How to get press coverage, for free

Posted on

Getting mentioned in good press is almost a golden ticket. A break into media can snowball into national coverage and result in a huge audience seemingly overnight. But getting press coverage in the first place can be tough -- which is why companies can pay huge sums for a PR firm. Most companies we work with don’t have that kind of money to spend, so we’ve pulled together a few ways you can start getting covered in online press, without spending any money.

Let’s start out with some of the basics. You need to approach journalists, reporters and other media writers with intention, rather than just anyone and anywhere. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Have some of your own content first

Anyone’s that’s featuring you in an article is going to want to link to your content, put in example photos of your products or quote you. Having a stockpile of blog posts, videos, photos and of course a well-designed website is pretty essential before you even start looking for press coverage.

But don’t worry, you can start reaching out to media immediately once you’ve got the basic brand down. In fact, many reporters are turned off by companies that have been building their companies for months and only contact them the day before they launch. Give yourself a bit of time to build a relationship with a reporter, so they’re not feeling pressure to publish the next day about your product because it works for your schedule and not theirs. Contacting people a couple months before an important annoucnement is good practice.

They know they’re not the only one, but you have to fake it anyway

A seasoned reporter or journalist can smell a generic pitch from a mile away. If you are looking for attention, you have to know who you’re pitching and make it personal. When you’re writing a covering letter for a job, you’re tailoring it - a pitch for your product is no different.

When you approach a journalist, reach out instead of pitching right away. Ask to take them out for coffee if they’re in your area. Mention an article they wrote that you enjoyed, which made them the one that stood out to you. Always know the name of the person you’re writing to, and definitely avoid anything resembling a “Dear Sir/Madam”. It’s instant death in the media world.

Think like a journalist

Having a story already thought through on your end can make a reporter’s life easier. When you pitch your idea, include some core elements that a journalist could use in their story, perhaps by answering some of these questions in quotable form:

  1. What trend or current buzz are you a part of?
  2. What makes you different?
  3. What problem are you solving?
  4. Why now? How are you timely?
  5. What kinds of real people are using your product?
  6. What’s the kicker? What struggle has your company overcome that adds a story to the whole thing?

In your initial reach-out, keep it short. Under ten lines is pretty normal -- you don’t want the reporter to read your email and say “nah, it’s too long” before even giving you a chance.

So where can you start submitting press requests if you are just getting started and don’t have any budget?

1. Go for niche blogs

Target blogs and websites that are dedicated to your specific niche, rather than starting out with bigger and broader media outlets. You’ll be speaking straight to your target audience, so it can be pretty effective for making sales, and you’ve got a higher chance of being accepted.

Look for “submit an idea” forms on blogs and other websites. Oftentime companies that have fast turnaround and feature lots of new companies openly ask for tips and contributions. That’s good, because it means you’ve got an easy in. It also means that everyone else does too, so make sure you’re writing clearly, genuinely and persuasively.

For example, TechCrunch asks for tips and pitches at the top of their page.

Otherwise, dig for articles similar to one you’d like to see about your company on their website, and contact that writer directly. If you can’t find an email address for them, make sure you put their name in the general contact form.

2. Contact local newspapers and community forums

If you’re really just starting out and have been struggling to get the attention of national media, you can always start next door. Local papers, including student papers and neighbourhood-interest websites, are looking to feature people working in the area. Make sure to focus your story on how you’re solving problems for local people and your connection to their audience.

3. Invite journalists and social media influencers to events and launches you’re hosting

If you’re hosting launch events or pop-ups, it’s a good idea to invite journalists and online media influencers to participate. They’ll often need an extra incentive to show up, so think about what kinds of things you can do to make them feel special (exclusive tickets, company swag, and definitely some one-on-one attention).

4. Drink a lot of coffee

Meeting people in person is still one of the best ways to network with writers and journalists. Whether it’s contacting reporters directly and inviting them out for coffee or going to as many industry events and conferences as you can and shaking the right hands, the face-to-face interaction is a good investment. Taking someone out for lunch is still way cheaper than hiring a $5000-a-month PR firm, and can help you develop a long lasting relationship rather than a once-off announcement.

5. Find journalists’ emails

If you don’t have enough time to dig into the depths of the internet but do have $20 to spare, you can enrol in Press.Farm. True, it’s not free - but it’s not much and can save you hours and hours. They give you access to journalists’ email addresses and social profiles based on filters that you set, including industry keywords or media outlets. Remember that even though you’re emailing a bunch of people, you should see what they’ve written about before and reference it, to show that you truly believe they’re the right writer for you.

6. Stalk people on Twitter

Obviously, we don’t endorse actual stalking. But Twitter is a huge forum for spreading the word about new buzz. And it’s often where journalists and other influential media writers are posting about stuff first. Find writers for companies like TechCrunch or Bloomberg on their Twitter accounts and contact them directly. You can also even contact influential tweeters who aren’t fully-fledged journalists but are clearly writing to a dedicated following. Be careful not to sound spammy, and instead approach them genuinely and succinctly.

7. Get an interview with a YouTuber

Another avenue that can help you get traction but is perhaps considered less frequently is YouTube. Obviously, getting a TV spot is a huge win for PR, but a step you can take before then is getting interviewed by a YouTube star. YouTube channel hosts can have highly professional setups and huge followings. But it will take some digging to find the right ones - channel hosts who interview people in your field and you can meet up with in your area.

Read More

There’s a tonne to learn about getting press coverage. Here are just a couple articles for further reading.

How to Get Press for Anything

How to PR Like A Pro

How to Land Your Business in the Press

We can help get you press attention

Having a beautiful website that’s set up for success is a very important piece in getting the right kind of media attention. Elkfox can help. We design custom websites for eCommerce companies using Shopify, and are experts in pretty much anything to do with growing your online business. Contact us if you want to know more.