DIY Public Relations: Craft Your Press Release | Porsha Thomas | Skillshare

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DIY Public Relations: Craft Your Press Release

teacher avatar Porsha Thomas, Founder at GOWRKGRLS™

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Introduction To The Course


    • 3.

      About Public Relations + Types Of Press Mentions


    • 4.

      How To Write A Press Release


    • 5.

      How To Build A Stellar Media List


    • 6.

      Mastering The Direct Pitch


    • 7.

      How To Contact A Journalist


    • 8.

      Course Project


    • 9.



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About This Class

For ladypreneurs who’ve got something to say! Learn the basics of public relations and discover how to communicate the best parts of your business to the press. In this course you will learn how to determine what’s newsworthy, how to write a press release, how to write a direct pitch, how to build a media list and the best practices for approaching the media.

Meet Your Teacher

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Porsha Thomas

Founder at GOWRKGRLS™


Porsha Thomas is a founder, copywriter, and Chief Strategy Officer with 13 years of branding, digital marketing, and e-commerce experience. Porsha started GOWRKGRLS back in 2014 to help DIY businesswomen like herself define what makes their businesses great and convey that greatness so that their customers can relate (read: buy what they’re selling, literally). When she's not hunched over her laptop or phone-scrolling, you can catch her passing the time with yoga, good food, good wine, and True Crime.

