Not many have the time or interest to invest in things outside of their daily scope. This unfortunate reality is simply a way of life, exacerbated by social media and technology that provides individualized content for anyone on the go. To climb over this hurdle and insert yourself or your product in front of the right audience, it’s important—now more than ever—to learn how to be your own publicist and how to promote yourself.
Think of it this way: Lady Gaga secured a spot in meme history after incessantly repeating a variation of “there can be 100 people in a room and 99 don’t believe in you, but one does,” during her A Star Is Born press and awards tour. And while she may not have predicted its virality, the sentiment of her words remains sincere and true to this day. In fact, that one person in the room of 100 who believes in you may just be you.
From defining and solidifying a strong and distinctive brand to actual pitching practices, here are some tips to potentially put yourself or your business in front of the eyes of millions of consumers by securing media and promoting your work.
1. Build a genuine brand
Pinpoint your passion
Nobody knows you or your ideas better than you. It’s your responsibility as an entrepreneur, innovator, or service provider to research and understand every facet of the industry you’re representing or choosing to dive into.
This must, first and foremost, come from a passion within and an excitement to create change or fill a void in a unique and groundbreaking way. Once this is established, you have the foundation of your brand, aka how or what you want to be defined and perceived by the world around you.
Authenticity is the first key to success. Consumers will never engage with a person, product, or business they find to be phony or fake. You must become an expert in your field and rarely, if ever, feign enthusiasm when promoting your business. People are turning to you for information or guidance. You want and need to earn their trust if you’re hoping to translate this into more opportunities and sales.
Tune in with your emotions
How does working on this business endeavor make you feel? Burnt out? A little anxious? Motivated? If your answer is the former, you may want to take a pause and determine if the effort you’re putting forth is worthwhile.
Promoting yourself or an idea is hard work, but should never feel like too much of a burden or sacrifice. If it does, you may be losing a bit of “you” or your passion in the process. And then, your actions may come across as disingenuous.
Do your research
Chances are likely that you’re delving into a crowded space with your business. And that’s entirely OK. The world has nearly eight billion people, and you won’t be the first to capitalize on a popular interest, talent, or idea.
But, what makes what you’re offering stand out? What can you provide to disrupt this noise and grab someone’s attention?
It’s critical that you take full advantage of the internet and social media to scope out the competition, their achievements and failures, as well as trends that may lend themselves to new ideas and ways to find your niche. You must ensure that you or your product is unique enough to not be bulldozed or overshadowed by industry rivals. This will be crucial when learning how to be your own publicist and marketing your business.
2. Surround yourself with the right people
Believe in the power of positivity
Friends and family members will be your biggest support system before you disembark on any new journey. Rely on these trusted voices to build up your personal confidence and the confidence you must possess in your vision to guarantee its success. They’re here for you and are always an ear to run an idea by or to help you build up your brand before the actual pitching begins.
Is there someone in your industry that you admire and is accessible? If so, find any opportunity to establish a relationship with them and pick their brain. What was their process? What were the roadblocks they faced? Do they see something in you or your goals that you’re overlooking? Go out of your way to learn from their accomplishments and mistakes.
Successful people are eager to share their life lessons—so long as it’s not in direct competition with their own interests. And always remember that while imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, don’t be a second-rate version. Your unique brand is what will (and should) take you to the next level when promoting your business.
Know your target audience
Who is mostly interested in your product? It’s unwise to assume that you’ll appeal to the masses (nobody or nothing ever does), so specificity is a-OK here. In fact, we encourage a niche business at Teachable!
Get a sense of who is buying your course or your product. And then surround yourself with these people to learn their habits, likes, dislikes, and anything that will require you to tailor around their individual needs. Chances are that you’re already in that world anyhow.
Encourage brainstorming and constructive criticism
Sometimes we can get so invested in an idea that we fail to take a step back and see what we may be missing or doing wrong. It’s important to surround yourself with people who are willing to play devil’s advocate and provide concrete assessments on what isn’t working or could go south. A great way to do this is to release your content to students via a pre-sale or even a mini course.
Ultimately, it’s important to find someone who challenges your thinking and forces you to constantly ask questions. And always be receptive to this feedback. Putting ego aside is crucial in determining quick and simple ways to enhance your brand and make it more appealing to not just your audience, but also stakeholders who will take it to the next level.
4. Come up with an action plan
Start with small publicity wins
When learning how to be your own publicist, first commit to consistency. Do this by posting daily on Instagram, weekly to a video series on YouTube, or writing a monthly newsletter. Reach out to your favorite podcasters to appear as a guest or consider starting one yourself.
Do anything to give you or your product a voice and, most importantly, a creative outlet. This is a great way to test whether or not what you’re doing is resonating. If people are not engaging in some way, it may be time to go back to the drawing board and rethink the direction you want to take before devoting more time and energy into launching a full-blown course.
