PR Tips for a Shoestring Budget
Today, I’m interviewing publicity expert Jill Dykes (Raleigh) This is one in a series of interviews with media and publicity experts.
Geralin: How can people with shoestring budgets [trying to self-promote] get noticed?
Jill Dykes: The most powerful tool in my PR arsenal has always been a customized, kick-butt pitch. Think quality over quantity. Rather than blast out a pitch to dozens of reporters, start with a realistic goal of five attainable media placements. Determine the publications you really want to be covered in, then drill down and find the specific beat reporter or producer who covers your space. Read their articles. Watch their shows. Follow them on social media. Then, craft customized pitches written in their “style”, offering exclusives when possible.
Keep in mind all pitches need to be mutually beneficial. What will their audience walk away with after hearing from you? In a busy news world, why is your platform worth covering?
Also, keep in mind there is a stepping stone process to becoming a trusted media expert, especially when it comes to TV. If you don’t currently have experience being interviewed on TV, don’t bother pitching The TODAY Show. Start locally and gain experience. Get some polished interview clips under your belt that you can use as leverage with the bigger fish. If and when your pitch grabs the attention of a network producer, they’ll want to view clips of you in action.
GT – What is a, “hook” and why would anyone need more than one?
JD - The word news means exactly that – information that is new. A good PR guru keeps her finger on the pulse of what’s happening, and then finds a creative way to hook her client’s story. Be prepared to react at a moment’s notice if there’s a big story to which you can add value. Opportunistic pitching has gotten me some of the biggest media placements of my career.
You can also use timely news hooks to your advantage – back to school, summer break tips, tax season, etc.
GT – Do you have a template for pitching to a company; what needs to be included? What shouldn’t someone say/do?
JD - I don’t recommend a straight-up template because each pitch should truly be customized to the specific outlet, medium, and reporter. However, most pitches should contain the following elements:
- Start with a personal connection – let the reporter know that you loved his recent story on global warming.
- Next, jump right in with your news hook “As the holidays approach, I wanted to let you know about X, Y, Z.”
- In one sentence, list credentials (media and otherwise), so they know your (or your representative) are a trusted, experienced media source. “Dr. John Smith is an experienced media guest who has been quoted in The Herald-Tribune and has appeared on ABC 7.”
- Spell out the pain point/solution: “He’s available to help your viewers ___ and can offer real world solutions, such as ____, ____, and ____.”
- Finally, is there anything YOU can do to make the reporter/producer’s life easier? (I recently pitched a segment to The TODAY Show on “Good Cop/Bad Cop Parenting: when parents disagree on discipline.” In addition to pitching my client as the parenting expert, I offered to help find couples struggling with this issue. They loved the cute, eye-catching title AND my offer to help. I made their life easier and the segment aired the following week).
- Finally, make sure your pitch is concise. Every sentence, every word, needs to serve a purpose.
GT – Share a few secrets, please! A Press Kit and/or a One Sheet, what should they include?
JD – I’d include:
- Mission Statement – what is your purpose, your company’s reason for being?
- About Us – This paragraph should explain what your company does, who it serves, how long you’ve been in business, where you’re based, and your web address.
- Key Messages: What are the top three things you want the public to know about your company? Invest time in developing your key messages and ensure everyone within your organization is on the same page.
- Elevator Statement – This is a spoken statement that answers the question “What does your company do? As the name suggests, this is a quick statement that you could speak to a passenger on an elevator before they get off on the next floor. Avoid jargon and be conversational and concise. (This probably would NOT be included in a press kit but it’s a good idea to prepare one for internal use).
- Story Starters – For PR purposes, I also like to include potential topic ideas that you can speak to.
A self-described “news-hound”, Jill majored in broadcast communications at Elon University and was promptly hired by NBC New world headquarters after graduation. During her five years with NBC, she traveled extensively to cover major breaking news and learned firsthand how to find a good news story.
In 2002 Jill made the switch to PR and honed her skills at two highly reputable agencies. She launched Jill Dykes PR in 2009, and today she’s focusing on the client space she’s most passionate about – women’s interest, parenting, consumer goods, and lifestyle PR. For more information, please visit www.JillDykesPR.com.