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1. Hello!: Hi guys, my name is Porsha Thomas. I'm the founder at Ladypreneur League. We are an organization for women entrepreneurs based here in Atlanta, Georgia, and Ladypreneur League is two parts. The first part is basically us focusing on business education. We host monthly events here in the city, topics ranging from how to protect your intellectual property to networking events that are centered around, just starting how to create your career, panel discussions and things of that nature. Second part of Ladypreneur League is an online publication. There you'll find articles written by women entrepreneurs for women entrepreneurs, you'll also find, let me think, Ladypreneurs we love, our favorite breakout column. You'll find plenty of things that'll be inspirational for you from women who are doing it. We ask a series of questions and it's great. So I had a background in communications and graphic design before Ladypreneur League and actually during, this was my side hustle, I was at an ad agency where I was working on several accounts, mostly in the food industry, which I love, doing marketing, PR, social media, graphic design as well, and of course, a lot of copyrighting went into all that. So my background, coupled with my love of Ladypreneurs makes me qualified to teach this course. So let's get started. 2. Introduction To The Course: Let's go ahead and jump right into The Ladypreneur's Guide To DIY Public Relations. The class for today, we're going to go over the basis of public relations and why it's necessary. We're going to discuss the elements of a good press release, how to write one. We're going to go over how to build a stellar media list, how to direct pitch journalists, and then the best practices whenever you're pitching journalists. We'll also discuss your class project, which is basically going to be to write a press release announcing something newsworthy about your business. 3. About Public Relations + Types Of Press Mentions: Let's jump into the brief. What is public relations? It's basically free publicity for your brand via editorial coverage. Super important, and I can tell you the difference between advertising and then publicity, that's free, is that people are basically going to trust your brand more whenever it's being written about by a journalist as opposed to you purchasing an ad. Ads are also very expensive depending on the publication that you're choosing, and people aren't necessarily going to click on your ad. I feel people are more inclined to, like I said, credibility, believe what its being promoted if it's from an article as opposed to what's going on in an ad. So definitely public relations is beneficial in that area. Why do you need public relations? Well as you guys know in business your reputation means everything, especially now in the digital age. I will be the first to tell you that I have no qualms with tweeting about a restaurant that has done me a disservice by being slow on a Sunday during brunch or whatever, or if I take an Uber ride and the driver does something I don't like, I will Tweet about that. Then public relations is the person from that other company coming in and being like, ''Hey, I realize you had this problem, let me help you out with it,'' et cetera. A business with a good reputation can influence the media and help you gain trust. It's what I was saying just a few seconds ago. Definitely want to gain trust via the journalist output. If I'm a writer, I have a following if I love something about you, my following's probably going to do that too, again as opposed to you buying an ad. The last point is with an intact rep, you'll improve your company's bottom line. You'll improve your business relationships and if you need some money, you will be able to do that. Your good reputation can help you raise capital or be acquired. So your goal with public relations is to maximize the chances that your business will appear in a publication of your choice. Chances are you guys are already looking at publications that you like, things that are relevant to your industry. You're going to want to keep those guys in mind. Those are the people that you're going to want to pitch to and then with some research you'll find out more. So the types of press mentions. The press release is pretty much the most basic, most common way of getting press. Basically, they are written communication directed at members of the news media for purposes of announcing something newsworthy. So now you're wondering what is newsworthy? Well newsworthy is this, does your story tell a compelling story? Is it something that people want to read. Here, think of what's trending. Does your story tie into a larger conversation that's already being heard? I cannot even think of what's popular right now and we don't want to date the story here, date the course. But think about what's being talked about online and on TV and all these things, and how can your company fit into that? I remember whenever Miley Cyrus did her twerking thing, I definitely, for Ladypreneur League, received quite a bit of press releases about twerk workouts and things of that nature. So those people really they were on top of it. If someone wants to twerk workout, we're talking about Miley Cyrus twerking, here goes that. Next are the reasons you want to write a press release. So we'll go over these again later on in the course. But just briefly, whenever you are launching, if you're launching a new product or you're just launching your brand entirely, that'd be a great reason to write a press release. If you want to talk about funding, if you've gotten some money from an angel investor, a venture capitalist, or especially if you're crowdfunding, that's the best thing to do to write a press release about it. For crowd funding, you have a time period to raise money. So maybe 30 days or however long it takes, if you can get a press release out in the beginning of your crowdfunding campaign, maybe you can draw more people to the campaign to help you to fund it. Milestone, your brand turns 10. You want to write about that. Partnership announcements, so if you're going to partner with a brand and the marketing campaign, that's a great reason to write a press release, as well as acquisitions if your accompany is acquired, or your