How to use PR to become an "Overnight Success"


I moved to New York City years ago as a former high school teacher with big dreams of finding my true calling and leading an exciting, passionnate, and successful life.  When I daydreamed about doing just that I'd often be playing the song "Only in New York" in my head, which includes the line "want the moon and nothing for years then overnight success".   I couldn't agree more!  These days promises of  "tricks to being famous overnight" are everywhere you look  and "secrets to becoming a national brand" or "how to get on Oprah" are more than abundant.  At the end of the day sure there are some tricks and secrets:  hard work, creating a fantastic brand image, nurturing great media relationships, running the pr marathon (it's not a sprint), and getting great press and sales.  Oh and again, hard work!  But if I HAD to give 4 ways you could speed up your trip to becoming an overnight success from a PR perspective, here's what I would say:

1. Be Known: Make sure the outlets (magazines, television, radio, online) who are great fits for your product or service and who truly could help "tip" you know you.  They should know your name, know your product, know what it does, and be able to think of it when the right story comes up.  They should also like you.  You want to be familiar in their mind not an infamous pest at their weekly meetings.  This means you update them monthly via email on what you're doing ( short and sweet), you send them new product info as it comes out, you follow their columns and programs so you can connect and relate to them, and you only pitch them relevant stories.  You also help them find other great products & stories when they ask- even if they are not yours!

True Story:  I pitched The Big Idea with Donnie Deutsch for a YEAR before one of my clients got her big break on the show - that is the big secret!  After that she was a regular.  How did that happen?  Every month I called and worked at getting to know the producer. I let them know what she was up to monthly, big or small.  I wanted to be sure she was in the back of their minds.  I watched the show, and pitched her story in a way that applied to their show and their viewers.  When she went on the show, she was a great and media trained guest.  Also, during the entire two years we worked with The Big Idea I placed countless other people on the show just to help them (many were not clients) when they were in a pinch and help them create great shows.  Sure I sometimes felt like it was taking forever, but I never gave up.  A year later, BAM!  There she was...and that opened the door to a back and forth with the producer that netted multiple more stories.  My being a publicist wasn't why I got her on the show - it was my patience, persistence, and strategy!

2. Use editorial calendars!  Even if you want to be an overnight sensation in Glamour, Inc, or Better Homes & Gardens the fastest you're going to get there (even if they fell in love with you today) is 3-6 months.  Why?  Because they run off editorial calendars and plan and write their stories months in advance.  That means you have to be sure you are in those stories that you fit into.  How do you do this?  Research every  outlet you want to be in and find their editorial calendars.  If you are a Tin Shingle member you can access them here, and if not you can call the magazines ad departments, search for them online (usually found in the outlet's media kit), or purchase them from a service.  Once you get this outlet's "ed cal" you go through every ed cal topic and find those that fit you. Create a spreadsheet with the topic as well as when it "closes" (when the magazine's deadline is for submissions and stories).  Then create a great pitch for yourself to that story.  If the ed cal listing says who is working on this story (rare as it changes often) pitch it to them.  Better idea?  Call the outlet (find the contact or retrieve it here if you have access) and ask for the editorial assistant.  Then ask who best to pitch for the story, and what their email address is.  Email them with the ed cal subject as the email subject - make it easy for them to know what you are pitching, do it short and sweetly, link to your site, and follow up on the phone in about a week.  Always pitch months in advance, don't wait until a week before the outlet closes or you will be out of luck.

3. Follow Up, Don't Give Up:  Running your PR campaign can be very exhausting - sure that's the truth!  We wait and wait for a hit and sometimes it's frustrating - but don't give up!  It is truly a marathon, not a sprint.  Create a schedule so it doesn't suck up too many hours a day, and so that you know what you are working on every day, and you feel like you're making progress.  Create a campaign plan so you are always making forward progress, not sitting on your hands waiting for a call back.  Make sure that you follow up with your contacts ( with new information) monthly.  Work on that relationship!  The hardest thing about PR is often feeling like you want to give up - but don't!  If anything, re-evaluate your course, your campaign plan, and who you are reaching out to (as well as how you are pitching them) - maybe it's time to make some changes!

True Story:  In the case of placements that took more than one pitch to land, I've always landed it due to a new approach.  That means after hitting a wall with a certain pitch after multiple tries, we re-evaluate the pitch and the target media, and try a different approach.  We think it out, make a strategy, and go after it.  Often, the change is the magic bullet.  We also follow up constantly when we know it's the right angle and perhaps the wrong time.  We also re-evaluate how we are wording our message - maybe it isn't being understood!  When it's the right message, right time, right product the placement happens quickly.    

4. Network and Reach Out: Writer Karen Salmansohn , often says to me,  "the more people you know the luckier you are".  I couldn't agree more in the case of PR.  Sure you have to know more and more media contacts, but networking with other small business owners and entrepreneurs will also lead you to people you need to know to get placements - in fact it's a necessity!  Many of the brands who you see make it "big" have powerful PR agencies behind them who have strong media relationships and nevertheless are working tirelessly to give their clients great visibility.  If you don't have that luxury just yet you need to work even harder.  So you get out there and network, act as your own brand ambassador, meet other entrepreneurs who will refer you to media contacts they have worked with because they like your story.  Be sincere, and get to know people in your niche, as they will often lead you to other people you need to know.  Be sure your name and your company are on the tip of people's tongues when they find out someone is working on a story that you could be a great addition to.  In the same vein, be a good person when you network:  show gratitude when people help you, help others, refer others, be open about how you could use the help and who you need to know (put it out there, it will come back to you!).... Be the type of person people not only know how they can help, but who people want to help!

True Story:  I myself refer amazing contacts to amazing people daily.  I do this because I know what they want to accomplish with their pitch, and that they are good people.  It's true - people like to help good people who are on top of their brand message and work hard.  Be one of those people!

Now work on those four things, and I promise you, we'll be hearing about you and millions across the country will marvel about how YOU became an overnight success!


very helpful and much needed when you feel like you're running out of steam and wondering when the hard work is going to pay off!

It is a marathon! A slow steady run mostly. I have to remind my self that online networking is very important, but getting out there face to face is a must. Thanks for the great points.