The Ultimate PR & Publicity Secret


What’s the secret to getting free publicity? It’s not a fancy press kit. It’s not having a superstar spokesperson. It’s not hiring the world’s biggest PR firm. Actually, the ultimate insider secret is quite simple:

You need to think like a reporter.

That’s it. Told you it was simple.

Of course, this is the first-place winner in the “easier said than done” Olympics. Most of us are too tied-up in our own world to really look at our businesses objectively and come up with a newsworthy story angle that can lead to free publicity.

That’s why millions of trees are needlessly slaughtered each year to produce press releases that will never lead to a single news story. Reporters have a special place in their circular file for puffery, flackery and hyperbole. If you want to avoid this fate, then you must learn to think like a reporter.

This means:
  • Being able to separate real news about your company from promotional puffery
  • Being able to deliver a sharp story angle that will be of real interest to the news reading or viewing public
  • Being able to deliver this angle in a professional, courteous way.

OK, so now we’ve seen the holy grail. Let’s get to work. You can always download the COMPLETE report here:

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For The Sake of This Report, You’re the Vitamin King

You own a website. Let’s say, for the sake of this report, it’s theplace4vitamins.com. (It could be any sort of business or website. As you’ll soon see, Publicity Insider techniques can be applied to just about any business.)

Your goal — getting your website featured in newspapers around the country.

Some Basic Truths

Here are some truths that you ignore only at your own risk:

  1. Reporters don’t care about helping you.
  2. Reporters are hassled all day by PR people and they’re pretty much sick of it.
  3. Reporters don’t care about your website, your book, your products or your life story, unless……

…..you are providing something that helps make their job easier — that is, a really good story.

In that case:

  1. Reporters love you.
  2. Reporters are happy to take your call.
  3. Reporters are fascinated by your website, your book, your products and maybe even your life story.

So what’s the bottom line here?

When you design your public relations campaign, develop your angles, develop your media materials and begin contacting the press, always think:

“What can I do at this step that will make this more useful to a journalist?”

That means:

  • developing story angles from a reporter’s perspective, not a business owner’s
  • conducting yourself in a manner free of hype, clichés and puffery
  • Using proper etiquette when contacting a reporter or editor (we’ll get to that in just a bit)

Developing an Angle

What does it mean to “develop a story angle from a reporter’s perspective”?

Have you ever met someone who has gotten way too absorbed by his hobby? He can go on for hours about his model trains or his coin collection. He can’t possibly imagine why you, or anyone else, wouldn’t be riveted by his in-depth discussion of Peruvian 19th century coinage.

He’s far too close to his hobby to be objective. As it turns out, most business owners are the same way about their company. If you spend all day absorbed in the world of vitamins — or golf clubs, or health insurance, or any other field — you can lose sight of the realization that most of the rest of the world doesn’t really care.

In my consulting practice, I can’t tell you how many calls I have with clients that go something like this:

“Adam, we’ve just released the new X251 and I think we should really push this hard to the media with a PR campaign. How about a press conference?”

“Well, how is the X251 different from the X250?”

“It’s got a new right-angle flange and it’s blue. I’m telling you, this will be big!”

Now, rather than simply counseling my client to lay down, take a rest and forget about seeing the X251 in the Wall Street Journal, I took another step.

I thought like a reporter.

I asked my client: “Does this new right-angle flange give the X251 a use that the X250 didn’t have — one that would really make a difference in people’s lives?”

“Does the new blue color have any purpose, or is just for looks?”

Who knows, maybe it turns out that the right angle flange allowed the X251 to be used in third world hospitals at a fraction of the cost of what they were using now. Maybe the blue color was to prevent endangered birds from bumping into it when it’s used in the rainforest. (As you can tell, the X251 is a figment of my imagination, not some new amazing outdoor tropical hospital gizmo.)

Of course it might also turn out that the right angle flange only has some obscure use and it’s blue because that’s the CEO’s favorite color.

But at least I tried to extract a real story from what was only a promotional PR pitch. You MUST do the same when it comes time to develop your main publicity angle.

