biz ladiesLife & Business

biz ladies: free publicity techniques

by Stephanie

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes to us from Meredith Keller, the blogger behind Smaller Box and co-founder of Ex-Boyfriend. Smaller Box covers marketing, PR, branding, social media and other topics of interest to creative business owners with online storefronts. Meredith’s writing for Smaller Box is based on her experiences operating Ex-Boyfriend, an apparel label featuring t-shirts and accessories for men, women and kids. Today she shares some unique and helpful ways of getting publicity beyond the traditional means. She details several easy methods for getting your name out and your business booming and also offers this extensive download that explains her experiences getting media placements for Ex-Boyfriend. Thanks, Meredith, for this wonderful guide to free publicity! — Stephanie

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Free Publicity Techniques beyond Pitching Your Products

When it comes to pitching your brand to blogs and other media outlets, it’s natural to think of your products first. Your pitches usually end up along the lines of “Dear Blogger, I make [insert product here], and I’d love for you to share my site with your readers.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with this type of pitching. If you’re introducing yourself to a media contact for the first time, this is often the way to go. That said, what happens if a media outlet likes you and writes about you, and you get a bunch of orders? How will you get them to write about you again? Surely you can’t just send them the same pitch. And what about media outlets that don’t focus on writing product reviews? How do you get their attention? Their readers might be your dream customers, but how do you get them to talk about you?

At Ex-Boyfriend, we’ve found some creative ways to get buzz going, and it’s not always about our products. Our goal is really just to make the conversation about our brand, not necessarily what we’re selling. If we can generate interest in whatever we’re doing, interest in our products usually follows. Below are three techniques that have worked especially well for us:

1. Fun Freebies

Everyone loves free stuff. One surefire way to win people over is to give them stuff. My company mainly designs clothing, so it might be tough to imagine how a company making tangible products could give away free gifts. We made this concept work for us by creating fun PDFs featuring our illustrations. For the holiday season, we created download-and-print gift tags and mini note cards. For spring, we created download-and-print drink markers. Our free goodies scored us mentions on popular sites like One Pretty Thing and Kind Over Matter. Both are high-traffic blogs with readers who value unique handmade products, and neither of them usually talks about sellable products.

Our free downloads not only got us mentions on sites that might not otherwise talk about us, it got us exposed to a new audience. Furthermore, our downloads had our URL on them, so visitors who came to our site and downloaded and printed our freebies would expose our branding to even more people as the freebies were put to use.

Try it out: Think about ways you could provide something of value for free to your target market. Consider items like desktop backgrounds, screen savers, origami toys, note cards, tutorials, etc. Select something that promotes your brand and ties into the interests of your target audience. Once your freebie is ready, share it with media outlets that have a history of writing about free downloads (and make sure they are media outlets that reach your target customers).

2. Viral Videos (stay tuned for an upcoming post on incorporating videos in your business)

People love videos. Whether it’s crazy honey badgers or keyboard kittens, viral videos are a hot commodity on the web. Creating a video about your brand or products is a great way to build buzz, and best of all, people love sharing great videos.

To incorporate video into our marketing efforts, we created a video that shows people how we design our products. The video was picked up by the Art Star blog, introducing visitors to our brand via our creative process.

Try it out: Create a promotional video that both entertains and promotes your business. This promotional video by Laura Baillie Designs is another fantastic example of using video to promote a product. Be sure to make your video available via a video sharing site like Vimeo or YouTube. Then pass the link on to your media contacts. Focus on media contacts who regularly write about or share videos. You can even consider viral content-aggregators like buzzfeed.com if your video appeals to a wide audience.

3. Captivating Content

If you’ve read anything about online marketing, you’ve probably heard the phrase “content is king.” This means that having great content is your golden ticket to successful online marketing. It makes search engines love you, and it gets people talking about you. Best of all, it gives you something to promote to media contacts, which means even more exposure for you.

At Ex-Boyfriend, we update our blog just about every weekday. We try to produce content other blogs want to pick up. We’ve seen success with creating a variety of content that fits the culture of our company, from comic strips to cocktail recipes.

One of our most popular posts included a strawberry basil and balsamic cocktail recipe. The post was picked up by several high-traffic blogs, including Liqurious and Creative Loafing. Since we sell products that are popular with drinking connoisseurs, these placements were a perfect fit for our publicity goals. The placements also introduced our site to people as a place to find great reads, making visitors more likely to subscribe to our Facebook, Twitter, newsletter or RSS feed.

