The art of public relations tends to go hand in hand with marketing. If you’re getting ready to market a product, service, or book launch, you can pave the way by taking care of a lot of the PR aspects in advance. You can also create the posters, display stands and other marketing collateral early.
In Episode 97 of the Bright Planning Marketing Podcast, we discuss the importance of working months in advance, so you can have time to facilitate media coverage. Media outlets can often have long lead times. For instance, print magazines are three to six months out!
Build relationships with journalists now, so when you need to pitch them something, they already know you. Plan enough time in advance so as your launch date approaches, you can email the journalists and follow up a few times.
In this episode, we also talk about how to “triage” your inbox and reply to emails quickly and professionally. Join us to learn more! Thanks for listening.
Continue on to read the transcript:
Catherine: I am your host, Catherine Campbell, and I’m joined, as always, by my co-host and producer, Natalie Pyles. Natalie, how are you?
Natalie: Good. Hey, hey.
C: Hey, hey.
N: That sounded weird.
C: No, it didn’t sound weird at all.
N: That’s just me.
C: Yeah, exactly. Actually, you know, last night, I was having to answer some questions for an interview that’s coming out about being a woman entrepreneur, and one of the questions was just talking about what were some lessons you would give to young women who are thinking about going into entrepreneurship, and one of the lessons I realized last night as I was writing down the answers was that when I went into the advertising business, I thought I had to act like a man, because this is a pretty traditionally male-dominated industry. I thought I had to act like Don Draper or something. Then I realized that, once I started just being myself and being quirky, and you know, just me, being weird.
C: It actually really got my business into a state of flow, and positively affected the bottom line in the long run, because the business was authentic at that point. Yeah, so Natalie, you should just come in with all the “Hey, heys” you want.
C: And I should come in with all the “Hey, heys” right after that, and everybody else should just come in with their own greetings, and do their own thing.
N: I love it. Where’s that interview going to be posted?
C: It’s for a local women’s entrepreneurship week here in Asheville, and it’s going to be a spotlight, I think, by Hatch, which is an entrepreneur foundation here that’s doing amazing work.
N: That’s awesome. I’m going to go check it out.
C: Thanks. Yeah. I’m excited. I love what they’re doing. They’re really phenomenal and really supportive of the local entrepreneurship scene here. We just have these incredible minds, and these just really uncannily gifted people here in this city who are inventing new things every day, they’re solving problems every day, and just kind of setting a standard, I think, for a lot of national companies. We’re just this town that everybody thinks is like, you know, cool and beautiful and weird, but we have a thriving entrepreneur and innovation scene that’s kind of going on under the radar here.
N: Yeah. I only know that because of podcasting. A ton of podcasts come out of Asheville. It’s like a major hub for entrepreneurship and new ideas. You’ve got a cool little thing going on over there.
C: Yeah, we do. We should actually look into creating a podcast area network.
N: Oh, yeah.
C: Yeah. We’ll look into that and keep our listeners posted. But in the meantime, we’re on Episode 97, which is awesome, because we’re coming up on Episode 100, which I’m very excited about.
N: Yeah, which we should start teasing already. It’s going to be amazing.
C: We’re going to have a surprise guest.
N: Yeah, that’s true.
C: Maybe? I don’t know. For everybody else who’s been listening to the podcast up until this episode, I think they already know who’s coming on our 100th episode. But if they haven’t, it’ll be a surprise.
N: Yeah. And then really exciting things to come in the 100s. Very, very cool.
C: Yes. Yes. So oh my gosh, I’m so excited about our Season 3. So what’s going to happen everyone is that after [Episode] 100, we’re going to take a break for about 6 weeks while we gear up and finesse season 3, and get ready to release that. Season 3 is taking on a whole different structure, but in a fantastic way, and I can’t wait to tell you all more about it. So if you haven’t subscribed yet to the podcast, it gets released every Monday. It’s perfect for your lunch break to listen to it. Often, you want to have a pencil and paper because you can take notes, and we just try to bring a lot of value to the podcast, so if you haven’t subscribed yet, you can subscribe on iTunes, and TuneIn, and SoundCloud. If you just go to https://brightplanning.com/podcast, you can one-click subscribe in iTunes right there.