company purchase another business. The company mention, second type of press mention that you guys can look out for. This is basically presence in the news through quotations and mentions even when your brand doesn't have any news to share at the moment. So how do you do that? You need to become a thought leader. As a thought leader in your industry, journalists will look to you for your perspective and opinion. Best thing to do is to be a leader in a specific niche. You want to build relationships with beat reporters. A beat reporter is basically just someone who writes about a certain topic, a certain topic called a beat. If you are a beauty brand, you want to talk to reporters who do lifestyle and beauty. If you're food, you want to do food, things like that. To get your thoughts going and have a platform for people to easily see what you're doing, I recommend creating a blog, whether it's based on your company or based personal, it will help provide some credibility. It'll give you a voice online and it will give you a way to network with the journalists and bloggers. Also, really great resource here, and you'll download the document that I've uploaded for you guys, it's going to give you some resources. Help A Reporter Out is one of the things that is listed there, website. You can go to Help A Reporter Out and login as a brand, and you'll be able to see journalists who are looking for people to get quotes from. So that is a really good resource to start looking at to get your brand out there. 4. How To Write A Press Release: So let's get into how to write a press release. Fact. Reporters do find story ideas through research, personal connections in niche websites, but a very high percentage of ideas come from press releases. So people like you who are pitching their business, journalists do see those things. It might feel like they don't. We'll get into that a little bit later but they see them, and if they're compelling enough, they are going to write a story about them. So to get started, what's the first thing you should do to write a press release? You need to define your story. So why is it relevant? Why is your story going to be worthy of discussion? Your story should be summarized in one sentence and explain why the article that someone else is going to write should be written about your story? Typically, it's the first sentence in an article. So I have an example here. Label League announced today that it has raised 7 million in angel funding, which is awesome. This short little sentence right here is the entire story. The rest of this is going to be building upon that. Like the rest of the press release will build upon that. How did they do that? How they feel about how they did that. What's the next steps now that they've done that? Again, you're going to make sure what makes the story interesting right now that's going back into the trends that we talked about. The things that are happening on a larger level. That's important to pay attention to. Here, press releases tied to a current trend or time so they are part of a public conversation. They do get traction. So again, Miley Cyrus, twerking and my press release I received about a twerk workout, perfect timing. Also, you guys should know the difference between a story topic and a story. Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. There's action, a protagonist, and sometimes there's moral. So think about what's happened and why. Those are the things that are some of the things that you'll want to make sure you're touching on whenever you're writing a press release. Again, we talked very briefly about this. In general, these are the kind of stories you guys will have whenever you're writing a press release. So company launch or product launch. Fundraising, angel investors, venture capital firms or crowdfunding. You reach a milestone or you said that you're launching a new product, or a company is acquired, or you purchased a company. So now we're going to talk a little bit about finding the approach. This is strategy, and PR strategy is super important. You have to do this before you start so you can make sure you have a straight line of where you're going and not a bunch of crazy things happening. So we're going to focus on a launch because I believe that that is the easiest way to teach you guys PR. Please feel free to ask me questions if you're not launching and you have been in business for a while and you want to take a different approach. But for this example we're going to use a launch. So the reason I want to talk about that is because when people first begin, your business is your baby. You don't necessarily want to show everybody your baby when it's still in its infant stages. You might not have everything completely put together. So what I would say, don't wait. Because if I launch Ladypreneur League in February 2014, if I decided to write a press release about it in May 2014, well, Ladypreneur League isn't that new anymore. It's not going to get the same excitement from people about it as it would have in February. So what I recommend is to plan a soft launch before you do anything, like anything big. Make the announcement to a few individuals. If you're a restaurant, you may want to do friends and family to come in and eat and test out how the service works. If it's a website, you might want to have your friends check out how the website works. Privately test, refine the products if you're a graphic designer, maybe have some people check out your new service, your new design, however, that's going to work. Once you have your [inaudible] worked out with the people you're not afraid of their opinions, set the strong launch into motion. With that, you're going to create the press release and you're going to distribute it, which we'll talk about a little bit later. I recommend having a launch event to commemorate the occasion. It's fun and it's always easy to generate buzz around events. Journalists love free things. So you can offer an entry for press, a press pass for people to come in for free and to try out whatever you're doing. By approaching the launch in this manner, you get to test your product and you get to optimize your brand's chances for press. So the last part of writing a press release is to write it. So you've identified your story for the announcement, you've