Step away from your business. View it as a reporter looking for an interesting story. Remember, he’s looking for a story that will satisfy his editor and his readers. He’s not interested in promoting you, only in crafting a story that will make readers stop and say “Hmmm, I never knew that. Now there’s something I can use!.”

With that in mind, let’s look at the example of theplace4vitamins.com.

Taking Stock of Your Attributes

There are probably hundreds of sites in the Internet that sell vitamins (just as there are most likely hundreds of places that sell whatever your company does). So simply announcing that there’s a new venue to buy herbs and vitamins will get you nothing.

You need to break down your current attributes, and determine if you have anything that’s newsworthy.

Here’s a way of looking at it that may be useful: for every attribute, try to honestly rate its news value. Use these categories:

NO DICE
Not newsworthy. Too common, too promotional, too boring.

INSIDE STUFF
May be newsworthy within my own field (trade publications) or to hardcore customers (serious vitamin junkies) but not attractive enough to the general population to build a story.

GETTING THERE
Potentially of interest, but not quite meaty enough.

STOP THE PRESSES!
Meaty, hearty news that journalists eat up.

OK, let’s look at some of what you think makes theplace4vitamins.com special (this is a very important step. When making a list of what makes you special, take the time to get it right. What you say here can be mined for gold, as you’ll soon see):

  • Low prices NO DICE. Too common and will probably be viewed as promotional puffery.
  • Great service. NO DICE. Ditto.
  • Wide Selection. NO DICE. Ditto, Ditto.
  • You specialize in weight-loss formulas and books. INSIDE STUFF. Decent topic, but is there enough there to build a story?
  • You specialize in books and products that promote a healthy lifestyle for teenagers. GETTING THERE. Now you’re standing out a bit.
  • You started the company with money you stole from a pension fund. STOP THE PRESSES!

OK, the last one was a joke, but it demonstrates the gulf between what you think is newsworthy and what a reporter thinks is newsworthy.

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So, what have we got to work with? Three NO DICES, an INSIDE STUFF and a GETTING THERE. Not bad — we might just have enough to build a public relations campaign around..

Does NO DICE Mean No Story?

Just as I wasn’t ready to give up on the X251, neither should you simply throw in the towel on your NO DICE attributes. Heck, maybe we can salvage something.

Let’s look:

  • Low prices. Yeah, just putting out a press release saying you have low prices won’t get you anywhere. But what if there was something special about those low prices? Maybe you give huge discounts to child care centers who buy kids’ vitamins in quantity. Maybe you sell vitamins at cost to health clinics in poor neighborhoods. Maybe you provide a big discount on multivitamins to disabled people? These are all publicizable angles, and they take a worn out angle and make it fresh. Take advantage of programs you already have in place, or create new programs to provide publicity opportunities for a public relations campaign.
  • Great Service. If great service means you’re nice on the phone, it ain’t gonna work. But perhaps you go above and beyond the call to serve your customers. Remember that Saturn commercial in which serviceman flew to a remote Alaska cabin to fix a customer’s car? That was a graphic example of this sort of angle. Now, you probably don’t have anything so extreme to tell, but perhaps you do something no competitor would be willing to do. Or perhaps you should.
  • Wide Selection. Sheer quantity won’t turn this into a news angle. But if you carry some products that no one else does — and those products are in some demand — you might be on to something. Which leads us to….
    • You specialize in weight-loss formulas and books. If there’s something special about the way you choose your products, you might have a story. Let’s say you only carry weight-loss products from manufacturers that can provide double-blind studies that prove effectiveness and safety. This addresses one of the prime concerns of consumers (and reporters) about these products, and sets you up as a conscientious shopkeeper. Think about how the Body Shop’s refusal to sell animal-tested cosmetics and soap has made that chain stand out.
    • You specialize in books and products that promote a healthy lifestyle for teenagers. This is interesting, because it starts getting into issues, which can get you into a newspaper’s Lifestyle section. Now, just specializing in stuff for teens won’t be enough. You need to find a way to make this commitment come to life, in a non-promotional way.

