It’s exciting to see your product on the glossy pages of a magazine, and provides great brand exposure to new customers. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs don’t know how to get featured. I used to be one of them, but I’ve learned how to get my products the press they deserve and you can too. Here’s my story:
When I started my inspirational t-shirt company, Tees For Change, I spent nearly $500 on an online service to write and distribute a press release. They said I’d reach “tens of thousands of journalists,” but no one called.
I thought my timing was off, so I tried again the next month. This time, I hired someone to write the release, and distributed it via a very popular PR service. It cost me another $500, I received only one response, from a journalist who wanted a free sample. I sent her a shirt that day – and never heard from her again, despite my follow-up calls and emails.
This probably sounds all too familiar to you. The problem isn’t your product – it’s that press releases just don’t work!
What I learned from my experience is that I was competing with thousands of other businesses for space in the inboxes of those tens of thousands of journalists. To earn their attention and interest, I tried something new.
I purchased a media list, and created my own list of journalists and editors who were working on holiday gift guides for their publications. By reading past issues of the magazines, I learned that each one approached their gift guides with an angle:
- gifts for teens
- green gifts
- gifts under $50
- gifts for moms
- last-minute gifts
To earn the attention of the editors and journalists on my list, I wrote a pitch about my t-shirts being “gifts that give back.” My pitch told a story about my shirts that stood out from the crowd and hooked the journalists I sent it to. Over 20 editors wrote back asking for photos, samples and more information on my shirts! While not all of them ended up featuring my shirts, I made over $20,000 in sales from mentions in holiday gift guides that year. Some of the magazines that didn’t use my shirts for their gift guides contacted me later to feature them in another issue and I received even more press.
The next year I did it again, and received even more buzz. Unlike my attempts at press releases, this time journalists were calling me. I realized this was a PR strategy I could employ all year round.
Press releases can be useful, but usually only after the media is interested in your story. Busy journalists are looking for stories to tell every day, and you can help them by offering specific story ideas. Launching your Spring clothing line doesn’t make for very interesting copy, but the story of how your product gives back to your community does. I planted a tree for each tee I sold, and the story of how many trees I planted was one the media loved to tell.
If you’re ready to stop wasting money on press releases and invest time in telling your product’s story, here’s how to get started today:
- Make a list of 10-15 magazines/blogs/TV shows you want to see your product on this year.
- Flip through each magazine (you can do this for free at Barnes and Noble), read each blog and watch each TV show and make a list of the topics they cover so you can target your pitch to their audience.
- Find and download each magazine’s editorial calendar, which is usually found in the advertising section of the magazine’s website. Or Google search the magazine’s name + Editorial Calendar. Find upcoming issue themes that fit your product.
- Make a list of the contact information for each editor you want to reach. You can often find their email addresses in the masthead of the magazine, on the website’s contact us page, in the editorial calendar, or by calling the magazine directly.
- Write a story idea for each individual magazine. For example: Your sports product for women could be great in a women’s health magazine, or for the fitness issue of a magazine for moms, but each will need their own approach.
- Email each of your contacts with your story idea, and don’t forget to follow up one week later, and again 2 weeks later if you haven’t heard back.
Remember that magazines work 4 – 6 months in advance of the issue release date, so you should pitch products for December gift guides in the summer. And don’t forget that the winter holidays aren’t the only time for gift guides! Many magazines feature guides for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, grad gifts, Valentine’s Day and Earth Day.
By following the steps above you’ll be on your way to getting more press and better buzz than any press release can provide.