Why I ditched the press release and what I do instead

why i ditched the press releaseIf your PR strategy is to write a press release and send it out to the media in hopes of gaining new customers for your product or service, it’s time to stop that right now! Press releases no longer work.

Has this press release nightmare happened to you?

When I started my eco-friendly t-shirt company, Tees for Change, I spent almost $500 to hire an online service to write a press release and distribute it to “tens of thousands of journalists.” And then I sat and waited for the media to call me and for customers to start buying.

When that didn’t happen, I assumed it was because the press release was sent out on a Friday and who really works on Fridays anyway? So I waited another month and this time I hired someone to write a press release for me and decided to distribute it through a very popular PR service (on a Tuesday), at a cost of almost $500 again. I got one response – a journalist who wanted a free sample. I sent her the sample and never heard from her again despite my attempts to follow up numerous times.

And then I tried something different. I made a list of targeted reporters and editors who were working on holiday gift guides for their respective magazines. I then looked through some past magazines and realized that each magazine had a different angle to their holiday gift guides:

  • gifts that give back
  • gifts under $50
  • eco-friendly gifts
  • gifts for parents
  • last-minute gifts
  • inspirational gifts, etc.

I created a story (also known as a pitch in the media world) around my t-shirts and contacted the editors, this time individually, pitching two of my t-shirts as “gifts that give back.” And, to my surprise, over 20 editors wrote back and said that they were interested in covering my t-shirts in their holiday gift guides. Not all of them actually ended up featuring the t-shirts (some dropped them last minute, some featured them in a later issue and some changed their mind), but I made over $20,000 in sales from being mentioned in their holiday gift guides that year!

I repeated the same pitch the following year and got my shirts mentioned in even more magazines. And then I realized that I could do this throughout the year: great gift for Mother’s or Father’s Day or gift guides, perfect gift for Valentine’s Day, eco-friendly products for their April issue (when many magazines celebrate Earth Day), products that make a difference, tees that plant trees (I planted a tree for each tee I sold and the media loved this).

And when I launched my organic soap biz, Soaps to Live By, I couldn’t have launched it at a better time – in June when almost all national magazines are looking for products to cover in their holiday gift guides. This time I knew what to do right away – connect with editors who were working on holiday gift guides and let them know about my soaps.

This method worked once again and my organic soaps were featured in many holiday gift guides, including Redbook, Inside Weddings, Pregnancy & Newborn and many others, which results in A TON of traffic back to my site and batches of soaps that sold out one right after the other!

When are press releases appropriate?

There’s definitely a time and a place for having a press release (usually after the media is interested in your story), but the press release no longer works as the main way to get press for your products. However, if you want SEO visibility and if you want more links back to your site, press releases are great for that! Just not for getting your products featured in a national magazine.

The media doesn’t want more press releases. They want more stories! To get specific story ideas, look through the last few issues of the magazine that you want to get your products featured in and make a list of the topics they cover. Then see if your products would fit in any of those stories and craft your next pitch around that.

Also, check out the magazine’s Editorial Calendar (which is usually found in the Advertising section of the magazine’s website or you can Google Glamour Magazine + Editorial Calendar, for example) and see if your products will make a good fit for any of their upcoming stories. Keep in mind that magazines work 4-6 months in advance, so if you are pitching a story for their holiday gift guides, for example, you’ll need to pitch it in June, July or August.

Here’s what you should do right away:

  1. Make a list of 10-15 magazines/blogs/TV shows, etc. that you want your products to be featured in in the next 6-12 months
  2. Check out the current issue of each magazine online or in person (you can do so at Barnes & Noble for free) and make a list of topics that each magazine covers that could be a great fit for your products
  3. Find and download each magazine’s editorial calendar
  4. Make a list of the contact information for the appropriate editor that you’re going to contact at each magazine
  5. Come up with a story idea for each magazine
  6. Email each editor with your story idea and don’t forget to follow up a week later

If you follow the steps above, you’ll be on your way to getting more press coverage for your products!

If you’ve had a similar experience with press releases, I’d love to hear about it. Leave your comments below.

And if you’d like to save some time, we’ve done all the work for you. Head on over to Get Media Happy and find out which editors are working on holiday gift guides and more!

10 Comments. Leave new

Kevin Wagstaff
December 6, 2012 9:54 pm

I have found your posts and information invaluable and really admire your willingness to be transparent and “pay it forward”. This is exactly the path I want to follow in helping others succeed. Thank you and I look forward to interacting with you in the future! Also, are you still in Boulder? If so, I’m just down the street in Denver!

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Danielle Tomwing
March 19, 2013 6:06 am

Brilliant idea and will be trying it out to get our kids clothing out in some of the popular parenting magazines.

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This is great info. I’ve been thinking oh so much about press releases lately and just not getting my head around how to approach it, this gives me some direction.
Thank you!

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Leann Dexter
April 17, 2013 5:56 pm

I just received a quote from a publicist to do this exact same thing for $200/hour. Her minimum is 10 hours. Can you imagine what that does to the budget? I realize her contacts are fantastic but . . . it just isn’t feasible which is why I am looking at other options including going ahead and utilizing the services of a sales rep. At least that way, when I pay out a percent to them, it also means a larger percent goes into my business account due to sales.

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Wow this is a fantastic idea! My mind is just booming with ideas that I can’t wait to start on. Not enough hours in the day!! Thank you for sharing this :)

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Meghan Keane / meghan.keane.studio
June 25, 2014 3:14 am

Andreea! You rock, I love this post. So helpful. I hope to finish my PDDP website shortly so I can begin bowling over editors. Keep up the insights. They are very helpful and will definitely help with cultivating your cult PR following. ;)

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This is terrific advise!

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Great tips! I’m actually going to try and do this for the holiday shopping season but I may be too late considering it’s already July? I’ll have to look at some editorial calendars and see what I can come up with. Did you great one article that promoted your products – and distribute it for publishing to all of the magazines/etc or did you give them the info and they, in turn, created their own content? I guess I’m confused as to who is actually writing the article.

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Great post. Also Google has now changed their policies on press releases and getting back links. I don’t think it’s like it used to be where you could send out a press release and get a link. More complicated, and journalists are even more overwhelmed.

When I hired my first publicist it cost me $10,000 for 2 months and I got 1 magazine mention. I learned to do it myself and ended up getting hired by celebrities and big corporations. That was an expensive lesson!

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Great article and advice. I am new to world of PR and tips like these really help. Thanks!

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