discussed your approach. Now, it's time to craft their release. Press releases are meant to be seen by the journalist only. You will find some instances where, let's just say bloggers and smaller publication journalists, they will take copy from the release. So you need to make sure, and I mean verbatim, so you need to make sure that the release is written well enough for that to happen. But honestly that's not supposed to happen. You'll see here in the second paragraph that reporters, if they're at larger publications, they will get in trouble for that. They're supposed to rewrite it. They're likely will not be read by the general public, and they're often rather try as a person who writes press releases for my company and then receives them. I've gotten some pretty boring press releases, and those get trashed. So you want to make sure that again, your story's compelling. It's newsworthy. It's fun to read or interesting to read so that people aren't just like throwing it in the trash. So the anatomy of a press release, and again, you guys will see that if you look at the downloads that are listed for you to download, there is a document that has this here, and it's got examples from a press release that I've written before for Ladypreneur League. So you'll be able to see what's going on as I'm going down the list. But just for now, we'll go through this quickly because it's a long list, and I would prefer that you guys look at the examples to see. But I'll just call out some things that are super important. You've got to have a headline that catches the reader's attention. The headline should be your story, it should be straightforward, point blank, this is what this is about. Stay clear of the clickbait headlines. I know online we see things from different publications that are like this one woman did this, here's how. You don't want to do that. You have a journalist that has a ton of things in their inbox. They don't have time for that. Your headline needs to be clear and it's to state what's going on so that they can click on it. In a line following the title directly, you want to explain why this announcement is meaningful. This is basically your sub-headline. Like the press release example I have, I think it's for the launch of Ladypreneur League events. We're launching because of having events because of this. Really short and simple. State where the company is headquartered and the date of their release. We're in Atlanta, Georgia. I think I wrote that release some point in 2014, so you've got that on there. The first line of your paragraph, the beginning paragraph should repeat what your story is. So like that Label League example, they've raised 7 million in funding. That's likely the first sentence of their press release paragraph. Following paragraph should go in-depth into the particular announcement, this is to explain why it's important. It's accompany launch, explain how the business is different from the competition. So the story that we were talking about, beginning, middle, and end. The beginning of your story is the summarization of what you're talking about, and now you're going to go into detail. Before you conclude your press release, you need to make sure that you do have some background information for what you're talking about. So in my example, if I'm saying, "I'm writing this press release because Ladypreneur League is about to do some awesome workshops in Atlanta." Well, then I'm going to want to provide some background information on that. Like why do I want to have events in Atlanta for a Ladypreneur League? So mine will be something like, "I've worked in PR and marketing. I love events, I love what we're doing for Ladypreneurs, and I felt like we should come together in person and not just have an online community." That would be my background information. Second to last section of your press release should be about portion that provides background of the company. So the previous portion was, why I'm writing the press release. Well, the boilerplate is going to be about your company. So Ladypreneur League was founded in October 2013. We launched in February 2014. We host events in the City, etc. Quick little paragraph about everything about your brand. The last section of your release should contain a contact information. How are the journalists going to contact you if they have questions? Include your name, your email, your phone number, whatever you want on there. In general, two quotations are used in a press release. There should be one from the founder and one from an industry insider. If you don't have an industry insider, that is not a big deal, just do a quote from your founder that's explaining why this is happening. I'm going to show you guys really quickly what my newsroom looks like. I use a platform called pitch engine, which I love. It helps me do things that are social. I can tweet this, I can Instagram it, etc. The workshop that press release that you guys will be looking at is from here. Whenever we began hosting monthly workshops. So you can see I actually have my contact information at the top. You can put it at the top or at the bottom. This is my subhead where I'm explaining what else is happening outside of my headline here. It just basically goes through. You can see my quote here, why I'm doing this. A little bit more information, and then here's my boilerplate about Ladypreneur League. 