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One of the most important things when starting your business is getting the news out to as many people as possible. Sure, organic word of mouth is helpful, but incorporating a PR strategy into your launch is a must. With countless products and services hitting the market daily, having a solid game plan during the early days will help ensure your brand thrives for years to come. Here, heymama member and PR professional Jenelle Hamilton shares her secrets for scoring great publicity.

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As a PR professional working in the industry for over 15 years, I have worked with dozens of brands across all categories, from large corporate companies to boutique start-ups. But no matter the size, I have seen some PR blunders that are commonly made and can hinder the success of your brand. Below I share 5 of the mistakes to NOT make, when starting or launching your business:

1. NOT Allocating A Budget For PR

I know what you are thinking. Of course a publicist is going to say this! But I’m not looking for new clients, here. I am recommending this because it is the most efficient way to raise brand visibility and get the results you want. Look at it this way: If you were facing legal action, you’d hire a legal professional to help and advise you, right? Most people wouldn’t try to represent themselves in court, they’d want a professional to guide them through the process. The same principle applies to PR. Publicists are professionals in their field who have built relationships with the media over a long period of time, sometimes decades. They know exactly what editors are looking for and how to present it to them, which makes the process a whole lot easier for them, and you.

Can a business owner secure placements by themselves? Absolutely! I know many brands who have come to me with much success, having obtained fantastic press themselves. However, those are the lucky few and they seldom know how to maintain that momentum over an extended period of time. When you work with an experienced publicist who has great relationships in place, they can help get your products in front of the media quickly and can secure steady coverage over time. I have had clients tell me that they had personally sent out hundreds of emails to the media and got zero responses. When you work with a professional, they know how, and when, to speak to the press, as well as the best ways to get you to your goal – and quickly.

I strongly suggest you crunch the numbers and allocate a budget for at least 3 months of PR services to get you started. This will give you a good foundation to build your company on, so if you choose to continue alone after this period, you will at least have had a solid start.

2. NOT Doing Enough Research

If you are lucky enough to have the funds to hire a PR professional or firm, then be sure to do some research, before signing on as a client. Over the years, I have heard so many horror stories of clients that have come to me after a “publicist”, had promised them the moon, and did not deliver. Tip: If a publicist says they can guarantee you placements in A and B magazine, or on X & Y TV show, be weary. Nothing is ever guaranteed when it comes to PR, it is all subjective based on an editor’s interests and what excites them. A good publicist knows who and what to pitch, but only paid advertising is guaranteed.

Make sure you do some research. Speak with the potential publicist and ask questions about clients they have worked with in the past. If they have worked with clients similar to your brand, find out the results of the project and ask what they feel would be realistic for you. You have the right to ask for case studies or references from past clients and once you feel comfortable, then sign on the dotted line. Doing this upfront research will be worth it in the long run and will save you time, money, and wasted energy.

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3. NOT Considering Timing When Planning Your Launch

For business owners and start-ups without a budget for PR, the good news is that you can still get coverage through your own outreach. It may be more challenging and harder to get to the editors, but it is possible.

The most important thing for you to do is think about timing and using your common sense when planning your launch. For example, if you are launching an SPF cream, obviously the June, July or August issues would be when editors are writing about summer skincare. Therefore, you should plan to reach out to editors before those issues hit the shelves. The same goes for say, a skiwear collection. If you want to get into the winter issues (Dec, Jan or Feb), then plan to launch way before those dates. Remember, editors work 2-3 months in advance of those issues, so plan to reach out to them at least 3 months before the issue you are targeting. So, if you want to get in the June issue, you should plan on contacting the editors in March or April. So many people launch late and miss amazing opportunities to be included in a story. Make sure you plan accordingly.

4. NOT Researching The Editor Before You Hit Send

The number one rule in PR is to make sure you know what an editor writes about, before reaching out to them. Pick up a copy of each of the magazines you plan to target. Bookmark stories from the websites you hope to be featured in and jot down the editors’ names. This is a simple way to research what an editor has written about in the past.

I have had clients come to me, saying they reached out to literally hundreds of editors and didn’t get even one response. When I ask them to show me their list of people they emailed, I often see they were pitching the entirely wrong person. If you have a great product and they like it, they will feature it. Just make sure you are reaching out to the correct contact.

5. NOT Making It As Easy As Possible For The Media

Editors are very busy and receive hundreds of emails each day. You have more of a chance of being featured if you make it super easy for the editor you want to work with. Be sure to include all relevant information they might need in your email such as website address, price of the product or service and where it can be purchased. Editors will feature a product they weren’t so keen on in their story, for the simple fact that the info was there and ready to go. Don’t make that mistake. Be as thorough as possible and it will increase your chances of getting a placement in your dream publication.

Happy pitching!

Jenelle Hamilton has worked at high-profile PR agencies in Europe and New York. After having her daughter, started her own PR consultancy, Jenelle Hamilton PR and has the flexibility to spend time with her family. You can follow her Instagram adventures here.

Photos by Kisha Batista

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