N: Yes. And you should subscribe, so that when we come back in 6 weeks, you don’t miss a beat.
C: Oh yeah. Because it’s going to be good. Sorry, I can’t help it. I’m grinning over here. It’s going to be fun. In the meantime, today’s Episode 97, and we’re talking about public relations, which is everybody’s favorite subject, I think, after social media. Those are the two top things people hate.
N: And colonoscopies.
C: Oh yeah. Those three, all lumped in together, no fun. But we love it. I geek out on it. I personally love public relations. Public relations has kind of gotten a bad rap in recent years because the way PR is done today has shifted.
Yeah, so a lot of agencies haven’t caught up with what needs to be done with public relations and how to do it. A lot of people think that public relations is just spending thousands upon thousands of dollars for someone else to write a press release for you and send it out on your behalf, and maybe you get some coverage, and maybe not. A lot of businesses have gotten burned in the past by PR agencies because either one, they expect the PR agency to work a miracle overnight and get them media coverage immediately, and they don’t realize that it’s actually a long game that you have to back up your timeline on, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
On the flip side of that, you have PR agencies who still charge by the amount of impressions, or eyeballs they get on the press release, and that’s what they try to justify as their excuse for charging you a ton of money. It’s really not about that. It’s really about making a more meaningful impact. You know, nowadays it’s so easy to write a press release yourself that’s really good, and short and snappy, and we actually have some great tips on how to write an engaging press release, and you can post it up yourself on the wires, and get those impressions for a fraction of the cost. But it, you know, with PR agencies, you’re really kind of paying for the media lists and for the connections and for the relationships that they already have with national media, and regional media, and local media. When you’re working with an agency—which I believe is a great investment if you’re working with the right one, and don’t be afraid to ask them for a portfolio, or examples of what kind of coverage they’ve been able to accomplish in the past—but you want to be able to approach an, if you’re going to work with an agency, or if you’re going to work in house on your own public relations, you need to be working in the right timelines and have enough time to get everything done and understand that good PR takes time. So that’s what we’re here to talk about today.
N: All right, let’s do it.
C: All right. Public relations kind of goes hand in hand with marketing, but public relations is, you know, if you’re getting ready to market a new product, or a new service, or in our case, sometimes we handle a lot of book launches for our business authors, like for our clients who also happen to be authors and they’re writing business books, which is really fun. I love book launches. One of my favorite things to work on. But if you have a product that you want to release, let’s say you are getting ready to, I like kind of going in the retail section, just kind of going with a new beauty skin care product, because it’s an easy example. But if you have a new skin care product that you’re getting ready to release, marketing can be executed faster because it’s something where you can create a lot of marketing collateral, like shoot a video really quickly, you can make a whole bunch of social media posts within a day and schedule them all out, you can create posters and display stands and get those ordered and expedited and shipped out to any of your wholesale or accounts, that kind of thing, and get them all prepped up and ready.
But if you’re getting ready to announce that product on a larger scale and you want to get some media coverage for it, you really have to start working months ahead in order to get that. The reason why is because there are different media outlets that work on different timelines, and what we call long lead times. For example, a print magazine, a lot of people don’t realize this, but a print magazine is not made in the month before it comes out. It’s a pretty in depth process, and they plan the editorial rundown for what’s going to be included in that magazine at least 3-6 months ahead of time. Say you’re wanting to launch a skin care product, and you want to get it listed potentially in some holiday gift guides and stuff. You don’t want to be going to magazines in November and saying, “Hey, we’re getting ready to release this lotion this month, and we would love to be listed in your December issue holiday gift guide.” They’re going to laugh at you. It can be really discouraging to say, “Oh, no. We already booked everything out, and all of that stuff’s taken care of, so you’ll have to hit us up next year.”
C: So the idea of waiting another 12 months to get media coverage for your product in a magazine or in a place that means so much to your, or means so much to your audience, because that’s where they are, that can be really heartbreaking.
N: Yeah, or at least they’ll have to wait until Mother’s Day.
C: Yeah. Yeah. Mother’s Day.
