I think it’s safe to say the most challenging part of my job is explaining how the industry works to my clients. Before I take on any client, I do my best to explain what I do, how I do it, and what the expected outcomes are – the good, bad, and the ugly.
Basically, I do my best to under promise and over deliver due to the nature of the business.
What’s the nature of the business? Well, let me break it down like this: Public relations can do wonders for your business. It can make your brand more credible and visible which leads to more business growth. But, it’s not what you want, when you want it.
You’re not ready for a Public Relations retainer fee if…
1. You don’t have a story to tell.
This is what’s going to earn you media coverage. Storytelling. It’s not how amazing your brand is or how much money you generate. It’s about the educational, entertaining, and emotional story you can share that will shed a light on your brand.
Now, this light isn’t always a huge spotlight. Sometimes it’s a little flashlight that turns on for a split second, but it’s something.
I once worked with a client and I explained to him,
Me: “Everyone thinks their business is the greatest ever and should be featured in most media outlets. That’s not how journalists see things.”Client: “But Christina, our business really is the greatest ever.”
That = unrealistic expectations… with a mindset that you don’t need a great story to earn coverage.
2. You mistake marketing for sales.
I hate it when people say “sales and marketing” like they are the same thing. They’re not. In fact, they are very different.
I don’t work in sales… not directly. Instead, I get someone to want to make the next step to sales.
If you’re a local restaurant and I earn you a cooking segment on the local NBC station, I did my job. I earned you a three-minute segment on TV in your market in front of millions (depending on the market) of potential customers.
The part that comes after that is the sales part.
I lead the horse to water. You make the horse drink it.
3. You want instant media coverage. Like tomorrow.
If you want to earn media, you need to be patient. If you don’t want to be patient, then you can spend more money on an advertisement and get it right away.
Convincing someone your brand has a great story takes time. It takes time to build a relationship with a journalist. It takes time to pitch journalists INDIVIDUALLY.
Speaking of time, TIMING is one of the biggest factors when it comes to a journalist answering the question, “Why should I cover this right now?” Just because something isn’t a good fit now, doesn’t mean it won’t be in a month, three months, or even a year.
I could go on about this, but instead, I’ll share this response from a journalist at a popular, national magazine after he was asked, “Why not?” in response to a pitch he turned down:
“Because I get 200 pitches a week and can’t and don’t want to read them all. My job is not to sit on my derrière waiting for pitches. I create my own pipeline of stories and it is full for months ahead of time.”
4. You don’t want to be involved in the process.
Yes, a publicist will handle most of the work, but I need you to help me help you.
When the media comes knocking, you need to drop everything. Like, right now.
When I was in TV news, I was given an assignment at 9:30 am and I had to have it done by 4:45pm. Many times after I was pitched, I would call the number at the bottom of the email and the conversation would go like this:
Me: “Okay, we’re ready to talk to about this. Can we come by in 30 minutes?”Publicist/Person who wants media exposure: “Oh no. We’re not ready!”Me: “Well, you just sent me this information and my assignement editor would like for me to cover this for the 5pm newscast.”Publicist/Person who wants media exposure: “Okay, well can you just give us the questions now and call back next week?”
Do you see what’s wrong with this? When was the last time you watched the 5 o’clock news and saw something that was not relevant today, but instead looked like it was a week old? Yea… never.
When a journalist wants something, nine times out of 10 they will go with whoever got them the information they needed the quickest. Journalists work on tight deadlines. If you want to earn media exposure, you need to work that way too.
“But Christina, you told us in #3 is takes time.”
Yes, it does, but when that time passes and an opportunity knocks, you run to the freaking door!
5. You’re a control freak.
When it comes to earning media, you have no control over the final product.
Again, if you want that, spend all your marketing budget on an advertisement.
It’s a journalist’s job to tell a story that will educate and entertain their audience. If all 10 of your quotes are boring, then a journalist may use three out of the 10… and they may not be your favorite three. It happens.
Your goal is to earn media that looks like a “free commercial.” That is NOT the goal of the journalist. Remember that.
When people think of public relations, they think of hiring someone to help them get on TV, write blog posts, or plan an event. Yes, all of that is great, but do you know what’s even better? Customer service.
Good Customer Service
Think about the way you react when you experience great customer service. You tell everyone about it, right? Word of mouth and referrals are what grow businesses. This is why it’s so important to treat every, single customer like he or she could make or break your business… because I believe one customer has the power to do that.
