As the old maxim goes, all publicity is good publicity - but whilst leaked DMs might work wonders for the profile of a dubious C-lister, it’s safe to say that many freelancers dream of positive PR only for their brands, thank you very much.
Odds are that your business might not have a mega-bucks budget to land primetime product placement or run a must-click social ads campaign. Don’t let that put you off, though - you don’t need a fortune to secure great publicity for your business, be it a bespoke service or your own personal brand you’re looking to promote.
The benefits of securing PR coverage are manifold and whether you’ve never considered it before or are a dab hand looking for new ideas - our guide is here to help.
Prepare a press release that can’t be ignored
A press release might sound a tad dry but, done right, it can be what gets your foot firmly through that publicity door. Great for promoting a new launch or creating awareness for your brand in general, a press release is ideally a one or two-sided PDF that neatly and enticingly informs a journalist about your hook. The end goal of the press release? Your business being featured within the pages - virtual or paper - of the title.
Assuming you don’t have the budget to employ the services of a PR pro to help you prepare it, your press release should:
- Be clear and concise. Your press release should irresistibly sell your offering and make it crystal-clear what it is you’re promoting. You want a strong headline (and subject line, if sent on email) and to keep the reader’s attention - assume that they’ve already received 100 other press releases today, so make sure yours stands out.
- Do your research. Spend time researching the websites and magazines that would be most likely to feature your products and services. Try to be as accurate as possible in terms of who you send them to, as well; use LinkedIn or Twitter to work out who the best possible contact is on your chosen title.
- Provide what the reader needs. Research the kind of detail your chosen publication normally looks for: for example, do they use cut-out product imagery or do they prefer lifestyle shots?
“Journalists are often under tight deadlines, which is why it’s important to give them all of the information they might need - including links and images - in a timely manner,” advises Stephanie Dunleavy, founder of lifestyle brand Soul Analyse. “The more helpful you can be, the better chance of securing coverage.”
Depending on how often you’ll be writing and sending out press releases, there might be value in adding a ‘news’ section to your website so they can be quickly and easily accessed.
Keep your eyes peeled for those #journorequests
Journalists are always looking for experts to provide comment, with the hashtag #journorequest often littered with call-outs for freelancers to share their insights on topics ranging from interior design to deep sea diving.
“I managed to secure a full feature in Forbes for Soul Analyse directly off the back of a ‘journo request’ I saw on Twitter,” says Stephanie. “The key is to keep an eye out for requests and respond quickly, whilst providing a decent newsworthy hook; something the journalist can sink their teeth into and that will really capture their readers’ attention.”
Whilst lurking on Twitter might not sound terribly productive, think again - it can pay dividends. “Often as a freelancer or small business owner, it’s not possible to delegate these tasks to someone else,” Stephanie notes. “I would suggest carving out some time each day to check and respond to relevant requests - the results can be priceless when it comes to getting your brand in front of huge audiences.”
Don’t dismiss those pro bono opportunities
Working free of charge might not appeal at face value but could actually have potential to be hugely beneficial. Marketing consultant Bethan Vincent has undertaken a variety of pro bono speaking and writing opportunities in the past, giving consideration to gigs that she considers professionally valuable or that align with her own passions.
“I always ask the organisers whether they’re charging people to attend the event or if the piece of content is behind a paywall,” she explains. “If the answer is ‘yes’, I usually insist that I’m paid too - it’s only fair. The exceptions to this rule are anything run by a not-for-profit or charitable organisation, and I also do a lot of free work in the higher education sector as I’m passionate about inspiring the next generation to consider a career in digital.”
Bethan has gained paying clients through pro bono work and is an advocate for giving it a chance before you completely dismiss it. “I’m a huge believer in the power of the personal brand and see my unpaid speaking and consulting work as part of my wider PR and branding efforts,” she explains.
Generate publicity within your own network
Knowing that you’re doing amazing work is one thing - but make sure you tell the people in your network about it, too.
“Good PR is all about telling your story and building trust, so learning how to communicate your unique value both face-to-face and digitally is crucial,” advises freelance publicist Justine D’Addio. “Updating your job title on LinkedIn or sharing an Instagram post is great but if you’re not proactively reaching out to your network, you’re missing out on the highest conversion for new business - people who already know and trust you.”
Want to try it today but not sure how? Challenge yourself to share a positive update about your business with your LinkedIn community. If that feels too daunting a prospect, start small by exploring your timeline and relevant hashtags to see how other people in your industry convey professional news.
Step into the podcasting arena
If you’re looking to boost your personal profile, be it as a personality or as an expert within a specific field, there’s no better medium than podcasts. After all - you never know who might be listening.
“Depending on the circumstances, this could mean pitching oneself to relevant podcasts or simply being open and ready to accept invitations,” says Josh Warhit, founder of Warhit Media. “Even if the resulting podcast is not on a widely listened to platform, it’s something nice to have in your back pocket to share with prospective clients.
Whilst setting up your own podcast might feel tempting, it can be a time-consuming activity - and with an estimated two million podcasts already in existence, it’s a risky endeavour.
“Starting a podcast is great but aside from being extremely time-consuming, it’s not really earned media,” warns Josh. “It can be good marketing but it’s not PR as it’s not a third-party platform. When you’re on someone else’s podcast - and have not paid for the placement - it’s true PR.”
Josh advises applying the ‘80-20 rule’ to your podcasting endeavours. “Of the time you spend refining your messaging, researching targets and reaching out to podcasts, spend 80% of this time and effort on the top 20% of podcasts you think would be an excellent fit. This is how I help my clients land their favourite podcasts and I’d recommend it for freelancers looking to do the same.”
Create your own hype with a savvy online presence
Controlling what someone sees when they put your brand name into Google might not sound like a PR generator per se but you never know who might be searching you.
Rome wasn’t built in a day - and infuriatingly, neither was the perfect online presence. In our glorious modern world, your digital activity might well be at the mercy of the algorithmic gods but it’s still important to keep your presence updated across as many platforms as possible.
This could include:
● Your website: keep it up to date with new services, testimonials, pricing and contact details. Also add links to any recent PR you’ve earnt, including media coverage and podcasts interviews.
● Your social media: updating Twitter, Instagram et. al might make you roll your eyes but keeping those profiles ‘live’ is a great way to demonstrate that your business is active.
● Your reviews: if customers review you on platforms such as Google My Business or Trustpilot, make sure you respond to them - especially the bad ones! - as they’re publicly visible.
“Your brand story and expertise should be communicated through a social media strategy and website with testimonials from previous projects,” suggests Justine. “Even if your services are identical to another freelancer’s, clients often decide to work with people based on a personal connection they make from your brand messaging. Creating a digital home is essential to landing that next client.”