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The Best Time to Plan for Interviews is Before they Happen

Congrats! You've got a TV interview coming up!  Here's what you need to do to prepare.  For more info. on how to get started conducing your own DIY media training, check out 5 Simple Tips for Great Media Interviews.

Need help GETTING the interviews? Check out The Publicity Workshop, my 6-month, online group coaching workshop.  You're just one great media story away...

Share this Image On Your Site<p><strong>Please include attribution to melaniedowney.com with this graphic.</strong><br /><br /><a href='http://melaniedowney.com/7 Ways to Maximize your TV Appearances - Inforgraphic/'><img src='http://melaniedowney.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/7-Tips-to-Maximize-your-TV-Appearances.jpg' alt='How to prepare for TV interviews Infographic' 540px /></a></p>


The post 7 Ways to Maximize Your TV Appearances – Infographic appeared first on Melanie Downey.

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Melanie Downey by Melanie Downey - 9M ago
Public Relations in Times of Disaster

If you are still making money from the sales you get, please don’t try to ‘newsjack’ and get publicity for it. That crosses a line.  And it comes across as sleazy.

From a reporter’s point-of-view, it’s nothing more than a promotion. And it’s not their job to give you free advertising.

I’m not at all saying that by only offering a portion of your proceeds that YOU are being sleazy. I love that you are helping to raise money, actually. And I might even buy your product.  I’m just saying that it’s not the right time or way to try and get publicity.

Don’t newsjack on a disaster for your own gain, is all I’m saying.

But, there are times when it can be helpful to reach out to your press, or your audience, during a disaster.  The questions to ask yourself are:

  • Is it beneficial for the audience?
  • Are you providing some sort of value for others?
  • And are you coming from a place of service?


Here's an example from Anheuser-Busch that answers a strong yes to all three. (see video below). Not only are they providing much-needed drinking water, but it's a feel-good, human-interest story, and people want to see people and companies doing good things.  A side benefit of this type of story is that it might even encourage people or other companies to donate time or resources.

Anheuser-Busch Brewer Switches Operations From Beer To Water For Hurricane Harvey Victims | CNBC - YouTube

Another example is if you are someone who has researched charities, and have information to share about which ones are legitimate, like the nonprofit, Charity Navigator.  They  are a watchdog organization that evaluates charities based on IRS filings. you can read some recent coverage here

It is totally appropriate, and from an audience perspective, necessary and appreciated, that they would provide their insight into which charities to donate to.  I know that personally, I look to those types of expert sources when evaluating which charities to donate to. I want to know that my money will actually be used to help, and isn’t a scam organization, or my money won’t just go to the administrators.

Another example is if you are in a place to provide information on, say, how a disaster might make a public impact, like Bill Gentry, a professor of public health and former EMS official, in this article “Hurricane Harvey’s Public-Health Nightmare.” 

Other examples where expert commentary could be helpful and beneficial to people is medical advice or psychological advice for people, or advice for starting cleanup of your home, in the case of Hurricane Harvey.  

Or if you are in the area of the disaster, and you’re able to offer shelter, food, or other services or items to people who need them, like this gentleman, Jim McIngvale, aka “Mattress Mack.” He turned his two furniture stores into temporary shelters for people who needed a safe place to stay.  I’m even getting a little teary as I’m writing this, but he posted a video online inviting people to come and stay in his stores -- it’s filled with mattresses, after all. He even gave out his personal phone number.  His mission was purely to help those in need, and he did not make any money from turning his store into a temporary shelter. This is newsworthy, because it’s important for the people in the area to know they could seek shelter there.

So, if you’re providing a service -- free food, shelter, support services -- to those in need, yes, you can contact the media. You’re legitimately providing a service, and it’s beneficial for readers/listeners/viewers to know about it. We want word to get around.  It all comes down to putting sales, and your brand, aside, and genuinely helping others. If your goal is anything but this, it’s not the right time to reach out to the media.  

Have you seen great examples of how brands are helping others in times of crisis? Post a link in the comments below and share their good work!

The post When Newsjacking is Not Okay appeared first on Melanie Downey.

