PR is too costly.

Few months ago, a friend of mine put me in touch with some PR agencies who claimed that they could get me featured anywhere I like. They had the connections and all the proof you’d want to hear as a client. Great I said, how much?

$8K.

I mean come on! $8,000 just to get mentioned in a post that’s likely to dissipate in a couple of hours, that’s crazy. It didn’t even cost me that much to build and promote the product!

Let’s step back a few months earlier.

AspireIT is a startup development studio that helps non-technical founders turn their ideas into viable and profitable products.

The focus on PR started when this post got featured in Entrepreneurship by LinkedIn Pulse. This publication boosted potential clients’ confidence in our services and as a result we signed a few entrepreneurs in just two weeks.

That should mean something, right?

We wanted more of those but it wasn’t long until we realized how hard it was to get the media to talk about us or give us a chance to publish ourselves. After hearing the estimate from PR agencies, we decided to let go and instead, pitch journalists and key influencers directly. And that was another nightmare. I must have emailed 300 of them and all I got was 10 rejections. The rest, didn’t even bother to answer.

Some time this past summer, I pitched Dmitry for his startup JustReachOut to join our list of partners at EntrePerks where entrepreneurs and freelancers can access over $22,000 in combined savings from some of the best products in the market. When I contacted Dmitry, we only had about $1,000 worth of savings at EntrePerks.

After a few emails back and forth, I couldn’t help but ask him, how did you get all of those publications and features?

The short answer was: by building relationships.

His long answer was: meet me at PR That Converts.

5 minutes later, I was sold. I mean, it’s a no brainer. For a relatively small investment, I will get Dmitry’s 1 on 1 guidance whenever I need his involvement. It was like I hired a PR agency for $2,000.

As a side note, I am not an affiliate of PR That Converts or JustReachOut. I just think it’s important to share the change that led to the implementation of the PR strategies that worked.

Long story short, here are the strategies that made a difference.

 1. Take your sweet time to build relationships

Let’s put ourselves in an influencer’s shoes for a moment.

I think you’d agree with me that if you have 5 different pitches for stories with equal importance, you’re likely to choose the one by a person you’ve hand some contact or better yet have known (met, called, emailed, texted, etc.) in the past.

The truth is, influencers get hundreds of those pitches every day and the option pool is no longer 5 or 10, it’s large and can be discouraging even to just check them all out.

You want attention? Get to know them first.

To grow EntrePerks, I wrote a pitch, put a list of 200 influencers and then emailed each one at a time. Out of the 200 I pitched, only 3 agreed to collaborate with me in an affiliate setting, they get a commission for each sale.

But guess what? The 3 that agreed were actually people I had built a relationship with in the past. In other words, none of the people I didn’t know were willing to collaborate.

Even those who considered like here

and here

Did not move forward.

and

Compare that to Tomas, a Forbes contributor, with whom I’ve been chatting for a while,

You hear the answer you hope to get from everyone you email.

Frankly speaking, I knew that I needed to have some previous contact with the target influencer before asking for anything but when I looked at the time it took for me to build a relationship with those who said Yes, I decided to just pitch strangers and worst case, even if most say No, I’ll still have my target of 10 influencers to promote EntrePerks. Wrong assumption.

The right answer is: take your sweet time to build relationships.

After a few meetings with Dmitry, I used JustReachOut to

  1. Identify target infleuncers.
  2. Define an outreach strategy for each influencer and not a one size fit all kind of approach.
  3. Strike a conversation.

About two months later, I

  • Got interviewed for an Inc. post.
  • Grew EntrePerks from $1,000 to over $22,000 in combined savings.
  • Collaborated with a few select influencers to boost EntrePerks revenue by 20%.
  • Built relationships with high profile entrepreneurs who are helping me build my ventures, StartupCircle.co and its family of startups.
  • Attracted 3 entrepreneurs to AspireIT and together, we’re building great products.

And other under development projects that will likely result in featured posts, guest posts and collaborations.

To highlight the importance of relationship building even more, take the example of Tomas Turnbull founder of Groove.

In this post, Tomas writes how he got over 1000 subscribers from a single post in less than 24 hours. If you scroll down to the comments section, you’ll find comments from high profile entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuck and David Skok. How did he get them to comment on a blog post by a relatively small startup (back then)?

He took a simple approach:

After listing target influencers in a Google Sheets, which you can access here, he started with a Twitter follow, followed by two tweet mentions, two blog comments, two blog shares, and finally a personal introductory email after which comes the ask, at the right time.

When they knew who he was, he asked if they’d be interested in giving him feedback on his posts before publication. Because they liked his idea of documenting his startup journey, they agreed.

And this takes us to the second PR strategy.

2. Start by building the reason

Why would they work with or feature you and not others?

Investing in relationship building builds trust and that’s one part one of the equation. But, what’s in it for them?

What I learned I should be doing is pitch to satisfy their needs and as a consequence mine, not the other way around.

Say, you want your story to be featured in a major publication and you’re looking for journalists to write about your startup. The truth is, knowing the journalist is not enough. They are responsible for getting the best stories to the reader and if you don’t meet certain criteria, you will just be wasting their time.

What you’re looking for is a fit between you and the influencer. In other words, if you barely launched a beta version of your product even if it’s revolutionary, it doesn’t make sense to pitch journalists that write about growth and funding.

Remember the Target Influencer column in the Google Sheets we discussed above? It should be filled with relevant influencers and not anyone with a big email list or just because they are part of big media outlets.

Building the reason essentially means building your case around influencers’ needs. To use an example, a couple of weeks ago, I reached out to Hiten Shah with comments on his latest startup DraftSend. For an entrepreneur, reading detailed comments and suggestions from a user is value adding. I then pitched him to use DraftSend as a case study for my latest guide, How to Bootstrap a SaaS Startup, and asked if he’d be interested in sending me his comments on the guide and later share it with his followers.

So, in this example, I aligned my interests with Hiten’s by featuring his startup and in exchange get his feedback and recommendations of the guide.

Because of his involvement, I was able to take his testimonials to get in touch with other influencers who knew and respected him.

The bottom line, PR and influencer marketing comes down to three things:

  1. Striking a conversation.
  2. Building trust.
  3. Helping them accomplish their goals while achieving yours.

In a checklist, I put together the 5 PR strategies I learned from Dmitry and how to use them.

And when you download, you will automatically join the giveaway of EntrePerks’ lifetime access to over $22,000 in combined savings from some of the best products in the world.

There will be a winner every month!

After downloading the checklist, right me a comment below with your thoughts, experience and questions about reaching out and working with influencers.

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After downloading the checklist, write me a comment below with your thoughts, experience and questions about reaching out and working with influencers.

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