What I’m listening to: Galway Girl by Ed Sheeran
What a weekend.
St. Patrick’s Day — my official holiday — my daughter and I were at the pub at 8 am. First ones through the door, though a woman had just walked up and was standing there waiting for it to be exactly 8 am. In 20-degree weather. Seriously, open the door and go in.
It was an early day for us — we stayed until 3 pm. The music was from my favorite performers, but their amplifiers were horrid. Couldn’t hear them twenty feet away with all the noise. Not that we didn’t troop on without it, but it made it a tad difficult to get the full benefit of the holiday. Plus, my daughter wasn’t feeling well, so we made an “early” day of it.
We met new friends, reconnected with old acquaintances, and had a great time otherwise.
Back to work now. I have two deadlines and a project coming in on the 31st. Then there’s the conference I attend, which is in four weeks.
This year, I don’t have to push so hard for new clients, so the conference will be much more laid back for me. I’m shooting for three scheduled meetings, but the real magic happens at the parties. That’s when people see you as a person, and are more open to asking for a larger conversation. Now that I have some decent name recognition, it’s a great time for me to schmooze and build relationships.
That’s where PR is going to come in handy. And if you’re a professional freelance writer (you are), you might want to consider how PR can help push your business in a more lucrative direction.
So let’s start with what PR is:
Public relations, according to the Public Relations Society of America, is this:
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
Okay, but what is that really saying? In a nutshell, PR is building your own personal spin that appeals to your audience. It’s also creating recognition in a damn noisy world.
A note here: PR is not marketing. Marketing is about promoting and selling your products or services. You’re paying to advertise, to conduct market research, to measure marketing reach, to figure out who your customer is…
PR, for the most part, doesn’t require an output of cash. PR is press releases, news items, building credibility, and engaging your audience’s attention.
Beyond press releases, which can be ridiculously useful if you write them well, here are a few ways to get the attention of your potential clients:
Tie it to current events. This is so simple to do right now. Take anything in the news that relates to your services and show what good writing and editing can do to protect clients. For example, you write about healthcare. With the veritable shit storm in Washington over healthcare, what better time to promote that newsletter you just wrote for a client on, hey, healthcare! Or you could retweet the link to your free report on how to remove all hint of political messaging from your customer-facing communications. Or you could riff on something like Game of Thrones — “All men must die, but who’s going to write their story?” Be creative.
Find ways to differentiate. Just imagine the push you can get with an awareness campaign that offers a behind-the-scenes look at news and how it’s reported in an era of “fake news” allegations. Or you can help your clients frame themselves as offering an alternative to fake news. Or you could base your newsletter, blog posts, press releases, or any/all of them on something that gains attention without selling, such as a Twitter hashtag that grows legs. Remember #TrumpBookReport? It all started with one mayoral candidate’s frustrated tweet about then-candidate Trump’s foreign policy debate, which he said resembled “a book report from a teenager who hasn’t read the book. ‘Oh, the grapes! They had so much wrath!’ ” If he can, you can. How about a “email mistakes companies make” Twitter push? One or two a day, inviting the public to add to the list.
Hold contests. Who doesn’t love a good contest? You don’t even have to have a big prize (as evidenced by the National Novel Writing Month, aka NanoWriMo). Connect with your audience by encouraging participation. A free e-book or report or gift card to the person who comes up with the best slogan for your business perhaps. Talk about instant name recognition!
Make it all newsworthy. So back to those press releases for a moment. If you’re sending out a release anyway, make it easy for the editors to say yes to your release. In other words, frame what you’re offering or announcing as part of a larger story. I get emails from great PR folks who do just that. They send article ideas with their expert already quoted. You can do the same thing — offer something to readers of the magazines you’re targeting with your press release. How about framing your latest marketing book within a release offering a larger look at the issue? “New marketing e-book underscores the need for small business to have an emergency communications plan.”
Make hay out of holidays. Imagine the tweets: “Your best Valentine heart that hasn’t been written.” Or a “worst corporate cards” Twitter conversation. Or the best “misspelled” holiday greetings from companies.
Get in character. Just Ask Doctor Freelance, a.k.a. Jake Poinier. Or Grammar Girl. Or any other writer who’s differentiated with a characterization of what they do.
Writers, how do you differentiate from other writers?
What ways do you use to increase your name recognition and awareness among your targeted clients?
What are some great examples of PR done right? Done wrong?