Want to secure press coverage on your company this year? Here's what you need to know. Photo via All You Need Method

If you’re looking to build brand awareness, establish trust and credibility, and reach more customers in 2023, landing a press placement can be impactful for your small business. A traditional PR placement, also known as “earned media,” is one of the most valuable endorsements for a business, and you do have to earn it.

The good news is that in today’s digital landscape you don’t need a PR agency or consultant to land press coverage, you can pursue media coverage on your own. By prioritizing your brand foundation and telling your brand story through your owned channels (such as your website, newsletter and social media platforms), you can capture the attention of the media. Pair a strong brand and storytelling with the appropriate tactics for working with editors, and you will be set up for success.

Read our insider tips below to help you secure press coverage for your business this year.

1. Good PR starts with your brand

If you’ve ever wondered how to catch the attention of an editor, it starts with your brand — and by brand, we don’t just mean your branding (logo, colors, fonts, etc.) — although that is one component.

Good PR starts with a good story, one that is unique and differentiated. Editors are looking for more than just a product or service – they are looking for something special and new that their readers will benefit from.

Building your brand is about establishing the personality and story behind your business that goes beyond sales and promotions. Taking the time to build your brand is one of the best investments you can make as a small business owner. Not only will it help with your PR and marketing efforts, but it will also support your overall long-term success.

Building a brand foundation and learning how to tell your brand story includes your company positioning, your values, articulating what makes you different, crafting your founding story, refining your visual aesthetic and tone of voice, and much more.

Being able to communicate what makes you different, what you stand for, what you have to offer, and what you want to be known for – and developing a brand aesthetic that reflects your unique point of view – will allow you to stand out from the competition and capture the attention of the media.

2. Tell your own story

In our digital world brands are being discovered online. This means that your website and Instagram channel are often the first impression of your business to both consumers and editors. That said, it’s essential for your success that your digital presence communicates and reflects your brand foundation – the personality and substance behind your business. One question to consider is if your ideal customer or editor came to your website or Instagram for 30 seconds, would they walk away knowing the three most important things about your business and with a clear idea of what you stand for, what makes you different, and what you have to offer?

Your owned channels also provide an exciting opportunity to connect directly with your ideal customers, influencers, potential partners, as well as the media. By sharing your brand narrative consistently across your owned channels, you have the potential to build a meaningful relationship with your audience that can grow into loyal followers and customers.

The key is communicating consistently – you want your brand to be cohesive across all channels, so that everything from an Instagram post to your homepage reflects the unique brand positioning you’ve established. To achieve a consistent brand narrative, you want to make sure your messaging, photography, copywriting, graphics, and any other creative materials reflect the brand foundation you’ve built.

An invaluable practice at any stage of business is to conduct a brand audit in order to evaluate if your digital channels are communicating your brand foundation effectively. Read our three steps for conducting a brand audit here.

3. Draft and organize your materials

Drafting and organizing materials is one of the first tasks to tackle when preparing to reach out to the media. Editors are inundated with emails (thousands and thousands a day) and receiving easy-to-review dropbox links and files makes their job much easier. A lengthy email without a clear hook is a sure way to end up in someone’s Trash folder and left unread.

We cannot express enough how important photography is for securing press. Many publications rely on a brand’s photography. Without images it is oftentimes impossible for an editor to cover a brand. This goes for your personal brand too - if you’re an expert or offer a service, you will also need to provide a professional headshot or lifestyle image. Brands with consumer products will also need to show product photography.

There are a wide range of materials you may need based on your industry, but here are the essentials:

  • About page: a one-page document outlining the who, what, when, where, and why of your company
  • Bio: an overview of your background and why you started your company, with a few personal details
  • Line Sheet: images, pricing and key details for product collections
  • Product photography: Lay flats of your product on a white seamless background
  • Lifestyle photography: Images that bring your product or service to life by showing them in use
  • Headshot: Professional photo of the founder or expert styled in a way that is relevant to the brand. I.e. if you’re a chef or a nutritionist, take your headshot in a beautiful kitchen, if you’re an artist or interior designer take your headshot in your studio

4. Research, research, research

We often get asked how to know who to reach out to. Every publication is different, which is why research is very important. Taking the time to properly research will save you a lot of time in the long-run and allow you to pinpoint which outlets and contacts are the best fit for your business. As you research, be sure to organize contact information and notes into a media list so you can keep track of who to reach out to and any feedback you receive.

We have a free media list template that you can download here.

