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Why I ditched the press release and what I do instead


If 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, the 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 Launch Grow Joy MEDIA LEADSΒ and find out which editors are working on holiday gift guides and more!

Β 


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  1. 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!

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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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 πŸ™‚

  6. 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. πŸ˜‰

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. Just stumbled upon this article and it is so helpful! I just started a stationery company and will definitely be using some of these tips to try and get press and build my business! Thanks! πŸ™‚

  10. You can approach digital online magazines, bloggers with influence. Gift guides are great but you have to wait 4 to 6 months to be seen and a business owner needs traffic in the first 30 days. Good SEO is important and pitching an editor for a digital magazine as important as pitching an editor for any other publication. What are your recommendations? I used to do SEO press releases. I think if a biz owner researches keywords they can do video releases, instagram posts and connect with people who can recommend them. Love to hear your advice on the PR resources that do not require to wait for 4 to 6 months

  11. Good insights. I worked as a corporate marketing director for more than 20 years. In my experience, a press release alone won’t do much unless your brand is well known. As you not, you must pitch your story to the media outlets you want to target.

    Where a press release has value comes with pitching the story. My usual practice is to produce a press release and at least post it in a press releases section (part of a Media or Company News section on my company’s website), and add it to my media kit. This is good for SEO, and is a good starting point for a blog. It also can be posted to social media, all at no cost.

    As you note, reporters and editors are flooded with hundreds of thousands of press releases every morning. For this reason, calling or emailing reports directly Tom pitch your story, and sending them a copy of your press release gives them a set of talking points around which you can sell your story, and give the time-pressed reporter something concise and organized a quick tool to write a story about your business.

    What I emphasize is building a database of reporters and bloggers who write about topics that include your business and products. You can do this with an Excel or Google Docs spreadsheet. Build fields for their name, title, company, phone number, email address, website URL, and notes on what you did to reach out to them, and the result. Building a relationship with the reporter is important to becoming one of “the usual suspects” they will call when they are ready to write a story about a topic that overlaps your company or product.

    If you have a good friend in corporate PR or deep pockets, invest in accessing a commercial PR database like Cision or Meltwater (you could look into a free resource like Muckrack or HARO, the latter which I highly recommend). These can save a ton of time researching reporters and bloggers who cover topics of interest to you.

    When you identify a website, publication, blog, TV, or radio station or network that is a good prospect, download the latest editorial calendar from their media kit. As noted in the article above, media outlets work many months in advance, so plan your media outreach and pitch to time with when the reporter or blogger will be developing a story to coincide with that schedule.

    Finally, if opportunity calls, be ready. In my experience, when a reporter calls, they’re on deadline, and often want answers to their questions within hours, if not minutes. Don’t drop the ball. Be ready with key facts. It’s why having a downloadable media kit on your website is very important. I recommend preparing a PR fact sheet about your business, product, and service, a background der document about your company, a bio, downloadable high-resolution photos and logo artwork the reporter or blogger can grab to use in their article. The easier you make it for the reporter, the greater the chance you will get coverage.

    If you are prepared, know who in the media covers your area of interest, are helpful and prepared, you will stand out from your competition. Best of all, you can be in their Rolodex when an editor screams “Round up the usual suspects!” One more thing: Be patient. Building up a relationship with the business trade or mainstream news media and bloggers takes time. This won’t happen overnight. But if you are helpful and persistent, the rewards can be tremendous.

    Best of luck!

    Brian Teeter
    Author and Publisher
    The Healthy Trekking Travel Guidebooks

  12. Beautiful blog, I love receiving your updates. Thank you for this wonderful information. I’ll be sure to make my marketing division managers read this article!

  13. Hi, thanks for the great tips you are giving. I personally found them very helpful. I once read an article on the Italian magazine Grazia on Gal Gadot and the new Wonder Woman. I am the owner of the activewear line Alba Empowered is Feminine and a martial arts instructor. Our vision is about empowering women through sports. I wrote Grazia that I had read their article and asked if they were interested in writing about the “real” wonder women, the ones who know how to defend themselves. What worked well for me was the perfect timing: the news were talking about the new Wonder Woman and it was also a time when a lot of stabbings were happening, especially in Israel, where I live. They got back to me and wrote an article about me and a colleague. The title was “the Krav Maga girls”.

  14. Will this method work for service based businesses too? I’m an Interior Designer and have recently thought about writing press releases! So glad I came across your article!

  15. Love this! It was just the kick start I needed. I’ve been thinking about hiring a PR person but you make it sound so easy to pitch to media myself. thank you!!

  16. Very good article. Thank you.

    I’ve had great luck with press releases. They’ve resulted in me being interviewed in several newspapers, one sent out a photographer to take photos of me for an article. Press releases have also put me on the cover of a local art publication and in the center spread of a magazine.

    One trick is to have a link to a web page where reporters can go to get photos. Make the photos big, and they can make them smaller if they want. I have a photo of me, and several photos of the thing or place the press release talks about.

    Have Fun,
    Jeff

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