Edward Bernays knew exactly what he was doing when he hired ten women to light up their cigarettes during the 1929 Easter Parade in New York.
Back then, it was uncommon for women to smoke, so when these women lit up, women all over America saw it as an act of liberation. And they wanted in.
Tobacco sales rose. Women felt empowered smoking in public.
It was exactly what The American Tobacco Company wanted when they hired Bernays to create his famous Torches of Freedom PR stunt.
The Torches of Freedom was the first public relations (PR) campaign and its success showed brands how important PR is.
Today, PR strategies are more accessible to small business owners than they were in 1929. And as a creator, all you need is your laptop and a bit of creativity to test your own PR strategies.
What is public relations?
Public relations boils down to one simple idea: managing your audience’s perception of your brand. Think of PR like a friendship between you and your audience. You need to nurture that friendship by communicating openly and sharing relevant information. And when you butt heads, you need to ease the conflict by apologizing and owning up to your mistakes.
Back before the internet, PR centered around offline visibility, and businesses paid big bucks to have publications feature their stories in magazines and newspapers. (Bernays earned $25,000 for his stunt; an amount that equals nearly $500,000 in today’s money!)
The digitization of our world had a profound impact on public relations by shifting it online and making it an accessible activity for businesses of all sizes.
These days, creators can manage their own PR strategy while sipping a latte in the comfort of their home.
But isn’t PR just marketing…?
PR and marketing are actually quite distinct, however, they work together to create a holistic business strategy. The easiest way to differentiate the two is by looking at their end goals.
The end goal of PR is to maintain a relationship with your audience and manage public opinion of your brand. Creators do this by focusing on five different pillars of public relations:
- Media relations: develop relationships with people in the media to increase credibility and grow your brand
- Influencer relations: form long term relationships with influencers in your niche to extend your reach
- Community relations: build goodwill within your community to strengthen the relationship with your audience
- Online communication: communicate via avenues like your website, newsletter, and social media to control the narrative around your brand and disseminate info faster
- Crisis communication: a plan to navigate times of crises to reduce the impact of negative events
We’ll explore each branch so you understand the role they play in your PR strategy.
5 pillars of public relations for creators
1. Media relations
Forming relationships with different people in media can help you:
- Land a guest appearance on a popular podcast in your niche
- Secure a guest appearance on T.V.—like a news segment—and reach a massive audience
- Get a speaking gig at a conference to showcase your expertise
- Guest blog for authority sites to earn quality backlinks
- Get mentions in magazines and print
Lisa Steele, an author, blogger, and T.V. host, leverages media relations to land impressive guest appearances on T.V., print, radio, online and more. Her lineup of guest appearances includes shows like Martha Knows Best and The View.
The key to media relations is to build relationships with people connected to outlets your audience frequents. Lisa has the following tips to build relationships with the media:
Follow journalists and other media people on LinkedIn and Twitter, share their articles or segments that are relevant to your brand/niche, and tag them. Reach out to your local morning or news shows to talk about doing a segment with them. And keep reaching out with seasonally or other newsworthy relevant blog posts as the opportunity arises. – Lisa Steele
2. Influencer relations
39% of consumers don’t trust paid influencers, saying that it feels too much like an ad rather than an authentic review.
So, how do you leverage influencers in an authentic way? Consider influencer relations.
Influencer relations is similar to influencer marketing with one key difference: with influencer marketing you pay an influencer to promote your product for a specific campaign, but with influencer relations, you focus on long term relationships with influencers. Rather than pay influencers for reviews, you send out products with no expectation of being promoted.
And influencers also enjoy this style of partnerships. Lifestyle influencer Shanna Leigh prefers influencer relations over influencer marketing. She tells me that “influencer relations produces more authentic content creation. Working with brands long term is beneficial because it doesn’t feel like I have to create content for them; I actually want to share my favorite products on my platform.”
The quickest way to find potential influencers to form relationships with is to look at your past customers. They’re people who already know, like, and trust you as a brand, and may be excited to talk about your products on their platform.
3. Community relations
Community relations is the work you do within your community, like donating and volunteering. Worker Bee Yoga hosted a free yoga class and encouraged participants to donate to Garden House Hospice Care in lieu of a class fee.
Keep in mind that the organizations you choose to align yourself with matter: 83% of 18-34 year olds say it’s important that companies they buy from align with their values. Before choosing an organization to donate to, make sure it’s one your audience cares about.
What’s more, you don’t need to make big donations to land in favorable light with your audience. People care more about how brands donate rather than how much.
4. Online communications
With media and influencer relations, you may not have control of the message you intend to share, which is why online communications is crucial. The three areas of online communications that creators should spend time on is social media, email, and your website.
When it comes to PR, you can use your social media as a way to amplify your message, fast. When something important happens—like a new partnership—use your socials to disseminate the info to your audience.
The problem with social media is that you’re up against ever-changing algorithms, and you don’t own your accounts. For a reliable method of communication, turn to email.
