It’s really hard to bear.
There are lots of good stories waiting to be told all over the country. Only the ones who could tell them don’t. Instead, they continue to wait for journalists to take notice of their press releases, find their products great and write about their services.
But again, they don’t. Find the mistake?!
The fact that entrepreneurs and journalists often don’t understand each other is a problem. Editors need to fill their pages and entrepreneurs want to be known. They need each other. So what can you do to help you and the journalist find each other? So that he will think you are great and you will achieve your goal – that he will write about you?
The short version: You have to do the same as with inbound marketing. You have to become attractive for the journalist.
You have to offer him what he is looking for.
And you need to avoid these seven PR mistakes I’m about to tell you. Here’s my promise: After reading this text, you’ll be smarter than 95% of other entrepreneurs, service providers and self-employed people. Probably even smarter than some employees of a press agency. You’ll start doing PR that actually pays off – while everyone else just keeps sending out mass emails and hoping that somehow, somewhere, they’ll get featured.
Mistake #1: You are too vain
Unfortunately, cheering goes very badly. Unless you’re BMW, IKEA or Apple.
Even what you call an innovation or a “brand new hot thing” isn’t as interesting as you think it is, given the 187 other hot things that end up on the journalist’s desk every day. Here’s why:
No matter how much you’re in love with your product or service – stop talking about it.
For example, like Nick. Jacob has launched a healthy snack box that is delivered weekly to the office. He could now, of course, send out press releases focusing on his product. But in all honesty, with all the organic and cooking boxes on the market, the whole thing is nothing really new anymore and will hardly sweep any journalists off their feet.
It’s a different story when Jacob tells the story of how he himself used to eat Ritter Sport chocolate in the afternoons when he was still working for a multinational company. Simply because there was nothing else around. “There should be healthy food for the nerves in the office,” he thought at the time. And without further delay, he quit his well-paid job.
Well? Sounds quite different, doesn’t it? That’s a story! A story that might suit a journalist because he’s looking for examples for an article on “How I turned my life around. Or the editor of a fitness magazine, who is always interested in “awakening moments”.
Jacob might even go so far as to tell about his girlfriend: After all, she used to work for the same corporation – and then founded her own company with eco-beauty products. What does it mean for love when two founders, each with their own company, work day and night on their projects? That, too, would be an exciting topic.
Yes, you read that right: I’m actually asking you to talk about relationship crushes to promote your product! Because no one wants to read about how great everything is. It’s the upsets, ups and downs that people like about stories.
If you stop being vain, you’ll quickly realize that – and you’ll also tell people about what went wrong. You’ll be rewarded with much greater interest from journalists.
Mistake #2: You don’t want to spill the beans
Many companies hire a PR professional and think that he or she can then, like a magician, ensure that a press release – abracadabra – is printed word for word.
No, unfortunately that’s not how it works (in the vast majority of cases). You have to offer journalists something to get them excited. They often don’t even open boring press releases – and if they do, they usually only read the first few sentences (which is why you should follow a few elementary rules here).
But to do that, entrepreneurs need to come out of the woodwork. See above:
If you have a story to tell that is about yourself, you increase your chances of being noticed by journalists.
Because journalists are constantly looking for “cases” (real stories from real people) for their articles.
So you need to rethink: Instead of expecting your product, your company, your service to be featured, you should, like Jacob, get involved in being the focus. If you’re smart about it, you’ll be able to create momentum. For example, when you tell how you first had to go through tears – and then start all over again with this cool business idea. And poof, that very business is mentioned!
One mention isn’t enough for you? You’re thinking, “But I wanted them to write big about my company – not my tears stuff?!”. Then I’ll give you this as a little mental exercise: Please think about how many people read a news story about a newly founded company – and how many read a heartfelt story about someone who, after a long history of illness, had the brilliant idea for a startup (which, of course, has to do with this very illness).
You realize that yourself, don’t you?
Mistake #3: You don’t use your expertise
I just talked on the phone with a lady who creates websites for horse entrepreneurs. Websites for horse entrepreneurs! Could it be any more specific, any nichier?!
From a PR perspective, such a focus is a great thing. Because if I were an editor of a horse magazine thinking about the topic “How can horse farms improve their online presence?” and I came across this lady’s profile, I would call her immediately! Because she is the one who fits the topic like a dream. And she enriches my article with valuable expert knowledge.
Sometimes, however, journalists don’t come up with such topics on their own. So if you know a lot about a very focused niche area, you should offer them your expertise. You should let them know that “Online presence for horse farms” would be a really good topic for a horse magazine – and that you are available for interviews. The more specific the topic, the better!
