PR Tips from the Pros: A Chat With W Magazine's Courtney Dolan
When you’re a small company, navigating the ins and outs of PR isn’t always easy. So this week, I brought in a pro—Courtney Dolan, Head of PR at W Magazine. Dolan has over 10 years of PR experience representing major financial, media, and fashion brands, including the Financial Times and Thomson Reuters, but she’s also got great advice on PR dos and don’ts for smaller brands looking to tell their story.
Here’s what she had to say about positioning, pitching, and promoting your brand:
What trends are you seeing in the PR space?
Social media dominates the PR space and has made the traditional press release a thing of the past. The great thing is—not only is social media free, but it allows brands to personify themselves, interact with customers on a consistent basis, and drive brand loyalty and sales. Social shopping, for instance, is an example of how PR efforts can directly impact a company's bottom line. On social shopping sites, you are largely led by the overall community’s opinion of a brand or product. So if a brand has positioned itself in an engaging, interesting, and positive way (read: great PR!), it is likely that the brand’s sales will increase.
Traditional PR has always had the reputation of being qualitative, but now with social media, you can track your results and PR can be quantitative as well.
What types of PR do you think are most effective for smaller brands?
Smaller brands don't often have an established public profile, so it's critical to start off by defining the company and positioning it in a unique way. The most effective—and efficient—method of doing so is a combination of traditional media and social media outreach. There's no better way to define and position a young company than to secure a story in a major publication—that’s traditional PR.
Then, once the story hits, it's equally important to execute a strategic social media strategy as a way of reaching a broader audience, engaging with customers and potential customers, driving brand loyalty, and, ultimately, driving sales.
How do you incorporate social media into your PR campaigns?
There is a social media component to most of our consumer-facing outreach. However, I rarely use our platforms for promoting W in the traditional sense. For example, rather than posting a good article that was written about W, I focus on giving our followers something they want and something they can engage with and use—like exclusive W content, or a chance to win the season's hottest handbag.
What advice can you give young brands that are telling their story to journalists for the first time?
Develop a really solid brand story that explains how the brand came to be, what it is, and how it differentiates itself from everything else out there. Also, be creative and personal in your approach. Invite reporters to interact with the product or service. A written pitch is not always appropriate if what you're pitching is something digital, mobile, or tech-based.
What’s your best tip for pitching journalists?
Write succinct emails that lead with what you're offering—whether it's an exclusive interview with the company's CEO, or exclusive content, or whatever. Don't trust that a reporter will read the entire email.
What 3 PR "don'ts" do you tell brands to stay away from?
About The Author
Alex Honeysett is a Brand & Marketing Strategist and the creator of The Pitch Course, an in-depth, self-paced online course that teaches entrepreneurs how to find, pitch, and land speaking gigs, guest blogs, and podcast interviews. After spending nearly a decade leading communications strategies for multimillion dollar brands and startups in NYC and London, Alex now teaches entrepreneurs how to message and promote their own businesses, human-to-human. Alex's articles have been featured in the Daily Muse, Forbes, Inc., Mashable, DailyWorth, TIME, and Newsweek.