Become A Media Darling

Positioning oneself as a trustworthy expert is paramount and ongoing for B2B professional service providers.  Everything we can do to establish credibility and stand out in a crowded marketplace can add to billable hours, our reason for being. “The media,” meaning television, radio, magazines, newspapers, industry journals, podcasts and blogs, help us spread the word about our expertise to a wide audience.

Persuading media gatekeepers—editors and producers—to invite you to give a quote or become a featured player in a magazine or newspaper article, become a guest on a podcast, television, or radio broadcast, or write an article for a journal is not easy.  Many of your peers are vying to do the same.

Therefore, you must find ways to separate yourself from the pack and showcase your potential appeal and relevance to audiences.  Below are a few ways to make that happen. When reaching out to journalists, editors or producers, I suggest that you call first. Learn the name of the appropriate editor for your business category before contacting a magazine or newspaper.  Read a half dozen or so of his/her items and find out what s/he has written before you try to pitch your story.  If the response is positive, only then will you send your one-sheet bio and photo.


Help A Reporter Out will send to your inbox a boatload of emails every week, but you could obtain a few requests for quotes in exchange for the inconvenience.  HARO gives Freelancers and other independent business owners real opportunities to build  credibility through media exposure.  One will also learn how to build relationships with print and online media gatekeepers. You can eventually claim the title of expert and have the article clippings to prove it.

Social media and content marketing

If you’ve got 5,000 or more social media followers on at least one platform, or an impressive number of newsletter followers or blog subscribers, media outlets will pay attention.  Present your stats to the media gatekeeper when you get him/her on the phone and remember to include that info on the one-sheet bio that you’ll send, along with your photo, to media outlets.  Those with large social media and online followings know that your big following can boost their viewers/readers/listeners and that translates into additional advertising dollars.  It is a pathway to the short list of potential interview candidates.

Write a book

The barrier to enter the realm of book authors has dropped precipitously with the rise of self-publishing and cheaper printing costs.  Investigate self-publishing houses both local and national.  Find a topic and title that will grab your business’s target market and you’re on your way to becoming an author.

No matter what anyone tells you, hire an independent content editor to ensure the continuity and flow of your story and also hire a copy editor or proofreader to eliminate grammatical and spelling errors.  Your book is part of your brand, so it must represent you well.  You will be judged. A ball park budget for a 150 page book could be about $5000.  Write it off as a business expense, since your book is marketing collateral.

Make lots of money

If at least once in the past five years your business has grossed $1,000,000 (or close to it), then go ahead a lay claim to the fact that you’ve built a million-dollar business.  OK, so maybe you’ve grossed only half of that and it’s too much of a stretch to put yourself into the million dollar category.  But if indisputably you’ve created a very lucrative business, then speak up.  Media outlets will want you to tell their readers/viewers/listeners how you did it and how they can do it, too.

And the winner is…

Formal recognition of your success as an independent business professional is very powerful.  Nominate yourself for a chamber of commerce award, neighborhood business association, professional association, or any other business award that is presented somewhere.  If you win even third prize, then spread the word by adding the photo of you accepting the award to your preferred social media platforms and send a press release and photo to the business editor of local newspapers.  Add this information also to your one-sheet.

Judge a business award

About five or six years ago, I was invited to judge The Stevie Awards/ Women in Business category.  That I’m qualified to judge the expertise of my peers has impressed a couple of decision-makers.  There are many business awards being doled out.  Join a professional association and get yourself on the awards committee.  Add the judging duty to your LinkedIn page and media one-sheet.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: In 1955 Dr. Joyce Brothers, pictured with Boxing Commissioner Eddie Egan (her big question was about boxing), became the only female grand prize winner on “The $64,000 Question” (1955-1958). Brothers parlayed the win into a long and lucrative television career, which began in 1958 with a show on which she dispensed advice. She went on to take guest roles in dozens of TV shows and appearances on talk shows.


Press Kit Recipe

Public Relations experts say that creating a good press kit is as essential as creating a good website.  Both items reflect your brand and are important marketing tools for your business.  Make your press kit one-stop shopping for a busy journalist,  prospective customer or potential referral source who would like information about you and the products and services that your business provides.  PR pros say that a useful press kit contains the following ingredients:

Company overview    AKA the “one sheet” gives a thumbnail sketch of your business: company name,  year formed,  contact info,  name and contact info of the company’s media spokesperson if the business is not a single person entity,  a succinct description of the products and services provided and two or three key benefits,  value addeds or outcomes derived.

