Be Your Own Frugal PR Machine

Written by Meryl Evans.

Disco NightMany of us work alone doing every job in the symphony that's our business, including tasks accounting, marketing and PR. We can outsource these things, but many, like me, prefer to take the frugal route.

I asked Jeff Crilley, a former Emmy-winning TV news reporter turned PR pro and the author of "Free Publicity: A TV Reporter Shares the Secrets for Getting Covered on the News," for some advice on how web workers can orchestrate free publicity, get their names out there and drum up business.

Meryl: If freelancers or web workers want to be a "go-to" resource, how do they build relationships with reporters?

Jeff: Google the reporter. Study them. What do they write about? How can you help them? Are you an expert or can you be a resource for them on something they've written about in the past and are likely to write about again?

By answering these questions, you'll be able to come up with a smart pitch. If you've done your homework and can give the reporter something they can use, you may become their "go-to" source.

Meryl: Should I write press releases? What do I do with them? Does anybody really read them?

Jeff: Press releases are a little outdated. They're very "old school." I believe that in the year 2009 becoming interactive with the journalist is the way to go. Just about all journalists are Twittering, putting up Facebook posts, blogging, etc. They are making themselves available. Take advantage of their accessibility and develop a relationship.

Meryl: How can I get quoted in more articles, without having to actually write guest posts?

Jeff: If you aren't blogging and following journalists on Facebook and Twitter, it's time to start. If you hope to become a recognized expert, you need to announce yourself as one and get yourself and your views in front of the right journalists. The social media is a great way to do that.

It can be as easy as shooting a reporter an email praising them on a story and then offering an insight or follow-up idea that didn't make it in their first article. A relationship with a journalist begins with you taking the first step.

Also, work on being more quotable. Instead of saying, "The stock market has been rocky," say something like, "It's been like watching a 'Friday the 13th' movie marathon. Jason just won't die!"

Meryl: When contacting a reporter, what should a person say?

Jeff: I've always believed that the best way to a journalist's heart is to talk about their work. Even if you respectfully disagree with them and think that they missed the point, most journalists want feedback and will be open to a dialog.

You might say something like, "I really enjoyed your column on the homeless problem. If you're ever doing a follow-up article, I'd love to help you. You didn't say anything about…" Then offer something that they may have overlooked in the first story. Though it sounds insulting, you can build a relationship by pointing out an angle the reporter may have missed. They won't be offended if you word your email with kindness.

Get more free publicity tips from Jeff Crilley's newsletter and subscribe to Peter Shankman's "Help a Reporter" newsletter for quotable opportunities.

How have you found free publicity?

Photo credit: Gabriella Fabbri