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Share this Image On Your Site<p><strong>Please include attribution to melaniedowney.com with this graphic.</strong><br /><br /><a href='http://melaniedowney.com/freepressreleaseinfographic/'><img src='http://melaniedowney.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Best-Free-Press-Release-Distribution-Sites.jpg' alt='Best Free Press Release Distribution Sites' 540px /></a></p>

My Publicity Workshop students who are using press releases have received not only great coverage as a result, but one, Kenisha Coy, told me that a reporter told her that her press release was the most professionally done one he’d ever seen, and he wished more people would send him more like it. She got lots of great media coverage as a result, and reporters are now seeking her out for more stories.

Join The Publicity Workshop wait list - class starts soon!


The post Infographic -Best Free Press Release Distribution Sites appeared first on Melanie Downey.

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Press releases are an important part of a robust, long-term Brand PR campaign.  And, they actually make a lot of sense for experts and small businesses.

So what about distribution?

While I don’t recommend using a distribution service (free or paid) for all press releases, using one does make sense when you have really big news.

How do you know when your news is big enough to warrant a press release?

Here's a quick test

  • Is this news really helpful, interesting, and meaningful? Is it something people will want to read and should be aware of?
  • Will it appeal to a wide number of media outlets/reporters?
  • Is your press release presented in a way that provides value?
If you've answered a big yes to each of these questions, go ahead and read on.




No PR Budget? Check out this list of the top, free, press release distribution sites. #publicity #entrepreneur #diypr
Click to Tweet

I’ve done a bit of research on several free press release distribution services.  Here are the sites with the top results.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: while I don’t recommend press releases for every little bit of news you want to pitch for your core PR strategy, they do have a place for certain types of news, and certain types of results.)


What I Evaluated in Free Press Release Distribution Services:

  • Domain Authority:   You know the saying, “You’re only as good as those you surround yourself with”?  Same applies to web sites.  Obviously, you want a service that has a high rank in search engines.  The more visible your press release is, the bigger your potential impact. I used ​MOZbar to find each site's domain authority. Higher numbers are better).
  • SEO functionality:  Good ol’ Search Engine Optimization.  Although SEO should never be the purpose of distributing your press release, you’ll want to make sure the service you choose will allow you to use tags, header tags, anchor text links, etc. to get the most out of your press release.  Their web site should have some sort of statement about press release optimization for search engines.  
  •  “NoFollow” Tags:  These instruct search engines that a hyperlink shouldn’t influence the link target’s ranking.  This is to avoid being penalized by Google’s algorithm.
  • Cost:  There are both paid and free services for press release distribution.  This post is about free services, and depending on the service, things like photos and videos may or may not be included.  These are available for an additional fee, which varies from provider to provider.


Here are the free distribution sites that made the list:

PRLog.org – This site allows links, tags, and branding for free, and has high traffic and inbound links.   You can also create a free, ad-free, press room or business profile that you can embed right onto your web site, and register for a free news alert service. You can also register multiple keywords that you want monitored. Journalists and Bloggers can also sign up for an account to post queries. However, your press release may only be up for a specified period of time, in most cases, 90 days.  (MOZ ranking: 83)

PR.com – The free package here allows for a reduced distribution to general search engines, in PR.com, to some 3rd party and news websites, and RSS feeds.  They have other tiers ranging from $30-$100 that offer additional distribution and features that you can check out here: http://www.pr.com/press-release-pricing. (MOZ ranking: 79)

Onlineprnews.com –Has a free distribution, and paid ones ranging from $22 for social media distribution to $549 for a video release. The free distribution allows you a live URL link, displays your website before your release, and optimizes your page title and meta tags based on your headline and press release summary. (MOZ ranking: 59)

PRUrgent.com --  This site offers a free distribution, as well as a $9.95 ‘Express Submission’ upsell that distributes it within 24 hours, moves it up above the other, free, releases, and gives it a ‘featured star rating.’ (MOZ ranking: 48)

Have you used any of these free sites? Or had great results from another one? Let me know in the comments below.  And, if you know of a solo expert or small business owner who might find this helpful, please share it!