5. How To Build A Stellar Media List: The next thing is how to build a stellar media list. The media list is so important, it's the beginning of all this. Basically you're going to have to find people to pitch to an order to do your pitching. I do have a list here for us to go through, but I'm also going to show you what it looks like for me, what I do on the back-end. The first thing I recommend is building a spreadsheet. Make sure it has column headers that are labeled for your contact's e-mail address, their first and last name, the publication they write for, their position or the beat that they're writing for. Also important, Twitter and Instagram handles. Social media is so important guys, whenever it comes to public relations. I'm sure this is a new thing since the Internet is everything, I should say. I'm sure that public relations back in the '80s was different but today, definitely pay attention to social media. We'll get into that a little bit later. Do a lot of research, this takes building your media list, I'm not even going to lie, takes so much time and preparation. It's just something that needs to be done. If you don't have a big budget, you're going to have to do it yourself. You're definitely going to want to pay attention, like I said, to social media, use social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, if you can be introduced to somebody via LinkedIn, awesome. If not, if you can tweet at them like some really cool article they wrote that you loved, you can tweet at blah, blah journalist, I loved this piece by so and so, it's great whatever. Keep your eyes on the freelancers. I love the freelance writers because they write for several publications. You'll find that sometimes it might be more beneficial to reach out to them at their general e-mail address, if they have a Gmail as opposed to if they write for Fast Company and Ink and Mashable. If your news can fit in a number of categories it may be best to just reach out to them and be like, "Hey, does this fit into something that you do? If so, let's talk about that." Something that you do, meaning publication that you write for. Not the one that you were thinking because they may be able to say, "Oh, well, I actually write for this publication and this would fit better for this." The freelancers are awesome, so definitely look out for them and keep your eye on them. You want to populate your lists with journalists and publications that are relevant to your industry, you want to make sure that basically we talk about beauty a little bit. If you've got a beauty brand, you're going to want those publications that adhere to that. Super important to make sure that the journalists you're reaching out to actually write about your topic on a regular basis, you'll find that people do change. If you have a journalist who wrote about food one day, but she typically writes about beauty then she's probably a beauty writer. Maybe the food article came from who knows where? But if you're a food company and you like this article, I would just reach out to that person and ask, "Who's the best person to reach out to for this topic? I saw that you wrote about this, but it looks like you normally write about this. Help me out here." That's fine. They may respond, they may not, but at least you've asked. Funny, if you've got an extra K laying around, consider using a platform like Vocus or Cision. This goes back into the research bit. I think that Cision is about two grand a year, it's wonderful if you can get Cision all this stuff doesn't even matter. Cision's a platform, a database of several journalists doing a ton of things, you can probably just search whatever and you'll find whomever that can help you. If you don't have two K laying around, then you got to do it the old school way. That's what I'll show you now. Let's take a little break, I'll jump into Chrome and we will check it out. What I have pulled up here now are a few tabs, let's say that I just saw this article here: "How to get the new hologram glowing cheek with your blush." Because we're going on this beauty theme. You see that the author is Dana Oliver, and Dana is Executive Fashion and Beauty Editor for the Huffington Post, which is awesome. If your business is based on beauty, and you click here on Dana Oliver's name, it'll take you to her author page. This is generally where you can find their information for their e-mail address or their Twitter account or Instagram, hers is a little bit different, typically I would say it'd be listed in this paragraph here but you don't see it. If you don't see it there, that's cool, that's when I start Googling things and you see we've got, it just pops up automatically, Dana Oliver, Huffington Post e-mail. You can go through and see where you're going to find her e-mail, there's Huffington Post on Twitter, you could follow them, you see that she does have a website that is her own. Once we get there. You can click on Contact and there's her Gmail address right there. Now she does state that PR pitches will be ignored and that's totally fine and it's probably good for her. If you can't find her Huffington Post address by doing that search, I would e-mail her at her Gmail address and ask, where should I send the pitch to? I realized you don't accept pitches to your Gmail address but how can I pitch you? Because that's what I'm trying to do. If she doesn't respond, no big deal, you'll find another beauty writer from Huffington Post if that's what you want to do. Maybe one who isn't as busy as the editor, but don't give up, keep searching, they're busy people and that's just how it is. If you look here, I've got actually I'll just search it. My media list, I keep on Google Drive because I love Google Drive, I think it's easy to get to, easy to share with people. This is my Atlanta list, I tried to separate things by city or whatever. It's taking a little bit to load, but you'll see here that at the very top, I've got my columns where you can see, what's what. You can see here at the bottom, I've got ATL bloggers, national, DC, NYC, etc. This list is not the most fabulous, I will say, as far as organization goes, but I do use it often. Anytime I find something from someone that I think is beneficial for me, I add it to that list. I'm going to do it all the time so it can be whether I'm doing something completely different and I need to take this information down, I will stop, go to Google Drive and pull up the list, add that person's information so I don't forget. I mean that's what works for me, but definitely find out your own schedule. 