Can Solopreneurs get good publicity?

According to 2007 U.S. Census data there are nearly 28 million solopreneurs in the United States. Solopreneurs, as defined by Urban Dictionary, is an entrepreneur “who works alone, ‘solo,’ running [a] business single-handedly.”

With nearly 28 million solopreneurs in America you would think that the media would be full of news about them, right? Wrong! Considering the sheer numbers, solopreneurs as a group are without a doubt among the most ignored demographic in the business media.

Go ahead, try and find fresh news content about solopreneurs on any of the big media sites like CNN, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, NBCNews.com. Get ready to be sorely disappointed. Heck, even local news media comes up short on covering solopreneurs in favor of much larger employers.

Now, lest you jump to the conclusion that the media are corrupt, money-grubbing organizations only interested in corporate Fat Cats, consider the reasons why most solopreneurs fly virtually undetected on their radar:

  • Solopreneurs – taken individually – have a small economic impact on a community
  • Solopreneurs don’t hire employees
  • Solopreneurs don’t open offices in new cities
  • Solopreneurs don’t acquire other companies
  • Solopreneurs don’t (usually) have 1000s of customers & millions of dollars in revenue

So, does this mean solopreneurs should kiss the opportunity for publicity good-bye? Absolutely not!

The simple fact is there is a high correlation between solopreneurs who get good publicity and solopreneurs who actively seek it. In other words, the more often you try to get publicity for your business the more likely you are to receive it. Hey, it’s worked for me on several occasions in local and national news media!

As a Solopreneur, you have to do your own marketing to promote the business and find new customers. Since PR is one of the most cost-effective ways of both spreading brand awareness and driving more revenue, you should spend some of your time every month – if not every week – asking yourself what’s newsworthy about your business. At PR over Coffee, we recommend doing it every day over your first cup of coffee!

With nearly 28 million solopreneurs, the odds of getting media coverage may not be in your favor but, as the old saying goes, “Fortune favors the bold.” So, go forth and do bold things — just be sure to take credit for it in the news.

Happy pitching!

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech startup PR firm for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave about the PR over Coffee blog, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

How to Get your Small Business on Local TV News

Getting your small business on the local TV news can be one of the most effective ways to promote your business and win new customers.

Indeed, many business owners who land a coveted interview with a local network often report a spike in customer inquiries in the form of phone calls, website clicks and, in the case of retail and restaurants, customer visits.

I firmly believe many bricks-and-mortar businesses improve their chances of getting on TV if they simply approach the media with the right story at the right time – and keep doing it until they’re successful.

Here are some tips you can employ when pitching TV stations in your community:

  1. News Peg: it’s a larger story idea impacting your overall community, state or country to which you can tie your own business news or offerings. Think holidays, national awareness months, or historic events like the invention of the ice cream sundae. Say you’re a hair salon that specializes in treating kids with lice. Normally it’s not a topic people like to hear about, right? But in August, as kids are getting ready for the school year, it can be a compelling news story for parents who want their kids lice-free (or at least to know how to treat them if the unthinkable happens). For a list of other news pegs for your business, check out these websites: brownielocks, Surfnetkids, epromos.
  2. Skip the press release: a press release is a great tool that can help you inform and educate customers, prospects and media. Most news pitches directed at TV news producers and reporters are better served in the form of a pitch email that succinctly answers the Who, What, Where, When and Why of your news. Because reporters can receive over 100 pitches every day opening a press release is not high on their priority list.
  3. Pick up the phone: it’s often very hard to get a busy TV reporter to give you the time of day unless you follow up with a phone call or two. Just because you ping the reporter a few times by email and phone messages doesn’t mean you’re being a pest. You’re helping him or her by identifying a good news story for the community that would otherwise go unnoticed.
  4. Hold an event: another way to get the interest of the local TV news is to create your own event. For example, I know of a specialty food retailer who sells olive oils and collaborated with a local restaurant on an event featuring a special menu that paired exquisite extra virgin olive oils with dishes from northern Italy. The olive oil importer and executive chef went on the local news for an interview and quick preparation of a dish on the special menu. It was a great interview, the event sold out and both came away with more brand awareness!
  5. Have coffee with a news reporter: we don’t call it PR over Coffee for nothing. More relationships are started and cemented over coffee than perhaps any other drink. Call up a TV news producer or reporter and ask him or her out for coffee. It’s a chance to introduce what you do and discover potential news hooks of interest to the media professionals you meet.
  6. If at first you don’t succeed…: whatever you do, don’t give up just because you don’t succeed on your first media outreach attempt. Keep trying! Look for more news pegs that relate to your business. Missed out on National Cholesterol Education Month? Shoot for American Hearth Month in February or National Wear Red Day for heart health awareness for women. PR, like many things in life, is a numbers game. The more you try, the better your chances at getting beneficial publicity are.

