Tips on working with press

 

Over the summer, I did a bout of beauty blogging for a website. I had the chance to work with a number of companies that spanned the whole range of size. It was an eye-opening experience and something that I’m glad I did, if for only learning what it’s like to be on the other side of the beauty blog. So here’s what I’ve learned about getting press for your business (keep in mind that though these are beauty-related, many of these fit into other types of business)

Getting press for your business:

1. “Samples” are not samples

I already knew this, but I was surprised at how many small businesses DIDN’T know this. You have to send full-size products. YOU HAVE TO. Sending me a mini version of your lotion shows me that you’re not used to dealing with press and are at a hobby level. Is it expensive to do? Yes. Is it wasted product? Yes. But editorials are a gamble and if you don’t pay to play, you’re not going to get out there.

2. The press will not pay and you should not ask

I had an article that was regarding summer skin care picks. I posted a submission on HARO, I didn’t go out and request samples from any company, I let them pitch to me and if I found their product intriguing, I’d ask for samples to review and if I felt it was a decent product that fit with the theme, I would include it in my round up. I wouldn’t have dared to be so bold as to pitch to a business myself. I hate receiving those types of inquiries, and wouldn’t want to do that to someone else. My point to this is, I felt it was better to put my pitch out there and if companies thought it was something they wanted to pursue, they could come to me.

I had one woman, who ran her own business, pitch to me. I didn’t think her line fit with what I was going with, but I really liked her stuff and reached out with the idea that we do a different article with her things featured. She said she liked the idea, and she could send me her PayPal email so that I could pay for the product.

I get where she was coming from, as she is a small business, and I understood that every tiny cost in a start up is a HUGE cost, and free product isn’t cheap to produce. The editors I’ve had the fortune to work with in national publications would’ve written her off and never worked with her again because…

3. You’re going up against Coppertone and Sam Goody

Look, my article was about summer beauty. And sunscreen, okay yeah, that fits, but wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. Coppertone reached out to me and they were right, it was something that should be part of the article, even if I wasn’t thinking of it.

Again, this was for a blog, not a national print magazine, and I was not a top contributor there. This was, in fact, my first article for the website so I had no clout or anything that would sway a company to think I was someone that needed to be schmoozed.

That didn’t matter. Coppertone sent a messenger to my studio with a gift bag FULL of 8 different sunscreens (full-sized). Sam Goody sent me over $200 worth of brushes, headbands, scrunchies, everything.

You want to be noticed by the press? You’ve got to realize you’re competing against conglomerate companies and if you can’t appear to be generous and confident in your products, then you’re getting put in the “giveaway” pile.

4. Keep your press kit simple

Publicists pitched to me solely through email. The emails were ALL very long and detailed, there were rarely 1 paragraph pitches from professionals. The emails that stood out to me:

  • Weren’t gimmicky – cute slogans and different colors and fonts just showed me fluff, when I was looking for info
  • Had links to products, not attachments
  • Kept it simple: who/what/where/when/why/how

Once I selected a few to pursue, I would receive their samples and press kits. The press kits spanned the spectrum of size, quality, info, etc. To be entirely honest, I only read about 10% of them, and that was after scanning the emails for info. The press kits were all varied, some were in fancy folders, others were loose leaf, but they WERE hard copy. None involved things I would have to download to my computer, which I most likely would not have done.

5. Make it stupidly obvious

One company sent me a 6 pack of samples, in sample-sized containers, with no labels on them. I still don’t know what they are, and they sit, a shrink-wrapped collection of mystery, just the way they came. Obviously, they weren’t used in the articles.

Don’t assume you’re the only one sending product info. Re-iterate the product name, what it does, what the ingredients are…just send the full-sized product, okay? It will save you lots of effort.

6. Follow ups are great,  but don’t be that guy

If you want to check in to make sure the samples were received, I think that is a totally appropriate email. I think following up a week or so after that if you haven’t heard from the editor is justified. I don’t think, though, that checking in multiple times to see if the product is included in a round up IS appropriate, nor does it put you in a good light. I absolutely get WHY someone would follow up multiple times, we’re all nervous and excited of the possibility of having our products featured in an editorial, which can be much more of a lucrative venture than direct advertising.

But I learned that if I wanted to include your product, I would reach out to you for images or more info. If I didn’t like your product and didn’t think it was a good fit, I was more inclined to spare your feelings. I had a company email me 3 times a week, asking if the article was out and if I included their product. I did not.

Put yourself in their shoes…they’re receiving multiple inquiries, follow ups, products, and pitches a day. Adding more emails to their list…well…it’s a lesson in patience, that’s for sure. If they want to include it, they will reach out to you to let you know. Don’t overwhelm them and get on their bad side.

7. If they don’t use it now, they might use it later

I wrote, I think, about 10 or so articles for the blog. I had only done one pitch through HARO and from that stemmed 10 articles. Some pitches didn’t work right for the original article, but their products found a place in subsequent articles. As long as your pitch stays on topic (aka don’t pitch body scrubs if the article is about hair color), they may find a way to include you somewhere down the road. Don’t annoy them by, again, pitching body scrubs for an article about hair color. If you keep your pitch on point and genuine, they will be more inclined to check out your stuff. And if it doesn’t work for one article, they have you in their arsenal and may use you in a future editorial.

8. Sometimes, it really is out of their control

I had more stories planned for the blog, and ones I had told companies about that I wanted to use their products for. But for one reason or another, the editorials never came to fruition. Some times senior editors knock down an article idea, some times the article is off-season, some times it just doesn’t happen. Don’t get frustrated and don’t lose hope. It’s an editors job to post content and, if you stick to #7, it’ll happen.

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