A Guide to PR for SOLOpreneurs
A solopreneur (noun) is someone who sets up and runs a business on their own. Almost all entrepreneurs start off as solopreneurs, because for the most part, at least at the very beginning, many of us are on our own.
PR stands for public relations (noun) which is the professional maintenance of a favourable public image by a company, organization or famous person.
What definitely isn’t a noun, but a verb, is SOLOpreneur PR.
Why? Because one thing that any solopreneur knows is that as a solopreneur you wear all the hats in your business. You’re the receptionist, the operations manager, the accountant, the office manager and you’re the sales and marketing manager too. You’re not only DOING your business, but you’re managing it too.
The hardest hat of all, which requires you to take a rabbit out and create magic, is the PR hat. However, by the time you’ve worn all the other hats, when you get to the PR hat you’re exhausted. This is dangerous because as a business owner the PR hat is the most important hat you wear. If no one is hearing about your business and you’re not out there shouting from the rooftops about it and getting those customers in, well, you won’t have a business for much longer.
Now, we would love to wave a magic wand and tell you exactly how to get your business into the news or on TV; unfortunately it just doesn’t work that way. You will have to put in hard work, make a consistent effort, have patience and accept that sometimes you’ll be rejected or won’t even hear back. What we can give you is a guide on how to get there; it won’t happen tomorrow or next week, but it will happen if you follow these steps.
KNOW THY BRAND
First of all, your brand needs to be totally on point. Everything from your logo to your website to your tone needs to be consistent and clearly communicate your brand message; this is something that you must nail before even thinking about working on any PR activity.
The truth is, no one can tell your business story better than you and your goal is to figure out the best way to tell that story; you know where you came from, you know your passion, you know your desire and you know why you’re doing this. Make a list of what makes you the best at what you do so you can figure out your USP and work that in, then once you’ve defined your brand you need to craft it into a clear, concise message.
READ, LISTEN, WATCH
This is something you need to do on a daily basis. We get it – you’re busy and you really don’t have time, but it is so important that you make time for research because if you don’t know what’s going on in your industry, who’s talking about it, what they’re saying, who’s sharing news about it and what the competition is doing then you won’t know who to pitch yourself to.
You need to watch TV, YouTube, Instagram stories and read newspapers, articles and magazines. Listen to the radio, the news and podcasts. It’s so important to cover all your bases in terms of communication channels, because there could be several different people talking about your industry in several different ways and you don’t want to miss anything! You really can’t afford to take your eye off the ball here, because do you know who’s doing their research on you? That’s right – your competition; you can guarantee that they are reading, listening and watching you.
Something that a lot of people don’t know is that the pool of media we have locally is incredibly small. This isn’t New York City - we don’t have hundreds of newspapers, we have just two major newspapers: Sun Sentinel and Palm Beach Post. If you brand into Miami, you could count Miami Herald. What many people don’t know, is that the people who write for these newspapers actually write for all three of them! The days of newspapers having several dedicated journalists on their payroll are long gone as it’s just not viable anymore. So you need to keep in mind that journalists are stretched incredibly thin, and they get hundreds of emails every day. Considering that’s just for a local journalist, can you imagine the volume of requests that a journalist writing for a national publication gets? Therefore to stand out and make sure your targeting the right people, you need to do your homework and define the following;
· Who writes about your business and industry?
· Where do they write it?
· Who is your audience? (who reads, listens, watches)
· What stories are journalists most interested in telling?
While we will always feel that our story is important and newsworthy, in reality it might not be. It may be a case of wrong timing, or it could be simply that someone has already written about it. However this is an opportunity to think outside the box as there may be something out there about what you do that you haven’t even thought of yet.
Another tactic could be that if you notice a journalist wrote about your business a few years ago for example, you could reach out to them to ask them if they would be interested in writing about changes or news in the industry. Chances are they might think oh yes, that was an awesome article, I’d love to write about that again, and so you’re in!
One of the best kept insider secrets in PR is HARO, which stands for Help a Reporter Out. It’s a free service that reporters all over the country use in order to reach out to people who can help fuel their story or in other words, find you! There could be a question from a reporter about yoga for example; if that’s your business reply with your expertise and bingo – free press coverage!
DON’T FORGET SOCIAL MEDIA AND BE CREATIVE
Social media is an incredibly valuable and best of all FREE tool to get your message out and connect with others, you really shouldn’t ignore it. Every single journalist out there is on social media. They all tweet and they are all constantly on Facebook and Instagram. You need to seek out people who have an interest in your business on social media and contact them, whether that’s by sending them a message or engaging with them by retweeting and sharing their posts or perhaps by tagging them in something they may be interested in. A great example of this was when our team tweeted a TV anchor about an event that one of our clients was doing; they had TVs crews onsite filming the event within an hour! The key with social media is to be consistent and stay visible, though don’t constantly contact the same person, no one likes being spammed!
