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How to get press

With Susie Richardson, PR extraordinaire

 

What is PR? PR (or Public Relations) is about working with the press and building relationships so that they know about you and write nice things about you. Sounds great, but how do I do it? Is there a right way or a wrong way? And isn’t my company too small to be thinking about press and PR right now? We wanted to answer all these pressing and important questions as well as offering a total pro’s advice, so we asked Susie Richardson, PR extraordinaire and extended member of the Holly & Co family, to give us some insider insight.

Susie has worked with some top names like Stella Artois, Belmond Orient Express, and Macmillan Cancer Support. She talked to Holly about why PR is so important and continues to be despite the rapid change in media over the past twenty years. PR is not an added extra or a nice-to-have that you do when you have time or for a big launch. PR is a slow-burn because it requires that you form and nurture relationships with journalists who will then become your cheerleaders. It’s one of Holly’s mantras – ‘make friends not contacts’ and that applies in this case too.

Susie is emphatic when she says, ‘Small businesses have got a massive advantage over huge companies who are faceless with no personality, you’ve got the power, so just tell your story and bring it to life.’ And she’s right, because so many small businesses have brilliant stories to tell, whether it’s about how you came up with the idea for your product or the beautiful workspace you renovated. Think about what the hook is to your story and lead with that in your press release. Which brings us to our first question…

Do I need a press release?

In short, yes. Keep it to one page with a succinct summary of who you are, where you’re from (especially if you’re approaching local press), what you do and how it started. If you have a bigger story to tell – triumphing over adversity or your space becoming a hub for the community for example – make that the focus. Don’t forget to include your contact details and any social media handles. Drop in a quote from yourself that gets to the heart of why you do what you do and if possible a quote from a high profile customer or business associate.

‘Small businesses have got a massive advantage over huge companies who are faceless with no personality, you’ve got the power, so just tell your story and bring it to life.’

Do I need photos?

Photography of your products (and where you work if you’re a maker) are vital. The media landscape has changed so much, a lot of magazines are now online only. We live in a very visual culture so beautiful shots and even video will grab people’s attention much more quickly than words. If you have a friend who’s a photographer or know a local photographer who’s starting out, your business shots can be valuable for their portfolio, so they may be prepared to give you a lower rate. Even if you can’t negotiate the price, this is one of those investments that pays off because you’ll use good product shots again and again to attract interest and trade. Plus, It’s very rare nowadays that magazines will send out a photographer so it’s great to be prepared with your own imagery. You’re in control of the content which is a bonus really – you can shoot your business and your product however you want to.

How do I use social media to do research?

Spend time reading through the articles of the journalists who cover the area or niche that you fit into. Follow them on Instagram to get to know what they like personally and professionally – but remember your manners! Don’t start tagging them or getting over-familiar. If you have things in common, comment. They might follow you back so have your grid ready.

If you don’t have a Twitter account or it’s been languishing for the past ten years, get back on there. Twitter is where most journalists spend much of their day. More importantly, this is where they make call-outs, usually tagged with #journorequests, so follow along and get clued up on the kinds of things they look for and at what time of year.

 

‘Twitter is where most journalists spend much of their day. More importantly, this is where they make call-outs, usually tagged with #journorequests, so follow along and get clued up on the kinds of things they look for and at what time of year.’

How do I form relationships with journalists?

The first thing to remember is that journalists are people! Don’t be afraid of them, but don’t be too chummy and casual in your introductions either. Susie recently got an email with the greeting “Hey hun”, which instantly went in the bin. Likewise, avoid cutting and pasting text which can be a dead giveaway if you fail to update and personalise the message (also goes straight to the bin). If you’ve done all the legwork with your press release, imagery and social media, you’re offering them a story or feature on a plate and you’re much more likely to get a positive response.

How can I get more local press?

For some people whose work relies on the local community or sense of place, local press is really important. It might feel like nobody reads local papers anymore – they do, only it tends to be an older demographic who’ve bought the papers all their life. Find local groups on Instagram and Facebook to see what’s going on in your neighbourhood and find people who may be interested in what you’re doing. Forming a relationship with BBC local radio is also a good route to getting more exposure.

Should I send samples?

Many makers put a lot of time, effort and money into their creations so sending out many samples is not practical or economical. It’s much better to get to know maybe five journalists well who you can guarantee will receive the samples and love them (or will return them if they’re for a photo shoot) rather than sending out twenty packages indiscriminately. Once you’ve had a positive response to your photos and press release, and you’ve built up a bit of rapport, mention that you’d love to send a sample and ask where to send it (many journalists work from home even when we’re not in a pandemic).

What are lead times?

A lead time is the time it takes for a publication to collate material for a particular issue or article. For monthly magazines this is usually three months. But Christmas planning usually happens six months in advance. Weekly magazines and newspaper supplements have shorter lead times as do TV and radio. So factor this in if you’re pitching for a feature or a mention of a limited edition or seasonal item.

What does a good press strategy look like?

Create a PR calendar that includes everything you do like seasonal collections, limited edition launches, online shop restocks if you make a limited number of pieces, or items that tie in with big national events or holidays e.g. if you’re a milliner, you might have Royal Ascot in your calendar. Use this to plan ahead (keeping those lead times in mind) and schedule when you approach journalists or pitch stories with a tailored message. When you send items out or invitations to an open studio or a press launch, make them as beautiful and personalised as possible – everyone loves to receive something thoughtful and memorable.

Feeling inspired? Wherever you are in your business journey, whether you’re pre-launch, just starting out or well established, now’s the time to up your PR efforts. Follow Susie’s tips to help you get started or plan bigger and let us know on social media how you get on – we love to hear about your successes and wins!

How to go live

As video is now becoming part of our business lives, we asked Sarah Jane Mee of Sky News for expert advice and her top tips on what it takes to feel comfortable in front of the camera.

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