Think of your website as the front door to your business and use it as a way to establish credibility. Here are a few ideas:
- Publish updates through your blog to keep your audience informed of what’s happening with your biz
- Create a contact page so it’s easy for people to get in touch with you
- Have a press page that showcases media outlets who have featured you—not only will this give you credibility, media personnel may be more inclined to work with you if they see you have past experience
5. Crisis communications
When your PR strategy runs smooth, your audience will trust you, refer you to their friends, and buy your products. In fact, SproutSocial’s study found that 57% of people will increase their spending with a brand they feel connected with. Life is good when your PR strategy works as intended!
But it’s not always easy to keep things chugging along. Accidentally aligning yourself with the wrong influencer or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can hurt your brand or worse, get you #canceled. And if you don’t deal with the backlash properly, you can damage your audience’s perception of your brand.
If a PR crisis occurs, be prepared to apologize and own up to your mistakes right away. Your audience will appreciate the humility.
4 simple PR strategies for creators looking to build their brand
All of the above pillars seem like a lot of work. But in reality, there are four tasks you can do to tackle each pillar with ease.
1. Build a media list
Doing this helps you with:
A media list is a contact list with relevant reporters, journalists, bloggers, influencers, and other media personalities. As a creator, you can use the contacts on your media list to land guest appearances, get publicity, or connect with influencers.
Your media list doesn’t need to be anything fancy—a spreadsheet with columns for name, company, and contact info is all you need.
And good news for those who aren’t buddy-buddy with people in the media: studies have shown that weak ties—like acquaintances—are actually better for landing opportunities compared to strong ties—like close friends.
Molly Beck, owner of the podcasting platform Messy.fm, is an expert on building a network through email. She even authored Reach Out to teach entrepreneurs to do the same. Molly’s formula to email strangers and turn them into weak-ties goes like this:
- Start your email by greeting the recipient by name
- Introduce yourself with the world’s shortest bio
- Offer a compliment along with one other “gift” from the list below:
- A book or article recommendation you believe the recipient would like
- Knowledge or something special only you can access
- A press opportunity
- Free advice you have that would benefit them
- Outline your “ask” (the “ask” is what you want from the recipient, like asking them to be a guest on their podcast. Don’t include the ask if you just want to introduce yourself.)
- Sign off with a “thank you” or “have a nice day” and your name
As for the “ask”, Molly notes that being direct is key:
For a long time, I would describe to people what we were doing and then say, “do you have any ideas on who we can talk to?” But recently, I’ve been working on being more direct in my asks.
Now I say, “If you know any communications managers who work at large companies or in university systems, could you introduce them so I can tell them how Messy.fm can save them time and money?” It tells people—who usually do want to help!—precisely what I need.
Being straightforward saves everyone time. – Molly Beck
Pro Tip: If you can’t find an email for the person you’d like to contact, use an email finder service like Viola Norbert.
2. Craft your brand story
Doing this helps you with:
Figuring out what makes you unique will help you craft your brand story. But remember: the purpose of your story isn’t to toot your own horn. It’s to connect with your audience. Our brains are hardwired to prefer stories over stats, and telling your story will get your audience to lean in and listen.
Share things like your struggles or what motivates you even when times get tough. Weave these stories into your social media posts, your email newsletters, and the content you upload to your site to build stronger connections with your audience.
3. Get to know your audience
Doing this helps you with:
Remember when we said that consumers want to support brands whose values align with theirs? You might not know which causes your audience cares about, but there’s a simple way to find out: speak with them.
With ConvertKit, use tags to poll and segment your audience to see which causes they are about. Additionally, consider adding an email into your welcome sequence so you can capture the interests of new subscribers right off the bat, automatically.
Once you get to know your audience, you can map out your community relations strategy. Consider:
- Donating a portion or full amount of sales for a particular period of time
- Volunteering and documenting your experience to raise awareness
- Educating your audience about certain issues
Your audience will feel good supporting a creator who also supports the causes they’re passionate about.
4. Audit your online reputation
Doing this helps you with:
Don’t wait until your reputation is up in flames before implementing your crisis communications plan. Actively track and monitor your online reputation to get ahead of any potential crises. Try:
- Setting up a Google Alert for your name + business name to get email alerts whenever someone mentions you online
- Using Social Mention to see where you pop up on the web—and what people are saying
- Periodically searching your name on different social platforms to see who is posting about you and what they’re saying
This way, you’ll know exactly what people are saying about you and your biz and can adjust your PR strategy accordingly.
For example, if people are complaining about a recent collaboration you did, you might need to spend some more time getting to know your audience to figure out why they didn’t like the collab in the first place.
And of course, don’t sweep any crises under the rug—a swift apology can help rebuild lost trust.
ConvertKit makes it easy to implement your PR strategy
We get it—every way you turn, gurus are telling you to do all the things with your biz. And it’s exhausting.
But PR is one area you shouldn’t skip.
The good news is that with ConvertKit, you can schedule and automate your email marketing and then focus on activities you can’t automate, like guest T.V. appearances or building connections for your media list.
And with your email list, you’ll always have direct contact with the people who matter most to your biz—your biggest brand fans.
Discover how easy public relations is with ConvertKit on your side. Sign up for ConvertKit today.