When researching, keep these four tips in mind:

  • Be targeted – Focus on publications whose audience matches your own and who feel like a fit with your brand aesthetic and values
  • Scope out the competition - Where have your competitors, or brands and experts you admire, been featured?
  • Read recent articles - Whether you pick up magazines or do a Google search, look and see who has been writing about brands or other experts in your industry lately. When you use Google Search, use the Tools option to narrow down your search to articles in the past 6 months or year.
  • Look at the masthead - A magazine’s masthead is a list of its editorial staff and can give you helpful insight into who covers which category. You can usually find a masthead online, or in the front pages of a print publication.

5. Think like an editor

Editors are looking for interesting stories, new items, and pieces that will pop on a page. They work off of editorial calendars, and many magazines have set themes for each month. You can Google a magazine’s editorial calendar to find out their upcoming themes and think about where there might be a fit for your product or service, or for you as the founder of your business.

To think like an editor, keep these three tips in mind:

  1. Utilize Editorial Calendars. Most reputable magazines, outline outlets, and even blogs, share an annual “editorial calendar” on their website. Editorial calendars outline the theme for each issue, the date the issue comes out, and the topics they are covering. While editorial calendars are technically created for advertisers, they are an invaluable free resource for PR planning if you know how to use them to your advantage.
  2. Learn Lead Times. Be sure to keep what PR professionals call “lead times'' in mind. There are two main categories most publications and media outlets fall into: long lead and short lead. Long lead publications are typically glossy print publications or special issues of a newspaper that work about working three to six months in advance. For example, if you want to pitch an item for a holiday gift guide in a December issue (which hits stands in November) you want to be ready to send that information to the publication in July. Short lead publications and/or outlets include daily newspapers, weekly magazines, online outlets, such as digital versions of magazines and blogs, and broadcast news. Their lead times can range from a month in advance, to a week or even less.
  3. Understand What is “Newsworthy” vs. Seasonal/Evergreen. Editors cover what is new and newsworthy, as well as seasonal and evergreen topics that are relevant to their readers. When thinking about what you have to pitch, such as a specific product, consider whether it is evergreen and can be covered at any time, or if it is a seasonal item. This will guide the timing and context of your pitch.

6. Build relationships

Building relationships is incredibly impactful when it comes to landing press placements. Reaching out in a personal way, gifting your product or service, and keeping in touch with editors and writers over time will increase your chances of being covered with the right fit arrives.

When reaching out to editors, what do you have to offer? News? Tips? A cool new product collection to check out? This is not a transactional relationship, think long term and how you can be a resource for this editor or publication beyond what you are pitching at this moment.

Personalization and authenticity are key. Your first email to an editor should not be a “pitch” or a press release, it should be an introduction of yourself and your business. Be sure to research each person in advance and follow them on social media so you can personalize each email – mention a recent article of theirs that you enjoyed reading, or a recent Instagram post on their feed that you found interesting.

If you are able to set up a call, Zoom, or in person meeting, that is ideal for relationship building. We also recommend offering to gift your product or service to contacts at outlets that are on the top of your dream press list. This goes a long way and will allow them to be able to speak about your product or service from firsthand experience.

Lastly, be sure to follow up. If you don’t hear back, there is a good chance they missed your first email. Wait a couple of weeks and send a nice follow up. Remember, this is a long game and it takes time.

------

Kathryn Worsham Humphries and Carla M. Nikitaidis are the Co-Creators of All You Need Method, a PR and brand strategy consulting firm for small business owners, creative entrepreneurs, and digital creators who are looking to build a brand and raise brand awareness through PR, content marketing, and partnerships. They offer support through their online course, The Brand Starter Kit, 1:1 Strategy Sessions, and custom client projects.

What does your company plan on bringing into the new year — and how do you plan to communicate your efforts? Photo courtesy of All You Need Method

5 PR and marketing tips for Houston startups and small businesses in 2021

guest column

The past year has been a rollercoaster for small businesses. When the pandemic hit, every single person was affected. We've all had to pivot in some way either personally, professionally, or both.

As public relations and marketing professionals who specialize in working with small businesses, we've spent the last 10 months in the trenches with our clients, advising and helping business owners and entrepreneurs navigate these uncertain times. While small business revenue is down since January 2020, it's not all doom and gloom out there – we've seen many other businesses experience unexpected success and growth, and according to economists, we are entering the greatest entrepreneurial economy of our time.

And as we start this new year, there is no better time to invest in business growth and planning. Below are five tips to help you get started.

1. Get smart on your PR

Whether you know a little or a lot about public relations, marketing, and social media, take some time to get caught up on the current landscape. It is constantly changing, and having a better understanding of how traditional media, social media, paid marketing, owned content and all other components can benefit your business will inform decisions about where to allocate your time and resources.

