Building a business is hard, and if you're new to entrepreneurship, it can be difficult to learn on the go. There are so many aspects to think about and while you might have your head down building the best business you can, it's crucial to look up and ask yourself "once I build it, will they come?" The truth is getting them in the door also takes a lot of work. One crucial aspect of attracting the press and customers your young business needs is PR and Marketing. It's what helps you build your brand, drive awareness and gets people in the door shopping. However, the challenge for many Makers is that PR is just plain hard.
For a new business, those initial sales are critical. A strong marketing campaign will help and today we're going to touch on the importance of Public Relations. PR is something that everyone knows they need, yet few know how to successfully go about it. It's a skill that includes reading relevant news daily, making relationships and creating strong content that attracts reporters and consumers. One of our Grommet Makers, Michelle Isrow from Undercover Tape, has a natural knack for attracting press to her product. When I first spoke with Michelle, I was surprised and thrilled to see that Undercover Tape had been featured in high level publications like Real Simple and Daily Candy. She went on to describe all the hard work she put into getting those press hits and we're sharing many of her tips here today. Read more below for our conversation about PR for new businesses.
You were lucky enough to earn high level coverage on your own. That is no easy feat. How did you do it?
My business partner, Michelle and I are proud of the press we've received. It's been a lot of hard work and persistence. I began my PR journey with the help of a good friend named Google. Parents are the biggest customer base for us, so I scoured the web for sites that I thought would attract these moms and dads. I searched for editors contact info and sometimes I had to correspond with several people before I was put in touch with the right person. I then sent emails weekly until I received a response. Some said they didn't have a meaningful spot for us and others asked to contact them at a later date. I kept a log book of all these publications that I'd spoken with and a calendar so I knew when to follow up again. When I was lucky enough to receive a sample request from them, I made sure that I didn't just throw one in a bag and send. I made the presentation perfect so they would be as impressed as possible. After 6 months of persistence, I was able to land Real Simple. Daily Candy was a bit easier and took about 2 months to finally ink a piece on Undercover Tape.
Once the press was live, what benefits did you see? Increased sales or web traffic? Were they immediate results or more long-term?
Once the press was live, we did see many benefits including sales, retail inquiries, general customer inquiries and increased website traffic. We're happy to share any and all knowledge we have with other entrepreneurs who are just starting out. We see the key as not just one press hit here and there, but to keep it going, which isn't easy. We aren't using a PR agency or representative, so that makes things harder as we don't have those relationships already, but are building them as we go.
Where did you start and what resources did you use to learn about PR that you think other entrepreneurs, makers, or small businesses could benefit from? Did you find any helpful how-to's online or was it just trial and error?
Michele and I are very fortunate because we live near L.A. where PR and media surround us. We took advice from friends and acquaintances who sometimes had contacts at publications. We made a lot of phone calls and asked questions. There was a lot of trial and error, and many hours spent on Google to research websites, blogs and publications. We quickly found that a key is to target publications that serve your audience and cover similar products and stories. For example, we're now working hard to get Undercover Tape in Parents magazine. We know this is our target demographic and it would be a huge boost for us.
How did you go about crafting the perfect pitch? Is there a magic bullet answer or is it very case specific?
It took about 3 months to get the pitch right once we began practicing. I used words like problem solver and innovative. I worked to differentiate Undercover Tape from other products that reporters were hearing about on a daily basis. We needed to stand out! It was an advantage that we have a product that is both innovative, multi-faceted and solves a problem. I often used an example from my own two children so other parents could relate.
What was the biggest challenge you found with trying to get PR and how did you overcome it?
Our biggest challenge was explaining our product and making people understand the benefit. Once we explained what Undercover Tape was, most understood the need and benefit for it. This is why sending a sample is always extremely helpful. Most reporters won't consider covering until they've tested themselves.
Thank you for sharing PR tips and your journey with Makers and potential Makers here on The Grommet.
We're proud to be in in over 100 stores all over the world and to manufacture our product in the United States. We take comfort in knowing our product helps families. We hope that Undercover Tape continues to grow and we are happy to help others with both PR and Marketing their products.
Do you have a product or company that you'd like us to check out? Tell us about it in the comments or submit your idea to our Citizens' Gallery.