Another tactic to use in order to get exposure is to be creative. If you’re holding a unique event or doing a PR stunt, you could film it, share it, tag people or send it to a news outlet – you can usually find their email address on their social media page or website. You never know what might get picked up or who will share it!
PITCH, PITCH, PITCH!
In all honesty, this is not easy – finding your pitch is like finding your brand. But once you’ve defined your brand then you can get confident in your pitches. When it comes to pitches, the trick is to keep them fresh and varied; you should have several pitches. If you find that one isn’t working, you should let it go or change it.
People often ask if they can hire us to write a press release. We’ll be honest with you here – these days, a press release is useless because the majority of the time, they just won’t go anywhere. The reality is, journalists don’t want press releases. It’s only if you are a huge national company with a huge announcement such as the launch of a new product or something else very notable will a press release be valid. On top of this, you have to put it into a newswire which is very expensive and it’s not even guaranteed to get you a lot of press; again, you’ll only get coverage if it’s something newsworthy, so our advice would be, don’t bother with pricey press releases. The very best way to do a ‘press release’ is to do your research and get your message straight to the source via social media – yep that’s right, get it directly in front of the people who need to hear your story!
When it comes to events, it helps to know that journalists do not like to write about events because they don’t want to promote something that’s going to make you money (you can pay them for that, that’s called advertising!) So, they are not going to write about an event but they will write about the story behind the event such as the mission behind the event or the non-profit that is going to benefit from the event.
SPIN THAT STORY
Don’t waste space in your subject line and promise us that you will never lead with any of the following; ‘story idea’ ‘press release’ ‘alert’ or ‘immediate release’. Get straight to the point in your subject line and say something that will pique interest immediately. Keep in mind that your subject line could make the difference between your email being opened or sent straight to the trash bin. Then in the email all you need is your pitch which should be well thought out, concise and interesting right off the bat – don’t forget you have literally one millisecond to impress and engage.
Our tips for a winning email are:
· Include a problem and it’s solution, for example, ‘Trouble sleeping? Meditation will fix that for you’
· Reference a past story! Say ‘I saw you wrote about my industry, I would love to share my expertise with you by providing you with these four points that I think will be really valuable for your next story’. This shows that you care about what goes out in the media about your industry, that you actually read what they wrote and that you’re willing to help them out.
· You like stuff, we have stuff! This can appeal to journalists and influencers and is another reason why you need to read, listen and watch. Bloggers for example will write about things they like and use regularly or that are relevant to their niche. Reach out to them and bring their attention to your product by offering to send them a sample. Just don’t do this with the media, they cannot take gifts because it is seen as unethical and can even find it a bit insulting.
· Compliment them! Journalists in particular are very proud of their work, sadly it is a poorly paid profession and a reason why many journalists eventually move into other related industries such as PR. But only compliment them if you have done your research and you really mean it - don’t be fake, people will be able to see right through it! Start with a compliment and then follow up with your pitch. The key is to be human and be a nice person, don’t just sell, sell, sell!
· Include links to your social media accounts so they can check you out or tag you. If you supply them with that, they may even do it right away – remember, people are busy and they don’t have time to ask you.
Keep in mind that we’re all human; we have feelings and frustrations, we get busy and so do journalists. So don’t tell them what to do, don’t criticise and always respect deadlines. It is a very small industry and everyone knows each other – you really don’t want to get a bad reputation. Maintaining the highest level of respect for the media and its professionals will get you far.
You also need to remember that you cannot control the press and this is why sometimes you have to toughen up and deal with rejection because not everything you pitch is going to happen, in fact, 9 times out of 10 it probably won’t. But don’t give up - keep working at it, keep evolving, ask people for their advice and try something different if you have to. Most of all, have patience.
When it finally happens it will be so worth all that hard work! Trust us, to get press about your business is the most amazing feeling ever – the satisfaction is awesome! This is also why it’s so vital that you build your brand on a rock-solid foundation and deliver a strong message, because anything worth doing is worth doing right!
Once you get yourself into the press don’t stop there – hang on to those connections you’ve made and keep in touch. Be visible in the community, at events, on social media, everywhere! Then introduce yourself to more people; it is so important to network and make connections, because collaboration is great for everyone and you just never know where your connections may lead you to in the future! It really is true that when you’re confident and unafraid you can get in anywhere, and do anything.
If you’re interested in learning more about PR for your business, feel free to get in touch, we’d love to chat!