Try it out: You can use your company blog as a conduit for your shareable content. Think about producing content that contacts on your media list would want to share. Consider items like recipes, how-tos, lists, charts, etc. Look at other content that’s gone viral online, and use those ideas for inspiration as you generate your own content.

You want to create content that other content-producers want to share; ideally, this should be content that interests both your media-list contacts and your customers. Consider pitching these types of pieces to online outlets that do link round-ups or aggregate content from other sources. Many popular online outlets rely on other sites for fresh content, and those sites are likely to pick up your story if it’s a fit for their audience.

Conclusion: Every bit of publicity you can get increases your brand awareness, improves your search-engine optimization and increases your likelihood of attracting new fans. To keep your media contacts interested, share story ideas that aren’t always about your product but still attract attention for your brand. Look at how other companies have achieved placements that go beyond covering their products, and use these stories for inspiration on how to make your own brand more interesting to the press.

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  • Awesome. I was already dreaming up a fantastic giveaway & a series of ridiculous videos featuring my work, so this just pushed me further to actually execute those ideas. Thanks so much for the push!

  • great ideas on freebies..fun!
    i also try to incorporate story~telling,,my most recent art series is created while Living on a tiny Caribbean island..this connects my art to the right people>>>beach,ocean,nature L♡vers. thank YOU*

  • I agree with Nan- you’ve encouraged me to think outside the box. Like the ideas of doing things that are in line with the brand but creative and different. Thanks!

  • Your illustration how to video is amazing!! I saw it on the Art Star blog last week (I was a vendor there, too.) Great ideas in this post–thanks for sharing!

  • Great list! So many people underestimate what they can do to generate publicity with these low-cost ways. Currently already working on my freebie.

  • These are great ideas, thanks for sharing them–but I notice the beautiful video you highlight from Laura Baillie Designs has only 465 views–is that considered a good payoff for that much time & effort??

    • Jill

      Viewing success is really relative and depends on your goals as well. If even 50 of those people become regular customers your business will benefit- so I’d take loyal buying habits as a success over sheer volume.


  • Good ideas!

    The “captivating content” is much easier when your product centers around pop culture anyway. A bit more risky for me as an artist who sells original paintings. Striking a balance between focusing on your product and still being interesting without diluting your content too much is a challenge. Thanks for the suggestions.

  • Diana, thanks!

    Jill, I can’t speak for Laura’s efforts at getting publicity with her video. I was just using it as an example of something that could be used to get publicity. As Grace says, number of views is not necessarily the only indicator of success. 465 targeted views is more valuable than thousands of untargeted views.

    Casey, Matt (the illustrator who creates all the designs at Ex-Boyfriend) actually is an artist. His content has a more pop theme and his canvas is wearables, but otherwise it’s no more or less risky for Matt to create content than it is for any other artist. Creating great content isn’t just an important tool for getting links and publicity. It’s also really useful for keeping your fans interested in you, even when they aren’t in a shopping mood. A blog with content that interests your target market is a really important marketing tool.

  • Thanks for your reply Meredith.
    I guess what I mean is that Matt’s work does have a pop theme (and it’s very cool, I took a look!) and so it makes sense to have your content feature comic strips, and cocktail recipes, etc. since his work touches on these types of subjects. You are still basically staying “on message” so to speak.

    By risky I mean that if people like my FB page they are expecting me to post about my art or my experiences and life as an artist. They may get posts from several other sources on recipes, etc. so I need to be careful that I don’t dilute my content with too much pop culture (which is not what my work is about) so that it starts to lose its focus or uniqueness. I guess it’s like the quote “don’t be the best at what you do, be the only one that does what you do” or something to that effect.

    I totally agree with you that the content should be interesting to keeping your fans interested in you and I really love all of the suggestions you gave in this post. Thanks again!

  • Casey, when designers struggle with ideas on what content to feature on their blogs, my suggestion is to take a look at the places you’d advertise online if you had a zillion dollars to spend on ads. What do they write about? Those should be places your target demographic enjoys visiting and chances are that will give you ideas for content. I think you can strike a balance between staying on topic with your aesthetic and developing content that keeps your fans visiting your site regularly.