“If you’re an author looking to jumpstart your PR efforts, you’ll be well served to follow these three pieces of advice.”
Back in 2006, I transferred as an undergraduate student to Illinois State University. And to be quite honest, I had no rhyme or reason for choosing ISU outside of the fact that some of my friends already attended, and my nineteen-year-old brain thought it would be fun. On the day I transferred, I met with my academic advisor in the School of Communication – and she recommended that I major in public relations based on my previous coursework and interest in writing. So, I nodded in agreement and mentally noted that I needed to research what the hell public relations actually was.
But here’s what’s really cool. On that remarkable day, Dr. Penny Long selected the perfect major for me. She guided me in the right direction. She handed me the opportunity to pursue a passion I didn’t even know existed. And ultimately – she placed my future career directly into my lap. I owe much to her and that initial conversation.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in public relations and a Master of Science in organizational communication, I spent a few years working as the director of marketing and public relations at a local non-profit before returning to Illinois State University to teach and advise students. Whether practicing PR professionally, or teaching and advising students in the PR major, I’ve consistently had my hand in the discipline – growing and learning with the evolving industry.
Today, I find myself still at ISU, but I’ve also taken on a new role with Burning Soul Press as the public relations manager. And let me tell you – as a soon-to-be published author myself, getting to help other authors manager their intentional PR efforts is not only rewarding… it’s freaking fun!
And I’ve learned a few tips and tricks – not to mention some best practices – along the way. If you’re an author looking to jumpstart your PR efforts, you’ll be well served to follow these three pieces of advice:
1.) Lay the Foundation. Before any active efforts are made pitching the media, there are three foundational pieces you’ll need to have polished and ready to go.
The first is a website. You do not need to be a mastermind (or understand HTML) to design a webpage – there are tools available to you (like WordPress, Webs, or Weebly) that will help you design an eye-catching site. Start with a visually appealing homepage with an author photo and bio. Then, include subsequent pages that link to your book, your presence in the media, a blog (if you have one), reviews and testimonials, and a contact page (with a form to subscribe to a newsletter).
The second foundational tool is your presence on social media. Don’t overwhelm yourself – or spread yourself too thin. Choose at least two platforms to be active on. There is a large writing community on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok (no, you don’t have to do a silly dance!). Choose two platforms and add content, engage with others, and stay active.
The final piece is a digital press kit. Prepare a Google Drive with an easy to share link – and include 2-3 professional headshots, your book blurb, an image of your book’s cover, an author bio, and links to your website and social media profiles. The goal of the digital press kit is to compile all your pertinent information in one location for the media to access easily. Every piece included should align with your brand and demonstrate cohesiveness.
2.) Build a Strong Media List. Every strong PR effort starts with a solid media list. Start by researching local media contacts for radio, television, community newspapers – and even speaking opportunities with organizations and clubs. Your local outlets are the foundation for your PR efforts and if done correctly, they’ll be the pertinent media contacts you’ll use for your book’s launch.
Once you’ve identified your local connections, think bigger. Identify three niche topics that align with your book’s message. And based on those topics, start to research podcasts, guest blogs, social media influencers, magazines, interviews, etc. You should have a minimum of 50 opportunities to pitch before you do anything further.
A strong media list is the key to PR success. Block time out on your calendar monthly to continue researching opportunities. It’s all about the time you commit.
3.) Automate What You Can. Strong public relations efforts take time, so it’s in your best interest to automate as much as possible – therefore, I highly recommend these three services:
Help a Reporter Out (HARO). This is a free subscription tool that will deliver to your inbox (three times daily) a list of journalists who are seeking opportunities to connect. Not every opportunity will pertain to you, but oftentimes there’s an easy win at least once a week.
Qwoted. This is another great PR tool that offers a free and paid-for service. Once you build your profile, you’re able to select categories – or areas of expertise – that are relevant to you. Qwoted delivers straight to your inbox journalists who are seeking opportunities to connect. Again, not everything will be relevant, but there’s a good chance you’ll find success here too. The free service allows for three free pitches per month, so choose wisely (or pay for the next level service).
Podcast Guests. Finally, this is another tool that comes directly to your inbox every Thursday with two really helpful features. If you’re willing to pay for the service, you can promote yourself to podcast hosts who are seeking guests to interview – and they’ll reach out to you if you’re a good fit. Likewise, you can also search through the featured list of podcasts and pitch yourself if you find alignment. The trick here is to take the guesswork away. Automate as much as you can to save yourself time.
In sum, if you’re an author looking to jumpstart your PR efforts, start here. I think you’ll find success!