4 Lessons on PR for growth with Erin Bury 

October 29, 2020
Sarah Stockdale

PR is growth. 

PR has always been one of those hard to pin down growth channels… the channel your data-loving brain tells you to stay away from, the bad-apple-channel. PR marketing can feel unpredictable, uncontrollable, with elusive reporting and big ass retainers with agencies pushing the work to junior people. 

It adds up to a growth marketer’s nightmare. 

That is, until we met Erin Bury.

Erin approaches PR marketing like a growth marketer, and her insights are gold.

Erin is the CEO and Co-founder of Willful, and is the former Managing Director at Eighty-Eight, a Toronto-based creative communications agency. Prior to Eighty-eight, she was the Managing Editor at startup publication BetaKit, and director of communications at Sprouter, which was acquired by Postmedia in 2011. 

Not to mention, Erin has been retweeted by Oprah, twice… 

Not a big deal at all, be cool, be cool.

Erin is also a Mentor and Guest Instructor at Growclass. We’re lucky to have her.

Erin has been gracious enough to share her knowledge from years in the industry with us and we’ve decided to share a few of our favorite parts with you. 

Let’s get into it!

What do you mean PR is growth ?!?!

In Growclass we are known for cautioning marketers from considering PR a growth channel. We like a predictable, scalable channel with a consistent cost of acquisition. Erin thinks we’re missing the mark. 

How does PR marketing =growth? 

Here’s what Erin says: 

PR is amazing for SEO. SEO is wildly important long term organic growth, and PR supports SEO by helping your business get high quality backlinks for Google street-cred. Organic traffic is the holy grail, and PR can help you get there.

Driving traffic and sales today and over time. In the first 2 months of Willful, they were featured in a media outlet that has a strong search-ranking, that this article remains part of their top 10 traffic sources of all time for Willful. This one article is a gift that keeps on giving. 

Vetting paid opportunities. Testing is the name of the game in growth, and this is one of Erin’s great PR-testing strategies. Before diving into a new paid channel, like purchasing placement in a podcast or publication, target that publication for an organic mention. If you find it delivers high quality traffic, invest in paid on that channel.

Okay, now that we’re convinced that PR is growth, here is some sage advice from our conversation with Erin.

  1. Your actual first step with PR

Your first step in PR is not crafting a pitch to journalists. Your first step is going to be refining your key messaging. You need to know how your company will be communicating on all channels. Be overly prepared before you begin reaching out to journalists. When you land the interview, you need to know exactly what you are going to say. The prep doesn’t stop there. Make sure you have a media kit ready with your company’s who, what, where, when and how, along with high-quality images, video, and headshots

  1. Timing matters.

Know the cycle of your own sales, Erin says. Then, understand the cadence, timing and focus of the news cycle. 

Go on the Toronto Star home page and get an idea right now about what is being talked about. Early spring, we’re talking BBQ season, patio drinks and budget-friendly outdoor decorations. Depending on the news cycle, you will have to adjust your strategy. Take a look back on coverage from a year ago, see what journalists are writing about seasonally to get an idea of what trends might be relevant again this year. 

  1. Get Local

Journalists love data. They love it even more if it’s unique to the city they write in. Before you pitch, find relevant and strong statistics for your company that can be used in your pitches. At Wilful, Erin acquired localized stats about who doesn’t have a will in each province, and city that she used in her favour. Erin recommends Angus Reid, a polling firm that helps to generate data for PR pitches. 

  1. Provide and Refine multiple angles 

Don’t go out with just one story. Not all journalists will bite at the same angle. Pitch journalists a few angles that align with how they write, and if they say no, suggest another angle. Do your research, look at what these specific journalists write about most often and pitch them stories that match their beats and writing style.

Make sure you’re relevant to the newscycle you’re pitching in. Don’t just share who you are and what you do, *yawn* I’ve already moved on to the next email. Instead, pitch a journalist a story angle that is relevant with the current news, and leverages your company’s expertise. 

  1. PR can be targeted.

We always get nervous with PR when agencies start blindly pitching. Erin suggests targeting customer segments through niche publications. Erin uses PR for validation and market research on which of her customer segments convert best. Pitch a number of niche publications that fit in where your customer segments would be hanging out to validate your hypothesis around your target market. 

Interested in watching the webinar? You can do so here.

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