DIY or Not: Be Your Own Publicist?

Alden Wicker
Posted

Let’s say you want to become the next big author/business owner/inventor/performer/SAT tutor/mural painter (the list goes on).

You could rely on word of mouth to spread news of your fabulous skills into the marketplace, but with so many apparently identical professionals working in your field (we know you’re amazing, but does the public?), it can be difficult to differentiate yourself.

Could it be time for a publicist?

We asked professionals when you should cut your own hair and file your own taxes. So for our next installment of the DIY Or Not series, we asked three PR experts for their advice on the ins and outs of what it takes to represent yourself today. (OK, actually, they contacted us. This article is evidence that they know their stuff!)

Call Me If:

You have the budget. Jessica Kleiman and Meryl Weinsaft Cooper say that PR agents do provide a valuable service, “particularly if you’re launching a new product or have your own business.” Plan for rates that range from $150 an hour for independent contractors to upwards of $10,000 a month for an agency.

You are short on time. Handling PR is more than just schmoozing at cocktail parties. It involves planning a campaign, crafting press releases, pitch letters and message points, and cultivating relationships with the press – and you’ll be in it for the long haul. “PR takes a lot of relationship building, research, creative thinking and constant motivation,” says Jenny Finke. “Do you have it in you to do this day-in and day-out for years?”

You are naturally a shy person. Even with social networking as a starting point, you’ll be spending a lot of time having conversations and talking with new people. If that scares you, perhaps it should be outsourced.

Don’t Call Me If:

You know your story. Do you know why people should choose you or your products over other options? If you are having a hard time coming up with something compelling and unique, a professional will help you do that.

Are a great communicator. Be honest: Are you an excellent writer and public speaker? Because that is half the battle. “Often a publicist will help craft internal and external communications on behalf of her clients and also media train them,” says Kleiman and Cooper.

You are a social media maven. If there was anytime to manage your own PR, it’s now. “Anyone can do that these days, particularly with the advent of social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, where you can reach you to people you know — and don’t know — and form a connection,” says Kleiman and Cooper.

(If you want to build your personal brand through social networking, read this.)

Maybe Call Me If:

You are fuzzy on the details. “To do your own PR, you need to have the right tools in place, such as a good media list and general know-how of managing your social media pages and how they all work together,” says Finke. So set aside some time to study up, or else hire someone who is knowledgeable.

Tips on DIY PR:

If you are ready to take on your own PR, use these tips:

1. Craft your story. “You can toot your own horn (as long as it’s not too loudly!),” says Kleiman and Cooper. “Think about what makes you or your brand unique and what you can offer that others can’t. Write down adjectives to describe you or your business – and ask others for input as well.”

2. Make your media kit. Finke says your media kit should include bios, headshots, product pictures, a company fact sheet and any other pertinent information about you and/or your business. These should be posted on the “About Us” or “Press” section of your website, and be ready to be sent out digitally or hard copy at a moment’s notice.

3. Get on the radar. Finke suggests using HelpAReporter.com (HARO), which sends you approximately three emails a day filled with reporters looking for sources for their articles. If your company can help answer a question, you’ll have a grateful reporter and free press for your brand.

Also check out editorial calendars, which you’ll find those on publications’ websites in the online advertising or media kits. “See what these publications are planning to write about in upcoming issues and send a pitch with your angle and why you’d be a good source for that article,” says Finke.

4. Create your targeted media list. You could sign up for a media contact database that costs thousands of dollars annually, but Finke says you can do the research and create your own media list. Decide on your top 20 outlets – a combination of magazines, TV, newspapers and blogs. Go on their websites, find out who is covering what, read their stories and then add them to your media list. Finke’s own HandleYourOwnPR.com also offers a variety of affordable media lists for download.

5. Develop pitch letter and begin pitching. “A rock star pitch letter will get your note read by reporters and bloggers alike,” says Finke. Write a pitch stays on topic and speaks to the topics the source writes about. And get to know your writers before you pitch. “Google them, read their previous articles and generally get to know them before asking them to write about you. Also, don’t forget about bloggers. They can be powerful voices in your quest to get PR for your business.”