God Bless the Internet

Ten years ago, the solution to the above problem would have been hard to come by, and probably expensive. Maybe a media tour, maybe sponsoring a teen pop act, maybe paying big bucks for a survey of teens about their eating habits.

Now, thankfully, all of that is out the window.

Thanks to the Internet, you can use your website to position your angles to have mass newsworthy appeal.

The answer is to design parts of your website specifically to provide a newsworthy element to your story. Message boards, chat rooms, surveys, feedback pages and so on can all lead to publicity. Is a leading health guru willing to be a guest at a chat sessions for teenagers? Did an online survey you conducted about kids’ favorite foods offer some interesting revelations? These, and other offshoots of adding newsworthy elements to your site, can all provide the basis for outstanding publicity opportunities.

So, you mull it over and decide on the perfect solution:

You’ll create a message forum for teenagers to discuss health issues, vitamins and herbs, exercise and more.

Now, simply creating the forums and offering a place for teens to go may be enough to get you some press. But it’s still a little vague, and there are probably other places like it around. Let’s sharpen this idea and make it work.

Go back to your attribute list. What can we combine to create a tighter, more specific angle?

See it yet? You specialize in weight-loss products. You also specialize in serving teenagers.

Your forum should be about teenagers and weight issues. Your health guru chat sessions should be about teens and their weight. Your survey should be on the subject, too.

Now you’ve got something! With this approach, you can have a number of solid newsworthy topics to take to the press:

  • What do kids think about a “thin is in” society?
  • What are they saying about eating disorders?
  • Are overweight kids ridiculed? And if so, how are they handling it?
  • Are teens using supplements to lose weight? If so, which ones — and are they safe?
  • What are young athletes doing to build muscle mass — and is it always the safest way to go?

See what we’ve done? We’ve taken your boring little vitamin website and turned it into a news angle machine! And we’ve turned you into a spokesperson, who’s looking out for teenagers by giving them a place to seek information, choose from safe products or just vent.

Your PR Campaign: Taking it to the Press

A story about helping overweight kids cope with ridicule, based on discussions that have taken place in your forums, is a natural for a “lifestyle” section of a newspaper.

So, you want to get an article about it in a major paper (let’s say The Denver Post).

First, you’ve got to find out who the appropriate editor or writer is at the Post. If you live in Denver, just read the paper on a regular basis and clip out the columns that deal with parenting, health or kids’ issues. But if you live in Rhode Island, it’s more difficult.

Go to your local library and take a look at Bacon’s Newspaper Directory in the reference section. Under The Denver Post listing, Bacon’s should provide a name for the Features or Lifestyle editor. It might be outdated, so call the Post’s main number and ask the receptionist “Is Joan Smith still the Features Editor?” The receptionist will then confirm that Joan is still in her position, tell you the name of the new person in this role, or transfer you to the newsroom to ask someone else. With the editor’s name in hand, you’re now ready to make your call. (It’s also worthy trying the newspaper’s web site. Increasingly, full editorial staff listings can be found online.)

Here are some “etiquette” secrets that can help you effectively work with journalists in generating bushels of free press…..

