A dozen years before my company TEC/SCOTTeVEST appeared on Shark Tank, I thought I already knew everything about how to make my brand succeed.
I knew I needed PR (and I was right).
I also knew that I needed to hire a PR agency (and I was DEAD wrong).
As a newly-minted, bootstrapping entrepreneur with a literal boatload of product on its way to me, and my Net 30 terms steadily ticking by, I believed that the difference between my success and failure could be as thin as a single article in a major publication. Fifteen years and over ten thousand media mentions later, I can attest that PR is indeed one of the most powerful things an entrepreneur can pursue for their business.
If you want to win as an entrepreneur, you need to do your OWN PR. This is why.
Why Do Your Own PR?
No one will be as passionate and energetic about your brand as you are, and communicating passion and energy is the key to getting the attention of the press. If you can’t communicate your own passion, work on it. Your employees, vendors, contacts and especially the press need to be infected by your passion.
As an entrepreneur, keep in mind that your payoff for doing press is that you get to live the life you want and deserve. The stakes are high… your livelihood, your future, your freedom. When you channel that deep-seated need and express your company’s mission with that passion as the fuel, the press will listen.
If you are the client of a PR firm, you are just a contract. I challenge any PR firm to put their money where their mouth is if they disagree, and charge their clients based on the revenue their PR brings in, and not a monthly retainer.
You Can Manipulate the Media
Overworked. Underpaid. Most writers, bloggers and publishers are trying to find a way to tell a good story and make a living. So, tell a good story. Your story.
To manipulate the media doesn’t require a crack team of political fixers… it requires a well-written and well-timed press release. It requires getting to know some reporters. It requires providing cut-and-paste content and good images. It requires simple follow-ups.
If you want to be seen in the media, you need to manipulate the media by making YOUR story the simplest story to tell. Provide links to high-quality images in your first email. Reply promptly to requests for more information. Be relevant to their interests.
The easier you make it to cover you, the more you will be covered. Be the path of least resistance.
You Can Embrace Controversy
There is some truth to the old adage, “there’s no such thing as bad press,” but that phrase is missing a critical piece. It should read, “there’s no such thing as bad press, and the closer you get to that line, the better it is.”
If you know anything about me, you know that I embrace controversy. Where there is controversy, there is opportunity. If you don’t learn to embrace controversy and put yourself in the middle of swirling, interesting situations you will never be able to take advantage of them.
Nothing can get you sailing faster than the strong winds of a controversy, and those who learn to use it will double their opportunities to promote their business. I see all opportunities (controversial or not) as good opportunities. The riskier and more controversial they are, the better.
A PR agency will NEVER walk close enough to the line of controversy on your behalf. What they consider controversial may register as “mild” to you. You are the best judge of your own appetite for controversy, and if you ever want to have big PR results, you will need to take big PR risks.
Don’t Rely on PR for Sales
Pursue PR in an effort to get information to the customer, but don’t count on a direct correlation to sales. It is true that one single article or mention CAN put you on the map, but you can’t predict which one it will be, which means you can’t rely on it having the effect you want and need.
I can’t tell you how many times I have built my expectations up about a pending press piece that I expected to “get me to the next level,” only to have it receive three clicks and maybe one sale. Over the course of 15 years in business, it has happened dozens of times.
SCOTTeVEST was on The Today Show four times before they mentioned our website address. You might think it could be a slam dunk even without the URL making it to air, but it resulted in exactly ZERO traffic. While telling your current customers that you were on The Today Show is cool, it doesn’t accomplish the primary goal of PR: to get you in front of people who DON’T already know who you are.
PR can give you a great boost when it works, but you can never predict what will work or how well. If you are working with a PR agency, their job ends at the placement, regardless of whether it achieves the end result you need or not. To them, the outcome is out of their hands.
What they consider to be a massive victory may only be the starting gate for actual success in your business, which is usually measured in sales. When you do your own PR, you have a much more realistic, grounded and business-minded measure of what effective PR looks like, and that lets you target those opportunities and avoid wasting time on others… even if they sound good.
To Activate Sales from PR, Buy Your Own Keywords
The more PR you get, the more your brand name gets out there (duh). As your brand awareness grows, you’d like to cash in on that awareness, right? This is how.
Most online retailers use PPC (pay per click) ads, with the largest and most influential PPC network being Google AdWords. One of the most effective ways to maximize the SALES that come from your PR is to buy your own brand name as a keyword in AdWords.
Yes, you will pay every time someone searches for your name and clicks the ad, but the specific benefit of buying your brand name as a keyword is that you will always be the result at the top of the page (an ad) when someone searches of your brand, and you can funnel people to the exact page on your site you want them to see.
As long as someone remembers your brand name, you get to present them with clear ad copy and a call to action. The cost per click is almost negligible, and the conversion rate will be one of the highest you will get from your online store overall.
I use these branded ads to help capture sales from my PR efforts, and find them to be a more effective way to spend money than search engine optimization.
PR beats SEO, Even for Online Retailers
When starting an online retail business, there are some things that you need. A URL. Hosting. An e-commerce platform. Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Many companies – a lot of whom are selling SEO services – will try hard to convince you that ranking higher on Google will change the course of your business, your trajectory in life and sometimes even the future prosperity of the universe at large.
In reality, SEO is just one component of a well-rounded online strategy, but PR blows it out of the water for sales effectiveness. Think of it this way: in order to find you online, someone will need to actively search a term that is somehow connected with your company. This is effective… to a point. But the better known you are, the less important and effective SEO is at bringing you NEW customers.
PR, however, is proactive. Each article, each blog mention, each link goes out into the world like an awareness-building billboard, and they all drive new attention back to you.
Don’t ignore SEO – it is a fundamental of any successful online business – but don’t focus on it at the expense of PR. The more people write about you online, the better your SEO will be, so focus on the part of the equation that will have the most impact.
PR is Your Job
If you have the passion to believe in yourself and an idea enough to make it real, then you should believe in it enough to do your own PR. Over the years, I have tried dozens of times to work with agencies, and I always come back to this simple concept, no matter how much I try to resist: if I want my PR to win, I need to do it myself.
Do you do your own PR? Are you winning? Comment below and follow me (top of this page) to see future posts. For even more stories about how to promote your business and win, check out my top-rated book, Pocket Man.
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ABOUT SCOTT JORDAN and SCOTTeVEST
Scott Jordan is the CEO and Founder of SCOTTeVEST, which creates multi-pocket clothing designed to carry electronics. He is the author of Pocket Man: The Unauthorized Autobiography of a Passionate, Personal Promoter.
Read a sample of Scott’s book for more about his experience on Shark Tank and the pocket empire he has built.