When my book came out, I was a recent college graduate who lacked a real understanding of the world of press and PR, and I know there are others like me out there. Many see PR as mystical and ever-changing, which leads them to hire publicists and PR companies to figure it out for them. Because I was a 22-year-old entrepreneur, I decided to try to figure it out myself.
With trial and error, I slowly began to understand what it is that journalists and publications are looking for and how to attract their attention. Although every story and angle is different, those who are seeking publicity do need to have a few common items to get attention — I call this the “PR toolbox.” It’s comprised of materials that entrepreneurs can create on their own or with the help of a publicist. Based on my experience, here are four must-have PR tools.
1. A timely story
This is much easier said than done, but the greatest PR tool your company can wield is a timely story that can actually provoke interest. What is it about your company that’s special? Why does your product or your book matter right now? Otherwise, your attempts to get PR can feel like advertising. For my book, I oriented my press pitches around the statistic that in 2017, only 2 percent of venture capital funding went to female founders. It was my motivation for writing the book, and the statistic was about the year prior. It was both timely and relevant.
Journalists want good stories. Sometimes you can match them to current events, as many companies are doing now. Trends can be general — women in venture capital — or specific — New Year’s resolutions. Brainstorm how you can use what’s happening in the world to really contribute to the news cycle.
2. A press kit
Some companies write a press release and call it good, but visuals are powerful. A high-quality, vibrant, thorough press kit can bring your story to life in a way that a press release simply cannot. I recently spoke with Jenna Guarneri, the CEO of JMG Public Relations, about what’s required of a great press kit. “A press kit provides top-line information, so the editor or producer can quickly assess your company background to help them decide on whether they should write a standalone feature on you or even if it’s a fit for what they are working on,” she explained to me. Additionally, she noted that it should include a bio for the brand spokesperson, a one-pager about the brand, headshots and corresponding brand photos, past press features and links to your website and social media handles.
“The press kit is the building block that your company stands on when media are introduced to you,” Guarneri said. “It’s their first impression and with the media, sometimes you only get that one time to make an impression.” I like to refer to press kits as business cards in technicolor — they both provide information and act as credibility booster.
3. Statistics, numbers or social proof
Press kits, pitches and press releases should focus on data. A great story is compelling, but there needs to be some proof attached. I like to remind people that stories are what we remember and share with others, but statistics and research show us why we should care enough to read the story in the first place. How many customers do you have? Are there any surprises in your demographics?
Then there’s social proof: If a journalist receives a compelling pitch from a company that’s been around awhile but only has a few hundred social media followers and crickets in the Google search results, something will feel like it’s missing. Contrast this with companies or individuals who have generated some traction. It proves that people care about what they have to say, and that their story is already resonating. Many wrongly believe that they need press in order to gain exposure. In reality, great stories and products generate exposure and traction naturally, and that’s what great press reports on. Include key statistics, research points and proof of social media traction in your pitch and press kits to add more credibility.
4. A click-worthy sample headline
Finally, don’t expect the journalist to do all of the work once they get your pitch. Journalists are pitched all day long on different stories. What makes yours interesting? Great publicists are able to create click-worthy headline options when pitching. My dear friend Ashley Crouch is a visibility strategist and the founder of Appleseed Communications, and she has 13 types of headline archetypes that work for garnering clicks. A couple of examples include “Low to High,” which are rags-to-riches stories about tremendous success or traction, or “Practical and Actionable” which are articles like this one that educate audiences on how to do something.
The headline guides the rest of the content, so it has to be something surprising, intriguing or baffling, as emotion drives action. If there were to be a soap opera based on your company or career, what would its name be? What are the most interesting and exciting events that have happened for you or your company? Go big here.
The exciting part about PR is that each of these toolbox tips will change over the lifetime of your career or your company’s lifespan. There are hundreds of stories in every entrepreneur’s life. The best are those that surprise, educate, entertain or inspire the masses — and we all have those stories. By building our toolboxes, we can increase our chances of getting press.