  1. Don’t call to “see if they got your release.” Journalists hate this. Folks send out mass mailings and then call to see if the release made it there. If you really want to get a story in the Post, call first to pitch your story and then follow up with your release, photos, etc.
  2. Plan your call around their deadlines. Most papers are morning editions. Thus, journalists’ deadlines range from 2 p.m. local time and on. Don’t call during this time! The best time to reach a newspaper journalist: 10 a.m. to noon local time.
  3. Don’t start pitching right away! If you get Joan Smith on the phone, don’t just dive into your pitch. This is rude, as Joan may be on the other line, working on a story, entertaining guests or who knows what else. Start by saying something like, “Hi Ms. Smith, my name’s Adam Torkildson and I have a story suggestion you might find interesting. Is this a good time for you?” Joan will reply “yes”–which is a green light to start your pitch, or “no”– to which you reply, “When would be a good time to call you back?” Your courtesy will be greatly appreciated by the journalist…which can only help your chances.
  4. Pitch to the voice mail. It’s fine to pitch your story to the reporter’s voice mail. Keep it very short and end the message with your phone number. If you don’t hear back, try again until you get the actual reporter or editor on the phone.
  5. Don’t read from a script! The bane of many journalists’ existences are 22-year-olds sitting in cubicles in big PR firms reading pitches off a sheet of paper. If you’ve ever been called by a telemarketer doing the same thing, you know how annoying it can be. Practice your pitch so that it seems natural and spontaneous.
  6. Give them a story, not an advertisement. Newspapers do not exist to give you publicity. They exist to provide readers with interesting stories. Your job is to give the journalist what he or she wants, while getting the free exposure. Make your pitch newsy, exciting and relevant. How about: “Ms. Smith, as you probably know, obesity among children is growing at an alarming rate. Because of the ridicule they face from other children, millions of overweight young people are being marked with lifetime scars that can seriously damage their self-esteem. I host a unique website, were overweight kids can anonymously express their feelings and discuss this issue. I think I’ve learned some important things about a very serious subject.” That’s a whole lot more interesting to an editor than: “Ms. Smith, I have a website where overweight kids post messages. Would you like to do a story about me?”
  7. Follow up immediately. If she’s interested, Joan Smith will ask for more information. Be sure you have a press kit (including news release and photo) ready to send . Send it out via priority mail, and write “Requested Information” below the address.
  8. Call again. Now it’s appropriate to call to see if Joan’s received your stuff…after all, unlike a mass-mailed release, she asked for it! Ask if she’s had a chance to look through it, and what she thinks. If she likes what she sees, you’re about to get some very valuable free publicity!

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Tom Post, Forbes Editor, Recap at UTC Members Meeting

I had the opportunity to hear Tom Post speak, and meet him, at the Annual UTC Members Meeting in SLC today. Tom’s speech was very powerful and not something you would normally hear coming out of a successful businessman’s mouth: prepare for disaster. He cited his own industry as the background for his pronouncement. 100s of newspapers and magazines have been going out of business; journalists have been laid off right and left; the shift in how people consume information (on mobile devices; which he called a grenade with the pin pulled out)

He posed the question to the crowd: What is going to disrupt your industry in 5 years? He then proceeded to walk around the room with a mic and ask people point blank if they were the best at what they do; who was going to steal their success (out of their current competitors) and how they were going to prepare for it.

I think the greatest opportunity for someone to make a lot of money from Forbes right now is the person who can monetize their mobile traffic the best. That’s Tom’s (and Forbes’) biggest headache right now.

Faking it Till I Make it

It’s been almost 3 months since I started working at Snapp Conner PR. In that time, I’ve started the company newsletter, (design and management of content), created the new site (should go live next week) and have been developing a pr scorecard tool that lets users check their PR score in about 60 seconds for free, automatically. Also going live next week.

I have also gotten a few clients coverage in places like the WSJ, BusinessInsider, Forbes, and CEO Blog Nation.

I have relied heavily on forums, friends, and people from 3rd world countries to get all that stuff done. In the process, I’ve managed to learn plenty of new things about myself; the most important being that little mantra I always say to people when I tell them how I got into doing what I do: Fake it till you make it.

2 years ago, I had no idea what wordpress, php, DNS, bounce process, spam traps, honey pots, or LAMP were. Now I use those words on a daily basis, and can even impress people with all my amazing knowledge in those areas. And get paid for it! That’s a great perk for sure.

But I had to create my own opportunities to be able to utilize those things that I learned. I had to figure out solutions to my problems, and do it quickly. And being efficient with my time and with others’ time has been critical. I don’t know if I am just innately efficient, or if it was something I was taught. Either way, efficiency is something I prize most dearly in life.

