This blog post contains the transcription of a free virtual Lunch & Learn we hosted in October 2023 titled, “Developing a PR Strategy That Makes Your Company Shine.” You can view all of our upcoming webinars here.
Alessandra Pollina grew up in a small town in Vermont before moving to Boston to attend Boston University’s College of Communication. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Communications with a focus on public relations, and a minor in anthropology. Throughout her college years she held many internships in the PR field at some of the best agencies in Boston. This vast array of experiences became the foundation of her PR career and positioned her to launch her own company, originally called pollina PR + marketing, in 2012, which later grew into what this agency is today. Stemming from a passion for female entrepreneurship and working to amplify the voices of others, in 2016 she founded the Female Millennial Entrepreneurs Boston networking group which aims to bring like minded entrepreneurs and business owners together for in-person connection and learning experiences. In 2019 she launched The Female Millennial Entrepreneur Podcast, a podcast by and for female millennial entrepreneurs, inspired by the group but with an international reach.
Meghan Rothschild is the President of Chikmedia with over 18 years experience in Marketing and Public Relations. She has been a public speaker for over 17 years, specializing in topics such as social media, marketing strategy, public relations, melanoma survivorship, and living with endometriosis. She was featured in one of 2011’s most shared YouTube videos called Dear 16 Year Old Me, and a national campaign for the American Academy of Dermatology. Her work in skin cancer awareness landed her an award from Cosmopolitan Magazine alongside Kristen Bell and David Wright.
Jackie Zuk gets her clients ‘on the scene’ where it matters. She has hundreds of thousands of social media connections and loyal followers all looking for the very latest trends, fashion, inspiring products, and cutting edge business ventures. Originally from New York, JZ relocated to Boston in 2014 and has been blazing a trail ever since. Based in Everett, MA, she is the CEO of NEXTonSCENE Media LLC, Editor in Chief of NEXTonSCENE® magazine, podcast broadcaster for “NEXTonSCENE®”, and a producer of high-quality promotional events and PR campaigns.
When businesses are considering PR, the first thing you have to look at is how quickly are you trying to secure this earned media and how quickly are you trying to get out there because it is going to take time. Start researching in terms of where you’re trying to get your message out. From there, you’ll have to do the research in terms of who covers the topic that you’re trying to pitch. You’re going to have to reach out to these people individually, ask them what makes it easy for them to cover the story, and slowly start to develop those relationships because PR is all about relationships.
Before even thinking about PR, it’s important to have the right mindset and have everything in place before you even start even the outreach. You might think you’re ready and then realize that you’re actually not!
Make sure you 100% stand behind your brand and what it is that you want to be known for. and clean things up, update anything. It’s especially important to organize your online presence to ensure it’s portraying your goals. Your social media is a huge avenue of showing who you are, so make sure that the person you are in person and the person you are online is the same. Be sure to have consistency with your marketing, too, and know that it’s crucial to incorporate several outlets of marketing.
It depends on what product or service you provide. If you have a storefront that only serves people in specific geographic areas, then you’ll want to primarily focus on local PR. Think about what your goal is and what you’re trying to drive.
It’s important for people that are super inexperienced to try the hyper local TV, the hyper local radio, and the podcasts because it will really warm you up in terms of confidence. When you’re starting out, all PR is good PR in some capacity because you’re getting the confidence to grow.
Keep the sales out of it! Think about what the story is. What’s the human interest piece? How do you do more expert positioning or thought leadership? That’s one of the most challenging things that people run into, because when you’re excited about a new product or service, that’s great, but the media is going to immediately kick you to sales and they’re going to try to get you to buy advertising dollars.
Focus on what you want to be known for. What is your thing that you ultimately want people to take away? Then focus on how the piece that you’re pitching would benefit their audience. What are they going to learn or be inspired by? What is that takeaway that the audience will really love and get out of it? Then marry the two to make your pitch.
Keep it short and to the point. People get so many emails, so if it’s not short and sweet, then the journalist will pass it on. Make it relevant and digestible. Don’t forget to add personalization. If you don’t even acknowledge the person’s name, it’s going in the garbage.
The first sentence needs to be what you’re announcing and what you’re talking about. Assume that the journalist is getting three other pitches in the same 10 minutes about someone who’s doing the same thing as you, and then think about how you make sure that yours is somehow offering something more interesting or somehow differentiated from anyone else who’s technically offering the same thing as you. You really need to stand out and just imagine you’re on the other side of that inbox being like, which one should I reply to?
