After I finally launched my first private label product (get the full story here), I continued sharing about our product to my personal and business social media accounts, but that only got me so far. I needed to figure out new sources of traffic. One day at work, I remembered that the college where I teach sends out a weekly email highlighting news stories from around campus. I wondered if they’d be interested in writing a story of my new venture so I contacted the Public Information Office and it turns out, they were! They sent a photographer to take photos of me teaching and I did a phone interview with a reporter. A couple weeks later, the story of my new company was on the college’s website and in the weekly email newsletter. I immediately began to get emails from colleagues, some I’d never met, congratulating me and saying they were ordering my product for themselves or for family members. Woo hoo!
This made me wonder who else I could contact that might be interested in sharing our story. Next, I reached out to my two alumni associations, one from undergrad and one from grad school. I told them briefly about what I was doing and that it would make an interesting for fellow alumni to hear. Of course, it would also highlight how my education at their institution had helped make it possible. Both schools responded that they wanted to interview me and that a reporter would be contacting me! First, my graduate school wrote up an article that appeared on the alumni magazine’s blog as part of their “Young Alumni Series”. (I’m not sure I really qualified as “young” considering I’m in my late forties, but I wasn’t going to argue!) They also shared the story on their various social media platforms. Shortly after it was released I began to get emails from readers looking forward to trying my product and supporting a fellow alum! Second, my undergrad did an hour-long phone interview that will appear as part of a feature in the fall print edition of the alumni magazine. I’m hoping that will garner more exposure, more sales, and more links to our website!
This free press thing was really working so I decided to reach out to the major newspaper in our city. It reaches over a million readers weekly so if I could get a story there, I knew it would be a huge boost! I visited the paper’s contact page and reached out to some of the editors, as well as the reporters who wrote up “human interest” stories. I hoped that my story of a local family business looking for make a difference would connect. I also mentioned I’d recently been featured on my college’s website as a way of showing there was already a little interest. After a couple of days, one of reporters I contacted responded that she wanted more information so she could propose the story to her editor. I responded and a few days later it was a go! The reporter and a photographer/videographer came to our house to interview our entire family. A week later, on Saturday July 2, 2016, our story came out online and in the print edition. The week before the article was released we sold 36 units on Amazon, for an average of just over 5 sales per day. But that Saturday we sold 103 units through Amazon and another 48 through our website for a total of 151! We also got numerous emails from readers who were excited about our product and happy to support a local business. We even got a couple emails from local business owners of similar companies who wanted to meet to swap ideas! Over the next week we sold a total of 324 units across both sales channels! Quite a bit better than the 36 of the previous week. 🙂
While our sales didn’t remain at that extreme level, in the two weeks since that article appeared our sales have significantly increased. Over the past week we sold 89 units through Amazon for an average of 12.7/day, and another 11 through our website. I attribute the increased sales to a few factors:
- Improved Page Rank – The huge spike in sales the week after the article came out bumped us to #1 for our primary search term! Even today we bounce between #1-#3.
- More Reviews – We’ve received dozens of new reviews and just surpassed 100 putting us in triple digits which I speculate gives a subconscious boost to our listing.
- Gifts – After people tried our product for themselves, we’ve had several email us saying they were buying it for friends and family to try.
- Repeat Buyers – As our product is consumable, people who like our product are starting to reorder it. Exciting!
- Better SEO – Our business’s ecommerce website is benefiting from all of the backlinks we’ve acquired from reputable sites, such as colleges and newspapers.
That worked so well that I got excited about contacting other news outlets! I contacted all of the local TV news stations, as well as public radio stations. I also reached out to newspapers back in my the state where I grew up in the off-chance they’d be interested in a story on a hometown boy. Finally, I contacted small, online newspapers in our area. I’m still waiting to hear back from most of them as I just contacted them last week, but one small, online newspaper already interviewed me for an article that will appear in the next few days!
Interested in using free press to promote your business? Here’s a list of potential outlets to get you started.
Sources of Free Press
Employer Newsletters – Many employers have regular newsletters, either print or via email, focused on the company and employees’ accomplishments and successes.
Alumni Associations – Alma maters love sharing stories of how their graduates are innovating and trying new things. Alumni success makes their institution look good!
Local Newspapers – Newspapers are always looking for “human interest” stories from their community to engage readers.
Local Radio & TV Stations – Much like newspapers, TV and radio stations (especially public radio) enjoy compelling, local news stories that connect with their audience.
Community Forums – Look for interest groups related to your product or market, share your story, and get involved!
Business Associations – While most chambers of commerce and business groups have paid memberships, some still share about new local businesses in hopes of getting them to join.
BONUS: Deal Sites – While not technically “press”, posting a coupon or special offer on a deal site can get you both traffic and sales. (I’ve had good luck with slickdeals.net but there are many others.)
Contacting Free Press
Once you’ve researched and brainstormed a list of free press outlets it’s time to contact them. You can typically find contact information on their website’s Contact page. You can also try looking for a “News Tip” email address or contact page. Here are a few pointers on what to say:
- Keep It Short – Don’t write a giant email telling your entire story!
- Hit the Highlights – Give a brief overview and be sure to include any elements that make for a compelling story. A few examples:
- Family business, single parent, young entrepreneur, immigrant/American dream, better life for your family, pursuing a lifelong dream, turning a passion into a business, making a difference, helping others, helping the planet, supporting a charity, competing against huge corporations, etc.
- Give Social Proof – Once you get some press, mention it as a way of building credibility with other outlets.
- Invite Them to Contact You – Include your name, email, and phone number so they can contact you for more information if they’re interested in your story.
You can download my Free Press Checklist, along with two Sample Email Templates, by clicking the link below.
I’d leave to hear your questions or comments, so leave them below!