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5 ways to get your first media placements

Starting PR from scratch is intimidating—but far from impossible. Here's how one PR manager did it.

By Corina Leslie · May 25, 2021
Hero image with a screenshot of an article from Money.com

When I started working as a PR manager for ZeroBounce, I had no public relations experience in the U.S. and zero contacts in the media. Getting PR coverage for our small business seemed daunting. 

Three and a half years later, our company has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc., and Money, among other publications. How? Our product is just so great that everyone rushed to write about it, and I spent most of my time handling a deluge of journalist requests.


I put in the work, that's how. But I know starting from scratch is terrifying—so here are the actionable tips I learned along the way that can help you secure your first pieces of coverage. 

1. Start with action, not strategy 

ZeroBounce CEO featured in Forbes

Start reaching out to journalists, submitting HARO pitches, and growing your network...now. You may still have a lot of things to figure out—your positioning, tone, buyer personas, budget—but you can build that strategy as you go. 

I definitely didn't have a clear strategy in the beginning. I'd worked in PR for six years in my home country, Romania. Before that, I'd been a journalist for a long time. But this was a different place with different rules. All I knew was that we needed to spread the word about ZeroBounce—and we had to do it fast. We needed backlinks, and we needed mentions in the media. We wouldn't get those by strategizing; we'd get those by taking action.

The actual strategy? That came later as the company started to grow. As we started getting placements, the roots of our strategy revealed themselves, and I was able to build on that. 

Bottom line: don't postpone trying to get PR coverage because you don't have a well-defined strategy. You can even have a press page before you land press.

2. Start small 

You might not be able to get featured in a large publication right away—usually, those journalists want to see that you've been written about before. So how do you establish credibility? Start by targeting smaller publications in your niche. 

I did all sorts of Google searches for specific keywords in our industry. The first two pages were always results from the most popular sources, including competitors. So I dug deeper—to page 3 and beyond. I was looking for publications, writers, and specific articles that I could actually add value for. 

Then I reached out to those publications with suggestions and even quotes from our CEO. Many times, the writers were kind enough to link back to ZeroBounce.  

But be careful with this—it's really easy to tell if someone is mass emailing for a backlink or is actually offering something valuable and unique. Journalists know the difference, so only reach out with personal, relevant suggestions.

3. Use LinkedIn 

LinkedIn was a gold mine for me. I was able to learn more about email and conversion marketing from people in the industry, and it also led to all kinds of co-marketing. 

If you go this route, don't forget to be generous on these kinds of platforms. Share what you know, and people will start paying attention.

4. Guest post regularly

Corina's author page on Money

Pitching quotes and data is a great way to start getting PR coverage, but certain publications accept guest posts—generally unpaid contributions that you write in their entirety. You should receive a backlink, so it's great for SEO in addition to being good for brand awareness. 

Guest posting has another benefit: it's helped me practice my writing and gain recognition as a thought leader. While some publications will publish your work under their name—which is still good if you get a backlink and some publicity—higher-quality publications will attribute the article to you (you get the byline). This helped me build a list of writing samples that I could use to pitch even larger publications. 

Case in point: this is a guest post for Zapier—I get a do-follow backlink for my company, a byline on a reputable publication, and another piece to add to my portfolio. 

If you don't have any writing samples and need to get started, consider pitching a guest post exchange with another company's blog. That'll get you the content you need and show that other organizations trust you.

If you decide to guest post, go all in. One guest post won't get you very far, so make sure to pitch a wide variety of publications and continue to write. And be sure you're writing on your area of expertise. That's what will help you gain momentum for your brand.

5. Target platforms that interview entrepreneurs

There are a number of high-quality websites that will interview business owners for free. This isn't how it worked in Europe, so I was surprised to see this fuzzy line between PR and journalism here in the U.S., but once I did, many opportunities opened up. Here are some platforms you can pitch:  

  • IdeaMensch: A website that specializes in interviews with entrepreneurs. They've had everyone from Seth Godin to Gary Vaynerchuk, but don't be intimidated—they'll publish your interview if you put in the work and give them compelling answers. 

  • Billion Success: Similar to IdeaMensch, only with a smaller audience. They love hearing from entrepreneurs who are willing to share their stories, so reach out to them with confidence.

  • Global Banking & Finance Review: An online and print magazine with a good amount of traffic and a very nice team. They're busy, so offer to do the interview yourself to save them time.

  • Small Business Trends: They have a section called Small Biz Spotlight where they highlight business owners. Publication may take a while since it's a more popular publication, but our CEO Liviu Tanase just got featured, and it was worth the wait.

As for those bigger publications, go ahead and pitch them before you think you're fully ready. Our CEO became a contributor to Entrepreneur shortly after we launched. After a year, we were featured in Forbes, and a few months later, I pitched Money and wrote two articles for them. Those successes will come, but only if you go out and pitch.

This was a guest post from Corina Leslie, the PR Manager for email validation company ZeroBounce. Most often, you'll find her on the ZeroBounce blog, where she shares her tips and interviews experts on digital marketing. Want to see your work on the Zapier blog? Read our guidelines, and get in touch.

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