Take a look at this example. A small fish and chips restaurant made international headlines without paying a dime. Instead, the owner of the restaurant gave one customer above and beyond customer service. In return, he posted one thing to his Facebook page, and now we all know about Whitbie’s Fish and Chips in Canada. Not to mention, within two days of this post, the owner of Whitbie’s saw about 1,000 customers.
While I love seeing stories like this one, you usually see more of the negative ones. Thanks to social media today, it’s so easy to hop online and complain about anything and everything. Sometimes a business will reply and try to make things right. Other times, it won’t.
Bad Customer Service
Let me give you a personal example of bad customer service… and the inspiration for this post. After I bought a laptop from Costco, it started running slowly – so slow, I stopped using it for months. Then, I remembered I was under a warranty with Costco, so I should try to get it taken care of. (Duh!) In the span of one month, I spent hours talking to people in Fort Myers who work with Costco Concierge Services in tech support. When I say hours, I mean I spoke with about 60 different people – Aaron, Justin, Mary, Aleah, Bret, Anthony… you get my drift. While they were all very nice (well, all of the except Bret), they couldn’t help me. In fact, they made my problem even worse.
I wanted a faster laptop. Instead, videos I created for clients were deleted. Still, I was denied a return. Then, tech support wanted to keep “troubleshooting.” Well, that troubleshooting led to me losing even more – my video editing software (which costs twice as much as the laptop) and Microsoft Office… which was supposed to come installed on the laptop. Yes, I lost that too!
You’d think after all of this, costing me time and money, they would apologize and let me return the laptop. A $500 HP Pavilion… to a huge company… like Costco.
Guess what? They want to keep “troubleshooting.” (They like that word at Costco Concierge Services.) As you can imagine, after dozens of hours and thousands of dollars lost, I just didn’t have it in me.
The Result of Bad Customer Service
Earlier this month, in the midst of all this troubleshooting, I got a $10 Costco gift card for referring my sister to become an executive member. It was the day after Dori in the Pompano Beach store took time out of her day to fight for good customer service. On the phone, I heard her say, “Can you please authorize a return to keep this member happy? You guys lost her data trying to fix something and it didn’t work. Can we just give her good customer service?”
Now, because of my experience with Costco, the concierge service, tech support, and the people in service dispatch, I will not refer people to Costco.
Costco doesn’t care one bit. Why would they? I’m one of 85 million members. That’s a pretty small fish in a gigantic ocean. The company does about 100 billion dollars in sales every year. Do you think they care about me losing something that pays my bills? No way… but with that kind of income, you kind wonder why they wouldn’t just let a woman in PR, with a big mouth, return her $500 laptop?!
UPDATE: Two days after this post was originally published, a local store manager called and asked, “When can you come in and return your laptop?”
Hence, why you should treat every customer like they have a big mouth.
Not to get too far into another bad customer service story, but LG refused to help me with a mold problem in my front load washer. The company insisted on blaming me taking poor care of it and using too much detergent, despite numerous class action lawsuits against makers of front load washers for this exact problem. But, as soon as a representative was contacted by one of my colleagues in the media to produce a follow-up story to a previous investigation, my washer was fixed in days.
So, the result of bad customer service cannot only end with the loss of a customer, but with many people knowing the details of why that customer is a former customer.
The Moral of the Story
If you are a small business owner, or you work with small business owners, practice good customer service. I’m not saying the customer is always right. I know there are some real pains in the you know what trying to wheel and deal business owners. I know no matter what you do, you can’t make everyone happy. But, at the end of the day, people do business with people they know, like, and trust.
Regarding media exposure, I’ve had this conversation many times:
You: “I think I have a great product, but no one knows about it.”Me: “Do you have someone handling your public relations?”You: “We looked into it, but it’s so expensive. We’re just trying to do it ourselves for now.”Me: “Well, what are you doing?”You: “We post on social media and send out press releases, but it’s like people still don’t know we exist.”
Well, if you want to know why you’re not earning media exposure… maybe it’s because you’re not making yourself, your product, your service, your business, or even your brand newsworthy.
1. You’re not earning media exposure because you are sending a press release.
Before I start working with most clients, the words “press release” are usually spoken in the first 10 minutes… and not by me. I don’t like press releases, but many small business owners insist on me writing them and sending them out. If this is what you’re doing, this is why they may not be working for you:
Your press release is too long
Your press release is boring
Your press release is complicated
Your press release is not newsworthy
Your press release is too evergreen
2. You’re not earning media exposure because you are reaching out to the wrong people.
Earning media coverage is hard. Because it’s not only free, but much more effective than advertising, small business owners want it for their brand. Many times, this means pitching anyone and everyone in the media industry with an email address. This is not effective. When I was a TV reporter in Miami, I would receive pitches that included a topic in a different market, a topic I have never covered before, a topic that would never be covered by the TV station itself, and the list goes on.
