Self-Promotion is Sexy: Making the Case for Prioritizing Public Relations

A version of this post originally appeared on the Craft Your Content blog.

Solopreneurs and small business owners wear many hats — no surprise there.

Planning, budgeting, customer service, emailing, writing, invoicing, marketing — the list is endless.

However, there’s one key responsibility many content creators and marketers tend to neglect: public relations (PR).

Believe me, I get it. As the founder of JL&Co, PR is the last task I want to think about when I have a laundry list of to-dos to keep my business afloat.

However, with nearly a decade (wait, what?!) of PR experience, I know firsthand the importance of developing stories and sharing them with the media. I’m well aware of the power that a successful PR campaign can have on a business.

It’s something you should be aware of, too.

Developing a PR campaign around your own personal brand and story is something every content creator should consider doing — especially since you’re likely already writing. 

While self-promotion may make you feel a bit uncomfortable, PR actually can make a difference, and many content creators are missing out on serious opportunities by pushing PR to the back burner.

Stop shying away from self-promotion! Here’s how public relations can make a difference, and why many entrepreneurs are missing out on serious opportunity by pushing it to the backburner.

What is PR anyway?

At its very core, PR is about telling stories and allowing your message to be seen and heard by the audiences you most want to reach.

A PR campaign involves working directly with journalists to tell your story to their audience through their platform.

PR is about relationship building with the media and with your key audiences.

Get over your fear of self-promotion

“But I hate self-promotion.”

“Ugh, it feels weird to talk about myself.”

I know. Sending an email to a journalist saying, “Hey, write about me!” can feel a little bit self-indulgent.

Sometimes in our businesses, we have to conquer our fears and do things that scare us.

But here’s the truth: Everyone has a story to tell, and our stories matter. Stories can inspire, and they can make a difference. You sharing your struggles, your passions, and your lessons can be the catalyst that changes someone else’s world just a little bit.

Self-promotion doesn’t happen only when you have a product to sell or a course to fill. Maybe you’re a travel blogger helping your audience plan the perfect vacation or a budding comedian with a podcast making your audience laugh or smile throughout their day. You’re making a difference in your own small way, and that’s a story worth telling.

When you shift your mindset from “This feels icky” to “Wow, I can actually help someone here,” the idea of promoting yourself begins to make more sense.

The case for making PR a priority

Here’s why PR is important for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and content creators:

  • PR builds credibility for you and your business. A strong PR campaign can help position you or your company as a thought leader in your chosen space. PR can help to enhance your company’s reputation.
  • PR is cost-effective. While advertising costs money, PR is free. Of course, you’ll still need to budget for the time it takes to do PR, but at the end of the day, no one will be sending you a bill.
  • PR can drive traffic to your website. Think about it this way: You probably have a website or blog, but your local newspaper or a site like Forbes likely gets way more traffic than you do. By earning a media placement elsewhere, you increase the chances of traffic being sent to your blog. Plus, an earned media hit can help your search engine optimization efforts.
  • PR can send new customers or clients your way. Most importantly, PR can impact the bottom line. A story in a prominent newspaper or online publication can introduce your business to new prospective customers.

It works! A PR success story

After a year into running my communications consulting business, I knew I had to turn my attention to my own PR efforts to share my entrepreneurship story.

But first, I needed a compelling hook.

Last May, with college graduation season around the corner, I wondered if I might find media success by hooking my personal story to a timely and newsy angle. I did research around recent grads and the elusive post-college job search. I quickly found many supporting statistics showing that in today’s work climate, new grads are actually turning away from traditional careers in favor of entrepreneurship.

Bingo! I had my angle.

The research and statistics supported my personal story of quitting a stable nine-to-five job to start a business.

Writing the pitch and finding a partner

I began drafting the pitch that I planned to send to members of the media, and in the process of writing, I realized the story might be even more appealing with an added voice besides my own.

I enlisted the help of Brian Hart, a fellow business owner and PR pro in the Philadelphia area. Since we were close in age with similar stories of how we launched our businesses, I had a hunch that, together, we could make more of a media splash. (As an added bonus, Hart and I share an alma mater, helping to make our case in pitching our former university.)

We co-wrote a short email pitch, cited recent research, briefly shared our stories, and included a call to action to interview us on the topic. Most importantly, we positioned our story as a trend piece — we didn’t simply email journalists asking them to share our personal stories with no purpose in mind.