First, assess what stage of business you are in as well as your business goals to determine what PR and marketing tools could be most beneficial to your growth at this time. Not all small businesses are prepared, financially or otherwise, to invest in PR, and there are fundamental steps you can do on your own to get your business positioned to succeed.

With online education booming, there are many free resources and tools at your disposal. We created All You Need Method to simplify PR and marketing for small business owners. You can download our Free PR Roadmap on our website to assess what level of PR support is right for your business. We also created The PR Starter Kit online course to give small business owners the fundamental tools they need to use PR, marketing, and social media to support business growth and build a lasting brand – and it only takes a few hours to complete.

2. Revisit your target audience

The world has changed significantly over the past year and so have the wants, needs, habits, and interests of consumers. As a small business, it's imperative to understand your target audience's current problems in order to relate to them, build trust, and deliver a product or service that is meeting their needs.

Before investing time and financial resources creating and executing a 2021 business plan, take a step back and consider your ideal customer. Outline how the past year has created opportunities or challenges in their life, problems they are facing, new shopping habits, lifestyle shifts, communication preferences, concerns, etc. If you have more than one ideal customer, work through this exercise for each.

With this new perspective, you will be equipped to make business decisions through the lens of how you can better serve your customers, rather than how to increase revenue.

3. Stand for something

Brands that are succeeding today are the brands that are authentic, vulnerable, and that stand for something. According to a global study by Zeno Group in July 2020, consumers are 4 to 6 times more likely to purchase and champion purpose-driven companies.

Having a purpose doesn't require a brand to have a philanthropy component or an outspoken political stance – it's about identifying your specific values and making them apparent through your messaging and leadership within your industry. Values could include committing to sustainable production methods, outstanding customer service, commitment to diversity, or supporting a specific cause. What is most important is that your values are authentic and that you can stand behind them long-term.

As the founder/owner of a small business, you have an opportunity to put a face and values behind the brand so that your company is about more than selling something.

4. Clarify your message

After revisiting your target audience and carefully considering your brand values, incorporate those findings into your messaging. Conduct an audit of your website, social media channels, and all external facing materials, and update your messaging to ensure that if your ideal customer had a 30 second encounter with your brand, they would walk away with your most important messaging points. Important points to consider as you craft new messaging include:

  • How your product or service solves a problem for or benefits your target audience
  • Brand values
  • Points of differentiation

5. Be authentic and communicative

Before the days of social media, a brand had to rely on third parties, including editorials and ads in magazines and newspapers, to spread the word about their brand. Social media and all "owned channels," including a brand's website, blog, and newsletter, have leveled the playing field and allow small business owners to have control over their communication with customers. Through your owned channels, a brand can decide what to post and when, which is incredibly valuable.

While securing press and advertising opportunities is valuable to growth and brand awareness, it's largely outside of one's control. Focus your time and financial resources on communicating with your audience by creating content for your owned channels. Creating content and posting consistently can seem overwhelming to a solopreneur or small team, but there are ways to make it manageable:

  • Pick only a few owned channels to focus on, prioritizing platforms you are most familiar with using and where your audience is most active
  • Quality and consistency are more important than quantity. If you're only posting once a week due to bandwidth, commit to that frequency and increase frequency as you are able
  • To inspire and inform content creation, think about how you can serve your customers through your areas of expertise and what is relevant to both your brand and audience (events, holidays, partnerships, new product launches, etc.)
  • Create a content calendar so that you can plan out posts a month in advance to avoid last minute scrambling to decide what to post

Once you've worked through these five tips, make a plan to support your business goals - and start thinking in two phases.

  • Phase 1: Pandemic Home Stretch - Although there is hope with a COVID-19 vaccine, we know we will likely be dealing with the effects indefinitely. Use this time of uncertainty to get your business in the best shape possible.
  • Phase 2: Post Pandemic - How do you want your business or brand to show up when the world opens back up? It feels far off, but it is closer than you think and there is a huge opportunity for those who are willing to put in the work now.

Remember, these challenging times will pass. There is massive opportunity for the businesses and brands who are willing to reflect, pivot, and plan for a brighter future.

------

Kathryn Worsham Humphries and Carla M. Nikitaidis are the co-creators of Houston-based All You Need Method, a PR and marketing resource for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Innovative coastline project on Bolivar Peninsula receives federal funding

flood mitigation

The Galveston’s Coastal Barrier Project recently received federal funding to the tune of $500,000 to support construction on its flood mitigation plans for the area previously devastated by Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Known as Ike Dike, the proposed project includes implementing the Galveston Bay Storm Surge Barrier System, including eight Gulf and Bay defense projects. The Bolivar Roads Gate System, a two-mile-long closure structure situated between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula, is included in the plans and would protect against storm surge volumes entering the bay.