3. You’re not earning media exposure because you are promoting your brand too much.
While some media coverage may end up being seen as a great commercial for a brand, it should never be pitched this way. Remember, the job of a journalist is to tell a story that will educate, entertain, and evoke some kind of emotion in the reader or viewer. If your brand isn’t doing that with a pitch, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
4. You’re not earning media exposure because you are not trying hard enough.
Very rarely does a member of the media come to you. If one does, consider yourself lucky and that a rare occasion. Journalists work 24/7 – at 2:00 am, on Christmas morning, and many times in a few different cities in just a couple of days. It’s not a 9-5 job, so you cannot treat your outreach like it is.
5. You’re not earning media exposure because you are not ready.
If your website is not up and running or if your product is not ready for distribution, then you are not ready to earn media exposure. Unless you have a solid business plan with something to see, people to talk to, and documents to share, then you need to do more on the business side before trying to earn exposure in the media.
Now that you know what’s not working, why not try some things that work? In this free e-mail course, I’ll teach how to right some of these wrongs.
There are a lot of pains and a lot of gains in the public relations industry. Some things are understood, while others things are not… by both the clients and the media. The business is changing and so are the rules.
I operate my business very transparently. I’m not going to sugar coat things or send false promises your way, so if you want to know some things, sit back… here are eight things you didn’t know about the public relations industry.
It’s not about sending emails. It’s about building relationships. My contacts in the media don’t owe me anything, so I need to maintain good working relationships with them in order to do my job successfully. Luckily, I worked on that side of things for 10 years and have great relationships with people in the industry. True story: I have seen stories turned down because of the less than likability factor of the publicist handling the client, even though the client was a great fit for a story. Also, I have earned many clients publicity after sending a Facebook message to a friend.
Media relations take time. If you want to see results fast, buy an advertisement. If you want to see more meaningful results over time, hire a publicist. Timing is everything when it comes to earned media. Just because it’s not in print today, doesn’t mean it won’t be in three months. Be patient.
We can only lead a horse to water. If you want publicity, that’s on me as a PR professional. But if you are not doing your part as a business owner to get that horse to the drink the water I led them to, there is only so much I can do at that point. For example, if your website needs help, I will refer you to one of the website developers I work with. What you choose to do after that is out of my control. I once had a client who wanted me to promote her business, but her website wasn’t completed yet. If your online store isn’t open for business, what’s the point of media coverage?
Our work never stops. News is a never ending cycle. It’s just about impossible to take a day off. It could mean a missed opportunity. (That’s why when we reach out to you with a question or request for a certain picture, we need it ASAP.)
There is a level of skill and expertise to what we do. I am providing a service that has taken me years to learn through a variety of different experiences. Just because you have a Facebook page or Instagram account does not mean you know how to strategically promote a business via social media. If I had a dollar every time someone told me they didn’t need social media help because their nephew was doing it for them in their spare time…
What you pay for may not be what it seems. Don’t be fooled by the big, beautiful office and fancy website of a well known firm. Many times, the people running the firm won’t even send an email on your behalf. After you pay your retainer, your campaign is given to a low level staffer to do all the work. Make sure you know who is really working on your account.What is published or aired is usually out of our control. Remember, we don’t write the articles or direct the live TV interviews. Instead, we make you look good so other people want to tell the story we’re pitching them. Sometimes, you may not like the way something is written or the way a question is asked. That’s public relations – how someone in the public is perceiving you, your brand, or your business. I once represented a baby product and around National Reading Month. During that time, I used the product to promote reading to infants and included the benefits of doing so. Well, one writer I pitched happened to have a child who was deaf. She did not believe reading to infants was beneficial at all. Needless to say, she didn’t write an amazing review. Sometimes, these things happen.
No one wants to give you a free commercial. It’s your business and it’s your product, so of course you think it’s the best thing since sliced bread and makes a great story… but so does every other entrepreneur. It needs to be more than that to earn media coverage. For this reason, let your publicist guide the process of developing the newsworthy content for the media.
Interested in learning more about public relations? Well, you’re in the right place. Not only do I fill this blog with tons of PR information, but you may love my new online course, Master your PR. It teaches you exactly what to do to earn your brand media exposure without spending big bucks on public relations.
