10 Tips to Get Free Publicity (and one bonus tip!)


Getting publicity is an art, but you, as the entrepreneur, have a HUGE advantage because the press loves to hear about new things directly from the horse’s mouth. You can hire a publicist, but you can get it for free, and you are your best pitch person. Here's a little more about advantages of pitching your own press, but below are my top 10 tips for getting the press to sit up and take notice and actually get them to report - for free! You'll need to invest in your own time, and creative positioning:

1. Identify holidays, seasons and special months that correlate to your product and pitch the press during that time. For example, if you are a chocolate company, call the press with a February Valentines Day story. If you are a bra company, call during October Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

2. Extract the aspect of your product that makes it totally different from the competition and focus on that only when you talk to the press. Note: Price, service and speed do not count. For example, for two former Seagram’s executives, we focused on Redcliff liqueur as the “first American liqueur” because it used a cola taste. Cola is a flavor uniquely American and born of Coca Cola fame.

3. Look through a magazine and notice all the different sections that might include your product. Come up with a sentence pitch about your product for each section, then call the editor with your customized pitches. There may be up to three places your product may fit in one magazine. For example, there are “new product” sections near the front of the magazine, “feature” stories in the middle, and sometimes “back of the book” profiles on personalities and CEO’s.

4. Tie your product launch to a nonprofit.  The press are more apt to report about a commercial product if part of the proceeds benefit a charity.  Find an organization that matches the purpose of your product.  For example, Wine & Spirits magazine works with water conservation organizations because the publisher believes that water bottles litter the environment. They even created a slogan around it: “Drink Wine. Save Water.”

5. Develop a one sentence “elevator speech” that pithily describes your product, and let it be the first thing out of your mouthwhen you pitch the press or are selling someone on your product.  Tokyo Coca Cola’s Green Tea Terrace made green tea lattes and cappuccinos. When we called the press about them, we started with “The ‘Starbucks of Green Tea’ is opening stores throughout the U.S.”   Making the comparison to Starbucks describes what the company does, and the phrase provides a vivid Polaroid picture image in the mind.  Developing words into images is a killer secret that wins the hearts of journalists and tells the story of your product in one simple sentence.

6. Do your research before you call a journalist. Journalist’s #1 pet peeve about phone calls are from people who “don’t know what they write about.”  They abhor unspecific pitches and do not have the time to brainstorm with you about how your story will work for their publication.  Before you pick up the phone, Google a writer to see what kinds of things they like to write about and note the tone of their writing. Customize your pitch to fit exactly into their style.

7. Consider who the reader/listener/viewer of a media outlet is before you call them. Pitch the story about your product in a way that would interest that particular reader/listen/viewer. For example, The View’s Elisabeth Hasselbeck has talked on air about her allergy to gluten and frustration in finding foods that will nourish her without an allergic reaction.  Her viewers are women who are concerned about their health and the rate of gluten intolerance is rising at an alarming rate.  Hasselbeck’s viewers want to know about solutions for their Celiac disease and she happens to be a personal advocate.  These were very important to thinkproducts, so their CEO contacted Hasselbeck to become a “celebrity spokesperson” for their gluten free products.

8. Make 1000% sure you have the right phone number for a journalist you are calling.   Be like a detective to find the exact right phone number. Leaving voicemails for the wrong person is a disappointing waste of time.   Make the receptionist your friend. Use Hoovers.com and Linkedin.com to find phone numbers.  You can subscribe to Bacons’ Media Directory to get detailed lists of the entire staff of any magazine, newspaper, online or broadcast outlet.

9. When you do reach a journalist, qualify they are the right contact by saying “are you the person who reports about food? Beauty? Business?”  After they answer, follow with your pitch by saying “great, because I have a food product that is filled with pure functional food and prevents cancer.  Does that interest you to report?”

10. Call journalists when they are most likely to answer the phone.  Morning radio shows start work at 4 am. and are gone by 11 a.m.  Daily newspapers are rushing to get their stories done at the end of the day, so avoid afternoons and call them first thing in the morning at 8 a.m.  Magazine reporters work on “long leads” that are 2-8 months ahead of time, so tag your story to coincide with the issue they are most likely working on now.  For example in April, Body + Soul magazine is working on their October issue.

11. Bonus!  Never, ever, ever hang up without asking a journalist for a referral.  If the journalist you reached isn’t interested in your story, politely ask if there is someone else they think should hear and maybe report about it.