How To Get Great PR for (Almost) Free
One of the most predictable questions clients ask just before their new site goes live is “How do I get press coverage for my site launch?” My uniform but depressing answer is “Why would you get press coverage for your site launch?”
The harsh reality is that few news outlets are going to cover the launch of a site, because guess what – it isn’t news. New web sites launch daily in their thousands, and no matter how special you think your unique snowflake may be, it just isn’t that special.
Therefore, if you want media coverage, you need to actually make news. Here is how we did that for Ciara Crossan at WeddingDates.ie, where you can search for available reception venues based on your chosen wedding date and location. The hook in Step 2 will be different for every site, but the basic methodology is the same for all the clients I’ve been through this with.
1. Relate your product or service to something current in the news.
We’re diving head first into a recession, and the media has an endless appetite for recession stories. Weddings cost an average of 20K, so there’s probably a news story nicely nestled between big ticket items and topical budget cutting that we can tease out.
2. Find or create a hook that legitimately ties in your business.
To create our news story, we designed the 2008 Wedding Budget Survey using a free PollDaddy survey, and asked brides and grooms if the recession was impacting their wedding budgets. Ciara got a lovely prize sponsored by one of her hotels to lure 100 people in for the survey, and then we crunched all the data to get some nice beefy stats.
3. Write a really good press release.
There are two tricks here. The first is: do not write a press release. Instead, write the story you want the papers to run. (See press release here.) Format it like a press release and call it a press release, but make it easy for busy journalists to see the whole story by writing it yourself – preferably really well.
The second trick is to make the press release about your news story but work your client into it so seamlessly that it is almost impossible to cover one without the other. When done well, you’ll have about a 90% success rate with this.
4. Distribute it to a hand-picked media list.
Ciara’s homework assignment while I was doing 1, 2 and 3 was to buy all the papers and magazines for a full two weeks and start pulling names and contact details for people and editors covering this kind of story. Regional contact details came from the book. We targeted lifestyle, business and women’s sections of national and local newspapers and magazines.
5. Be available to respond to media calls and emails.
Ciara got loads of calls and contacts after sending out her release. Some outlets just ran the press release; others were more interested and called for interviews and sent photographers. Some ran the survey story and some ran more general pieces about her. It doesn’t matter; they would never have run any of these stories if she’d simply sent out a standard new website release.
So the press release did its job and generated several news stories:
- The Sun
- The Echo (full page in Women on Wednesday)
- The Cork Independent
- The Kingdom
- The Kerryman
- The Corkman
Bridal mags print quarterly, so we’re still waiting to see what, if anything, pops up there, but that’s a nice result with a good regional spread.
One thing I would encourage anyone to do before embarking on a campaign like this, however, is to really consider the benefit of traditional press. Because honestly, for a lot of businesses, there is no benefit. Read that again: there is no benefit.
Newspaper mentions and even radio and television coverage will not result in the traffic bump on your site that you expect. Let’s face it - The Sunday Business Post is not The Colbert Report, so if you’re hoping for a Colbert Bump from a mention in the Irish media, you’re likely to be sadly disappointed. Online links are likely to bring you far more traffic, so for most small businesses, time is better invested generating online coverage than offline coverage.
However, there are at least two instances where it is worth pursuing traditional media:
- Investors – If you have a pool of investors or a board of directors, these people just love being handed a big fat press clippings file. It’s a tangible result they understand.
- Stakeholders – In Ciara’s case, the hotels listing on her site are her stakeholders, and all this press lends huge credibility when she goes out to sell to them. As Mulley points out, this kind of traditional PR is about reputation.
I am not a professional PR person and I don’t have the contacts that might have resulted in more national coverage for this story. However, I’ve also seen some of the big PR agency price tags, and I’m pretty confident that with our little DIY press campagn, we got 80% of the bang for about 10% of the buck. If you’re a bigger company or situated more offline than online, it’s probably worth it to bring professional PR on board. But if you’re bootstrapping your online business, it’s worth knowing that like Irish brides, you can DIY it for less.
15 Dec 2008 | In: Boot Camp + Marketing | Tags:Free, Marketing, PR