Tuesday, April 08, 2008

CRAFTY BUSINESS WITH LAURA-JEAN: getting press

Laura-Jean is back with some advice on a question central to building and sustaining your crafty biz: getting press.

crafty business

Q. How do you write a (good) press release? And how do you go about getting press? Plus, have you found that it helps your sales? - Cathy Peng


A. Getting press has been one of the biggest keys to my staying in business for 14 years! I've had great articles and exposure in the press, and it's almost all because I asked for it. You have to make it easy for press people to feature your product and write about you by sending a good press release. A press release is just a way of contacting the media and telling them about you and your product. It can take almost any form: an email, a package, a DVD, or a singing telegram, but there are some points to keep in mind.

Here's an example of one I sent Breakfast Television to promote my Learn to Knit DVD (see below). On the outside of the envelope I printed a big, cute picture of me with knitting needles and a big talking bubble saying "I'll Teach Kevin Frankish how to knit". I enclosed a letter, saying who I was, what I was promoting, and generally tried to give the impression that it would make a cute segment to try to teach Kevin Frankish how to knit. It worked, and they asked me to be on and we talked about knitting and my DVD and goofed around a bit, and it was great exposure for my business.

The first step is to compile a press list. Find all the places products like yours might be featured, and get all the contact info. Think of all the angles you can approach it from. For example you make funky stuffed animals, you want them featured in gift guides and places like that. But are you also a stay-at-home mom turned entrepreneur juggling a home-based business and family? There's lots of potential for that angle too.

A key factor is consistency. Plan out a year's worth of press releases, starting with an introduction to your product and what you do. Then, plan to send out something when you introduce a new product or style. For example, Valentine's themed jewellery, Mother's Day gifts, new spring dresses or fall sweaters. Keep in mind the seasons and events that you can tap into, and realize that newspapers are much more immediate, but magazines work months in advance. Cookie magazine shot some of my kids stuff in January for the May issue. Make sure you don't miss deadlines!

Remember, every press release doesn't result in something, but keeping them informed means they'll be familiar with what you do and include you when the right opening comes up. For example, I had pictures of myself on some press releases I had sent out, and I was contacted to be a red-head interviewed for an article on how popular red hair is! And I was asked to knit mini-sweaters to decorate a Christmas tree, and be a "celebrity" tree decorator in a magazine one year. So those were spin-offs of promoting my main product line and myself as a designer.

Structuring the release like an article is a good way to show how well the info would translate, and makes it easy for them to see what they could do with it. For example, photoshop up an imitation of their typical gift guide layout featuring your stuff with catchy informative captions about your products. Give them as much as they can use as possible. Sometimes they'll want to use your pictures, and I've had phrases I've used in my release lifted right out and printed.

Keep it simple, not overwhelming them with too much reading or too many different different angles in one release. They get loads of emails and packages, all competing to be the one featured, so try to think of something new that'll catch their attention. I've sent packages with Barbie dolls in mini versions of my clothes, made handmade keychains, pins or fridge magnets and decorated the outsides of the envelopes. Yes, it takes time, but compared to the cost of paid advertising, it's time well spent. I always try to make it personal, writing the person's name on the envelope by hand, and customizing the cover letter inside. I know how unresponsive I am when I receive obvious bulk mail, but when someone contacts me specifically and personally, I'm much more likely to pay attention. And I make sure to triple check the spelling of the person's name!

While I'm all for gimmicks, some can be annoying or just silly. Stuffing the envelope with glitter or confetti would have impact when they open it, and they'd remember you for sure, every time they get out the vacuum to try to clean up the mess in their office that you caused! Think it through. Nobody wants junk, and it may actually work against you. Anything included should support the main message and have a reason for being there.

Once you have something together, ask a friend to look it over to see if it makes sense and is easy to read. Sometimes a friend will help you see your business and your product in a way that you can't and help you think of key points that you want to stress to give them something interesting to write about. Are all your items one-of-a-kind? Made from recycled materials? Think of what you can play up about yourself too. Are you self-taught? A truck driver turned fashion designer? You've been sewing since you were 2 years old? Now is the time you want to brag a bit and sound much more interesting that you may think of yourself as, and often a friend can help you see that.

Having your stuff featured in the press is one of the best ways to build your business and is an inexpensive way of getting the word out there about your work. So get started planning your media campaign today!

2 Comments:

Blogger Theresa said...

Thanks for an excellent article. It was just the kick in the pants I needed. I have been putting off press releases but with the way the economy is going, I am going to need all the help I can to stay in the black.
Theresa
http://www.CrafterBS.blogspot.com/

12:40 AM  
Blogger H-Star said...

wow! amazing article! thank you so much for sharing! :-)

Haley

www.nitomatic.com

5:38 PM  

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