 

Lunch with Cheryl Snapp Conner

This is a post written much later than the actual lunch took place, but it’s results have affected my work life tremendously so it bears talking about. And the timing is important as well, as you’ll see if you keep reading.

Cheryl took me to lunch at Costa Vida in American Fork. It was late afternoon on January 2nd, 2013. Earlier that day, I had just gone through the worst emotional stress I’ve ever dealt with in my professional life. Needless to say, I was a little unprepared for any socializing at that point. However, Cheryl essentially listened to my rantings, and then offered up some advice. And then she offered me a job building a top secret tool (which is still top secret and being built) that will help online PR rock. We worked out the details then and there, and the next day I started becoming a regular fixture at the Snapp Conner offices.

Yesterday however (January 22, 2013), Cheryl was so impressed at my awesomeness or something that she and I decided I should just come full time to Snapp Conner, and it was done. I am now a Senior Associate at the most progressive (no exaggeration) PR firm in Utah.

This is a career move that I know will involve making all the people involved really happy. Me, the Snapp Conner team, and their clients.

And just fyi, I am legally obligated to abstain from mentioning any more details about my ordeal.



Lunch With Scott Lazerson

I met Scott thru Chase Murdock, who I wrote about earlier. We ate at a small place in Orem UT, called the Tortilla Bar. And yes, they have the best tacos I’ve ever had. I really love mexican food.

Anyway, Scott seemed like a very genuine person. He name dropped all over the place, which doesn’t mean much to me, but it just seemed like that is who the guy is at his core. He’s looking to connect you with whoever he can that makes sense for everyone involved.

And that’s what he does for a job. I consider myself somewhat like that, although most of the connections I make are online via social networking sites. By the way (and this is a tangent) I read the book ‘Social Media is B.S.’ by B.J. Mendelson. It took about 3 hours, and was horrible. I make a living with social media, therefore I am living proof that Mr. Mendelson is a crackpot.

Back to lunch: Scott has charities and non profits that he works with and promotes, alongside of the normal clients that pay the bills and keep his kids in diapers (he’s got 5 kids by the way, none of which are literally in diapers anymore).

It’s good to see someone who puts that much importance in doing non profit work. I feel like it’s important as well, which is why I donate consulting time at Grassroots.org, and help family and friends with their online marketing as much as I can for free.

What’s An SEO person’s Job?

Hubspot-The-Rank-Nazi

I live by a few different mottos in my life, depending on which hat I’m wearing at the moment. As an efficiency expert, my motto is: Perfection Is The Enemy of The Good. As an SEO, my motto is: It’s Who You Rank For, Not What You Rank For. As a regular human being interacting with my fellow men, I live by this: When You Are in The Service of Your Fellow Men, You Are Only in The Service of God (Book of Mormon).

Let me explain my SEO motto. I’ve been quoted before about SEO dying. I still believe that the industry as we know it will be dead in about 1.5 years. So my vision of what SEO will morph into will revolve around marketers being able to target very specific groups of people with their marketing message; whether on a social network, a search engine, an app, a game or what have you. If you take that a step further (because we’re pretty much already there to a certain degree) you should be able to target individual people where ever they are online.

And the job of an SEO will turn into ‘ranking’ their content #1 for the exact person on Facebook who is looking for their product/service. Someone on Google who is searching for ‘Death of SEO‘, and comes across a Forbes article ranked #1 for that phrase and finding you. Someone in the App store looking for the top productivity app, and ranking that app really high through reviews, downloads, and other social like signals.

So hopefully now you understand a little of what I mean when I say ‘It’s Who You Rank For, Not What You Rank For’ because I’m trying to take the focus away from just targeting keyword phrases (which at least 50% of the time don’t let us know what the searchers intent even is) and focusing more on getting your (great) content in front of the right consumer where they are, whether socially, organically, mobilely (made up) and so forth.