N: I don’t think in advance enough. We’re in the same situation, because Jason has a horror movie podcast, and it’s October, and we’re like, “Oh, crap, We should have planned some things for October.” No, I’m just kidding. They plan great content for October, but we didn’t plan anything to take advantage of the time. They’ve got all this great content planned for the season, but we didn’t think of it from a marketing perspective in enough time.
C: Yeah, and I think it’s really hard, too, when you run a small business, because everything you do for the most part is kind of reactive on a day-to-day basis, and so you’re just trying to put out fires, and keep your business going every day, and you’re not thinking about Christmas promotions, and Christmas media coverage in July. Why would you? The PR timelines often don’t feel natural to us in where they should be seasonally. So my general rule of thumb is that you should always be thinking one quarter ahead for your public relations efforts. So if you’re in quarter 1, which is January, February, March, you should be thinking about how you want to secure media coverage for April, May, and June.
C: So I think that’s a good rule of thumb, and of course, for anything that’s hyper-competitive for media coverage, so for example holiday gift guides, if you had a new beauty product, and you wanted to hopefully get that listed as a holiday gift guide in In Style Magazine, or in Marie Claire online, or something like that, you have to be thinking about those and getting at least some kind of beta test product in front of that review or editor months ahead. So just FYI.
C: It’s really exciting to work on public relations, but it can be, I always tell people that if you can do a little bit of effort every day in the months leading to your launch, even just reaching out to one journalist every day, or pitching one media outlet, or at least growing those relationships, even just one a day will start to pay off year round for you. That’s really important.
C: Yeah. For those of you who are listening, if you want to pull out a calendar, you want to pull it out on your phone, if you want to pull it up on your computer, if you want to pull out a daily planner from your backpack, whatever is at hand, I want you to think about what are 3-4 major announcements, or major milestones that you want to meet this year that are also potentially media coverage worthy? I want you to write those down, and I want you to think about when those milestones would ideally be reached and made public, and then I want you to count backwards by 4 months.
N: Mm, okay.
C: I want you to then put in your calendar at that 4 months back mark a little task to start planning your public relations strategy for when you need that milestone.
N: Okay, so that means, Valentine’s Day, if Valentine’s Day is on your horizon, that needs to be something you take care of this week.
C: Yep. Because I know a lot of people are right now, it’s October, so either you’re dealing with some—I mean, you can be in the middle of marketing your fall promotions and be refining your holiday strategy that’s coming up starting next month, and then you can still be planning your PR coverage for quarter 1 of 2019. So you can be thinking about, “Is there anything exciting that we’re launching that we want to announce between January and March of 2019 that we need to start building those media relationships right now to get a leg up, and to start reaching out, saying hi, or at least figuring out who it is that we need to pitch media coverage to?” Because oftentimes a huge chunk of time that PR agencies spend on, and I don’t think a lot of people realize this, is that it’s not just the established media relationships they already have. It’s also PR strategists—such as the PR strategist in our agency—spend hours upon hours just keeping up with which journalists are at which magazines, and who is the current editor, and what are they looking for, and what did they cover recently, and is that so we’re not pitching them something they already covered last week? Like we were off of our game, because that makes us look stupid. It doesn’t make us look like we care enough about their work, and what they’re doing. So there’s so much that just goes into the research and keeping on top of those media relationships that we establish. It sounds like it’s a lot of work for a small business owner, and that’s why I say take it one bit at a time.
One of the best things you can do, even starting right now year round, is to simply reach out to your local media outlets, video, radio stations, local journalists, local bloggers and Instagram influencers, and just say hi. Just let them know who you are. Let them know what kind of authority you have to speak on which topics. Just let them know that you’re available at any time to tap as a source, and give them your contact information. That way, the next time you follow up with them, if you need some local media coverage, they’ll have already heard from you. They’ll already know that you care about them, and you’re willing to help them out, but it’s okay for you to pitch them without them needing something from you first.
