The No B.S. Guide to Getting Quality PR

Note from Caleb: Besides guest posts, one of the other most useful types of online publicity you can get comes from more traditional PR outlets (newspapers, massive brands, aggregators, etc.). For example, Steve Kamb’s post that got “Gizmodo’d” or Jaime Tardy being featured on Yahoo’s front page.

Today’s guest post by John Hall of Digital Talent Agents will help you get your feet wet with traditional public relations and open the door for the same type of exposure to happen for you. Take it away John!

Many people have been fed lines of crap by traditional public relations firms. People sunk money into campaigns that led nowhere, or worse, they found themselves leaving a PR partnership with a worse reputation than they started with.

These experiences tend to make companies gun-shy about pulling the trigger on forming another PR relationship.

Luckily for you – and the entire industry – the PR world is changing. The future of PR lies in combining social media, SEO, and content marketing to develop a kick-ass strategy that takes your brand to a new level and naturally drives press your way.

Here are some quick tips that can help you get good PR.

First, Hit the Free PR

Social media is one of the best forms of free PR. Build these accounts up so you have a platform to share information and amplify your content. Personal branding sites, like, can optimize your social media in search results.

The easier it is to find you, the fewer barriers there are to building your social network.

HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is also a great source to gain a free press opportunity. Don’t spend a lot of time filling out every opportunity you see, but if one makes sense for you, go for it.


People get screwed by signing a long-term contract and paying a retainer, without seeing any results. My best clients have been ones who have been shafted by PR companies that charged a retainer without verifying results.

Credibility and authority are hard to measure; however, there are online tools that can help you. Google Analytics, DoubleClick Ad Planner, and WhoReTweetedMe are just a few resources that can help you track results.

When Digital Talent Agents switched to a pay-for-performance model and included analytic reports in our service, we more than doubled our clients, and customer satisfaction increased. Don’t get sucked into a contract with a heavy retainer without shopping around for firms that don’t make you pay until they have actual results to show you.

“As Seen In”

Many people pay thousands of dollars trying to get mentioned in publications so they can add these badges to their sites. The easy way out of this is by using a site like PR Newswire or PRWeb; sign up for the paid service, rather than the free version.

You are able to include links in the paid version, and there’s a better chance you’ll get picked up by high-quality publications. However, don’t think that just because you paid, you’ll get a great result.

Write a strong press release, or get help doing it, so it will actually get picked up. After these publications find you, your article may be relegated to a low-traffic area, but you can still add the badge to your site. Now that you know how easy it can be, it makes you consider how much many of those “As Seen In” badges cost!

Print is a Thing of the Past

Focus your resources on online media – newspapers and magazines are thrown out the next day. Online placements are amplified by social media and SEO. Content aggregators, like Zite, can garner even more exposure.

I’ve seen articles in no-name publications get picked up by The Atlantic or Business Insider and go viral. Online media allows you to have a spread effect that you won’t get in print.

Focus on Content Coming from You

Typical PR is usually focused around getting content written about you. Instead, make an effort to get content by you published. You can even do this by guest posting or syndicating your blog.

The more you build your brand as an expert, the more press you’ll attract.

I’ve made more of an effort to build my brand in the last 6 months, starting out by contributing to smaller publications; now, I’ve contributed to Forbes and The Washington Post. I’ve had countless press and business opportunities come from people seeing my contributions. I’ve seen it work with a lot of our clients, too.

It takes a little time, but it pays off.

Conferences and Organizations

Consider yourself one of the best PR tools that you have. Life is all about relationships, and conferences and organizations are two of the best ways to build them with people outside your current network. 

The Digital Marketing Conference, Online Underground Seminar, BlogWorld, and many other conferences exist than can help you build relationships. There are great organizations, like the Young Entrepreneur Council, 85Broads, Founders Club, and Entrepreneurs’ Organization, that can connect you with the right influencers.

I joined a Facebook group called The Brotherhood; while I admit that the name is a little different, I have met great people, expanded my network, and brought business to my company. Reach out to people you know with large networks, and find out what you need to do to get involved.

Build Your Brand

The most important thing you can do to boost your PR is to consistently do what you can to build your brand. I have seen a lot of success with our clients with guest contributing to online publications.

However, there are a lot opportunities to take advantage of, including webinars, speaking engagements, and social media campaigns.

It’s entirely possible to establish yourself, even if you’re starting from scratch. As you continue to help build your own brand, you’ll naturally have press head your way.  You will ultimately be able to see through the BS that some PR firms want to feed you. That knowledge, my friends, is priceless.

What kind of success have you had getting traditional or “big press” companies to feature you? Was it worth the effort? Let us know in the comments below this post.

John Hall is the CEO of Digital Talent Agents, an online public relations company that helps experts build their personal and company brands through producing high-quality content for reputable publications.

25 thoughts on “The No B.S. Guide to Getting Quality PR”

  1. Hey John,

    Great post, this is a topic that is not talked about much in the online marketing space and is often overlooked. It is something that I personally did not know much about, so I’ll definitely be taking your suggestions and running with them.

    One question I did have, I’m not particularly familiar with the concept of a “retainer.” What exactly is that and how does it work?


  2. Great overview. A startup I was working with drained a few thousand on a useless PR campaign that reaped no results, and I’ve been wary ever since. Thanks for demystifying the process a bit – got me brainstorming on a broader range of publications I can submit to. I think a lot of people want to jump straight to Wired, New York Times and the biggies – but starting small and building from the little guys is a great strategy. Thanks again!

  3. Great post thank you John. What many bloggers don’t realise is that they’ve already done the hard work. Online media are always looking for great content, which is something they have in abundance. Really the only thing that is stopping them from getting loads of coverage is a process for engaging with the media, which isn’t all that different from organising a guest post.