My Publicity Workshop students who are using press releases have received not only great coverage as a result, but one, Kenisha Coy, told me that a reporter told her that her press release was the most professionally done one he’d ever seen, and he wished more people would send him more like it. She got lots of great media coverage as a result, and reporters are now coming to her for more stories.

Join The Publicity Workshop wait list - class starts soon!


The post Best Free Press Release Distribution Sites (when you have no PR Budget) appeared first on Melanie Downey.

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Every now and then I work with a publicity student who is hesitant about doing interviews. When I ask why, the answer is almost always the same: I’m afraid of being misquoted or saying the wrong thing.


Well, two things can help with that fear: Practice your messages, and practice your delivery.


Creating your messages is an in-depth process that should be done as part of your Brand Development. But here are some quick tips for when you’re practicing your delivery:

Need help practicing for press interviews? Here are 5 tips to get started #smallbiz #PR #entrepreneur

Click to Tweet

  1. Speak at a good pace. Not too fast, but not too slow. How to know when you’ve got it right? Basically, you record yourself answering questions, and then watch and critique the replay. Trust me when I say that no one will be a tougher critic than you. If you speak too quickly, your words might be hard to understand or follow. Then, adjust your pace based on what you see, re-record, and re-critique. And before you know it, you’ll think you’re doing pretty great. A pro tip is to find a pace that feels just a wee bit too slow to feel natural. That will give your audience that extra second to process what you’re saying.

  2. Avoid Jargon. If your 10 year old nephew wouldn’t understand it, you can assume your audience won’t either. Keep your soundbites short, simple, and sweet. Because if the average person won’t be able to understand what you’re saying, you can pretty much bet a reporter isn’t going to quote you saying it.

  3. Speak in soundbites. Take your messages and condense them down into the simplest statements.

  4. Pay attention to your interviewer. Are they understanding what you’re saying? Do they seem confused? If it’s an interview for print, and the reporter is taking notes, are they struggling to keep up? If you’re not sure, feel free to ask.

  5. Remember that “Off the record” doesn’t really mean anything. Anything you say to a reporter is fair game. If you don’t want to see it in print, don’t say it.

These tips just touch the surface of how to conduct your own DIY media training. To learn more about how to develop your brand messages, speak to your audience, pitch the press, and get known, click here to sign up for The Publicity Workshop wait list. (Registration opens in August, and I'm offering a special pre-launch discount for anyone on the list.)

The post 5 Simple Tips for Great Media Interviews appeared first on Melanie Downey.

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After a years-long Twitter hiatus, I’m back on board. And I’m loving it — it’s a different kind of interaction than I’d become used to on Facebook. Yup, Twitter’s been great. Except for one thing: TrueTwit Validation.

If you haven’t seen this, or you’re not on Twitter, basically, what happens is you follow someone, then you get an automated response that says “So and so uses TrueTwit validation”, and it prompts you to click on a link to ‘prove’ you’re a real person. The idea, I guess, is to show that the follower is a real person.

The first few times I saw it, I immediately deleted it. You know that game where someone says one word and then you say the first word that pops into your mind? The use of the word ‘validation’ made me immediately think of ‘scam.’

Not sure why they’d need to validate ME, after all. I just want to see their tweets. Not worth the time, or the risk.

But, then I followed someone I met at a conference, (Let’s connect on Twitter, I said) and got the TrueTwit validation request. So, hesitantly, I… clicked…

I honestly can’t tell you what was on the rest of the screen because all I saw was a flashing ad. And with every flash, my brain screamed, “Beware! Beware!” So I got out of there as fast as I could. And ‘unfollowed.’

I guess the irony here is that my immediate impression when I see a TrueTwit validation request is that THEY, the person I followed, is a bot or a spammer. It seems a bit sleazy even, and like I said, I was questioning why they were making me click on a suspicious outside link just to follow them.

Half a year later, I’m still seeing lots of TrueTwits. The last one just a few minutes ago from a local business. I just wanted to know what they’re up to. And now I feel a bit offended..

I can’t help but wonder, why would someone make me jump through hoops when I just want to see their tweets? Aren’t I doing them a favor by following them?