C: Yeah. So timelines for launches, if you are planning an event around your launch, you definitely want to start planning the logistics of that event and trying to get coverage for that event at least 3 months ahead. For example, you’re getting ready to release your new skin care product line, and you’re having a little open house skin care launch party for it at some kind of store or a local spa, and you want to get some media coverage and drive some people into the spa so they can buy the product right then and there and try it out. It’s going to be a fun time. There’s going to be refreshments, there might be some door giveaways, that kind of thing. And you want to get some media coverage for it, make sure people know about it. Aside from running ads in local papers or listing it on local calendars or anything like that, you want to start thinking about, “Who are the local beauty and style Instagram influencers that I should reach out to?” See if they want a sample of the product, or if they are willing to just maybe mention the event’s happening, maybe they want to mention it in their Instagram stories for us. Think about your local bloggers. Who can you reach out to, to provide a Q&A, or why this product is different, kind of exclusive, blog post to them? You want to start reaching out to local journalists at your newspapers, and look for the lifestyle sections or community sections. Reach out to those particular editors or journalists, see if they’re interested in posting it, or whoever handles the community calendar in your local newspapers. Then look at which local magazines—magazines are the ones that you’re going to want a long lead time on, because they work at least 4-6 months ahead, typically, on their editorial schedule.
So you want to think about which ones might be interested in some short term coverage they can post online for you that’s not going to appear in print, or if they’re interested in doing a feature on your company. Ask them if they’re interested in doing a round up of local skin care providers, and you could be included.
Oftentimes, again, this goes back to public relations, you don’t want it to feel promotional. You want it to feel helpful with the second goal of it promoting your product or service.
C: Then of course, you’ve got television, which there might be a morning news show or something where you could do a demonstration of a facial and how this new skin care product works with it. Or something that’s seasonally related to it. Then of course, they’ll ask you if there’s anything else you want to tell them, and you can mention, “Oh, we’re going to be having a launch party for this new product on this particular date at the spa, and we welcome everybody to stop in and try it,” kind of thing.
N: Yeah, that would be fun.
C: Yeah. So in this case, I don’t think radio or podcasts or something are a really good fit for the audience or the brand. You really want to look for those visual media coverage outlets because that’s where, for that particular product, a story’s going to have the most impact for the audience you want to reach.
N: Oh yeah, that makes sense. You’d want to pick the right place.
C: Exactly. Like you don’t need to be on your local NPR station for a local skin care product launch. You want to go more, kind of underground, and look for those local influencers, look for those Instagram or beauty bloggers that have the following that’s actually going to be interested in what it is you’re doing.
I think one of the things people don’t fit into their public relations timelines is the sheer amount of time it takes to follow up with people. This is probably the one thing I’m going to say about myself, that I’m just going to brag for a moment. I’m really proud of the fact that I return all of my emails and phone calls to people within 2 business days, and that goes with everybody. Everybody. I’ve never understood why it takes somebody 4 weeks to get back on responding to an email, or even a week to get back responding to an email if they’re not traveling or in a hospital or something. So I’ve had to learn the art of patience in agency life, because one thing we’ve learned, and of course one thing PR strategists and PR agencies already know, is that editors and journalists and bloggers and influencers are extremely busy people. Some of them are also, no offense, I’m sorry, but some of them are also just flaky. Or some of them just get a ton of requests in their inbox, and your request, or your introduction gets buried within an hour, and they have thousands of emails to go through. So one thing you need to make sure you have in your timeline is enough time to follow up at least 2-3 times with each person you reach out to. It’s not something like you want to reach out to them every single day, like you reach out to them and then in 24 hours you knock on their door, and then 24 hours after that, you call them. Don’t do that. But make sure you space it out by several days, and be prepared to follow up, and follow up in the same email thread. We don’t recommend that you call editors directly unless they specifically say they prefer a phone call. Oftentimes, they’re the ones who will call you, so always include your phone number. Often, they’re the ones who will have time for a quick phone call versus writing a lengthy email to you, especially TV producers. But you shouldn’t necessarily be the one to call them first.
N: Yeah, that’s true. You do respond to emails freakishly fast.
C: I know.
N: It’s awesome.
C: I’m trying to get better at it, but yeah.
N: I like it. It shows that you’re on top of things, and organized, and love what you do.
