Think Better Marketing


Some Suggestions for PR and Link Building

I learned and used old “PR rules" in the early 2000s. I spent entire afternoons faxing press releases to editors. Did you read that? I said “FAXING!”. I knew that my faxes would go unread (much like our emails do these days). But, I did it anyway because it’s what you did.

I understood that there were gatekeepers—those people with the connections who could get a story placed.

One day, I got brave enough to try something different.

It was 2007, before social media was a channel to the press. Instead, I decided that I didn’t need to have a relationship with an editor or news desk to have the right to share a story with them. I called around to every publisher in the Denver area with my news—the bicycle tour I was working for, Ride The Rockies, had announced their route for the year.

I left a lot of messages. Many of them weren’t returned, but some of them were. I will never forget when I got a call back from the Executive Producer of 9News. He wanted my story. It was the highlight of my month. I had done it. I got a story placed and it didn’t happen because I’d passively faxed a release in the proper format. I also hadn’t emailed a pitch or published something to the wire. Instead, I did my research and I went hunting. And today, with Google as a research tool and social media as direct access to press, it’s easier than ever to be heard and the process is also not nearly so formal.

We all know that PR is great for brand awareness, but it’s also great for link building and SEO. And the path to press coverage is open to anyone.

You just need to figure out two things:

Your Story

The critical piece here is that it’s a real story, not that you just released a new feature or that you’re “innovating” an industry, but news about something that is going to change how someone thinks about their day, their work, or their world.

Who to Share Your Story With

There are hundreds of journalists and none of them are waiting around for news, they are hunting for it. They aren’t holding their breath, refreshing their email waiting for you to send that release. No, they are out in the world, on social media and on their respective news sites talking about and covering topics related to your business. You just have to find them and you have to tell them how you can help them and why they should care about your story.

A quick caveat…there is value to PR agencies, if you have the budget. PR professionals have spent their careers doing the research and building the relationships. They know what their network cares about and how to reach them, but it can be expensive to work with these groups.

So if you don’t have the budget, and many of us don’t, that’s okay. There’s really no better person to tell your story than you. So go out and tell it.

Here’s how to define your story and who to share it with:

For some, defining your story might be easy, but for others who don’t have something obviously newsworthy to share, it can be hard to define your pitch.

For those of you without an obvious pitch, start with a single person in mind as your audience. Who do you want to hear your story and what do they care about?

Once you have that person in mind ask the following questions:

  • How does the work you do impact the things your audience cares about?

  • What are you and your business doing right now that is relevant to that audience?

  • Is what you’re doing different than what others are doing? How?

  • Have you won awards recently?

  • Did your team just get certified in something that impacts how you serve your customers?

  • Does your leadership team have an interesting story?

  • Is there something unique about the people that work for you ?

  • Is your company or how you work unique in some way?

Look at other news headlines for inspiration. When you define your headline, your hook, prioritize clarity over cleverness. This isn’t about “marketing” this is about communicating.

This article has more ideas for ways to come up with pitches (and link building approaches).

Once you’ve come up with a pitch, here’s how to determine who to share it with:

Identify some company attributes:

  • Your company type

  • The background of your founder

  • Type of financing

  • Your customer characteristics

  • Purpose, Values, Culture

  • Geography

  • Sector / Market

Find five to ten other companies that share some of these attributes and find out who is covering those companies.

Build a list of the press that is covering those companies and send your pitch to those who will find your story relevant.

Another approach is to identify the topics that are related to your company and find the people who cover those topics.

You are likely in business, so that’s one possibility. But your business probably serves a specific industry or practice. That’s another possible area.

For example, we have a client that creates eCommerce software for the wine business. When we pitch stories for them, we focus on publishers that focus on the wine industry, but we also pitch to business publications writing about small business and technology, or technology publications who cover eCommerce.

Identify your topics and then start searching for the writers and editors that cover those topics. Build a list of ten of them. Now take that list and follow those people and publishers on Twitter and subscribe to their feeds.

A great way to keep tabs on your list is to create a channel in Slack that aggregates the RSS feeds and Google Alerts related to them. That way, when you see news or coverage related to your business, you can respond with your thoughts or supporting information and begin to build relationships with reporters, so when you do have a story to pitch, they know who you are.

That brings me to The Pitch

Send your pitch via email and/or send a DM on Twitter. Twitter is the new telephone. No one picks up unknown calls . Hell, barely anyone talks on the phone anymore. But reporters will respond to your DMs if they are interested in your story.

You can publish a release to the wire using a tool like PRWeb for the purposes of validation and the ability to point to a source.

If you’re not sure if your story is newsworthy, write to an editor and propose a guest article on your topic. Many publishers are seeking free content and editorial content on a press site is much more effective than any display ads you could ever buy on that site.

Lastly, invest time in building relationships.

  • Respond to tweets that are relevant, with your thoughts and information about the work your company is doing.

  • Share relevant articles via email with writers and publishers.

  • Know your industry’s publications. Support them and share with them regularly. As part of our Blog Publishing Checklist, we encourage our clients to distribute new content, via email, to industry press. You can read more about that here.

Do you have suggestions for PR and link building? We’d love to hear them! Email us at hello [at]