Speaking | Writing | Written by Jess

How to Generate Your Own Press

Written by Jess Ekstrom

I remember where I was standing when the TODAY Show called and said they were going to do a story on me. I asked to confirm that they had the right number and was talking to the right person. They did.

After it aired, myself and my startup became “as seen on” in front of it. I’m not saying that one single media shoutout will launch you into a galaxy far far away, but it does do a lot of great things for your business or personal brand. For one, it boosts credibility. If you’ve been featured in the media, it creates trust with any future clients or customers because they can see that shiny press logo and say, “She was in Forbes? She must be good.”

Or something like that! Press is a great way to boost credibility, establish trust, get exposure, gain connections and (don’t tell anyone I said this) but it’s just a heck of a thrill. 

Lots of people hire publicists or PR firms to help secure press, which can be effective, but also is a lot of money and sometimes you come up dry. So here are some ways I’ve found that you can generate your own press free of charge.

Find your zag

I read an awesome book called Zag, which talks about how whenever everyone else zigs, you zag. Meaning, it’s not about being bigger, quicker, or less expensive than the person beside you, it’s about being different. Where can you fill some white space that someone hasn’t painted yet? It doesn’t have to be huge, just one small tiny tidbit that can make you stand out. 

For example, at Headbands of Hope, we donate headbands to kids with cancer for every headband sold. That’s what makes us different, so that’s what we put at the forefront of all of our marketing and press outreach. What is that zag for you?

Sign up for HARO

HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out…which is exactly what it is. Reporters submit stories they’re working on and what they’re looking for and HARO emails it out to their list. Sometimes there will be very weird requests (like once I saw a request to interview a chicken keeper) but other times they’re looking to interview entrepreneurs, women in business or moms about parenting tips. HARO has gotten me into Forbes, Teen Vogue, Bustle, Entrepreneur and more.

Reach out to the contributor, not the publication

Go to some of your favorite websites where you read articles: Forbes, The Everygirl, Inc, etc. Click on an article and you’ll most likely see a short bio and picture of the contributor. So many big websites run off of free content from contributors instead of staff writers. Instead of reaching out to Forbes asking them to do a story on you, reach out to the contributor! 

Find an article that resonates with you and what you’re doing. For example, if you have an ethical fashion brand, find a contributor that created a gift guide for ethical gifts. Click their bio, find them on social media, or sometimes they have their email posted. Reach out and reference the article they wrote and ask them if they’re doing any future articles to keep you in mind. Or, even send them an idea for an article that you could be mentioned in. Like, “If you’re ever writing about the rise of ethical fashion in department stores, let me know. I’d love to share my story.”

Your chances of getting published through a contributor are way higher rather if you went through the website itself.

Sign up to be a Contributor

Have a lot to say? Good- tell the world! Contributing for different websites is a great way to position yourself as a knowledgeable and trusted source, especially if you’re a coach, speaker, or consultant. You can share resources that make your life easier, or tips for startups, or how to stay healthy while traveling, or anything you want! 

Typically when you’re a contributor, even though you don’t get paid, you can hyperlink your stuff to the article like your website and social media platforms. Also, if the outlet shares the article on their platforms, they might tag you as the author bringing more followers your way. 

Go to any websites you’d want to contribute to and scroll to the footer. Typically they have something that says “contribute” or “submissions” that you can follow. 

Keep a running file of your press contacts and follow up

I’m going to be honest with you: the first time you pitch someone, it’s probably not going to work. But don’t get discouraged because that’s just how it goes! Press is all about timing. They might not bite right then, but you want to stay in front of them for when it is the right time.

I keep a spreadsheet of all my press contacts I’ve developed over the years. Whether that’s introductions from HARO or local media or contributors I’ve worked with. Whenever I have a reason to follow up, I do. Keyword is: reason.

People don’t like follow ups for no reason other than, “hey, have you written a story about me yet?” If you’re having to send that email, the answer is probably “no.”

But- if anything new or exciting is happening in your world, tell them! Are you releasing an app? Did you get an award? Are you hosting an awesome event? Did you do something good for your community? Did you launch something new? Did a celebrity wear your product? Did Paris Hilton say “that’s hot”? Whatever it is, follow up with that reason so you stay top of mind.

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