What we’re talking about
Being featured in a magazine, mentioned in an article, included in a round-up of recommendations or interviewed on a podcast are all great ways to get your product or business in front of a new audience. They’re also all examples of press coverage – where a publication or media outlet writes or features your business either because they think it’ll be of interest to their audience, or because it’s relevant to a topic they’re covering.
While press coverage can happen organically when a writer or editor finds out about a business and decides to write about it from their own research, it doesn’t happen that often. The reality is that there are lots of brands and products out there fighting for attention – so it can help to reach out (or have a public relations, or PR, agency reach out on your behalf) and put yourself on people’s radars so you’re front of mind when they’re deciding who, or what, to write about. That’s where proactive PR and pitching come in.
Why it’s important
First and foremost: awareness. Getting press coverage is a great way to drive it for free. It might take an investment of your business’ resources to keep editors and writers up to date with what you’re doing, but you’re not paying per click or per eyeball to get in front of potential customers, as is the case with advertising. Plus, because press coverage comes from people outside of your business and you haven’t paid to get it, it’s often seen as a more objective source of information for consumers, which adds credibility to what you’re building. Press coverage can also have a snowball effect whereby press begets more press. Individuals and businesses with a lot of press coverage are often easier to find than companies with very little, which makes their stories more likely to be picked up by other outlets and, of course, more press.
Things to note
Pitching successfully requires a lot of work in advance. It’s not just a case of sending a lot of emails the night before a product launch and hoping you’ll get featured immediately. Print publications often plan out their stories months before the issue goes to print, and even though online stories might have a shorter lead time, they still take time.
Timeliness is key. When you’re pitching, try to peg the angle you’re proposing to something timely or newsworthy. You need to explain why someone will want to read about what you’re pitching, and why they will want to read it now.
PR agencies can help in a few different ways. Traditionally, PR agencies worked on a retainer basis as a specialist extension of your team that handled all PR outreach and tracking. This can be a great setup for businesses that have the funds to pay for that monthly fee, as most PR agencies are really good at what they do and should come with strong relationships with the right people you’re looking to reach. Another increasingly common and more affordable deal is to work with a PR agency to help set up your PR function and upskill your team members so that you can handle things in-house. But if you’re willing to dedicate resources to it and pay for PR attention, you can keep things in-house from the start – just follow the steps in this guide to get you moving.
Press coverage might not immediately translate into an increase in sales. Press is better used to drive awareness than sales and, because the coverage won’t live on a channel you own, it will be tough to know exactly how many people were convinced to buy because of a specific feature. But that’s OK, because press can introduce your brand to new potential customers who may convert at a later date, and reinforce the value of your offering to customers who might have been on the fence.
How to pitch press
(1) Come up with some angles. Start by listing out key aspects of your brand or story that you’d like to highlight to a wider audience. Then, step out of your shoes and into those of an editor. Very few features will be solely focused on a product and why it’s great. Instead, you need to think about what kinds of broader stories you might fit into and how the points you listed could be relevant to coverage. Ask yourself if there are any trends relevant to your business, if any of your learnings might be applicable or interesting to others, or what you do differently or especially well compared to others out there.
(2) Research editors and outlets. Once you have some key angles, research publications or journalists that have written similar stories to the ones you’re going for. When you find them, check that the piece you’re referencing wasn’t a one-off and that they regularly put out stories like it. Each of your different angles will likely be aimed at different editors or contacts, so organise all your research into a spreadsheet. Have columns for writer or editor, the outlet they publish in, previous relevant articles, and contact info – which you might have to do a lot of digging to find. This spreadsheet is your media list and something you’ll want to keep adding to and updating.
(3) Create assets. Before you pitch, you’ll want to have great product photography and a press one-pager, often in the form of a designed PDF document. This should summarise key information about your business and product, and be readily available so you can pass it on quickly to anyone interested in publishing a story about you. Make sure these assets are high-quality and in formats that are easy to share – watch for massive file sizes that won’t be able to be sent by email and consider setting up a folder that you can share via a file-sharing service like Dropbox or WeTransfer.
(5) Craft your pitches. Go back to your media list and the potential angles you came up with and draft clear and concise messages to each editor that explain what you’re proposing in terms of a story and why it’s timely and relevant to their focus and audience. Keep things short, sweet, conversational and personal. Do not send the exact same email to everyone, and make sure to reference any previous work of theirs that inspired you to reach out.
(4) Make contact. It’s unlikely – though not impossible – that anyone will choose to feature you off the back of your first pitch or press release. So, it can be helpful to send a brief email introducing your brand to them to get on their radar and then follow up as and when there are timely tie-ins for a feature or when you’re launching a new product or making a big announcement.
(6) Track and follow up. Keep track of your outreach and any correspondence in your media list and don’t be afraid to follow up – it’s a standard part of the pitching process. Keep any follow-up emails friendly and short and send them a few days after your initial outreach. If you don’t hear back after a couple of follow ups, let things go and try reaching out to someone else.
(7) Amplify any coverage. If you get featured, you need to spread the word about the coverage. Link to it in any newsletters you send out, highlight quotes from it on your website and post it on your social channels. Remember, it’s a way for your audience to see a more objective third-party perspective on your offering, so will supplement and reinforce any messaging you put out yourself.
(8) Maintain relationships. Keep in touch with any journalists or editors who cover you. That doesn’t mean emailing them constantly, but it does mean sharing brief updates on how your business is doing and providing a preview at any upcoming launches or announcements. And, as always, make sure any messages you send are tailored to the person and the kind of coverage they offer.
Investing in proactive outreach and pitching to press can lead to coverage that, in turn, has the potential to drive free awareness of your business.
It’s essential to target your outreach and give writers and editors clear, nuanced ideas about how they could integrate your brand or product into the content they regularly offer – this process is called pitching.
When you’re pitching, it pays to be persistent and personal. That means sending out emails that make clear you know the outlet’s work and have thought about how and why you can be relevant for it. And it means following up a few times and keeping in touch with anyone that shows interest.
Explore 100+ examples of press releases using this database from Prezly.
Draft press releases pegged to specific announcement types using this guide from Hubspot.
Create designed one-page PDF summaries of your brand or product using these templates from Xtensio.
Upskill your in-house team using these courses and guides from Wolf Craft.