6. Mastering The Direct Pitch: So the next thing we're going to talk about is Mastering the Direct Pitch. So after you get your journalists' information, you're going to want to write a direct pitch to them. People do a mass email often. I find it's better to pitch them directly. By mass email, I mean using a mail client like Mailchimp and putting your press release in a nice little template, sending it to several journalists at one time. I've done that, and people unsubscribe, and you don't want unsubscribes. So I think that pitching them directly is the best. What is a direct pitch? It's a brief personalized email to a journalist that introduces yourself, and it summarizes your press release. So the information summarized in your direct pitch should change depending on the publication, what you're pitching, and who you're pitching, and you should personalize what you can. This is my example of a direct pitch. So I wrote it to Dana, whose profile we just looked at. Dana is not the journalist I would be writing for what I'm talking about in this direct pitch, it's just for example purposes. This is the pitch I sent when sending out my release for Ladypreneur League. Basically, I introduced myself. I told what Ladypreneur League is. I hoped that my note finds them well. "I'm writing to spread the word about our upcoming workshops and events taking place in Atlanta to see if you think the story may be a good fit for your readers." I used that often. I have, "See our press release, download images below." You see that link here. This is what I just showed you from Pitchengine. I'm like, "Let me know if I can help out with anything else. I'd love to work with you on this story." Also, you guys can download a series of pitches that I've written, different examples so you can formulate your own pitches from those examples. But basically, I would just say this is something you're going to send probably to like 10 people in a day. Ten is a good number for me. I feel really confident if I've pitched 10 people my story. It changes every time. I also receive pitches for Ladypreneur League from people that are reading my blog and they let me know. So they'll say, "Hey Porsha, I really loved this article about retiring and how to save for your retirement as an entrepreneur. Here's why I think my story would be great." That makes me feel good. I know that they've read my blog, they liked that story, and they're not just trying to get me to write about them. So that's a good way to lead to like, "Hey, look what I've read that you've written. This is really great. Blah, blah, blah." 7. How To Contact A Journalist: How to contact a journalist? Sorry, guys. Who should do the contacting? In the early stages of your brand, it's best to have the founder do the contacting. People want to know what the founder is thinking, why did they start this brand. You're going to have all the information in a brand-new company. Even if you have a PR person helping you, I think it would be awesome to send the releases from your email because the response rate will be higher. When is the best time to contact a journalist? Early in the week is great, and definitely in the morning. Your email should appear in their inboxes prior to reporters starting work. Definitely do not pitch on Friday at four o'clock. I don't pitch on Fridays at all. I barely pitch on Thursday. I would definitely stick to Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, whenever you're pitching in the morning. Should you follow up? Absolutely. Often, they won't respond. This could be because they are super busy. There's a ton of emails in their inbox or they're not interested, either way, you should follow up. I have definitely lost emails, or seeing them and was doing something else and didn't remember. When someone followed up with me, I was really grateful for that. So don't feel like you are being annoying or being a pest to follow up. I would say to pitch. Let's say you're having an event, I would pitch for weeks out and then pitch again two weeks before your event happens. I think that's a good standard time to give people time to see it and, "Oh, that looks cool," or, "No, I hate that," or whatever, but then follow-up. Then, "Oh, I remember seeing that. Now I can do this or now I can do that." So yes, follow-up, it's a must. Don't forget to follow up. If you want to meet these people in-person, which might be creepy depending on where you are. Don't just be like, "I want to meet you," because that is creepy. I recommend going to events, go network where you think these guys hang out. Events hosted by media companies are great or just different, cool things happening in your city. If you know that you're in a start-up community and there's some really cool, buzz worthy startup event happening, go to it. You'll probably see some journalists there. Just definitely get your network on whenever you are hoping to, just in general for business. But in this sense too, you never know who you're going to meet. Get a referral. We talked about this a little bit earlier regarding the social media aspect of PR. You can use LinkedIn to see if you have any mutual connections. Can you introduce me with x journalist? That would be really awesome. Or if you're emailing, you can say, "I saw you are connected to my friend. He recommended you," blah, blah, blah. That would be great. But definitely ask your friend first, don't just name-drop whenever it's beneficial for you because that's rude. Then you can always use the Internet. Twitter is king in the journalism world. You're going to want to tweet, retweet, and engage. I began Ladypreneur League with a lot of Twitter talked. I definitely built the community on Twitter that way; just finding people to follow that were interesting, engaging them. I've definitely had some brand collaborations happen from Twitter more than once. So, use Twitter. If you hate Twitter, please stop hating Twitter. It's a really great platform. 8. Course Project: So your class project. You guys are going to write a press release to announce a newsworthy piece of information about your business. So whatever that may be, if you have something that you want to write about that is actually going to happen, that would be awesome because I would love to help you formulate that. Or if you don't have anything and you're taking the course just because you wanted to learn, make something up and I'll help you with that as well. So let me know what you guys need, you have any questions, and I'll be happy to help you out with that. 9. Bye!: All right, guys. You've made it to the end of the course. Congratulations. I hope that PR is a lot less scary for you than it was before. If not, we've uploaded some documents so that you can check them out. You can see examples of how to direct pitch, how to write a press release, and there's also a document about format so you can make sure that everything is lined up correctly. If you have any questions, please post in the class feed and I'll be sure to get to this.