For any and all creators, it’s inevitable that getting press will become a priority. Whether it’s the launch of a new app, book, podcast, or company, press in the major outlets is a surefire way to boost your company’s credibility and gain exposure to thousands of your target customers.
But, the question of how to get press has always remained murky. When I was trying to land press for my book, I had no idea what type of strategy to adopt. Instead, I took the
‘Spray and pray method’ – a must-avoid tectic that we’ll get to. You know what it’s like – randomly send out a pitch to as many journalist emails you can find, which seldom results in any type of progress.
So, with the desire to learn once and for all the secrets of PR, I sat down with award-winning visibility strategist, Ashley Crouch, Next Gen community member and the CEO and Founder of PR firm Appleseed Communications. Ashley has worked in press for almost a decade and is a journalist herself who has written for Forbes, New York Times, and more. Ashley recently launched an online course to help people get press for their companies. The thing I love most about Ashley’s mission is that it’s geared towards people who have never been featured in press before. It’s all part of Appleseed’s mission: to disrupt the press industry so that more people have a voice. Getting press shouldn’t just be about having a friend who writes for Inc., or having the connections to land a feature in Fast Company. It should be about the story.
What Not to Do
1. “Spray and Pray.”
As I mentioned, the ‘spray and pray’ method lacks intentionality and strategy. Often, when people hire a PR company or a publicist, they’re told grandeur visions of how the PR attack will go. “We’ll get you everywhere!” the publicist boasts, and you instantly feel on top of the world.
Well, the issue with this tactic is that the story’s focus should always come back to the target customer. It’s great to have the credibility of a Forbes logo on your company’s site, but if it doesn’t speak to your target customer, it won’t translate to sales or traction. Ashley calls on the “empathy first” approach, which means you have to proactively consider where your target customer is consuming news. Are they only picking up a magazine when they get a pedicure? Are they watching Cheddar every morning with their cup of coffee? Are they big fans of the Today Show, or do they read the Wall Street Journal? These four scenarios conjure very different images of a target customer, and you have to know your target customer in depth to know how to approach the write publications.
2. Forget about Alignment
If your story angle is wrong, it doesn’t matter which outlet you’re in. It’s not going to get the right clicks. As Ashley says, it’s great if your friend works for the New York Times and will write about your new book, but if you don’t have a compelling story angle, that article won’t get the clicks or the traction it needs to translate to sales.
Part of getting clear on your target customer also means you have to take the time to imagine the headline that would pull them in. Start with the headline, then use it to angle the story.
3. Start Small.
Ah, we’ve heard this one before. “You’re young, this is your first venture, you should really just be targeting local news outlets or tailoring to smaller publications!” Ashley posited it like this: “Why spend the same time and money to land in small publications that hardly move the needle, when you can do the same for larger publications and create the Domino Effect?”
According to Ashley, in press, the “Domino Effect” is when the appearance in one big publication signals a call to action to other publications, including all the smaller ones. The credibility that can be harnessed from one feature in Entrepreneur can lead to countless other features – meaning that your time and money spent going after big publications won’t just get you in the big leagues, but could double your number of press features.
Planning A Launch
Admittedly, I was the new author who was desperately contacting journalists only two weeks before my book launch date. I knew there had to be a better strategy. But, how far in advance of a launch should someone start to pitch their company or product?
Turns out, it’s much longer than I thought. Ashley says that one should start 3-6 months in advance to begin the strategy, which includes identifying and getting to know your target customer and building your materials (a pitch letter, media list, and high res images). Then, 4-6 weeks in advance, you should begin to pitch digital outlets. Writers for these outlets usefully have a packed editorial calendar, so this is how long in advance they’re planning out. And, if you’re going for a feature in print magazine, it’s a whole different ball game. You should be contacting editorial six months in advance.
Need more information on crafting this launch strategy? For a complete guide, check out Ashley’s FAQ’s here.
Crafting Your Story
Remember, it’s vital to be in control of your headline and story angle so that if it’s picked up by a journalist, it has the most impact on your target market. We live in an interesting time. It’s never been easier to generate press, and yet, that’s why strategy is so important.
Here are Ashley’s famous “Three New Principles of PR” to ensure you’re approaching journalists with the most strategy.
1. The “Archetype Approach.”
One of Ashley’s first clients was Psychology Today, where she edited and wrote headlines for 35 articles a week. After plenty of time in this gig, she started to see a pattern emerge for which headlines generated the most traction. She distilled it down to 13 archetypes. Three examples:
- “Low to High.” This is your classic rags to riches tale. A sample headline that she used at Appleseed was, These Two Women Built Built A Multimillion Dollar Company From A Drawing On The Back Of A Paper Napkin. It captured so much traction that the founders gave a talk at Columbia, spoke in front of 11,000 people, and landed TV coverage, too.
- “High to Low.” The opposite, but still compelling. This is the story of someone who “has it all” but gives it up for something unexpected. A story that came to mind as she told me this archetype was the story of Dave Hollis, husband to Rachel Hollis, who gave up his lucrative executive position at Disney to work for her company.
- “Practical and Actionable.” You guessed it, an article just like this one . Something like, “Seven Surefire Strategies to Gain Press” (hi!) will always garner clicks. People want to learn, and this is also a great way to position yourself as an expert. So, for my book, which is about ideation and big ideas, I could have pitched an article like, “Five Creative Ways to Create Your Next Big Idea.”
2. “Purposeful Planting.”
Now, even the juiciest headline won’t tantalize a journalist who isn’t a fit for the story. If you’re dropping a cosmetics app geared towards college women wanting to try the best new lipstick products, it’s going to fall on deaf ears for a journalist that only writes about politics in the Middle East. Says Crouch, this is where strategy can make a big difference: you can either throw out 1,000 pitches to 1,000 journalists, or spend that time researching journalists who actually would find your pitch in alignment with their swimlane and send five pitches to five really promising leads.
3. Give Before You Get!
Remember, journalists get bombarded with pitch requests, and it’s a lot to keep up with. If you actually want to get featured, you need to go above and beyond to show the writer they aren’t just another email on one of those mass press spreadsheets that gets passed around. Remember that journalists are people. Take the time to look them up. Note their recent article in your email, and tell them why you liked it. One of my favorite suggestions from Ashley was to tell them you’ll be in town, and ask if you can bring them their favorite coffee for a five minute conversation.
How To Increase Your Chances that the Journalist Will Write about You.
Make it as easy as possible for them to set aside the time to knock out an article. Journalist are 10x more likely to expedite your story if it’s half written for them. Include 3-5 story ideas within the pitch, each with a snappy headline. And be as specific as possible. Ashley’s example: instead of saying, “my groundbreaking app will debut on March 6th!,” insert specificity everything an app does – such as “wake you up at 3:00am and keep you up all day with no coffee.” Now that is an app a journalist will want to write about.
You deserve press for all the magic you’re doing in the world! It simply comes down to strategy. Ashley’s course, Master The Media, is a 60 day program, and yet with these tried and true strategies, her ‘students’ in eight countries have seen results in under 30 days. A few first time founders who had never scored press heard back from journalists at Inc. and Entrepreneur within 24 hours. It seems like sorcery – but that’s the power of a great press strategy.
A big thank you to Ashley for sharing so much impactful knowledge with us! Sign up for her online course here, and text MEDIA to 66866 for a free media Cheat Sheet! Join the Next Gen community for more advice that can accelerate your journey.