  4. Drew,
    People often confuse their goals working with a PR company. Your goals are usually centered around bringing in more revenue, building material relationships, and increase conversions. Some people say that their goals are to get into the Forbe’s and other top tier publications. When in realty what they should be doing is creating a strategy to reach these goals. I have been in Forbe’s which was great. I received a lot of attention however, some of the small to mid-tier sites are the ones that brought in more of the short term gains. Ultimately, if you hit the small to mid-sized sites first and work your way up to the large ones you get the best of both worlds. You get the engaged audience that comes with the smaller sites and the credibility/authority that you get from the large sites. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Alex,
    Thanks for the comment. I live in this online media world and you are correct that these media outlets need quality content. However, sometimes it is hard to develop the relationships with editors and site owners to get the right opportunities. They are hit by all different types of people. It took DTA a while to develop the relationships that we have with the publications. To be honest, what helped me the most is building my own brand. The more I have done that the easier it has been for me to get opportunities. Conferences, speaking, guest posts, social media, etc. are all great ways to build your brand up so opportunities come to you naturally.

  6. I think getting PR is probably one of the most overlooked things by bloggers and website owners. Most people think “I’m not newsworthy” however there are tons of things you can do to make yourself newsworthy – you just have to be creative. But one of the most important things to remember is that just like for blog posts HEADLINES are extremely important when pitching the media. Thanks for the great post!


  7. Thomas,
    You are completely right. If you are a blogger out there that doesn’t think you are newsworthy, why aren’t you newsworthy? What makes everybody else such a thought leader that makes them more intelligent than you. If you are a legitimate expert in your area you should share your knowledge and expertise. If you are not an expert, what can you do to get there. Solid comment Thomas.

  8. Thank you John for these great tips. The as seen on part really got my eyes wide open. Never knew such sites existed, now as you said I am wondering how much people have spent for all the as seen badges they display. Thanks for the resourceful links you shared!

  9. Tito,
    Glad to help. It’s pretty easy to get the “As seen in” badges. The more important thing is when you are getting full articles out there with content coming from you. Especially for bloggers. My site had the “As Seen In” a bunch of publications, however the biggest difference was when I was able to put that I contribute to Forbe’s, Washington Post, etc. Really helped my professional brand and my company’s growth.

  10. Great informative article. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I particularly liked the part about joining a Facebook group and figuring out what you need to do to fit in. I’ve been trying to figure out how to build my social media presence and this is something that I’m going to have to try.

  11. John, lovely post and write up. I so much believe in PR as it helps build a brand and also increase reach. The AS SOON ON badge as well increases one credibility.

    2 days ago, while i was checking something online, it was so funny to see a PR url ranking for the KW which is my friend’s name.


  12. Actionable tips.

    I remember PR used to be a glamorous, high paying job. Now, it’s not that it’s not glamorous or high paying… you just have to really be worth your salt and willing to provide results in order to really be successful.

    I really love how the digital age levels the playing field for everyone. Formal education matters less and less compared to tangible results.

  13. Kevin,
    Your right about the social media presence. I’ve always focused on Facebook and LinkedIn. Really strong in those areas, but I recently will be making a strong effort for Google Plus and Twitter. Ultimately you should focus on where your following is, however all 4 of these should be strong because they all have their benefits.

  14. Sheyi,
    Thanks for the comment. “As seen in” is always cool, but there real brand credibility comes when you are a contributor to the site. Positions you as the industry expert and not just something cool.

  15. Lauryn,
    You are correct. The PR world is changing. It’s not as glamorous. It’s all moving online and it’s clients want results. We switched to a pay for performance model to make people know that we can produce results. You should want results so if you do jump into bed with a PR company make sure that they are actually going to do what they say they are going to do.

  16. Hi John, some great tips there. I come from a journalism background and so I know what reporters love and hate about PR but you’ve nailed it in every aspect. I would add however that it’s always a good idea to foster relationships with reporters whenever you can. There have been plenty of times when I’ve had a story fall through and lo and behold someone called me just to see if I had any use for their expertise in a story and I jumped on it. Even though they may have pitched me several times before or I may have written about them before.

  17. Shelly, awesome addition. Solid relationships with reporters are great to have. Most of the time there will be a couple times when they cover your area. You want them to look forward to working with you and want to go back to you when they need an expert source. Really good feedback :)

  18. John,
    One thing I think you missed here is the ability to come up with hooks the media are interested in. In theory, bloggers should be great at this. A good blog headline should make a good hook. But it doesn’t always work that way. One of my big frustrations is that even from professional PR people, they struggle to come up with a good hook too. It’s easy to look at the good ones in retrospect. It’s much harder I think to design one that people will latch onto.

  19. Jen,
    Nice addition. Good hooks are really beneficial. You want to position yourself and your company in an interesting way so that the media loves it. You can really have a good spread effect.

  20. I’m based in Australia so my experience is quite different to most people on the fine blog. Much of my experience though is in relation to the personal finance niche which isn’t the most

    #1 The size of the market is much smaller, only 21 million people (i.e. roughly the size of NYC) so opportunities are limited straightaway.
    #2 Mainstream media and online media seem to be a lot more guarded and closed off here. Most of the newspapers already have commercial agreements with competitors which must be impacting their editorial freedoms to mention or quote outsiders.
    #3 Using HARO for my finance industry is a waste of time. Journalists don’t seem to bother with it. Maybe they aren’t allowed to use it.
    #4 There is an army of finance experts, brokers, analysts, industry heavy-weights, advisors and economists to compete against.

    All of that (grumbling) aside, we’ve found that we can’t simply ‘earn’ media mentions. Instead they come as a result of good ole fashion hustling. Best of luck of you’re in a similar situation where you’re blogging for a business.

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