Tier 1 media works on THEIR time tables, not yours.
Tier 1 media works on THEIR time tables, not yours.

“How fast can you get my business featured in the Huffington Post?” – every client ever

If I had a dime for every time a client or potential client has asked me that question or some alternate version of it, I wouldn’t have to do PR anymore. (I say this lovingly, because I actually do like PR).

The problem isn’t that it’s a bad question. The problem is that clients’ reasons for wanting to get featured in Tier 1 media are often misguided.

I’m not sure when it became the prevailing notion that all a business or startup has to do to be successful is get mentioned in Forbes Magazine (or something of similar caliber) and all of their problems would be solved. Phones will start ringing off the hook, website traffic will explode, products will start flying off the shelves and the business becomes an overnight sensation and financial goldmine.

Anyone else see a problem here? In reality, your phone might start ringing off the hook, you probably will see some decent web traffic, sales might boost temporarily and in a few months, you’re back to square one…IF you don’t know how to properly make the most of your time in the spotlight.

Good press coverage should be used as an extremely helpful tool, not a means to an end. PR is a process, and a valuable one at that. The reality is, a single media placement in Tier 1 media is extremely valuable and it can open a lot of doors. But you need to have realistic expectations of how to get there, and you need to know how to make the most of it AFTER the publicity happens.

Related Story: How to Get More Benefits From Publicity

Now that we’ve had our ‘come to Blair’ talk, lets get to the good stuff…

So, you still wanna get featured in HuffPo, Forbes, Entrpreneur, etc? Here’s how the process really works…

Stop Insisting on Features.

I know, your startup is the coolest thing since sliced bread. But the bottom line is, if you’re only willing to accept features or profile pieces in major media, your chances of ever getting covered are severely diminished.

Margie Zable Fisher wrote a fantastic PR piece for Guy Kawasaki’s blog and in it she said;

Every client wants a big profile of the company on the cover of a major magazine or newspaper, but most stories are about a “trend,” several companies, or some recent news with quotes from experts. Profiles are few and far between.”

Couldn’t have summed it up better myself. The reality is, you need to think like a reporter or journalist. Your business is never as exciting as you think it is. But if you can tie it to a current event, trend or some larger picture and pitch it that way, then you’re on the right track.

Related Story: Stuck on your pitch? How NOT to send a terrible PR pitch

Make Yourself Available

Timing is everything, and that’s never more apparent than when you start pitching a reporter who you think would be just perfect to cover your business story. They should be so excited to get your pitch that they drop everything and write the story today, in fact.

Back to reality: reporters, journalists and even bloggers do things on their time, not yours.

Shailesh Kumar, founder of Value Stock Guide, got featured in the New York Times…2 years after he initially pitched the reporter! Kumar says;

I responded to a HARO query from the same reporter but on a different story. He did not contact me for the story I had responded to, but cold called me for this [different story] one year later.”

Long story short; the reporters may not call back or followup when it’s convenient for you. But, if and when they come calling, don’t be one of those business owners or clients who insists on doing things on your own terms.

When a journalist is willing to use you as a source for a story, to some extent they’re doing you a favor, because odds are they have a lengthy list of other credible source who are ready and willing to do the interview at a moment’s notice.

Amy Baxter, CEO of MMJ Labs talked about how being ‘available’ when reporters are looking for sources on HARO (Help a Reporter Out) helped her land some coverage in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and more. “Be diligent about checking HAROS and fastidious about only replying when you fit the query well. “

Bottom line: If you want the exposure, be available, be timely and be accommodating.

Be Patient

Sure, one hit wonders and overnight media success stories can happen. But it’s extremely rare. More often than not, the ‘overnight success’ stories you see gracing the pages of the New York Times, are the same companies who have worked tirelessly and pitched editors countless times.

Have realistic expectations going into the process. If you expect to get a response from a Tier 1 editor or reporter your first time around, you’re likely going to be let down. Successful companies view PR as a long term strategy for a reason.

The reality of media placements is that they can take months of relationship building, pitching and re-pitching, followup and then some. And sometimes that still leads to a no. The successful businesses are the ones that keep going (NOT to be confused with annoying or stalking their favorite reporters and editors).

Even after you get a reporter to commit to running a piece on your company, or including you in a larger story, the production and editing of that piece can take months. Contrary to what you may believe about this digital world that we live in, good stories still take time.

Bottom line: Be strategic in what you pitch (see point one about pitching profiles and features), and be patient in your expectations. Good publicity is well worth the wait and the effort that’s required to get it.

Make Newsjacking Your New Best Friend

Newsflash: If you’re not already staying up on trends and current news in your industry, you should be. Some of the best publicity opportunities come from being in the right place at the right time (or offering the right thing at the right time).

Madeline Johnson of The Market Council says;

Don’t think that top tier media is going to just produce a story about you. Newsjack your story by tying it into the news.”

A good example of newsjacking gone right is when Oreo newsjacked the Superbowl in 2013, during the blackout. The company took advantage of the blackout to tweet “You can still dunk in the dark” and it resulted in massive news coverage for the brand.

Small businesses and startups can take full advantage of newsjacking too. Sometimes reporters want to write a story about a trending topic right then and there and if you’re on the ball you can capture some of that glory.

Go Big or Go Home is Terrible Advice

I’m usually a big proponent of this saying, but PR is one area I would not advise someone to “go big or go home”. The truth is, Tier 2 media and smaller media outlets can also provide great value to a business in terms of exposure, third party credibility and even traffic.

While you’re busy chasing after the holy grail of media mentions, flex your pitching muscles by building relationships with writers at smaller media outlets. Not only could those relationships lead to something bigger, but they will also help you establish yourself as a credible source in your industry along the way.

Ryan Holiday, author of “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator” (and one of my PR heroes) calls this ‘trading up the chain’. Essentially, you start by landing your story in smaller news outlets and blogs, and pitch the story up the chain until Tier 1 media just can’t ignore you any longer.

Linda Parry of Product Launchers talked about how her relationship with a local radio host led to her product getting covered on the Today Show, “We contacted Lou Manfredini, a well-known home improvement expert to introduce him to our product, My Paint Saint. He fell in love with the concept and raved about it on his radio show. We further cultivated the relationship and began selling product in his two hardware stores. We were top of mind when he was invited onto the Today show to introduce new home improvement products.”

Long story short: your business is NOT too cool or too advanced to go after Tier 2 media, local media or blog opportunities. The most successful thought leaders know that there’s potential value in each and every publicity opportunity.

Conclusion: Tier 1 Media Can Happen to You!

Richard Branson once said, “There are no quick wins in business. It takes years to become an overnight success.”

This is especially true when you’re going through the process of going after press coverage. You might see competitors getting covered in more media outlets than you, and you might see other startups getting Profile stories at your favorite business magazine; but what you don’t see is the work, the time and the rejection that most likely went into it.

Even the most talented PR people with the best relationships in the world can’t make magic happen overnight, because when it concerns the media; its NEVER about you and it’s always about them. It’s about their timing, their editorial calendar, their audience and their ratings.

As long as you work on perfecting your pitches, stay on top of current news and trends in your industry and cultivate as many relationships as possible as often as possible; you’re on the right track for getting that coveted Tier 1 media coverage.

And you never know, it might even happen much sooner than you expect!