FAQs    Differentiate your company from the competition and provide helpful information with a Frequently Asked Questions page,  if you desire.  Use as a guide questions that prospective clients ask when you meet to discuss doing business.

Bio   The founders,  principals,  C-level executives and major investors should submit a one page bio for the press kit.  The qualifications of the leadership team should be made known.  Lou Hammond,  of the public relations firm Hammond and Associates,  recommends that three paragraphs is the ideal length of a bio.

Testimonials    Customer testimonials allow those who have done business with you to sing your praises and add loads of credibility to your professional capability.  Invite your three best customers to write a sentence or two and extol your virtues.  Again,  keep the testimonial segment to one page.

Press releases    Include three or four recent press releases,  so that the press kit recipient will know what you are saying about your business activity: new product or service launches,  business partnership,  speaking engagements,  webinar presentations or participation in a local charity event,  for example.

Article links     Formerly known as press clippings,  include links to articles in which your business has been mentioned to let interested parties know that you’ve garnered press coverage.

Photos    Invest in a session with a professional photographer and get an attractive head shot of yourself and each leadership team member.

Audiovisuals    A link to a short video clip of you or a leadership team member speaking at a prestige event,  accepting an award and/or demonstrating a product can be included.  Customer testimonials can also be presented in this format.

Press kits are usually compiled and distributed electronically.  Nevertheless,  there can be reasons to have ready hard copy to present to select individuals on the spot.   A physical press kit represents another opportunity to communicate good things about your brand.  Create an attractive and informative package.  Enclose the information in a portfolio folder in your company’s signature color.  Attach a pre-printed label that contains your company name and logo.  Print documents on good quality paper stock.  Remember to include your business card.

Despite the rise of social media,  the relevance of traditional media outlets,  whether print or online,  has not diminished.  No matter how many social media followers you may have,  mention of your name in the business section of a legitimate publication gives real credibility to you and your business.  Invest the time and money necessary to create an informative and attractive press kit and update its contents each year.

Thanks for reading,


Getting Good PR

Every Freelance consultant and business owner has an eye open for good publicity opportunities.  Articles written about one’s business are far more effective than paid advertisements,  because they are considered objective opinions.  Other than word of mouth by satisfied clients who sing your praises,  there is nothing better than good PR to help build the buzz that makes you look credible and successful and worthy of still more business.  So what are the best ways to get good publicity?

If you have the kind of business that can potentially attract more than sporadic media attention,  then building relationships with editors and writers whose publications and stories focus on your category of business is a good use of your time.  Once you’ve identified good media prospects by reading their articles,  send a press release that details an event that would interest.  In your email,  reference an article or two of theirs that you’ve read.  Follow up with a telephone call.  Offer to take that person to lunch or coffee.  Even if your press release doesn’t get you any editorial space,   you may be called to provide comments as an expert when other stories are written.  Check in periodically,  to maintain the relationship.  Meeting for coffee every once in a while can pay off.

Bloggers have lots of influence and it is sometimes a challenge to reach them.  Blog Dash is a site I recently found that helps you connect with bloggers whom you can hire to spread the good word about your business.  Fifteen categories of business are represented,  from arts to travel,  and numerous bloggers within each category can be reached.  There is a free option,  which will give you no real access to bloggers  (but they will see your business and may comment),  or you can pay up to $50.00/month and be able to pitch bloggers directly and build relationships.

Write a good press release  (see my post Press Release Primer,  3.1.11)  to encourage traditional journalists and bloggers to give your story some editorial space.   They are considered old school in some quarters,  but a press release is still the way to get the word out to journalists and bloggers,  whether or not they know you.   But you have to provide good content and 95%  of the time what a Freelancer or other business person has to say is not considered relevant.  Hint:  when one advertises,  one generally receives editorial space.

Solicitations to provide expert opinion or commentary showcase you to look like the go-to in your field.   Help a Reporter Out HARO and Seek or Shout  allow you to respond to requests for quotes on any subject,  from big data to the medical device industry.  Three or four years ago I signed up with HARO but I quickly shut this free service off.  I was nearly buried in emails and I couldn’t take it.

It is obvious that the adage  “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”  was created before the dawn of social media.  Social media can cause a minor PR hiccup,  or negative customer review made by a spiteful customer (or maybe a competitor),  to blow up out of proportion and do you some damage.  Resist the temptation to hand over your social media functions to some 22 year old.  In theory,  social media updates ought to be a great responsibility for a young person who lives this stuff anyway, understands how to get the word out and works cheap.   The problem is,  that young person may not have the wherewithal to give the right answer when something challenging is written.