Because if you pay attention, you’ll notice how many journalistic articles feature experts – for the purpose of classification, explaining the world, or evaluation. And you can be one of them!
Mistake #4: You think good PR consists of a large mailing list
Has a PR agency ever tried to lure you in by saying they have [insert incredibly high number] journalists on their mailing list?
That sounds impressive at first: “Wow, [insert incredibly high number] journalists will find out about my company!”
The mistake here is that the vast majority of press releases remain unopened.
You’d have to be pretty darn interesting to catch the journalist’s eye when he scans his inbox in the morning.
That’s why large mailing lists are of no use at all. If 2000 people receive the e-mail and I have spent a lot of money on this high number of subscribers, but only three journalists actually open the e-mail, then that’s what? That’s right: money wasted.
I would go so far as to say: a very small mailing list is much, much better! Because if only ten journalists receive ten really good, individually tailored topic suggestions, and if these ten journalists are immediately hooked, then that’s what? A really good investment (and one that has more to do with thinking and brainstorming than with money).
Mistake #5: You invest your money in brochures
Speaking of wasting money: Brochures also belong to this category. No editor wants stacks of paper on his desk. Glossy material interests him much less than a good story. And anyway, exciting stories are seldom hidden in brochures. That’s why content hubs are so exciting in inbound marketing.
Remember: You don’t have to “present yourself in the best possible way” and look pretty, but show your rough edges.
What goes down a hundred times better with journalists than polished press releases are:
- Unusual experiences
- A provocative or unexpected opinion
- Someone who goes against the crowd
- The underdog who takes on the big players in the industry
- Entrepreneurs who are “first” at something
- And you can put all that in a simple, short email
Otherwise, brochures will suffer the same fate as the many thousands of press releases in this country every day: they usually end up in the trash.
Mistake #6: You hide yourself on your website
What do journalists do when they find someone interesting – for example, because they have received an interesting topic suggestion?
They google that someone.
Most of the time, there will be a website. What you should know: The journalist will not bother to search there for ages for the information he needs. He wants to get a quick overview. Wants to know what the company is all about. And of course: who the person behind the e-mail is. If he doesn’t find that right away, he’s off again.
But some entrepreneurs forget to present themselves on their website. Or they hide the “About us” link somewhere at the bottom of the footer.
It is much better to have this link clearly visible in the header of the website. It should lead to a page that briefly and concisely states:
- Who is talking here?
- What does this person look like? (Journalists are only human, so if they like you, you’ve already won a lot).
- How did he get to where he is now?
- What is his big idea?
- Is he a weird guy? Does she have an unusual hobby? Is there an unusual past?
You should definitely touch on your personal story, and not try to sound like a big company by any means necessary. The fact that you are small and (still) insignificant makes you likeable! Write as you are (as long as you don’t get out of hand), tell (briefly) about yourself, and don’t leave out the famous tears!
Because you have a big advantage over larger companies: You burn for what you do. You can present yourself as a person who stands out. And you may be able to bring stories of lone warriors that interest journalists more than fine-sounding empty phrases.
Mistake #7: You don’t know the media landscape
Of course you can dream of appearing on Forbes or CNN featuring you. But the chances of that are relatively low. But that’s not so bad. There are still 10000 other newspapers, magazines and online portals. And you might be much better off in a local or a specialized newspaper. Why?
Because it should not be so much a question of which publication is particularly eye-catching, but with which one you can reach a particularly large number of desirable customers.
That’s why a lot of thought has to go into every PR activity:
What do my potential customers actually consume?
Once you start looking, you’ll discover many publications you’ve never heard of! The advantage: It’s much easier to make it into a niche magazine than into CNN. Of course, a good mix is ideal: a little bit for prestige (and for the backlinks – because if CNN links to you, this has a favorable effect on your rankings) and a little bit for something really useful.
But first you have to really look around in the EN-language media landscape. You’ll come across an infinite number of publications that you hadn’t even considered before.
My final thoughts
I know, that was a lot of stuff. However, it’s exactly this kind of information that really good press relations are made of!
So if you want to do PR that actually catches on with journalists, then stick to the following points:
- Invest in short, exciting texts on your website and clear expert positioning on LinkedIn rather than in brochures.
- Find out which media are relevant to you and get to know them well
- Write to journalists individually
- Think carefully about who you offer which topic and make it a good fit
- Don’t talk about glitz and glamour, but about real life, with all its ups and downs.
- Offer your knowledge
Do you now want to know step by step how all this works and how you do PR for your website and also how to use it in order to improve your rankings? Then subscribe to our newsletter now and get the latest and most relevant information to successfully master 2021.