Let’s say you’ve recently launched a start-up and you manage its marketing efforts. It was daunting to figure out where to start, but you’ve already taken a few steps. You’ve set up some accounts on social media channels and you’re posting relevant material and responding to comments often, which is a great way to engage with your fans or potential customers. Your employees are happy and your customers fulfilled.

Or, in another scenario, you’re a seasoned marketer working for a mid-sized organization. The copy on your website reflects what it is that you do do. You’re making progress with digital advertising and social media campaigns. You feel pretty confident that you’re taking all the right steps in spreading the word to potential clients.

No matter where you are on your journey—whether you’re marketing an established brand or a completely new company—in either scenario, the question remains: How do you get some love from the media? Or, have someone with a bigger following promote your offerings to their audience that already trusts their opinion? How do you go about getting other people to tout your services or products?

There is already a lot of advice on the internet for amplifying your message to the masses. In this blog, we’re going to discuss specifically how to craft the right pitches to the media and foster relationships with influencers.

If You Don’t Have News, You Don’t Have a Story

Leah Shapiro

By Leah Shapiro, Editing, Content Creation and PR Specialist

Whether it’s print or digital, press can be an important way to reach new audiences and disperse information about what you can provide. How often have you come across a web article on your Facebook newsfeed about a new restaurant and decided you wanted to check it out? Have you wondered how that other business in town keeps getting stories written about them?

When I worked as a journalist for a monthly arts and culture magazine, I would so often receive press releases from companies that didn’t have anything to announce, or would send me an email two days before an event in hopes that we could write about it. Sometimes someone would send a release and bcc me on an email addressed to no one in particular that said, “Please see attached.” Like every other journalist I knew, I was pretty bold in simply deleting messages that didn’t immediately stand out to me as newsworthy. With all of the emails flooding our inboxes, we just didn’t have the time to do a whole lot of leg work.

What’s a Press Release?

Entrepreneur defines a press release as “a public relations announcement issued to the news media and other targeted publications for the purpose of letting the public know of company developments.” (On that note, Entrepreneur offers great tips on this page.) If you don’t have a story or newsworthy announcement, you don’t need to send out a press release. Period. Announcing that 100% of your employees arrived to work on time during the month of May just isn’t something people are going to want to read about.

On the other hand, if your solar panel company has just released a new product that will harness the power of the moon, then that would definitely be an idea to pitch. But don’t pitch it to a women’s magazine if it’s an all-male team. Choose an “earth-centered” or technology-focused outlet instead. Be sure that you’re pitching to the media that have audiences who match your customer demographics.

Pitch to Relevant Outlets

Kathleen McCafferty

Kathleen McCafferty

By Kathleen McCafferty, Content, PR & Community Outreach Specialist

It may seem like a given, but make sure that your pitch to the media (and your accompanying press release) are concise and to the point. The time of year is also relevant. Create an editorial calendar to match your business’ pitches with holidays. For tips, read our Ode to the Editorial Calendar post.

In addition to pitching to relevant outlets, you’ll want to track down the right journalist who covers that beat. No point in pitching a business story to the music critic. Do your homework so you know which journalist or editor to contact. Instead of using general inbox emails like “news@communitypaper.com,” track down the account for the person you want to reach. There are a couple ways to do that.

Some newspapers and magazines keep an online directory where you can find the email and/or phone number for the person you want to contact. If you can’t find it there, search for the writer on Twitter and check their bio. If that’s still a bust, you can tweet at them with your pitch and ask them to get in touch, or if you prefer to be more discreet, you can send them a private message. An appropriate public inquiry (tweet) might get you a more timely response though. Be sure not to overwhelm whomever you are pitching to.

Helpful Tools for PR Outreach

If you have the means, a subscription to a list building software like CisionPoint and Meltwater can save you lots of time by pulling up the contacts for journalists you want to reach through searches on content type (print vs blog, for example), topics covered (“finance,” “outdoor recreation,” etc.), outlet (the name of the publication or blog), or even region. But these services aren’t cheap. They start at about $4k for a yearly subscription and go way up from there.

One resource we like is Buzzsumo, which tracks the most frequently shared content across social networks, as well as key influencers. Buzzsumo offers a free trial, which you can try for yourself to see if you like it, and the monthly subscription fee for the Pro account is pretty affordable (about $100 a month). Using Buzzsumo, you can search for the topics that are being covered in your industry, and build your own list of the writers covering those topics. With the Pro account, you can generate an outreach list of influencers in just a few seconds.

