1. How did you first learn of the power of the press release in your career as a dog behavior expert?
I was first introduced to the power of press releases through a marketing course. It was the first time that I realized that there were reporters, journalists, and producers looking for knowledgeable people who have educational, newsworthy, and entertaining information to feature in the press.
I had thought that publicity was only for the large companies and corporations with big marketing budgets, so it was a real eye-opener to discover that it was also for small companies, individuals, and non-profit organizations.
Like a lot of people, I had heard only negative stories about the press, so it was good to put myself in a reporter's shoes. I realized that they have a lot of slots to fill and welcome stories that will make their job easier.
It's also really fun to do: not only is it lucrative for your business, but it gives you instant authority in your field, and it's exciting opening up a newspaper and reading your article, listening to yourself on the radio, or seeing yourself on TV.
2. When it comes to promoting a business, what are some tips for coming up with a newsworthy angle for a press release?
It's true a press release needs to have a specific topic or angle and be newsworthy, interesting, and not a disguised advert. Here are ten story ideas that could be used.
- "Top 10" lists of helpful information
- Offering anything free
- New company launch
- Release of a new product
- Winning an award or special title
- Change of key personnel (hiring, retirement, resignation, death)
- Charity work and charitable contributions
- Achieving milestones (anniversary of the business)
- Seminars/conferences/workshops/teleconference/webinar/trade shows
- News of the wild, weird, and unusual
3. For someone who hasn't written a press release before, what are the benefits to taking a do-it-yourself approach rather than hiring a marketing firm or consultant?
There are so many benefits to writing your own press releases. The most common benefit is cost. Employing the services of a marketing company doesn't come cheap; you would need a PR budget, and it affects your bottom line as the publicity is no longer free.
Another benefit is if you don't get featured from a press release you send out, it costs you nothing, whereas you'll likely still need to pay agency fees regardless of the results.
When I started my publicity journey over eight years ago, I initially enrolled with a PR company. I was one of many people on their books and decided to run my own PR campaigns alongside what they were doing.
I did receive some local press from their promotions, but by doing it myself, I received national exposure and quickly started working with celebrities.
By doing my own PR, I was able to focus solely on my business, rather than the focus being diluted to a number of clients. I also was, and still am, more enthusiastic and passionate about my business than they were, which I think is only natural; no one is more passionate about their business than the business owner themselves. The results spoke volumes, and I quickly ended my contract with the PR firm, and over the last eight years, I have received many £100,000s worth of free publicity.
4. What are some criteria you might suggest for evaluating a press release to determine if it will be effective?
In order for a press release to be successful, it needs to be relevant to the media outlet it is sent to. For example, if it's sent to the local newspaper, it needs to have a local angle and/or you should live in that local area. It also must contain the 5 W's as an article can't be written without them. The following is an example for a story about a new beekeeping business.
- Who: You and your company, "Bee's Knees," and your target market (farmers for produce pollination, hobbyists, commercial endeavors).
- What: What it is/does and any special features you offer (classes, supplies, removal of unwanted hives, pick-up and delivery, sale of honey, beeswax, royal jelly or queens/workers to start other hives).
- When: The official opening or when the launch took place or will soon take place.
- Where: Where you're located and why you chose that location/venue/town.
- Why: There's a myriad of possible answers for this. You may have perceived a need for this type of business, or it may have been your hobby and you decided to monetize it. You may be taking over the family business, realizing a childhood dream, or starting a business for your retirement.
5. In your experience, what is the biggest myth about getting free publicity that holds people back?
The biggest myth is that you need to know everything in your field and have been in business for many years in order to claim the "expert" position and be featured. This is not true. When I first received national press about being a dog behavior expert, I had a natural healing business and not a dog training business! I know that sounds strange but this is what happened...
I love dogs and had recently got two male Parson Russell Terrier puppies from the same litter. I was told by numerous dog trainers that it was the worst case scenario and I would need to re-home one of them as they would fight for the top-dog position. There was no way that was going to happen, so I was on a mission to stop these predictions from coming true.
I learned my dogs' language instead of trying to humanize them, and I shared this method with my therapy clients with their dogs. The results were astounding, so when I heard a national radio station (BBC Radio 2) was doing a story about dogs, I contacted the show and offered my services. Three days later I was sitting in the studio being featured on their show.
I had a great time. I was introduced as a dog behavior expert and gave their listeners lots of dog training tips and advice. My local press at the time was actually about my transition from healing people to taming unruly dogs. There was nothing to hide.
The definition of expert in the Oxford English Dictionary is: "A person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area."
This is not governed by how many years you've been in business, and you don't need to know absolutely everything.
Dare to be different, believe in yourself, and the sky's the limit!