Now, I’m just one person, but I can’t be the only person to have this reaction. It bothered me enough that I’m writing about it here, after all. And I can’t imagine that any benefit someone would get from it would outweigh turning off people who had actually made an effort (ever so small, but still an effort) to follow you on Twitter.

So I’m just throwing this out into the universe: If you’re a small business owner, or someone who’s trying to communicate with your audience, just say no to TrueTwit. And if you're using it, and want to remove it from your account, just google 'remove TrueTwit' and directions will pop right up.

What are your thoughts when you see TrueTwit? And I’m curious, have you ever clicked on the validation link? Let me know in the comments below.

And if you know anyone who’s still using TrueTwit, please share to help spread the word.

The post Small Business Owners, Please Don’t Do This on Twitter appeared first on Melanie Downey.

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by Melanie Downey

Attending trade shows and conferences is a great way to keep up with industry trends and issues, to network, and to strengthen or start relationships. But they can also be hectic and stressful. Luckily, a little advance planning will make for a smoother experience and get you better results.

Here are some PR tips to get the most out of your time: Before the Show:

    1. Figure out what your goals are for attending the show – both personal goals and goals for your company. This will keep you on track, and will help you make decisions, especially when you start getting tired (and you will get tired!)

    2. Read the trade show materials, and do a little research on the vendors you’re interested in, and any networking events you want to attend. Make a list of who you want to see, and what you want to learn from them. This advance planning will give you a chance to get questions ready so you don’t waste valuable time on the floor.

  • ​​Get access to the event’s ‘press list.’  If there’s a reporter or media outlet you are interested in, reach out to introduce yourself and schedule a brief, in-person meeting at the trade show.  NOTE: Don’t give a  hard sell, or even expect media coverage from this interview. If it’s happens, great, but the idea is to start a relationship, and learn how you might be able to help the reporter. This is the secret to good public relations!
  • 3. Join the event’s social media pages and find out if they have special hashtags. Then, post! Let everyone know you’re excited to be going, what you’re looking forward to (name names if there’s someone specific you really want to see or hear), comment on other posts, and answer other’s questions. By pre-networking before the event, you’ll be one step closer to that introduction, and can even arrange to quickly meet people when you’re there.

    4. If you’re a vendor, check out the event media list, and schedule interviews with bloggers and the media.

    5. Check out the map of the trade show floor so you can figure out the most efficient way to plan your route.

    6. Schedule meetings ahead of time. Some of the vendors will only see people by appointment, depending on what their business is, or how much staff they have, so if you want to meet with them, you’ll need to contact them in advance of the show. Be sure to leave plenty of time between meetings in case you run late, and make sure you leave yourself time to walk the trade show floor.

    7. Develop a system to keep track of who you meet, contact info, products, and any notes you’ll want to follow up on after the show. A table works well, as does creating a special twitter list.

20 Tips to Master your Conference Experience  

Click to Tweet

8. If you’re staying at a hotel, you’ll want to stay at the convention center hotel so you’re not wasting time with travel, and you can make a quick trip back to you room if you need to get materials, or drop some off (you’ll probably collect a lot). Book in advance so you can get the discounted rate.

9. Bring Promotional Gear: You’ll want to bring any branded stuff you have that might attract attention – a shirt, hat, conference bag, as well as promotional gifts to give away (pens, or anything else that has your logo on it), and plenty of business cards.

10. Pack: Make sure you bring comfortable walking shoes, and you can thank me later for that one. An extra duffel bag for all of the marketing materials you’ll gather is a good idea, too.

At the Show:

11. Get an updated show directory and calendar. Sometimes vendors or show managers make last minute changes, and adjust your plan accordingly.

12. Put your name tag on your right shoulder so it can easily be seen when shaking hands.

13. Strike up conversations with other attendees (but don’t start by soliciting them!) They may have great insights about products you’re interested in, or might just be someone great to network with.

14. Be sure to gather information about what your competitors are up to. An easy way to ask is, “So, what are you working on?” If you get too technical, they may get cautious.

15. Connect with the show organizers and influencers – Let them know if you love the event or their presentation. If they need help, offer to volunteer (if you can). It can help to build a relationship, and can even turn into a future speaking opportunity.