The funding support comes from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and will go toward the preconstruction engineering and design phase of Ecosystem Restoration feature G-28, the first segment of the Bolivar Peninsula and West Bay Gulf Intracoastal Waterway Shoreline and Island Protection.

Coastal Barrier Project - Galveston Projects

The project also includes protection of critical fish and wildlife habitat against coastal storms and erosion.

“The Coastal Texas Project is one of the largest projects in the history of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” says Col. Rhett A. Blackmon, USACE Galveston District commander, in a statement. “This project is important to the nation for many reasons. Not only will it reduce risk to the vulnerable populations along the Texas coast, but it will also protect vital ecosystems and economically critical infrastructure vital to the U.S. supply chain and the many global industries located here.”

Hurricane Ike resulted in over $30 billion in storm-related damages to the Texas coast, reports the Coastal Barrier Project, and created a debris line 15 feet tall and 40 miles long in Chambers County. The estimated economic disruption due to Hurricane Ike exceeded $150 billion, FEMA reported.

The project is estimated to take two years to complete after construction starts and will cost between $4 billion and $6 billion, reports Texas A&M University at Galveston.

Houston organization selects research on future foods in space health to receive $1M in funding

research and development

What would we eat if we were forced to decamp to another planet? The most immediate challenges faced by the food industry and astronauts exploring outside Earth are being addressed by The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Space Medicine’s newest project.

Earlier this month, TRISH announced the initial selection for its Space Health Ingress Program (SHIP) solicitation. Working with California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Baylor-based program chose “Future Foods for Space: Mobilizing the Future Foods Community to Accelerate Advances in Space Health,” led by Dr. Denneal Jamison-McClung at the University of California, Davis.

“TRISH is bringing in new ideas and investigators to propel space health research,” says Catherine Domingo, TRISH operations lead and research administration associate at Baylor College of Medicine, in the release. “We have long believed that new researchers with fresh perspectives drive innovation and advance human space exploration and SHIP builds on TRISH’s existing efforts to recruit and support new investigators in the space health research field, potentially yielding and high-impact ideas to protect space explorers.”

The goal of the project is to develop sustainable food products and ingredients that could fuel future space travelers on long-term voyages, or even habitation beyond our home planet.

Jamison-McClung and her team’s goal is to enact food-related space health research and inspire the community thereof by mobilizing academic and food-industry researchers who have not previously engaged with the realm of space exploration. Besides growing and developing food products, the project will also address production, storage, and delivery of the nutrition created by the team.

To that end, Jamison-McClung and her recruits will receive $1 million over the course of two years. The goal of the SHIP solicitation is to work with first-time NASA investigators, bringing new minds to the forefront of the space health research world.

“As we look to enable safer space exploration and habitation for humans, it is clear that food and nutrition are foundational,” says Dr. Asha S. Collins, chair of the SHIP advisory board, in a press release. “We’re excited to see how accelerating innovation in food science for space health could also result in food-related innovations for people on Earth in remote areas and food deserts.”

Clean energy nonprofit CEO to step down, search for replacement to begin

moving on

Greentown Labs, which is co-located in the Boston and Houston areas, has announced its current CEO is stepping down after less than a year in the position.

The nonprofit's CEO and President Kevin Knobloch announced that he will be stepping down at the end of July 2024. Knobloch assumed his role last September, previously serving as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term.

“It has been an honor to lead this incredible team and organization, and a true privilege to get to know many of our brilliant startup founders," Knobloch says in the news release. “Greentown is a proven leader in supporting early-stage climatetech companies and I can’t wait to see all that it will accomplish in the coming years.”

The news of Knobloch's departure comes just over a month after the organization announced that it was eliminating 30 percent of its staff, which affected 12 roles in Boston and six in Houston.

According the Greentown, its board of directors is expected to launch a national search for its next CEO.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I want to thank Kevin for his efforts to strengthen the foundation of Greentown Labs and for charting the next chapter for the organization through a strategic refresh process,” says Dawn James, Greentown Labs Board Chair, in the release. “His thoughtful leadership will leave a lasting impact on the team and community for years to come.”

Knobloch reportedly shifted Greentown's sponsorship relationships with oil companies, sparking "friction within the organization," according to the Houston Chronicle, which also reported that Knobloch said he intends to return to his clean energy consulting firm.

------

This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.