The process of getting press around your shop is such a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, in the world of publications? There are so many options!
On the other hand, there are so. many. options…
It’s one thing to even just filter which publications would be the best ones to cover your shop and you as a designer. It’s a whole ‘nother thing to, y’know…get them to actually do that.
Here are some tips for how to figure out what publications to contact, how to reach out, and how to make yourself stand out.
First Things First…What Does Any of This Mean?
I threw a lot of terms at you up there that you may have looked at and gone, “wtf’s a publication…” When I say “publications” in this article, I’m mainly talking about any of the following:
- Magazines (print or online, local or otherwise)
- Websites (newsy websites, pop-culture websites, websites about fashion that your designs would fit into well, etc.)
- Credible blogs
- Zines (there might be some that fit your niche!)
Any of the above will have writers and editors who are generally pretty easy to find contact information for, or the publication should at least have an email available for press inquiries.
Speaking of press inquiries, let’s talk about those too. In this article, when I talk about reaching out to the press, I’m referring to two different ways to do that:
- Press Releases
- Personal Blurbs
A Press Release, according to The Small Business Encyclopedia, is a “brief, printed statement that outlines the major facts of a news story in journalistic style.” So a press release for an online shop would basically be a longer-form email in the style of a news article that talks about you, your shop, and whatever angle you decide to focus on with it. You’re basically pitching an article idea by sending along an article with everything the journalist needs to know.
A Personal Blurb as I call it, is more like a personal email – reaching out to a writer or publication in a shorter email telling them who you are, what your shop/product is all about, why they should check it out, and why they should maybe write about it. You can do this in a press release to customize it a little more, but I personally thing blurbs are a little more personal and look a little less like a media blast that’s going to a billion people.
Here’s one I sent to an editor at themarysue when I was reaching out to them, back before my days at Threadless! I’m applying for a writing position here, of course, not trying to advertise my shop, but you get the idea!
Some “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of Reaching Out to Press Peeps
DO: Get personal
Think of it this way – if you haven’t put the time and effort into getting to know the writer you’re contacting, what would make them want to take the time and effort into getting to know you and writing about your work? Writers, journalists, and influencers in any niche get a million press releases for “AN AMAZING NEW PRODUCT” they’d “TOTALLY LOVE” every day. It’s even worse when it’s clearly a copy-pasted press release sent to a billion people.
Show them that you took the time to get to know a little bit about them and their professional work. it gives it a more personal, exclusive feel, not to mention it shows you took the time to do your research.
Maybe mention past articles they’ve written that you really like, or past stories they’ve covered that a story about you/your store would fit in well with. If they wrote something that made you laugh, mention a line that made you literally laugh out loud. If you find out they studied at the same school you did, consider mentioning that you’re both alums, etc.
Don’t: be a creep
Saying something like, “I went to Indiana University too!” is adding a personal touch while still keeping it professionally friendly. Saying “I went to Indiana University and also spent a lot of time in that little pagoda in your Instagram picture from two years ago,” that’s…creepy.
Doing your professional research, knowing a little about the writer and their work, maybe mentioning their past work that you dig, and sprinkling in details you find on their social media that you can relate to and mention (ex. if they recently tweeted about your favorite movie, you can weave that in) – that’s all good. But just make sure you’re not getting so personal that it’s weird.
DO: YOUR RESEARCH
It’s not just about getting to know the person you’re reaching out to. It’s also important to get to know the bigger publication they write for. Those big impersonal press release blasts kind of suck because – as a writer myself – it’s so clear that whoever sent them doesn’t necessarily care about or even know about the publication they contacted. So when you show that you’ve taken the time to read and maybe even become a fan of their publication? That’s awesome. Especially if it’s a blog or publication that belongs to the person you’re writing to!
On the other side of things, you want to make sure that the publications you reach out to 1: will be a good fit for a write-up about your work, 2: have a following that will be interested in your work (ex. if you only create shirts with cool 8-bit designs, a blog that talks about geek-chic wear might be a good way to reach more people in your niche), and 3: is a credible source.
DON’T: PROVIDE CRAPPY PICTURES
Visuals are key. Make sure that product photos and live-action shots of your product are 1: quality and 2: fit the aesthetic of the blog. If the blog you’re contacting has a very consistent photography style, try to fit that.
DO: DELVE INTO THE BLOG WORLD
Contacting blogs who have a following/subject matter that is in line with your brand is potentially an awesome way to get something written about your work. If they dig your work, or at least think their audience will, you not only have a better chance of getting a write-up done about you – you have a better chance of selling your product.
Personally? I’m a little biased towards blogs…hence the fact that I’m writing on a blog right now! But there are a ton of blogs out there, some of which have a pretty solid following, and they can be fantastic resources. Not to mention, it’s already flattering to bloggers when they can see that you 1: know about their started-from-the-bottom-now-we’re-here blog, and 2: that you’ve actually read it.
DO: Be easily contactable
This goes for people you reach out to, but also goes for people who might find your shop and want to contact you. Make sure on your shop somewhere you have a place where your social media handles and links are easy to find.*
*For Threadless Artist Shop owners specifically: a social media feature IS coming for Artist Shops! In the meantime, check out how NDTank did it by including it in their shop theme. You can’t click it, but it at least tells you how to find the artist elsewhere.
DO: Know. Your. Story.
“I sell shirts and make art” isn’t a story – it’s actually kind of a generic advertisement. Tell people what sets you apart, what makes you different why you think they and their audience would like your stuff and why they should take the time to feature it.
DONT: BE A NAG
There’s a balance between “following up” and “checking in,” and being just kind of a pest. If you don’t get a response right away, sending them an email every day is just annoying and unprofessional. You want to be respectful of their e-space and, after awhile, kind of “get the hint” that maybe it’s time to move on and contact someone new…just like dating, right?
But hey, then maybe revisit them in a few months with a new angle. Timing can be key.
Not hearing back from someone can be discouraging. But don’t let it get to you! The fact is, a lack of response could be because of multiple things. Maybe they saw it and deleted it, sure…OR maybe they’re on vacation. Maybe it got lost in the email shuffle. Maybe they forgot to respond. Those have all happened to me – you never know what the reason for a lack of response could be. So following up maybe a week after your initial email can’t hurt.
Similarly, if they do respond, keep the dialogue going! Don’t back away or disappear when they show some interest!
DON’T: get discouraged
If you don’t hear back from people, don’t give up! It’s not easy, and like dating, you’re going to get turned down. But keep at it, keep learning from your experience, and something will happen!
This information was compiled from looking at many different takes on how to get press around your shop, and all of these sources offer something a little different and super helpful. For even more helpful information, check out these links:
- “Hacking the Press: Clever Ways to Get Free Press Coverage with Zero Budget” (shopify) – I found this one to be the most helpful and relevant! A TON of resources in here for how to find journalists to contact and how to find the right blogs to contact.
- “How to PR Like a Pro: A Guide to Getting Media Attention” (shopify) – some great examples of pitches and emails in here
- “109 Ways to Make Your Business Irresistible to the Media” (copyblogger) – sooo many helpful tips in here
- “How to Land Your Business in the Press: 6 Tactics and 5 Tools” (shopify) – Awesome sites/tools for connecting with journalists!
- “How to Get Press for Your Etsy Shop or Blog” (Burlap & Blue) – good personal experience take on things here
- “Bad Press Releases I Never Asked For” (Hipstercrite/Slackjaw) – this is just hilarious.
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We’re an artist community built on the power of helping each other succeed — if you’re reading this and have tips of your own to share, please do so in the comments! Thank you!
(Images by Katie Lukes)