Creating good buzz about your business is part of the Freelance consultant or business owner’s job.  How to get that done in the most effective manner requires a strategic approach,  like all of your other business activities.  If sporadic PR is what your business attracts,  it is best to engage in a variety of activities to ensure that you appear viable and relevant to clients and colleagues.  You may not get written up,  but you will build a good reputation.   If your business is the type that would attract more press,  then spend the time and money to advertise in the relevant publications and build relationships with journalists who cover your kind of business.   Subscribe to have the ability to reach out to bloggers and see what that does for you.  Budget for a year and then evaluate.  Learn to write a good press release  (see my post  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,  3.19.13).

Thanks for reading,


On The Cover Of The Rolling Stone

There’s no doubt about it—your business will benefit from well timed and placed media exposure in outlets that your clients trust and follow.  If you’ve come to the realization that you want fast,  effective action and you lack the time and the connections necessary to generate the kind of publicity that will raise your profile, then it’s time to hire a professional.

Buying advertising is usually a good move, but PR looks more objective and hence,  is more credible in the eyes of many.  But what should you expect from a PR firm? How do you make sure they do what you pay them to do?

Unfortunately,  many PR specialists are experts in taking client money and little else.  You must do your homework and interview 3-4 firms before signing a contract.  Contracts usually run for 6 months,  with a review at 3 months that will allow you to cancel if not satisfied.

Your objectives and budget

First,  consider what you would like to achieve in your PR campaign.  Are you launching a new product/service,  selling a book,  seeking lucrative or prestigious speaking engagements,  positioning to land important clients,  enhancing your page placement on search engines or communicating your brand?  Plan to spend from $500 – $2000 /month for an average  small business campaign.

Which firm for you?

You’ll have the choice of hiring a large firm,  small firm or Freelancer,  an industry specific firm or generalist.  Each option carries advantages and disadvantages.  I recommend that Freelancers and small business owners  avoid big PR firms because they are not designed for us.  Big firms cost more money and may not give appropriate attention to smaller clients.  Smaller firms and Freelancers are likely to be within your budget and more sensitive to your needs (in theory, at least).

Industry specific PR specialists  are known by the media players in that industry and are more likely to have calls returned and requests for clients  reviewed.  The downside is,  they may simultaneously work for your competitors. They may also run a one size fits all,  cookie cutter promotional campaign.

When interviewing PR agencies,  ask to  speak with the person who will work on your account.  That will not necessarily be the same person who shows up for the meeting.  Make sure that your agency contact will give your account the personal attention that you will pay for.

In the interview,  highlights of a strategy that was devised for a client similar to you in budget and needs should be presented.  Be very clear about your objectives and listen well,  take notes,  ask questions and get specific answers.  Do not be fooled by anyone who promises you x number of exposures per month or quarter.  That is the promise of a scam artist.

References and results

When an interview goes well,  ask to speak with 2-3 clients like yourself,  who are willing to discuss their experience with the firm.  What kind of media placements and exposure were achieved for clients with a similar  profile and objectives? How long was the campaign,  how long to achieve the desired results,  which agent managed the account, what  would they change about the process if done  again,  which additional services or quality controls might be written into the contract?

You will speak only with the firm’s most satisfied customers,  but the conversations will help you to form  expectations and learn what it’s like to work with a PR specialist.  You will also  confirm whether you should launch a campaign at this time.

Your story

Once you’ve signed on,  adequate time should be devoted to learning more about you and your business,  so that  story angles can be perfected and a strategy developed.  This is the REAL  reason to hire a PR specialist. Your story might focus on personal or business challenges you overcame,  your exceptional or innovative products /services/expertise, or your tenure and activity in a community that is meaningful to your clients.  You do not hire a PR specialist to merely blast press  releases all over the place.  You can  do that yourself.

A star is born

Events you might sponsor,  awards and special recognition for you to receive,  community and charity events you would be wise to attend,  television and radio appearances and articles in blogs, magazines and newspapers are all potentially part of  a promotional strategy that can be developed for you,  at a price.  Whatever it takes to position you well and generate  interest, confidence and excitement in you and your business should be done,  limited only by your budget.


Finally, you must understand how your PR firm demonstrates the work done for your account.  Make sure that you receive weekly or monthly activity reports.  Which organizations or media outlets were contacted,  for what purpose and what was the outcome? Compare the achievements of  your PR specialist  to your objectives  and make sure there is alignment.  You are paying for results and not excuses.

Thanks for reading,