Don’t discount the subject line of the email to give something enticing to people that would encourage them to actually open it.
Other tips include using bullet points in your pitch to make it easy to read, including links to your social media profiles in your email signature, and avoiding using a copied and pasted template for every single pitch you send.
Always send a pitch WITH a press release — never send just a press release.
Press releases are for major announcements that are timely and happening now. These might be for award announcements, events, launches, or business milestones. They tend to be longer in length.
Pitches, on the other hand, are more evergreen. They tend to be shorter.
Social media is a great outlet. People list their contact information now, and Twitter is a great place to start. It’s important to look at what types of stories these individuals are already covering with what it is you’re trying to share.
Everybody has the hardest time with building that media list and knowing who to reach out to. Don’t rush yourself. If you’re doing this for yourself, you could pitch one place this month or even for this quarter, and that could be great if you take your time and do one great pitch and get one great piece. Don’t feel like you have to sit down and add 20 names to a list that might not be helpful. Find one and feel like you really get to know them first.
Look into where your competitors or people with a similar style brand to yours have been featured. People usually put that on their website or on their social media. See what outlets they’ve been featured in or see the writers who have written about them. Sometimes that can either help start building your list or at least get the juices going and get some ideas of the kinds of outlets.
Also, don’t discount the benefit of using AI to help you find publications or sources similar to ones that you like for your brand.
Lastly, join free platforms that might have a way to connect journalists and sources. HARO and Qwoted are two places to start.
Diversify. It takes seven times for somebody to hear you and see you. Customizing your pitch to those different outlets is important.
Also, start small with the size of the publications you’re pitching, and then increase from there.
It’s so important to repurpose that content to your social channels and to the blog on your website — it’s all about reinforcing that expert positioning. The news isn’t going to put you on if you don’t know what you’re talking about, so you have to show your existing audience that you know what you’re talking about.
You should be putting every piece of earned media that you get on your site because when someone goes to learn more about you and they click on that, they’ll see everywhere you’ve been featured. They’ll then want to work with you because of that. It takes time, but you have to be repurposing all of that content to your digital channels or else you’re missing a huge opportunity.
Don’t be shy to share things again. You can reshare, repurpose, make another quote, make another image, make another graphic, make another blog post. Share it often!
Your email is important, too. The more digital places that it can be, the better. Add the “as seen on” part to your business cards as well.
Lastly, encourage your employees to share the press features on their LinkedIn profiles, especially if it’s bigger news or something that directly impacts them.
Professionals are going to expedite the process because they all have the relationships and the contacts. They can also join their clients in-person for any media events they have to help with preparation and behind-the-scenes coverage. They’re trained in what the media needs and wants as well as crisis communication.
Additionally, PR takes a lot of time, which you might not have as a business owner. Working with a professional ensures that it gets done.
In addition to having close relationships and contacts, these professionals also know the seasons of when things are happening in PR. Even though Mother’s Day happens in May, publications definitely aren’t accepting pitches in April or May. They might be accepting them in December or January. Someone who’s doing their own PR might not know to think that far ahead, but professionals are on the pulse of when publications are looking for pitches for certain holidays or even certain months.
Start small. Accountability can be huge.
When you’re investing all this time into a story that you’re trying to get an outlet to cover, don’t feel discouraged if you don’t hear back. Instead, take that idea and just produce content for your social media. That doesn’t mean all your time was wasted. Go ahead and record a video or an expert testimonial. Record a tip for people. Put it up on your Instagram, on your blog, on your LinkedIn. Repurpose it.
Timing is everything. You can’t always determine if your stuff’s going to get picked up. They make that decision at the end of the day. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t follow up in a couple months.
Look at other successful people that have had good PR campaigns, see what they’re talking about, and think about how you can repurpose it and make it your own style.
Give time when following up, too. Wait an appropriate amount of time before following up on an email to someone because people are busy, their inboxes are full, and they may not be able to get back to you right away.
Interested in getting more support on topics just like this one? Don’t hesitate to take advantage of the several resources we have available, especially our Lunch & Learns, blog, and podcast. Have a specific request? Please fill out our contact form.