Photo credit: Hubspot

Lunch with Chrstian Greiner of TechMediaNetwork

 

196457_1759928550689_5885728_n Chris was such a nice guy to meet! He almost constantly had a smile on his face, and was also a great listener. We talked about his past experiences, working at SEO.com, and now he’s at Tech Media Network. He also runs a side hobby called Top Gun Reviews. And no, it’s not a review site for the movie. Which ironically enough would be apropos because often times I get people asking me “has anyone ever told you, you look like Tom Cruise?” to which I often reply “Yes”. tom

Anyway, Chris told me about how he grew up in Tracy, CA. A place which I’ve actually lived in previously, while on my mission. I’m sure we know some of the same people, we played that ‘do you know’ game; it didn’t bear any fruit though. Additionally, Chris told me that he was about to meet the new CEO of TechMediaNetwork right after lunch, which I thought was cool for him. And lastly, Chris and I are going to hopefully do some cool content marketing things together using his writers, and my content placement skills. I’m excited for the opportunity!

Lunch With Lincoln Cannon

16be9ebI had the pleasure of taking Lincoln Cannon to lunch today. Lincoln has a strong background in Technology, and actually started a non profit called the Mormon Transhumanist Association (which promotes change toward radical flourishing in creativity and compassion through technology and religion.) We didn’t talk much about his non profit, but that’s an area of the internet where I have spent quite a bit of time, so I was really intrigued at how successful he’s been with it. He was able to get a Google Grant, and spends nearly $10k a month in free Adwords ads, and also has a ‘Donate’ button right on his youtube channel. I don’t claim to love Google at all, but they’re sure making a good thing happen when they support people like MTA.

Anyway, Lincoln has 3 boys, and likes to travel. That’s kind of a recurring theme with most of the people I’ve taken to lunch (the traveling part, not 3 boys). Lincoln was a great listener; I told him about the lawsuits I’ve been in, some of the things I learned (contracts are very valuable only to the extent each side interprets them the same way; never do business with family), and we also talked a little about the shooting in Connecticut today. I was pretty upset by it, since I’ve got a son in Kindergarten right now; it really made me pause and analyze how I treat him (and my other family and friends). I’ve lost a brother to diabetes already, so I know what a loss it is and how easy it is to feel guilty for not spending more time with those you love.

I guess it shows I’m a little depressed still. Lincoln was a very personable, easy to get to know guy. I sincerely enjoyed lunch with him. I had the Creamy Potato and Ham soup, he had the Smoked Turkey sandwich

Lunch with Jason Carlton, APR

335dd08My lunch date with a complete stranger, connected via Linkedin, took place today at Cafe Rio in Draper. I found Jason Carlton by searching for Linkedin people who were members of a PRSA chapter in either Salt Lake or Utah county. I then sent a friend request. Of those people I sent friend requests to, nearly 1/2 have connected back. And about 1/8 of those connections have agreed to lunch, with a complete stranger: me.

So here’s what happened. Jason was asleep in his car; I actually pulled into the parking spot right behind him, and granted, it is hard to tell what someone looks like when all you have to go off is their Linkedin profile; even so, I thought I recognized him. My first ever encounter with a sleeping Linkedin connection. Anyhow, I called him when I got to Cafe Rio, so he could gracefully wake up in semi respectableness. We ordered, and chit chatted about what it’s like to work in healthcare PR; Jason’s the Social Media Specialist, Urban Central Region at Intermountain Healthcare. He told some cool stories about using Life Flight as part of a PR campaign to increase facebook fans; using a pass along coin to increase awareness for breast cancer; things like that. Jason is also on the board of the SL chapter of PRSA, and he tried to recruit me. I turned him down. But he tried his best, so kudos Jason 🙂

There was an older woman who stopped by our table and tried to sell us some Christmas ornaments, $2 apiece. Jason politely shook his head no. I had no idea people did that at restaurants, so I was kind of speechless.

Finally, Jason left off our conversation by saying he and his wife were planning on going to the airport next month for a random journey; where ever the next 5 flights happened to be going is where they would end up. I will believe it when I see it, so I’ll be stalking Jason on Facebook to see what happens. Until next time; Linkedin strangers unite!