But always dream big
Keep an eye on the prize. Big dreams are what motivate us to keep going each and every day, no matter how grand or over-the-top they may be. If your goal is to book yourself on the Today Show or get your product in the hands of Oprah Winfrey, never lose focus and channel these objectives into the enthusiasm you need for promotion.
This fervor is tangible and contagious. If you’ve done everything you can to launch your course, build your brand successfully, and are excited about the future, chances are likely that everyone around you will also be excited.
5. Be 100% prepared
Put together a killer resume. And, we don’t necessarily mean your actual resume. Rather, this can mean promoting yourself properly within your “About me” portion of your online course or website page. Or even asking students or customers for feedback for testimonies.
If you have a website that hosts all of your necessary information, like broadcast clips for on-air opportunities or glowing reviews for a product or service, you can easily sync that up to your Teachable homepage.
The bottom line is to ensure that you have enough self-promoting content to impress anyone who comes across your page. Think of your sales page as an elevator sales pitch in visual form and assume that media gatekeepers who can help promote your brand will be casting their own assumptions of you within five minutes. First impressions truly are everything.
Find the best media contacts
If you really want to secure media and learn the best methods to be your own publicist, take note. Every media outlet operates differently, but it’s important to only pitch those responsible for booking guests on television/radio or integrating products and services into broadcast, digital, and print.
This can be a bit tricky without having a background in public relations, but a bit of online research through LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google can help you find appropriate media contacts and their email addresses. Don’t be afraid to also ask around. Relying on your creator network can help you find those who can point you in the right direction.
Lastly, never overlook opportunities with local press. Everyone loves a hometown story and readers/viewers will be more compelled to support someone they feel geographically connected to.
6. Pitch yourself
Expand upon your initial action plan
By now, you’ve found a way to market yourself, develop a following, and bring students to your course or sell your services. Now is the time to convince producers, editors, and writers to also get on board. For those creators without a PR budget, that means you have to be your own publicist in every way.
Identify a range of outlets from all mediums that are:
a) directly in line with what you’re trying to promote (i.e. if you’re a finance expert, this list may include MSNBC, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, etc.)
b) frequented most often by your target audience
Publicity and attention are the primary goals, but you also want to amplify your credibility by aligning with networks, newspapers, websites, and magazines that have already earned their audiences’ trust. You’ll then be able to use these clips to open doors to more opportunities for your business in the future.
Think outside of the box
There are plenty of untraditional ways to promote your business. Take the finance expert and creator, for example. You may feel inclined to pitch the outlets we mentioned above, but why not partner with a site like Cosmopolitan to offer mortgage advice to millennials and pitch your course in the process? Or a food website to pitch a story idea like “how to cook on an extremely tight budget?”
This is obviously much easier if you’re pitching yourself as a personality, but products with very specific purposes aka online courses and one-on-one coaching services have many times found themselves among gift guides in the most unexpected places.
Creativity is often rewarded by media professionals if you’re thinking outside of the box and doing the work for them.
Write a succinct, powerful pitch email
Answer the who, what, when, and why. These are the key takeaways, and then tack whatever you’re pitching onto something that is trending. This is a two-way street. Provide members of the media access to you (an information-giver or expert) or a product that will solve a problem, speak to a story that is currently in the news, or upgrade something they were already going to cover. Working with the media is always an “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” scenario, but relationships start when you come in doing most of the work for them.
Follow up once
Always remember to follow up. You’re already at a disadvantage by not being a PR professional with years of experience and contacts under your belt. It doesn’t mean members of the media will not be interested in you or your idea. That being said, it’s important to understand that they are bombarded with hundreds of cold pitches every week and yours may have been lost among the shuffle. Follow up only once. If you don’t hear back, it’s safe to assume that it’s a no-go. If you don’t hear back from many outlets, re-work your pitch and come back to them a few weeks later.
Never stop the hustle
Just because one or even a dozen outlets say no (or don’t reply at all, which is the norm), that doesn’t mean you should give up. Constructive critiques are great but it’s important to accept the fact that not everything is going to resonate with everyone. If you’ve established a following through the initial steps of “starting small” and still feel like you or your idea has what it takes to get bigger, go back to all the work you put into establishing your brand and pivot a bit. Businesses and people should evolve with their target audiences.
Micro efforts, big payoffs
Whether you’re acting as a publicist for yourself, your business, or an idea, getting in front of the media can be a challenging, but necessary task. It’s important to exercise extreme patience and always come in armed with a strong foundation that’s ready to be tailored or modified to fit the industry conversations that are currently trending. All it takes is one opportunity to go from obscure to a household name, but it’s the small wins and gradual publicity that really help to pay the bills and make the case for your brand even stronger.
The more experience you have pitching and focusing on micro efforts, the more appealing your brand will be to members of the media in the future. Keep persevering, keep an open mind, and the hard work will certainly pay off.