In any economic climate, there is always a silver lining for entrepreneurs. The one I have been mining lately is a chance for some good media exposure as a way to support and strengthen my business, especially in light of the upcoming release of Escape from Cubicle Nation.
My buddy Dave Atkins has had a good month for press as well. I think he has secured the most positive, and big-time media for any job-seeker anywhere. See his interview on ABC News, and recent coverage in the Christian Science Monitor. Dave was laid off and is looking for work, and is reaching out to the media with the hope that it won’t just help in his own job search, but will help other job seekers as well. Dave is great, and you are crazy not to hire him, just in case you need a really smart technical guy who also writes well. (shameless plug, I know!)
So how do you start to get media exposure?
- Have a focus, and an opinion. I have to agree with Seth that the quickest way to get any idea to spread is to be remarkable. Sometimes I feel like I bore you to tears with my urging to choose a niche, but in the case of press coverage, it is essential. I would much rather be known as "the Escape from Cubicle Nation Lady" (someone actually addressed an email to me like that) rather than "Pamela Slim, general career coach who can help with any sort of work-related topic." Blech, boring, and bland as oatmeal, don’t you agree?
- Be a resource to reporters. Too often, entrepreneurs become obsessed with getting their company name in print. Instead, your focus should be to act as an exceptionally helpful resource to journalists. I have worked behind the scenes for years with some reporters before getting in print myself. If you are constantly trying to get yourself in the press, you will be viewed as a self-indulgent bore, to put it kindly. 🙂
- React to press inquiries with lightening speed, and with relevant information. Journalists are always on deadline, so the quicker you get back to them, the more likely you will be A) viewed as a resource and B) potentially featured in a story. The relevant information is hugely important, as they will be tremendously annoyed if you either send too little or too much information, or (shudder) pitch them totally off-topic when they ask for specific information.
- Be a resource to your circle of clients and partners. One of the best moves I have made is to join Help a Reporter Out (HARO), a three-times-a-day listing of press queries run by the indefatigable Peter Shankman. I scour it religiously each time it hits my email box, respond to queries that relate to my expertise right away, and forward on those that fit friends and colleagues as well. Some of my friends and clients have gotten press as a result which is a totally fantastic thing. A rising tide floats all boats, and this definitely applies to your network. Joan Stewart of The Publicity Hound also has good tips.
- Blog about your press, where relevant to your readers. I remember the first time I was contacted by the PR person for the Wall Street Journal, wanting me to blog on a topic in the publication. I chuckled aloud at the flip in traditional media — how the publications we have all dreamed of appearing in, like the WSJ, now like to get attention from scrappy bloggers like me. I really do think we all need each other — I don’t see social media totally overtaking mainstream media any day soon, nor do I think it should. I would love it if we could take best practices from both sides and help each other. And there is nothing like mainstream press to make it easy for your relatives to understand what you do. I will never forget the day that Seth said something exceptionally kind about me in his blog. But have you tried lately to explain to a grandparent who Seth Godin is? "Um, Grandma, he is this total marketing genius, thought-leader, viral idea-spreader guy who is also a great human being … " It is much easier to say "Grandma, you know all that time I spend in front of my computer? BusinessWeek noticed — here , read the article!"
- Set up a system to make it easy to respond to press queries. I have an email template that includes a brief bio, a link to my press page, and contact information. That way when I see a specific query, I don’t have to type in all that new information each time. In the lucky case that you are asked to provide a photo, have a good one handy on your desktop to send to reporters (I recommend both a high resolution image for print and a low resolution image for online).
- Always respond to queries exactly as asked. If you see a general query which asks you to include a specific email header, do that. If not, it will probably mean that your response will not be seen, since the journalist may have email filters to sort queries. Peter Shankman has very specific guidelines for HARO, and will publicly "out" someone who flagrantly violates them. This would be the equivalent of being a teenager and being paraded in front of your entire high school in your underwear. A professional nightmare come true. So don’t do it — pitch well, pitch focused, and use good judgment.
- Blog. All of this press coverage has come without the help of a public relations person, and 95% of it has come to me because I blog. If you have something to say, start to say it. It can’t hurt!
Mainstream press can be a tremendous asset if you are demonstrating your expertise to new clients, pitching speaking engagements, or trying to land a book deal. When linked to your larger marketing strategy, it is a great way to bring people to your blog or website. In the big picture, I look at it this way: if you care deeply about the purpose of your business, you want to get the message out to as many people as you can. So think big and pitch wisely. I can’t wait to see you in print soon.