lot of different angles and through a lot of different lenses.
Key to storytelling about your brand is also sticking to the values that you express. Your customer chooses to work with you because of who you are and what values you believe in. If you go back on these, for example, if your business claims to be pro-environment, but accepts funding from companies that contribute to deforestation, your audience will see that and call you out.
If you end up in a place where your audience is calling you out for going against your values, your recovery strategy is also PR. But your goal should be to never get to that point. Instead, you want to make sure that your brand messaging is true at every layer of your business.
Ultimately, PR is about controlling your narrative and telling your story. When you think about your stories, ask yourself what stories do you want people to know about your business? What stories do you want them to know about your brand? What stories do you want them to know about your products?
How to DIY Your PR and Do It Without a Publicist
There are many talented publicists out there like LaKeithea who you can and should hire out to help you with your PR, brand messaging and more. But if you’re in the early stages of your business, or can’t afford a publicist at the moment, there are definitely ways that you can prioritize your PR and DIY it for your business.
LaKeithea has a few tips for any business owners that want to start out with DIYing their PR:
1. Start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself with big goals or huge PR strategies. Set tangible, achievable goals that you can work on per quarter or per year – make sure that these are actually doable, otherwise you’ll never work towards them!
2. Set aside a regular admin day. Every week you should have a regular admin day where you’re either doing marketing, going over your strategies, or reaching out to journalists. If you already don’t have a day or two set aside to work on your marketing and PR, you’re already behind!
3. Think about what you’re doing locally. If you’re a small business owner, it’s great to start local (whatever that means for you as an online business!) Reach out, connect with local journalists, press or magazines. Small press and coverage will be a step in the right direction towards bigger, more national press. Don’t be afraid to send them an email, start that relationship, and let them know you’re a source for them.
4. Start pitching! Once you start connecting with local journalists or press, don’t be afraid to pitch. Just make sure to have five or six stories ready to pitch and share – that way both you and the person writing a story about you will have a few different options as they work with their editor.
5. Make your own press-worthy events. If this works with your business, you can also organize events and invite press or those people who you think will be interested in telling your stories so that you can get more positive buzz out there.
Tips for Pitching and Connecting for Positive PR
Still unsure about how to go about building a PR strategy for your business? Check out a few of LaKeithea’s tips and steps to get started:
1. Set tangible goals that you can achieve. For example, if you want to have your business featured by the press or other writers in your space, set the goal of researching and pitching to 5 people per month (or whatever is achievable for you).
2. Learn about your target audience. If you know who your target audience is, you’ll have a better understanding of who you need to pitch to. Obviously you want to be pitching to the right people, so once you understand who your target audience is, you can find local voices, connections and journalists in that space to pitch to and connect with.
3. Research editorial calendars. Once you know who to pitch to, do some research about what their editorial calendars look like. Is there a monthly newsletter or quarterly magazine you could be featured in? Do they release a regular podcast or have a schedule? Is there a time of year (like national holidays) that connect well with your product and could be a great time for you to be featured?
4. Follow journalists, writers, and local and national press on social media. The more you follow them and interact with them, the more you’ll be able to see what they’re looking for. And then when you’re thinking about pitching, it’ll come so much easier because you have a better understanding of what they’d consider writing about.
5. Plan ahead of time. Sometimes journalists work three to six months ahead, and other writers may set their content calendars months in advance. If you know you have a new product coming out or there’s big news for your business coming up, don’t wait until the last minute to pitch.
6. Find free resources online. There are so many resources on Google that you can use to help you build a PR strategy and pitch – if you’re not sure where to start, see what free templates you can find to help you out.
7. Connect with your community. This is the most important thing, always! Positive connections with your audience will always be the best PR strategy you can have. If you’re engaging with your audience, making sure your products are high quality and that your audience utilizes them.
“If you have an audience full of people saying that your products are great, share that! That's what people want to hear. That's PR, that's positive stories.”