Another thing you can do is search for your own company name in Buzzsumo, or on Google, and see what people are saying about you. This can be an easy way to engage with someone you may not realize has covered you before, and see if they’d be interested in partnering with you for a product review. You can also pitch them your latest company news if it seems like something they might cover.

Expand Your Audience with Influencer Marketing

Edwin Leskin

Edwin Leskin

By Edwin Leskin, Social Media Advertising & Strategy Specialist

In digital marketing, an influencer is someone who … does just that! They have an influence on a loyal audience. Influencers can have a large reach, but oftentimes the most accessible and effective ones actually don’t have massive followings. What they do have is a dedicated following of people who might look just like your ideal customer.

The subject of influencer marketing is vast and the goals of influencer outreach are probably endless. You could ask a YouTuber to create a video review of your product or service. An Instagram influencer could advocate for you in exchange for products or cash. A popular Facebook account could run an advertisement on your behalf using money you’ve sent them. There are so many ways that you can leverage these partnerships.

In the future, we’ll cover some of the more common “influencer campaign” and comarketing structures, but in this post, we will stick to the needs expressed above related to PR: how to distribute a story. Earlier we talked about press; here we will talk about influencers, specifically how to find them, categorize them, and pitch to them.

Who are Influencers?

There are two kinds of influencers: those who are already “partners” of yours, and those who are content creators or digital celebrities. The former includes anyone with an online presence who you have worked with over the course of creating your business, or through your professional/personal network. The second group are people who you don’t know, but who speak to an audience that matches your ideal customer or patron.

When it comes to people with online presences whom you already know, the path to leveraging them to share your big news is fairly straightforward. Record the names of everyone you work with into a spreadsheet or similar resource. Categorize them by the networks they are active on, audience sizes, focuses of their audiences (such as a niche within your industry), and be sure to include contact information. When it’s time to get the word out, ask them individually to share or collaborate on content regarding the info. Be sure you are willing to reciprocate, because that’s what a partnership is: give and take.

When thinking about content creators or digital celebrities, who are admittedly the “true” influencers when it comes to digital marketing, things get more complex. Luckily, the core foundations in the press section above still hold up.

How to Find the Right Influencers

The first step is to find the right people. Here are some tips:

Size matters. The right influencer will serve an audience who would be interested in your business; isn’t so large that they are inaccessible; isn’t so small that they can’t provide value; and is active on one or more popular digital platforms.

Find relevant hashtags. Researching these folks can be a bit of a challenge, but a good place to start is to find appropriate hashtags and then use them in searches on Instagram and Twitter. With some dedicated hunting, you’ll soon find content creators who are popular within your sector.

Explore all channels. And if you really want them to put content on a digital platform aside from Instagram and Twitter, don’t worry. Those platforms are good for research, but content creators who are popular there are likely popular on the channel of your choosing as well. PS. YouTube can be a good place to research as well as long as you have a general idea of the topics your audience might be searching for on there.

I’ve Found Them—Now What?

After you have found the content creators, it’s time to reach out and begin a discussion:

  • Start by joining in the conversation of their content. “Like,” comment, and share some of their stuff.
  • Look for their preferred reachout method.Do they have an email address in their bio? Does it seem like they are more likely to respond to a direct message, or a post with a tag of them? Do they have a website with a contact section? Once you find the method that seems to be their preferred way of receiving inquiries, make contact through this channel. Then leave a comment on their most recent post letting them know you reached out.
  • When you’re ready to talk, let them know you enjoy their content, that you feel you both share similar audiences, and that you would love to explore a way you can provide value to them in return for their help getting the word out about your big news.

Fair warning though: An influencer should not be forced to create content they do not like to create. Let them do what they do naturally. In other words, give them space to create whatever they usually create for their own audience. If you shoehorn them into making something that they don’t want to make, they won’t want to work with you again.Plus, their audience will begin to sense disingenuity from a mile away.

It’s All About Conversations & Relationship Building

We’ve given you a ton to sort through. As I mentioned earlier, during my stint as the magazine editor, there were certain people who pitched stories to me every year; some did so every month. The frequency didn’t really matter much to me as long as the content was relevant and the press release had all the info in it that I needed to get started. When I had follow-up questions, the ones who were respectful of my time and got back to me quickly also became some of my favorite people to work with.

Above all else, reliability and speed are two keys to making friends in journalism and with influencers. Answer questions promptly and be sure to thank people for their time.