If you have any suggestions for ways small businesses can get into the local TV news then please share them. Has your business been featured on local TV recently? Please share your experience!

Happy pitching!

How to Pitch Entrepreneur Magazine

Pitching a national magazine like Entrepreneur Magazine can intimidate even the most seasoned PR professionals. So what is a scrappy, do-it-yourself business owner to do if he or she wants to get some national publicity in hopes of growing brand awareness and income?

Fortunately, it’s not rocket science. You can learn to pitch like a PR professional with a few basic PR pointers, some timely feedback and a little chutzpah!

Here are 8 tips on how you can prepare for and pitch reporters with national audiences like Entrepreneur Magazine:

  1. Define your Key Message: ask yourself what makes you special, unique and memorable to customers. Is there something idiosyncratic in how you serve customers that really sets you apart from the competition? Is it a marketing strategy that has been really successful at finding new customers? Don’t be shy about asking your customers and vendors for ideas. Sometimes the best ideas come from outside observers!
  2. News Peg: it’s what makes your story interesting to a mass audience. It’s not enough to be an interesting business. It helps if you can make a case that you represent a larger trend. For instance, an Austin real estate broker called Give Realty donates 25% of all home sales commissions to charities and recently passing $250,000 in total donations in just five years. A news peg for Entrepreneur Magazine might be in relation to the increasing popularity of social good companies that donate a percentage of proceeds to charities in hopes of making the world a better place while gaining a competitive market advantage. In other words, tie your company to a larger story trend and you just mind find yourself featured in the news.
  3. Eye-Catching Subject or Headline: whether you write a press release or just an email news pitch, take time to come up with 5-10 different headlines that could help hook the attention of a journalist. Often the success or failure of pitches comes down to how effective the subject or headline is at conveying the core idea and why it’s of particular relevance to a given journalist. For instance, if you run a food truck specializing in doggie treats then you would be wise to discover the names of other pet food trucks are roaming the parks and streets of American cities and make mention of the new movement toward high-end pet treats sold out of food trucks. The key is to get your business mentioned along with several others so that all of you share in the media love.
  4. KISS Principle: the old adage of “keep it simple stupid” has perhaps never been as apropos as it is for pitching a busy journalists or reporter. Make that doubly so for a journalist at Entrepreneur Magazine! When pitching, stick to the facts and avoid rambling sentences. Be sure you answer the Who, What, Where and Why of your story as concisely as possible. But be careful not to omit key facts in your search for brevity. You can always give the journalist a teaser in the email and tell them you have copied more information below your signature line or attached a press release.
  5. Persistence Pays Off: it pays to be persistent when pitching national outlets like Entrepreneur. You may not win coverage for your business the first time around but keep in touch with occasional news updates to let an Entrepreneur journalist you’re still around and willing to be a resource for an article. After each pitch, be sure to follow-up with either a phone call (assuming you have a phone number to call) or a second email. Be polite with your follow-ups, and above all don’t be a pest and annoy them with a rash of emails and phone calls.
  6. Be Responsive: if you finally do get the attention of an Entrepreneur writer and are asked to schedule a phone interview, be sure to respond immediately. Journalists are often working against a deadline so if you procrastinate in responding then you could lose out on your golden opportunity for national publicity.
  7. Show Appreciation: if you do end up getting an interview that leads to a mention in Entrepreneur, then don’t forget to thank the reporter. Don’t send a gift. There are rules forbidding most journalists from credible news outlets from accepting gifts. Simple gratitude goes a long way.
  8. Stay in Touch: as mentioned above, keeping in touch with a national reporter is an easy way to always be under consideration for future stories. Reporters are no different than the average consumer in that they know what they like and tend to show loyalty to what has helped them in the past. You still need to follow the steps above to make sure you have compelling news to share but as long as you are providing the reporter with a good product, then there’s a better chance you will get picked again.