For content creators looking to share their story, finding a fellow writer to partner with may make sense. I recommend seeking out someone whose story is similar enough to yours in scope that it proves your angle is a newsworthy trend, but different enough that you’re not necessarily promoting your competition.

The pitch

Here’s the pitch Hart and I jointly distributed to select members of the media.

Subject line: It’s Graduation Season! Why More Millennials Are Opting for Entrepreneurship

Hi X,

College graduation season has arrived, and all over the country, newly minted grads are searching for jobs. However, not all of them are looking for traditional work.

According to a 2016 analysis from the Kauffman Foundation, startup activity in the U.S. is on the rise, and women and millennials are leading the charge. In today’s work climate, where turnover is high and job satisfaction is low, it’s not surprising that millennials are opting for entrepreneurship.

Jessica Lawlor, a 29-year-old from Cheltenham, Pennsylvania in Montgomery County, is one such millennial who left behind a stable nine-to-five job in public relations to follow her dreams of running a boutique communications agency.

“It started with my blog, Get Gutsy. The blog led to freelance opportunities, and before I knew it, I was waking up every day at 5 a.m. to pursue my side hustle before work,” said Jessica. “I reached a tipping point in 2015 where it was no longer sustainable to juggle a full-time job and a growing business. I quit my job and started Jessica Lawlor & Company (JL&Co).”

Brian Hart, 30, worked in financial communications post-graduation, until he realized that there needed to be a change in the traditional public relations model. In 2014, at the age of 27, Brian created his own Philadelphia-based public relations and digital marketing agency, Flackable.

“Leaving a stable job to launch your own business is like jumping off a cliff,” says Brian. “But I knew that the temporary pain of failure would be nothing compared to the lasting regret I’d have for not trying.”

Adweek recently recognized him as an emerging communication leader in their annual PR Industry 30 Under 30 article.

Jessica and Brian are part of a group of more than 18 million independent workers in the U.S., a number that is expected to grow to approximately 40 million by the year 2019.

I’d be happy to provide more information about this growing trend and set up an interview.

Thank you for considering!

Hitting “send”

Together, Hart and I created a list of our top media targets.

Our list included local newspaper publications like The Philadelphia Inquirer, along with publications from our alma mater, Temple University, and digital business/entrepreneurship- focused websites like Business News Daily and The Penny Hoarder.

We divided and conquered, each sending out a handful of pitches one by one, personalizing each message along the way.

And then we waited.

The results

Here’s the not-so-sexy part about PR: It takes time.

Hart and I sent the pitch to about 10 journalists on May 24, 2017. The first media hit that went live was published on July 3, 2017 — nearly two months after first sending the pitch. The latest story was just published in March of 2018, almost a year after hitting “send” on the initial pitch!

PR requires patience, but the results are often worth the wait.

The story appeared in Business News Daily, Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication online publication, The Penny Hoarder, and Temple magazine.

Stop shying away from self-promotion! Here’s how public relations can make a difference, and why many entrepreneurs are missing out on serious opportunity by pushing it to the backburner.

One media hit in particular packed a punch: This profile from The Penny Hoarder written by author Jamie Cattanach. The story was viewed more than 23,000 times the week it was published and shared nearly 500 times on Facebook.

This one media hit had a major impact on my business:

  • My website was flooded with traffic from The Penny Hoarder.
  • Fifty new people joined my email list the week the post was published.
  • I received dozens of congratulatory emails and notes from people in my network, giving me the chance to reconnect with old friends and colleagues.
  • I also received emails from a handful of new folks, leading to conversations and potential business opportunities down the line.

Make it happen

It’s easy to forget that our own stories matter, too.

And no doubt, sharing your vision with your audience through the media can be extremely beneficial for your business’s growth and success, helping you to make new connections, grow your audience/readership, and even find new clients.

PR is a strategic way to authentically tell your story through the lens of the all-important third-party endorsement.

While PR takes time and effort, with practice, patience, and creativity, you’ll begin to reap the benefits and see positive results for your brand’s bottom line and reputation.

Want more gutsy content delivered straight to your inbox twice a month? Be sure to sign up for my FREE #GetGutsy e-newsletter filled with inspiration, ideas and action items to get out of your comfort zone.


Rediscovering Montgomery County, PA: 7 Ways to Discover The Hidden Gems In Your Own Backyard

Remember a few months back when I had the opportunity to experience a gutsy weekend in Valley Forge?

My boyfriend Tim and I had such a fantastic time traversing the county with adventerous stops along the way for indoor skydiving, skiing and lots more, so I was thrilled when the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board invited me back for a summer weekend in Montgomery County, PA.