16. Don’t forget to drink water!

17. Make note of trade show booths that worked well, for your future ideas file.

18. Be on the lookout for networking opportunities and introducing yourself to industry influencers.

19. Do your homework. When you get back to your room, review the vendors and influencers you met with, make note of ideas on how to work with them, or orders you want to make (most will offer Trade Show Specials).

After the Show:

20. Follow up with your contacts, send out LinkedIn or Facebook invites, and email or call with any promised information.​

What do you think? Like these tips?  Have any others to share? Let me know in the comments below.  

The post 20 Tips for Maximizing Trade Show PR appeared first on Melanie Downey.

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I’m a believer that gifts should be practical. Things you can use. Things that will make your life better, easier, and most importantly, things that you’ll continue to use all year long... and not break the bank. 

Here’s my list of  7 things that will make any small business owner or entrepreneur happy, and some are tax-deductible, too!

1. Neewer® 36 LED Clip-on Rechargable Selfie Cellphone Ring Light.

Live Video. Everybody’s doing it, and if you aren’t, you might want want to make a resolution to start. I finally jumped on a Facebook live video about a month ago, and I wished I’d done it sooner. Yeah, I was nervous, and the first few were... well, you could tell they were my first ones. But they were actually pretty effective! When I watched the videos back though, it was pretty obvious that I needed some better lighting. With Facebook live, you can livestream right from your phone, and this little cellphone ring light works well and is a bargain at less than $10.

2. Neewer 600W Portrait Studio Continuous Lighting Kit.  

And while we’re at it, if you’ve got the space, and you think you’ll be doing lots of videos, this lighting kit has also made a big difference for me. It was a great deal at about $50, and I use it at night when I’m filming from my phone, and anytime when I’m recording from my computer in my dark office. It's the type of kit you see the pros using, and this particular set comes with two white umbrellas, two black/silver ones, a table top light stand, the bulbs, and a carrying case for the umbrellas, and second, smaller one for the bulbs.

3. Logitech C922x Pro Stream Webcam.  

 Do you ever listen to audio recordings or podcasts and wonder if the person recorded themselves in their bathroom? And while we’re still talking video, another way to create better recordings and sound more professional is to start with a quality microphone. I recommend this Logitech because not only does it produce great sound, but it’s also a high quality HD webcam. This mic/webcam has come to my rescue for all of my videos, and also makes me sound great in audio presentations and my podcasts.

4. Acer Chromebook 14

It was under $300, and it’s one of the best investments I’ve made all year. While it won’t necessarily work as your main computer -- you can’t download software, and it only supports Chrome apps -- a Chromebook is absolutely great for traveling. First, in order to access anything, you need to log in with your google/gmail password. So, if it somehow get stolen or lost, you don’t have to worry about someone stealing your secret files or passwords. Second, it’s ready right out of the box. Buy it. Turn it on. Log in with your google password. And you’re up and running! There’s nothing to set up or install. Easy, peasy! Third, it’s lightweight and easy to carry. I’ve done video calls, recorded audio, created slides, lots of documents, and it has a fast web browsing speed as well. You can also work offline with google docs, slides, and sheets, as well. And fourth, and most importantly, it’s super inexpensive. If you do end up losing it or breaking it while you’re on the road, it’s easier to come to terms with a $300 loss than $1000 or more for another laptop.

5. Instapot Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker  

Okay, this one’s not directly business related, but it’s a lifesaver for any busy entrepreneur. I can’t be the only person who’s ever become so engrossed with work, or had a meeting run late, and suddenly realize I should have started dinner hours ago. Well, never fear, because the Instapot will come to your rescue. You can cook a whole chicken in 30 minutes! This handy appliance has saved me many times (I have two hungry teenagers who do after-school sports and come home STARVING!). It comes with a cookbook, but pressure cooking seems all the rage on the Interwebs right now, so a quick google search will bring up lots of great recipes.

6. An SSL Certificate.  

“Gimme an S!” An HTTPS, that is. This one doesn’t really seem like a ‘gift’ sort of thing, but starting in January 2017, if you ask for passwords or have a credit card field on your web site, and you have the standard HTTP protocol without the S (which stands for secure), Google’s Chrome Browser will mark that page as insecure. Getting a secure certificate is really a gift for your SEO and your business. These ‘certificates’ can be purchased through your web host.

