Self-Employed and Hiring a Publicist? Here’s What You Should Know

By Chelsea Baldwin, Contributor, on December 26, 2017

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I don’t run a particularly sensational business. I’m just a business copywriter. Sure, I can write a sassy blog post or come up with a unique way to explain something, but so many other people, just like me, are getting paid to sit behind their laptops in their home offices doing pretty much the same thing. Nevertheless, earlier this year I found myself hiring a publicist, so I could spend less time building my audience and more time doing great work. Here are some lessons I learned throughout the process.

Publicists Aren’t Always What You Think They Are

In my mind, I thought publicists were people hired by celebrities and mega corporations to do damage control during those proverbial “$h!t hit the fan” moments. And to be totally honest, I kind of fell backwards into hiring a publicist for my business. It wasn’t something I set out to do; all I really wanted at the time were some tips and tricks for marketing myself.

At this point, I’d been a guest on a few podcasts, and I loved how good those one-on-one, personal interviews were for gaining fiercely loyal audience members. In fact, I found that most of the people who emailed me back after I sent out a new blog post to my contact list had originally heard me on a podcast interview. These were the kinds of readers and followers I wanted, and so I set out to get more.

I made a long list of podcasts that I could speak on, and started pitching. I pitched show after show after show after show … and in the end only landed myself one or two additional spots. This wasn’t the best ROI for my time, to say the least.

So I started looking for people who were good at pitching podcasts. I didn’t want to just hire a virtual assistant through a freelancing platform and have to train him or her from scratch. I was trying to save time here, but I wanted to get better results than I could achieve on my own. So I asked for recommendations, and after having a conversation with one publicist, I was totally on board.

Understand What a Publicist Can Do for a Solopreneur

Yes, there are some publicists who do damage control. But they actually make up the minority of people in this field. Most publicists, instead, focus on helping businesses and business owners get featured (or “published”) in well-known publications relevant to their target audience.

On a high level, think about a nutritionist getting featured in Women’s Health. On a lower, more day-to-day level, think about getting interview slots on popular podcasts that will drive loads of fans back to your site. Basically, what a publicist does, regardless of the level of coverage you’re going after, is this: They help you refine your message so it’s more press-worthy. Then, they go out and pitch that message to their industry connections.

As a solopreneur, this is wonderful: Instead of having to forge these industry relationships from scratch or learn from trial and error that your message isn’t ideal for your target audience, you can let your publicist do the work for you — all while you focus on profitable projects that actually boost your bottom line.

Hiring Your First Publicist: What to Look for and Red Flags to Avoid

To be 100 percent honest with you, I didn’t get the results I expected from the first publicist I hired. Want to learn from my mistakes? Before you agree to a partnership, do the following:

  1. Make sure the publicist is giving you a price based on results. A good package from a publicist will provide a set price based on the number of features he or she yields for you. This type of package is particularly important if the publicist in question specializes in blog or podcast features.
  2. Confirm that he or she meets minimum standards when it comes to their network. In my first round of publicist hiring, I got an opportunity to write an article for a web magazine. At the time, this seemed like a great opportunity. But I later discovered that no one really read that magazine, and so I didn’t get a single website visitor from this feature. Before you agree to work with a publicist, make sure he or she has a network of contacts that will be valuable to you.
  3. See if he or she has any feedback on your current marketing message. A good publicist will want to make sure you’ve got the best chance of being featured. Oftentimes, this will mean that they’ll offer you some suggestions on how to adjust your current content or make some minor website changes. By encouraging these types of conversations in the beginning, you can get a sense of a publicist’s value and vision before you agree to work with him or her.

Don’t Flush $650 Down the Drain

When I hired my first publicist, I spent $650 to land an article in a webzine (that looked fancy but had no audience) and one podcast interview. As you can see, it wasn’t the most worthwhile investment.

Even though it would have taken me more time, I could have done 1,000x better on my own. That being said, if I’d gotten the results promised at the outset of the relationship — which was handfuls of interviews on popular podcasts — it would’ve all been worth it.

According to Solo PR Pro, the number one way to waste money on this type of endeavor is to “hire the first person who comes along.” I wish I had known this from the get-go. Don’t make the same mistake I did: When hiring a publicist, take the necessary time to find someone who’s the right fit.

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