The good news is you don’t have to be a media expert to get national media coverage from outlets like Entrepreneur Magazine. You just passionate about your business and follow the steps outlined above.

While following these steps is not guaranteed to get you mentioned in Entrepreneur, it significantly improves your chances. One thing I know for certain is very few businesses get media mentions in national news by doing no media outreach at all.

For a list of media contacts at national magazines like Entrepreneur, please visit our free online news media database called MyLocalReporter. Click “Start Now” and then search based on “National” and you’ll be rewarded with contacts from such magazines as Entrepreneur, Inc., Wired and the Wall Street Journal.

Happy pitching!!

About Dave Manzer:  Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech PR agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave directly about the PR over Coffee blog, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

When Pitching Your News, Reporters Are Your Customers

While selling reporters on your latest news is not all that different from selling customers on your products or services, you have to pitch reporters in a way that makes the decision to use your news an easy one.

In other words, you have to know exactly what reporters want first; then you have to deliver your content in a way that will ultimately please their audience.

Take TV producers and reporters as an example. You must approach them with a story idea that includes plenty of visual elements – scenes that a reporter can film to create a visual narrative. The story idea must also inform, and potentially entertain, so that the viewing audience won’t change the channel. You must paint a picture and give them a date-specific call-to-action such as an invitation to a celebration, fundraiser or award ceremony.  Anything short of that and your story pitch will fall on deaf ears.

The simple fact is if you keep your pitch brief and do your homework about the reporter before pitching him or her, then your chances of getting in the news will go up exponentially.

Happy pitching!

10 Reasons NOT to come Meet Statesman Reporter Brian Gaar

Here is a list of really good reasons why small businesses should not come meet Brian Gaar, roving small business reporter for the Austin American Statesman:

  1. You might hear good advice on how small businesses can approach busy reporters!
  2. You could meet Brian and he might be interested in learning about your business!
  3. If you got an article in the Statesman, then you would have to answer annoying phone calls from new potential customers!
  4. Website clicks would almost certainly grow from news coverage!
  5. You might meet new people, leading to new friends and (who knows?) customer referrals!
  6. Word-of-mouth buzz about how great your product or service is would start to spread without your approval!
  7. You might enjoy the coffee we serve from our beverage sponsor Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf more than your home brew!
  8. You could discover a customer or vendor to help you grow your business!
  9. You might like PR over Coffee’s Dave Manzer and his style of showing you ways to target the media!
  10. Your negative perception about PR could forever change to a positive one!

So there you have it. If you come to see Brian Gaar in Austin, Texas on Tuesday, May 28th to learn how to pitch your stories to Statesman reporters like him, then do so at your own risk.

Here’s the really bad news: registration is still open. If you want to cast your fate to the fickle PR winds, then click HERE now!

Should you make a PR strategy for your small business?

The year is rapidly coming to a close, which means many small businesses will soon start the annual soul-searching and budgeting process.

One thing I have noticed over the years of running PR over Coffee is that most businesses rarely come up with an PR strategy to execute throughout the year. The famous dictum that comes to mind is “Most people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.

Why plan for PR, you ask? Because there are media opportunities happening ALL the time, opportunities that you can create on your own, as well as ones that are happening in the news any given day. Wouldn’t you rather the media talk about your business as opposed to your competition?

Since this post is about PR Strategy, let’s review what some of the questions you should ask yourself as you look to create one for your business:

  1. What is your key differentiation as a business in your community or industry? Are you best known for: Donuts, Gardening, Bird Watching, Goat Cheese, Spa Treatments, Tutoring, Tatoos, etc.? Your primary differentiation should be your overall guide as you create your strategy. In other words, seek to gain as much attention for your “claim to fame” as you possibly can.
  2. What are holidays or national Days, Weeks or Months that have been set aside to commemorate what you do? For instance, September 18 is National Cheeseburger Day, September is National Yoga Month, and the 4th week of June is National Camping Week. Design a special offering around one of these national awareness campaigns and you will make an appealing (and timely) subject for news coverage!
  3. What are competitors doing to get news coverage? If it works for them, then it will work for you!
  4. What media covers your business type or industry the most? This can include your local newspapers, morning TV news shows, magazines, trade journals, blogs, e-zines, etc. Any of these can be a great source of media coverage for your business. Also, check to see if they have an editorial calendar so you can pitch them when they plan to cover your topic or industry. Leave no media stone uncovered!
  5. What are you upcoming promotions, initiatives, and accomplishments? Part of your strategy should be to translate your marketing plan into message “hooks” for the media. (Be advised: selling the media on a story is much different than passing along a marketing message, which is guaranteed to annoy even the most mild-mannered reporter.) Company milestones, hiring plans, product roll-outs, a round of funding for a tech startup – all can and should be incorporated into your PR strategy.
  6. Is your website ready for the traffic? A pleasant byproduct of great media coverage is more website traffic. Making sure your website is worthy of the attention should be part of your PR strategy, even if it’s more of a marketing task. The website should be both functional and pleasant on the eyes (a well optimized website for search engines is a must have).
  7. Finally, how are you holding yourself accountable? If you don’t have a hammer over your head, then you may not take the execution very seriously. Find somebody who won’t let you get away with mediocre performance and make sure he or she will slap you upside the head if you drop the ball!

These are just some of the questions that are important to consider when coming up with your PR strategy. There are always more to ask and I’m happy to answer any you have in the comments section below.

So as you ponder your PR potential, don’t forget to find your support group, create a PR strategy, and hold each other accountable. You too will soon see the media buzz begin to build around your business!

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin PR & marketing agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave directly about the PR over Coffee blog, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

Billions of Buzzing Cicadas? Could Be Great for your PR Buzz!

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They’re down there. Right below our feet. The Rip Van Winkle of the insect world, cicadas, numbering in the billions, are about to hatch after a 17 year snooze. The East Coast is bracing itself for what’s being labeled “Swarmageddon.”

What in the world can billions of insects have to do with your PR? For some of you, quite a lot, actually.

National news outlets like Mashable and FoxNews.com are buzzing with reports about the imminent arrival of the reclusive cicada. Many are looking for experts to interview. Others want to interview local business owners about how cicadas outnumbering humans 600-to-1 may impact their business – either positively or negatively.

The result is that most media outlets – TV, print, blogs and radio – will be reporting on the economic impact of this pesky critter throughout the summer.

That can translate into BIG PR opportunities for small business owners like you.

For those of you not too proud to ride the PR coattails (or wings) of an insect, here is what you should do immediately:

  1. Scan the media: start looking at what media are talking about cicadas. Pay close attention to local news media, as they are your best chance of getting news coverage. Be sure to note the names of reporters so you can reach out to them when the time is right.
  2. Angle: figure out how your business most closely relates to the story. Are you an restaurant with outdoor seating, pest control specialist, or tour company? Maybe you’re planning to hold a special Cicada Tour for science tourists who may want to come from around the world to see this rare event.
  3. Facts: be willing to share facts about your plans to deal with green-winged menace. Are you offering discounts to lure tourists worried about the swarms? Do you plan to hire extra employees to clean your Bed & Breakfast veranda and walking paths? What is the cost impact, or the incremental revenue opportunity? Be precise, honest and forthcoming.
  4. Photo Op: don’t be afraid to take a few pictures and videos of how you’re coping with the icky creatures. One thing media outlets like is when a picture tells a story that will interest an audience. It makes their job of selling a story that much easier.
  5. One-Two Punch: Most media professionals I know from my three years of running PR over Coffee say they prefer to be contacted by email. So start with an email that follows the KISS principle: Keep it Simple Stupid! Come up with an eye-catching (but not hokey) subject line, then briefly sum up the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY and HOW. Tell the reporter you will call in 24 hours and then don’t forget to call. On the phone, be concise and courteous. It will go a long way toward winning some great PR!
  6. Follow-up: you may not connect with a reporter right away. Keep trying. They may seem aloof and uninterested but more often than not it’s because they deal with 100s of story pitches from businesses every day. So keep trying, but avoid being annoying or rude or you can kiss your chance at publicity good bye.

Entrepreneurs like us need to be ready to hop on any news trend that can shine a media spotlight on our small business. Even if that means embracing the great Cicada Crisis of 2013!

Keep the stories coming. And may the media be with you!

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