This time though, the team over at the tourism office asked me to explore some areas of the county a bit closer to home — so close to home in fact that Tim and I actually frequent some of these spots on the regular! 

Having worked in the tourism industry for several years, I’m a big fan of the concept of being a tourist in your own backyard, so I jumped at the chance to get to learn more about some of the towns and places I see or drive by every day, but don’t know much about.

Whether you’re visiting somewhere new or enjoying a staycation at home, here are seven ways to find the hidden gems in your own backyard.

1. Explore history

Whether you consider yourself a history buff or not, getting in touch with a destination’s past is a fantastic way to better understand its present.  

The small borough of Bryn Athyn is truly one of Montgomery County’s best-kept secrets — and it’s brimming with a unique history of its own, magnificent architecture and boasts hundreds of pieces of artwork and artifacts in its collections.

Bryn Athyn is home to an impressive cathedral meant to mimic those of Europe, the stain-glass and art-filled Glencairn Museum and sweeping views of the area (and the Philly skyline) from atop the museum’s tower.

Needless to say, my jaw was on the floor for most the 90-minute Highlights Tour we popped into on a Saturday afternoon. Our knowledgable tour guide led us through Glencairn, the former home of the Pitcairn family and their children which now serves as a museum of religious art and history.

Don’t forget your camera if you visit — and be sure to stick around after the tour to explore the property further and discover your own hidden gems. (We did!)

Bonus: Cairnwood Estate, also located on the property, is a very popular area wedding venue, so you may spot a bride and groom during your visit! 

Price: $10 for adults to take the Highlights Tour

2. Stop for a cold beer (or margarita — your choice, really!)

One of the best parts of travel (in my humble opinion) is the chance to stumble upon amazing local food and drinks in the places you least expect it.

An unassuming, yet fantastic brewery nestled along the busy road of 611 — if you don’t catch the red light or zoom by too fast, you might miss it. Or the best margaritas and guacamole I’ve ever had, tucked away in tiny Fort Washington. 

But let’s be real — if you’re a local, neither of these spots are a secret to you. But I’ll fill you in anyway.

The Borough Brewhouse

The Borough Brewhouse, Neshaminy Creek Brewing’s home and brewpub in Jenkintown just celebrated its one year anniversary in town. It’s fitting that we happened to visit during their anniversary weekend because we actually also attended their opening night party one year ago.

Confession: Tim and I frequent The Borough Brewhouse more than I’d like to admit.

Here’s the thing though — I am NOT a beer gal, but that doesn’t mean the Brewhouse isn’t a worthwhile stop. The Brewhouse has one of the most impressive cocktail menus I’ve ever seen (with hilariously strange drink names to boot). On this visit, I opted for the “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White”, a variation on a margarita.

Tim is a beer fan, and enjoyed sampling “The Shape of Hops to Come”, the “Leon Russian Imperial Stout” and “Bacon Industry Smoked Helles.” Be sure to check their beer list regularly, as it’s always changing and evolving.

Then there’s the food — again, just like I wouldn’t think a brewery would have great cocktails, I also wouldn’t think much of the food menu, but at the Borough Brewhouse, you’d be wrong making that assumption. Executive Chef Max Hosey’s eclectic menu offers a little something for everyone. I’m a big fan of the spicy chicken tacos and on this particular visit we also sampled the delicious chickpea falafel appetizer, shrimp tacos and the popular brewhouse burger. 

Cantina Feliz

On this weekend trip, Tim and I had the chance to return to scene of our very first date two years ago at Cantina Feliz in Fort Washington. (Everybody say “Awwwwww!”)

It’s always fun to come back to a place where you have such warm memories — and to reminisce about how we barely touched our food because we were both so nervous on that first date. Needless to say, that’s not a problem now, and indulge in the food we did!

While we usually stop in to Cantina Feliz for dinner or drinks at the bar, this time we made a visit for brunch. Boy does Cantina have some unique brunch offerings from delicious Bloody Marias (a take on a Bloody Mary, of course) to churros pancakes to Chilaquiles with beef brisket which Tim enjoyed.

But first, we have to talk about the guacamole. If you went to a Mexican restaurant and didn’t order guacamole, did you really visit a Mexican restaurant?

The guac here is on point. I usually keep it traditional, but Cantina offers several different takes on guac, so feel free to get a little wild here.

Oh, and I opted for the carnitas tacos — my go-to when I eat at Cantina. They are SO. GOOD. 