Because of my decade of experience working on-air, then in public relations – I know what works and what doesn’t… and I’m going to share it all with you! I’ve gotten clients featured on the Today Show, the Rachael Ray Show, in the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Men’s Fitness, Food & Wine, Entrepreneur, and much more.
I attribute my success to two things:
Maintaining great relations with colleagues in the media industry
Telling great, newsworthy stories
While, I can’t give you my relationships with media professionals, I can tell you how to start them, build them, and keep them. I can also direct you, so you’re able to find your brand’s story, craft it, and pitch it to the media.
I’ll teach you all of this, step-by-step. By the end of Master your PR, you will know:
How to find your brands story
How to find the correct media, then pitch them effectively
How to talk to the media so you and your brand shine
How to become a regular on TV as a panelist
How to earn yourself publicity as an expert in your industry, and much more
To be honest, I never cared too much about National Small Business Week. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. But now I’m a small business owner, so FYI, it’s the first week of May.
I’m a big fan of small business news and WalletHub has just released the best small cities to start a business… and one is just a hop, skip, and a jump from where I started my public relations firm in Coral Springs. WalletHubs data set ranges from “average growth in number of small businesses” and “prevalence of investors” to “office-space affordability” and “corporate taxes.”
So, the top 10 best small cities to start a business are:
10. Deerfield Beach, FL (right by me!)
9. Cheyenne, WY
8. Dothan, AL
7. Clearfield, UT
6. Inver Grove, UT
5. La Vergne, TN
4. Jefferson City, MO
3. Brighton, NY
2. North Chicago, IL
1. Holland, MI
Another fun fact: I’m also very close to Miami Beach, that has the highest number of startups per 100,000 residents, 246. That is seven times higher than in Salisbury, Md., the city with the lowest, 35.
I think any business owner, brand, or marketer would love to have a great publicist in their corner. The problem? It’s costly and many businesses just do not have the budget. So, what do you do when you can’t afford PR? You do it yourself, right? Well, there’s another problem.
How can you master your PR if you don’t really know what to do? Sure, you know a thing or two. It can’t be too hard to make some phone calls or send an email here or there in-between other daily work tasks. Actually, there is a lot to it… good thing I’m here to help!
When I’m not acting as a publicist, I’m teaching business owners, brands, and marketers how to do their own PR. Now, I’m sharing my decade+ of experience in the media industry with all of you… well, everyone online at least. Check out Master your PR. This is an online course that covers everything! Want to try a bit for free first? Send me an email at Christina@MediaMavenAndMore.com.
And I mean ev-er-y-thing. I get into how to find your brands story, who to pitch it to, how to handle a crisis situation, how to get a ROI by using social media, and I even tell you personal stories about how I’ve earned brands major media exposure. With that, comes some videos, worksheets, and checklists to help you along.
Here are five tips on using video to market your business:
Consider your audience. You need to make sure the promotion is relevant to your audience. If it’s not, you’re wasting your time.
Tell a story. This is a big one, because so many brands want to promote instead of telling a meaningful story. A great story will get you further and will make for an even better commercial. Take a look at this video I did for Doral Buick GMC. It was so much fun and I think it comes across onscreen.
Promote it. It should hit your website first, then, social media! This is where social media is key. It’s the best platform to share your work with current and potential future customers. Depending on the outlet, you may get :15, :30, etc., so keep that in mind when posting. I’ve even created a series of videos just for those outlets because of time constraints. On Facebook, I posted this video to my fan page and pinned it to the top. That ensures a wider reach. (Click here to read more on the importance of social media.)Keep it short. I don’t think anyone has the attention span to watch something longer than two to three minutes. There is just too much for us to see online. We are at the hands of information overload, so we need to tell stories with emotion while entertaining and educating fast. (It’s why video is the best!) Here is another video I did that includes all of those things in just 30 seconds.
Sidenote: The only time a video entertained me for a long period of time recently (13 minutes) was this one. Watch it. It’s too funny.
Create a call to action. Someone just watched the recording you created, now what? Make sure your website, phone number, email address, coupon code, whatever is accessible when the video ends. If not, what was the point?
Yes, I own a public relations firm… and I hate press releases. Sounds crazy, right? Well, I spent almost a decade deleting them, so there’s that.
When I was looking to leave the TV business and start working at a public relations firm, so many wouldn’t hire me because I didn’t have any PR agency experience. I would say, “No, I don’t, but I do have experience deleting just about everything you’ve ever sent me. Would you like to know why?”
