You may be wondering how many of the entrepreneurs, blogs, and brands you follow have all received high-profile press mentions.
These media mentions are huge credibility-builders and it turns out that access to journalists and reporters is easier than ever. You just have to know where to look and how to present your story.
Although I’ve had my share of PR successes, for this post I’m bringing in PR expert Lyuba Ellingson to share her best tips on how side hustlers can score free publicity for their businesses.
Most side hustlers are pressed for time. Between life, family, and your main income source, there isn’t a whole lot of time left to work on your side hustle.
This is where building credibility becomes really important; it helps establish instant trust and shortens the sales process.
There are many ways to build credibility. For instance:
- You can write a book.
- You can get endorsements from influential leaders in your industry.
- You can gather testimonials from your current or former clients.
The problem is, these tactics are time-consuming and as a side hustler, you have to choose tactics that are effective and efficient.
Why Focus on PR?
For these reasons, my favorite way to build massive credibility is to get high quality publicity for your side hustle. Publicity is not only a great way to build credibility, it is also very useful for driving traffic to your website, growing an e-mail list, and helping improve your SEO.
Nick’s Notes: Guest blogging can accomplish these same goals, but is more labor intensive. For some key strategies in approaching the leading bloggers in your industry, check out episode 56 of The Side Hustle Show where Kimanzi Constable shares how he was able to land some big-name guest posts.
I am sure that you frequently see websites with banners showcasing widely recognizable logos and claiming that their products or services were featured on those blogs and publications.
Nick’s Notes: For an example, check out the media logos on the homepage of Side Hustle Nation.
Have you ever wondered how this is achieved?
It’s actually simple. Every content producer strives to provide their audience with high quality content filled with extraordinary value.
But quality content is time-consuming to produce and therefore many bloggers, podcast hosts, and journalists welcome outside ideas for content.
Nick’s Notes: Between coming up with an idea, researching, writing, editing, formatting, and adding images, it will frequently take me 3-6 hours to create a single blog post. Hence this guest post :)
How to Get Free Press
One thing you can do is create your “target” list of bloggers and journalists, and begin to “get on their radar” by commenting on their articles and sharing their work. After some time, you might reach out individually and pitch your story idea and it will have the benefit of being a “warm pitch” instead of one coming from a complete stranger.
While this type of one-on-one outreach can be effective, it may not be the best use of your limited time as a side hustler.
If you only have an hour per day to spend on your side hustle, you need to take a more systematic approach to generating publicity.
Let the Reporters Come to You
Luckily, there are plenty of free tools available to help you generate quality, free publicity in just a few minutes each week. My favorites are HARO (short for Help A Reporter Out) and Source Bottle.
Nick’s Notes: MuckRack.com is another.
Journalists from national publications, TV show producers, magazine editors, radio show and podcast hosts, writers from blogs large and small, all pay monthly subscription fees to be able to find sources for their stories via HARO and Source Bottle.
Sources (that’s you!) sign up for free.
Nick’s Notes: “Reporters” can also get free membership. I’ve used HARO several times as a journalist looking for sources, including success stories for my Treadmill Desk book and more recently for my “How to Find a Business Coach” blog post.
HARO sends out 3 emails daily, Monday-Friday, and Source Bottle sends out one daily email.
Each email is filled with source queries, which state what type of content the content producer is looking for, what qualifications they’re looking for in respondents, and the submission deadline. Some queries even include specifically where this content will be published.
Be a Smart Press-Pitcher
Here are my steps to generating publicity using HARO and Source Bottle in the most effective and efficient manner:
1. Skim daily emails with queries for source request relevant to your business.
There can be over 50 queries per email, which can be pretty daunting.
HARO categorizes these by topic (Biotech and Healthcare, Business and Finance, Entertainment and Media, General, High Tech, Lifestyle and Fitness, Public Policy and Government, and Travel) to make it easier to find the ones most relevant to you.
Once in a while I do find source queries hiding in the wrong categories so I don’t necessarily recommend that you only skim your category. You can search the whole list for keywords relevant to what you are an expert in (CTRL+F on PC, CMT+F on Mac).
Alternatively, HARO sells a pre-filtered email notifications based on the keywords you specify, starting at $19 per month.
(Source Bottle will ask you when signing up for an account what types of queries you are interested in.)
2. Evaluate relevant queries.
Will it benefit your side hustle to be featured by the media outlet in question?
Sometimes the media outlet isn’t listed and you have to wing it. If the media outlet is listed, does it make sense for you to be featured there? For example, if you offer highly customized solutions, it’s not in your best interest to be featured on a DIYers network.
Do you fit the qualification criteria?
Do you have valuable information to add?
Can you make the deadline? Often the person seeking the info only needs a few responses, so the quicker you can respond with great value, the higher the likelihood you will be chosen as a source.
3. Send your pitch.
There is an art and science to getting your pitch noticed and selected. Keep in mind that media outlets use tools such as HARO and Source Bottle to make their jobs easier.
Your pitch needs to be crafted in a way that simplifies the source seeker’s job. All you need is a good email subject line and three short paragraphs:
Subject Line: Chances are that you are one of many people responding to a source query so this needs to be eye-catching. I find high success rates with titles structured in this manner: Fill in your expertise for your source on fill in the story topic.
Paragraph 1: Establish credibility by quickly explaining what qualifies you to be a source.
Paragraph 2: Answer the question found in the source query. Be concise, follow all the instructions that may have been listed in the original query, and above all else try to add as much value as possible.
Paragraph 3: Provide your preferred method of contact along with any relevant social media links and URLs.
Here is an actual source query I sent recently. Not only do I already have confirmation that I will be featured on a large blog filled with my exact target audience, I also reached out to the person writing the story and offered additional value that already resulted in additional business.
Always reach out and offer additional value.
One of my clients used this tactic to get two recurring columns on two major websites in her industry. About a third of her web traffic comes from these columns.
This is an additional win because now when she applies for other PR opportunities, her recurring columns really help sell her as a sought-after expert. The more PR you get, the easier it is to get even more PR.
I promise that once you get the hang of this, these three steps take just a few minutes each day. You will find that most of your pitches are similar and you can recycle content.
Remember to be patient; queries relevant to your side hustle may not appear for a while. I skim both HARO and Source Bottle on a daily basis for my business, my side hustles, and clients’ businesses.
Nick’s Notes: Bonus points for networking — even when I don’t find any query I’m qualified to respond to directly, I’ll often see one that would be a good fit for someone else I know. I like to forward those along with the subject line “free press opportunity for _____ [company name].”
Even if that person doesn’t respond or already saw it, it shows you’re looking out for them and gives you a high-value excuse to reach out.
Sometimes there are lots of relevant queries to respond to, other weeks it’s crickets. Stick with it and soon enough you and your side hustle will be featured in nationally recognized publications.
I have also found that you may get featured somewhere and never find out about it because the person writing the story is too busy to follow up. Set up Google Alerts for your name, your side hustle name, and anything else related (like your website URL).
This way, you will never miss a beat.
Have you landed any big PR wins for your business? If so, please share in the comments below.
Lyuba Ellingson is the co-founder of Red Elixir Business Solutions. Her book The Definitive Guide to PR for Small Businesses received the Community Choice Award for Best Resource in the 2014 Small Business Book Award by Small Business Trends.
Lyuba has helped countless business owners expand their businesses, attract more clients and generate more income through the use of online interactive marketing and social media. She is obsessed with systemizing processes and using cool tools to work smarter so that Red Elixir Business Solutions and its’ clients can achieve greater results.