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 to getting free publicity is quite 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 felled 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.
OK, so now we've seen the holy grail. Let's get to work.
You own a website.
Let's say, for the sake of this report, it's LifeCoach.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.
Here are some truths that you ignore only at your own risk:
In that case:
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?"
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 absolutely riveted by his in-depth discussion of Peruvian 19th century coinage.
You see 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 Life Coaching -- or golf clubs, or health insurance, or any other field – you can lose sight of the realisation that most of the rest of the world doesn't really care.
This is how a normal conversation would go as a rookie Coach:
"Bill, we've just released the new X251 Life Coach Tool 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-angled flange and it's blue. I'm telling you, this will be big!"
Now, rather than simply having a good lie down, take a rest and forget about ever seeing the X251 featured in the Life Coach Times, you can take a another step.
Think like a reporter.
Ask Yourself: "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 serve any purpose, or is just for looks?"
Who knows, maybe it turns out that the right angled 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 complete figment of my imagination, not some new amazing outdoor tropical Coaching 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 your favorite color (it’s mine).
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 LifeCoach.com.
There are probably hundreds of sites in the Internet that sell Coaching services. So simply announcing that there's a new practice offering Life Coaching Services will achieve little.
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 - Too common, too promotional, too boring.
INSIDE STUFF - May be newsworthy within my own field (trade publications) or to hardcore customers (serious Coaching 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 LifeCoach.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.
Many different coaching niches. NO DICE. Ditto, Ditto.
You specialize in weight-loss Coaching and books. INSIDE STUFF. Decent topic, but is there enough there to build a story?
You specialize in Coaching 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.
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.
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.
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 care workers. Maybe you provide life coaching at cost to health clinics in poor neighborhoods. Maybe you provide a big discount on life coaching to disabled people? These are all angles you can publicize 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.
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 service engineers flew to a remote place in Alaska 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.
Many coaching niches. Being all things to all people won't turn this into a news angle. But if you have some special training that no one else does – and that allows you to offer something few others can – you might be on to something.
Which leads us to....
You specialize in weight-loss coaching and books. If there's something special about the way you help people lose weight, you might have a story. Let's say you have developed a unique method of helping people re-programme their minds so that they lose weight 22% faster. That’s newsworthy (if you can prove it.
You specialize in coaching that promotes 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 specialising 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.
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 eatinghabits.
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 or belief systems, offer some
interesting revelations? These, and other offshoots of adding newsworthy
elements to your site, can all provide the basis for outstanding publicity
So, you mull it over and decide on the perfect solution
You'll create a message forum for teenagers to discuss health issues, self esteem issues, 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 you attribute list. What can we combine to create a tighter, more specific angle?
See it yet? You specialize in weight-loss coaching. 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 drugs to lose weight? If so, which ones -- and are they safe?
What are some of the self esteem issues that are contributing to being overweight in Kids?
See what we've done? We've taken your boring little Life Coaching website and turned it into a news angle machine! And we've turned you into a spokesperson, looking out for teenagers by giving them a place to seek information, choose from safe products or just vent.
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 Times).
First, you've got to find out who the appropriate editor or writer is at the Post. If you live in the same city, 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 another city, it's more difficult.
Call the Times main number and ask the receptionist "Who Is the Features Editor?" The receptionist will then give the name of the person who is in that position, 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 worth trying the newspaper's web site. Increasingly, full editorial staff listings can be found online.)