Honestly, not one of them wanted to know why… but they still continued to send me terrible press releases in an attempt to earn their clients publicity.
So, here are 6 reasons I hate press releases:
No one was putting themselves in my shoes.
I’m the reporter. I’m the one you want to cover the story, so put yourself in my shoes. Is it what I usually cover? No. Does it pertain to the area I cover? No. So you’re sending it to me why? Because it’s what you should do?
It wasn’t newsworthy.
Most press releases I received basically screamed, “Please, give my client a free commercial! There is nothing really newsworthy here, but I need to get this on TV!” Unless the news day is so, so, so very slow… local TV news doesn’t do free commercials. Instead, educate me. Entertain me. At least attempt to make it newsworthy! There’s gotta be a story in there somewhere. In addition, why should I do your story when I’m one of dozens, if not hundreds getting this exact same press release?
They are just too long.
Do you know how many press releases news outlets and journalists get in a single day?! It’s a lot. You’d be shocked! If you don’t keep it short and sweet and get to the point, all your time and energy writing that press release was wasted.
It said “Press Release” in the subject line.
That = automatic deletion. Seriously, you could have the solution to all of the worlds problems in that press release. With that subject line, no one will read it.
It said “Breaking News” in the subject line…
and was about an art show… the same day a mass shooting occurred. This not only gets you deleted, but shamed and embarrassed in the newsroom and in online industry groups. I’ve seen it. As a journalist, I laughed. As someone in the PR industry, please stop. You are embarrassing me.
It didn’t give me what I needed, when I needed it.
If I’m in TV, what would I do with high resolution pictures or quotes? Nothing. I need an interview… and not a Skype interview. An in person interview… and that person better be available from the second you send me that press release. If I ever responded to a press release, this was a follow up problem. In TV, we do things the day of. Unless it’s a special report, the story is started and finished within hours, so don’t send me something to cover, then tell me to wait because you aren’t ready. You just lost your chance.
With that said, I don’t think all press releases are pointless. I bet everyone jumps at the chance to read one from Apple. I would. They put out some pretty good stuff. I still write press releases for clients. I definitely think they have a time and a place, but I do not believe press releases should be a go-to thing each and every time you want to reach out to the media. Many PR pros do. In my opinion, #1-#6 is how not to write a press release.
For more on how I can help you grow your business, whether it be through a strategic press release or pitch, please e-mail me at Christina@MediaMavenAndMore.com… or you can check this out! Sign up for my online course to learn how you can by doing PR yourself. Click here to master your PR.
Thinking of hiring a public relations agency like Media Maven or a publicist like myself? Any business or brand wants exposure. If people aren’t aware of you, how are they going to find you and become a client or customer?! They won’t, but still, there is one big thing that holds people back from hiring a publicist: Knowledge of the business.
Many people don’t understand how the business works and once you hire a firm or publicist, it can be a learning experience. Before you shell out any money, please keep these things in mind before hiring a publicist:
1. Find out how they work.
When I say “they” I mean the person working on your account. The actual person. At many PR firms, the person selling you on hiring their firm, isn’t the person who will be working on your account. Make sure you know who you will be working with and what their experience and connections are. Don’t fall for the person making the sale. I once worked for a man who would over promise on the deliverables, then hand over the account to a new employee and say, “It’s my job to get them, now it’s your job to keep them.” You don’t want that.
2. Know your goals.
As a media specialist, that is what I base my work on – what the clients goals are. Why do you want publicity and where do you want it? The more specific you are, the better. Chances are, you want to be where your audience is. That’s a great starting point when deciding what your goals are. Also, have realistic expectations. That leads me to a red flag…
3. Have realistic expectations.
If it was easy to get you on Good Morning America or in Entrepreneur Magazine, then every PR firm would have bragging rights until the cows come home. You’re not going to get national media coverage every week. That’s just not the way it works. We wish it did just as much as you do. So listen, when someone at a PR firm starts talking like, “I can get you covered in this magazine or an appearance on that show,” make them put it in writing because chances are they are just selling you with great hopes and dreams.
In the world of PR, we cannot control writers, producers, bookers, etc. We cannot guarantee coverage in anything just like a doctor can’t guarantee to cure your sickness, but like a doctor, we will use our time, experience, and expertise. If any PR firm starts making promises like this, either get it in writing… or run.
Like any business, you want to vet who you hire. Hopefully these three things will help you when you’re shopping around the very saturated world of PR. There’s a lot of firms and there’s a lot of soloPReneurs. You have a lot to choose from… and now, you have homework before you make your decision.