My favorite part of visiting Cantina though is the awesome vibe and beautiful decor throughout the restaurant. If you love bold and bright colors paired with unique objects and excellent service, you won’t regret paying a visit to Cantina Feliz.

3. Stroll the charming main streets 

Montgomery County, PA is full of cute small towns, and on this weekend visit, we got to explore two of ’em.

Jenkintown

Have you ever seen the ABC TV show The Goldbergs? If so, you may be familiar with Jenkintown, PA as the show is set there!

While the main road of 611 runs through Jenkintown, you’ll find awesome restaurants and shops on the various side streets right off of Old York Road. 

Pop into a movie at the Hiway Theater, enjoy dinner and trivia on Wednesday nights at Drake Tavern (a favorite activity of mine!) and check out the shops at Piazza on the Square for more small-town charm.

Oh, and be sure to mark your calendar for Jenkintown’s Festival of the Arts every September — it’s a can’t-miss event. 

Ambler

Perhaps my favorite small town in Montgomery County, impossibly charming is the only way to describe Ambler

Perfect for a date night (see item #4 below!), Ambler’s Butler Avenue is filled with all kinds of restaurants and shops to explore. Tim and I regularly visit From The Boot for special night out.

Not super related to a weekend visit, but I think it’s also important to mention I get my hair cut in Ambler by Kristen at Gravity Hair, and I often visit Pure Spa for massages. (Self care, am I right?)

Ambler has a busy festival schedule, so be sure to check to see what’s happening in town!

4. Enjoy a night out on the town 

If you find yourself in Montgomery County and want to enjoy a dinner and drinks out on the town, Ambler is the place to be.

On this visit, we checked out Gypsy Blu, an eclectic restaurant housed in a historic building with an awesome dog-friendly outdoor seating area, perfect for people watching along Butler Ave.

My absolute favorite part about Gypsy Blu is hands-down the decor. Meant to feel comfortable and home-y, the beautiful blue colors are calming, the twinkly lights are romantic and the little touches and items in every nook and cranny of the restaurant are worth exploring.

The menu offers something for everyone to enjoy (I opted for the pork chop; Tim got the steak and shrimp), but my favorite part of visiting Gypsy Blu is the wines on tap — wines on tap! How cool. 

After dinner, we moved to the bar to sample some wines (try the Nero D’Avola) and enjoy live music, offered most weekend evenings.

5. Take in some art

I’ve driven by the Abington Art Center more times than I can count, and unfortunately never once really gave much thought to what might be inside. 

Little did I know, there’s a lot here to be uncovered, including indoor galleries, classes, a sculpture park (hello Instagrammable moment!) and grounds spanning 27-acres!

We took ourselves on a little hike — definitely not something I was expecting when visiting an art center.

The exhibitions are always changing (in fact, the artwork we saw in early June has already changed), so there’s always a reason to come back to see what’s new.

Price: Free to view the galleries and Sculpture Park

6. Get outdoors

Of course, there was the aforementioned unexpectedly cool hike at Abington Art Center, but if you’re an outdoorsy type of person (Confession: I’m not), lace up your hiking shoes and hit the trails of Montgomery County.

If you’re following along with this Jenkintown/Ambler/Fort Washington-centric itinerary, consider stopping by the Wissahickon Trail, a 20-mile walking-friendly course that follows the Wissahickon Creek through eastern Montgomery County, passing through Fort Washington State Park.

7. Stay the night

It may seem silly to spend the night when you live in an area, but nothing makes a staycation feel like a vacation than indulging in a night at a hotel!

We were lucky enough to stay at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Fort Washington, centrally located to everywhere we visited. The hotel is newly-renovated, and recently won received the InterContinental Hotels Group 2017 Torchbearer Award, the company’s most prestigious award.

Our room was lovely, and featured a king-sized separate bedroom, along with a comfortable living room and bathroom.

As an added bonus, the Holiday Inn is only about a 10-minute Lyft drive to Ambler, so we were able to safely get to and from our nighttime destinations without worrying about driving and parking in town.

Price: From $139-$157 

Good to Know

Special thanks to Tim who served as the perfect Instagram husband this weekend — many of the photos in this post were taken by him!

Have you ever been to Montgomery County, PA? Tell me about the hidden gems in your own backyard in the comments below!

This post is brought to you by the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board. Many thanks for your hospitality and hosting me for a summer weekend in my own backyard! All opinions, as always, are my own.