And if you want to get some great deals on software or services for your business, like web hosting, free video recording software, or free magazine, book, or audio book trials, be sure to check out my Resources for Entrepreneurs.

The post Gifts for Yourself – The Entrepreneur’s Wishlist appeared first on Melanie Downey.

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​Do Loyalty Programs really impact people's buying behavior?  According to this study, they do.  And we can use the data collected around them to improve our PR and content strategies.

CrowdTwist, a loyalty and engagement firm, conducted a survey* of 1,027 men and women aged 18-71 in Sept. 2016, and here are some interesting behavioral attributes from their report, Battle For the Sexes: The 2016 CrowdTwist Gender Loyalty Report. 

  • Women are more loyal to brands, meaning they’re more likely to make purchase decisions based on brand, regardless of price, quality, or convenience. 21% more loyal compared to men, actually.
  • Loyalty Programs have a big impact! About 77% of women and 74% of men take them into consideration when shopping. The younger the person, the more likely they are to make shopping decisions based on loyalty programs (81% for millennials; 57% for baby boomers).

Millennials are the most likely to make shopping decisions based on Loyalty Programs.

Click to Tweet
  • When it comes to Loyalty Programs, men tend to favor exclusive access to deals (early access to a product or sale, special invitations, etc.), while women valued exclusive access to discounts, coupons, and special pricing.
  • Women are more likely to be brand evangelists. They’re more likely to share posts on social media, and send their friends to referral programs.
What does that mean for PR and Content?

What does this mean from a PR and brand development standpoint? Depending on your goals and objectives, you can decide whether to create content that would appeal to men or women. For example, are you looking to spread brand awareness through social media? You might want to create content that would appeal to women. Is your brand targeted at Millennials? Best to create a robust Loyalty Program, and heavily promote it. Is your audience mostly men? Let them be the first to try out your service or product or get a behind-the-scenes sneak-peek of your new product.

What do you think? Does your brand have a loyalty program?  Are you thinking of starting one?

*You can get a full copy of the report  here: http://crowdtwist.com/report-battle-for-the-sexes-form/

The post The Latest on Loyalty Programs and How to Use that Data to Develop Content appeared first on Melanie Downey.

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(Watch the video below, and if you listen carefully, you can hear the woodpecker outside my door!)​

5 Reasons Why You Should Do Your Own PR - YouTube

1.  No one will promote you better than you. That's because no matter how great your publicist is, they'll never match your level of passion, knowledge, and enthusiasm for what you're doing.

2.  Journalists love working directly with the people they’re interviewing or writing about. People who work in the media are busy! They’ve got tight deadlines and lots on their plate, so trying to schedule interviews between it all can be frustrating. But, if they’ve got direct access to you, it saves them time and makes their job just a little bit easier.

3.  You can develop and keep relationships with Journalists. Once you’ve worked with a reporter, and they know you and know that you can give them what they need, they’ll want to use you again for future stories. By dealing with them directly, you can easily keep in touch, send them news you think might be of interest to them, or even offer other sources when they need them. Keep in touch with journalists you’ve worked with, and it can not only lead to more stories with them, but with other journalists, as well.

4. This is the obvious one. Cost. Even if you hire a small PR Firm, it’ll cost about $5K a month. You might find a freelancer who only charges $1,000 a month, but even that adds up over a year. $12,000! It takes just a few hours a week and knowing the right way to pitch reporters, and you can get that same publicity for FREE!

No one will promote you better than you.

Click to Tweet

5.  It’s not as complicated as you might think! Maybe you’re just not sure where to start, or maybe you’ve already tried pitching a few reporters, but haven’t had much luck. The good news is that you can do this, and you can get press for yourself and your brand for free. All it takes is knowing how to think like a journalist, knowing the right way to pitch them, and a little bit of time and effort on your part, and you can be on your way to getting local, national, even international press!

Have you started doing your own PR? If not, what's holding you back?

The post 5 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Should Be Their Own Publicist appeared first on Melanie Downey.

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