C: Well, I know how to triage my inbox really well. I think that’s the thing. Seeing tons of unread emails in my inbox kind of gives me hives and anxiety, so I go through and mark what’s important and what can wait a day or two. Then other things that might require lengthy responses, I just send them a quick response back saying, “Hey, got your email. I’ll reply in depth this week.” So they know they’re going to get a response within a week, but it’s not going to be now.
N: Mm. And they don’t have to wonder if you got it. That’s amazing email etiquette.
C: Yeah, you just have to set up that expectation. In the world we live in now, there are so many people who are just using email and text and calls and stuff to just, I don’t know, we’re definitely seeing a shift in our world where people are expecting really fast responses, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to respond in full. You can confirm that you got something, and then follow up later. There are great tools to be able to follow up with anything, especially with email. They send you gentle reminders, and one of them is Boomerang, which I personally love. That’s another thing, too, is that if you’re pitching a lot via email, and you are afraid that you might forget to follow up with someone, you can set up a tool like Boomerang for Gmail, and it will remind you within 3 days to say, “Hey, you never got an answer on this email. Would you like to automatically follow up with them?” You can. It’s a smart Gmail feature app.
N: Yeah, that is cool. Because what I do when I get an email that I am too afraid to answer is I just ignore it. [laughing]
N: Is that wrong?
C: Natalie runs away.
N: I do. I’m like, “I better go eat something. I don’t know what to say back to that.”
C: Hmm, what’s in the fridge right now? Let’s go see what’s on Netflix.
N: Instead of just replying, “I don’t know.”
C: I don’t blame you. It’s not fun to get scary emails, or emails that just demand a lot of your time. It’s too much. I think, number one, remember, start working at least 3-4 months ahead. This goes for products, services, book launches. The earlier you plan, the better. So Jason and I did a great podcast back in the day, it feels like it was so long ago. We’re approaching our 100th episode. But we did one that was called the 6 Month Look Back, and it was about how to look back over the past 6 months, and then start planning for the next 6 months. So we’re going to put a link to that in the show notes. We’ll put a link to Boomerang in the show notes. We’ll put a link to how to write press releases in the show notes. We’re going to give you lots of goodies there. So if you go to https://brightplanning.com/podcast, you will see that episode, and you’ll be able to access the show notes in there, and all those links, and it will be really helpful for you, and your life will be a lot better and easier and you’ll sleep better at night. Your children will grow up happy. You’ll lose 10 pounds. And it’s going to be amazing.
N: Well, good, because I needed something that would solve all those problems for me right now.
C: I should put a disclaimer at the bottom of this podcast.
N: That’s hilarious.
C: There was that one time we had to put a legal disclaimer in our podcast, right Natalie? Because we were like, “We can’t give out business law advice. But we’re going to.” [laughing]
N: Oh yeah. Oh it was the music episode, right?
C: Oh, that’s right.
N: On how to use music.
C: Yes, it was. That was a good episode. I liked that episode a lot.
C: So many episodes to be fond of. But anyway. [sigh] Back to public relations. So all right, listeners, I think that’s going to do it today. We’re going to keep it pretty quick and easy. So just the most important thing is to plan ahead. Be prepared to follow up. Put a task on your calendar right now for anything coming up in quarter 1 that you want to start promoting or getting media coverage for. If you need any more help, or if you have specific questions about PR, you can always send your questions in to me. Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and just put the words, “Question for Podcast,” in the subject line to make sure I get it.
N: Yeah. And she’ll respond very fast.
C: Yeah, I’ll respond within 2 business days.
N: Listeners really should do that. We love to hear from you. Let us know if you have any ideas or questions, and also if you wouldn’t mind running over to Apple Podcasts and leaving us a rating and review. That would be amazing, because then more people can find us.
C: Ooh, yeah. I like that suggestion, Natalie. I appreciate that one. Run right over there. Run over to iTunes. Sprint, actually, if you can. That would be fantastic.
C: All right everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in today to Episode 97. We’re going to be back next week with Episode 98, and we’re going to be talking about how to write product descriptions that sell. Sell themselves.
N: Mmm, I like it.
C: Yeah. Because we want to help you make some money. In the meantime, have a great week. Market better, be better, and we’ll talk to you next week on Episode 98.