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211. How to Get PR Coverage for Your Product-Based Business with Nora Wolf

211. How to Get PR Coverage for Your Product-Based Business with Nora Wolf

Wondering how to get published in your favorite magazines and blogs for free? Today’s guest is veteran publicist, Nora Wolf who specializes in working with product-based businesses and securing spots in Holiday gift guides. 

In today’s episode, Nora schools us on what writers are looking for, what you need to make your product pitch worthy, and how to identify stories that writers actually care about. 


Why is PR important and who is it for? 

There are so many different ways to think about it. Public Relations could mean social media, content strategy, and engaging with publications—it could mean 1000 different things. 

What we’re really good at is how to engage the media, and how to be ready to engage the media. 
And we do that through storytelling. 

What’s the difference between marketing and public relations? 

One of the most important distinctions of public relations is that it’s not marketing. 

Marketing is what you pay for people to say about you. So that could be an ad or a newsletter. PR, and especially media relations, are what you’ve earned for yourself based solely on the merit of how good your work is, and how compelling your story is. This is what we call earned editorial. 

If you’re really smart about PR, you’re tapping into industry events, because that’s where the media is going. A smart way to do that is by aligning your new product launches with your industry events. You’re taking the right photos for the media, which is probably also the right photos for your customer. 

It’s almost like you’re thinking about the media as your end-user, in addition to your traditional end-user. You’re starting to structure your business like a business because the media also plugs into your industry. That gives you that skeleton on what you can do quite a few other things that are totally not related to media relations. 

What are some tips for using earned media visibility to your advantage?

Earned media visibility can be things like landing a magazine publications and our clients have used them in so many ways. 

We have a client that makes face masks, and we got them in the New York Times a bunch of times, which did amazing things for their sales. Now they can use that “media proof” (aka social proof’s friendly neighbor) which is the quote from the New York Times and their reliable logo, as a way to validate their product from this outside source. 

From there, it’s important to use that media proof in newsletters, letting your customers know you were featured in these important publications, which gives you a good reason to engage your audience where you might not have had a reason before. 

I don’t talk about sales that much because PR is not a sales tool. It can drive sales, of course, but it’s really about leveraging that media exposure in several different ways, like growing your email list. 

Public Relations success is not necessarily measured in sales. Getting the placement is the success

It can be hard when you don’t see a direct monetary ROI, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not valuable. Don’t discount it just because you don’t see that immediate ROI from it. 

If you wholesale, this is amazing content for you to send to your retailers. 

If you have a brick and mortar and one of your brands is featured in a magazine, rip that out of the magazine and stick it on the table next to the product. 

When do you know you’re ready for PR? 

Having good visual assets, which generally means photography, is one of the most important things for product-based businesses. 

The other thing that you need to consider is to look at everything you’re doing through the eyes of an editor. Their job is to bring something useful to their reader. It needs to be topical, it has to be newsworthy, and it has to be interesting. 

It’s not about how big your business is. It’s about whether it is ready for attention. If they’re going to send a bunch of readers your way, you have to be able to handle it.

What’s the number one thing product based businesses can do with public relations? 

With my team at Wolf PR, we represent our clients, and we really jump heavily into gift guides. Every year, we start that process at the end of June.  Traditionally, print publications work about three to four months in advance. For a Holiday Gift Guide, they’ll work six months in advance. 

What are the three most important things you need to do in order to do PR successfully in-house? 

A list of competitors 

One is looking at your peers and competitors and finding what they’re doing by keeping your finger on the pulse. If you are just doing the exact same thing as your peer, and there’s no differentiation, and you can’t add to the conversation, I don’t know how you’re going to be successful in your business and you’re certainly not going to be successful in doing outreach. So you need a differentiator. 

The differentiator can be as simple as the price point, or your photography looks different, your product is more sustainable, or it’s all women-run. There are ways to differentiate very similar products. 

If your messaging is identical to your peers, and you’re not doing something interesting and compelling then you’re dead in the water—and you’re likely dead in the water as a business as well. 

A list of media outlets

By paying attention to your peers, you not only know what’s going on, but you also have a list of key publications that are potentially interested in what you’re doing since they’re writing about your industry.

You can’t pitch the exact same story that story has been told, but you have a bit of insight into the content they’re producing. Do they only cover products? Do they do founder stories? You start to understand the silos that these publications produce work in. 

Assets are crucial to PR 

When you’re getting started, most of you are probably taking photos on your own. But by getting really amazing assets for what you’re about to pitch, that photo can be used for press, as well as on your website, in your newsletter, and in ads.

Then you’ve spread that spend across four of the places where you’re budgeting for, so it makes sense. If you’re really clever, you can take a picture that works across different silos, which is a really smart way to do that work.

Submit photos that work for their point of view, it’s not your point of view. They’re giving you the audience, you’re giving them the assets.

Remember, it’s the partnership with them. It’s not about you. It’s about the audience.

The design thinking methodology

There are a few phases in the design methodology we use. One of the most important ones is empathy. If we think about what the media industry has gone through in the last decade, their photo budgets have been slashed, so you need to give them photos. Their inboxes get 100 to 200 emails a day, so they need the pitches to be very concise. 

Think about their needs and meet them and you’re already two steps ahead of everyone else. You need them more than they need you ultimately because there are hundreds of other products that they could feature instead of you. 

Make it easy for them to work with you. Go the extra mile. 

What is storytelling and how can it be done?

Storytelling is much less about the facts of your story. It’s about leaning into the pieces of information that are exciting and interesting. 

For example, a client of mine spoke about how beautiful her ceramic pieces were and how much they meant to her to make, but that will not move products. So we leaned into her inspiration and her story about being an older woman who’s making really badass work and earning her place as an artist later on in life.

Or the fact that her thumbprint might be on every piece of work because everything is handmade. That’s a more interesting story than saying her lamp works in any room. That’s not a story that’s just hoping people buy your lamp and put it in a room. 

Making sure that you’re speaking objectively to the media is really important. You’re not selling the media. They’re not your client, they’re not your buyer and they’re not your customer. They’re amplifying your work. 

Thinking about the differentiator and how that’s interesting to someone is a good way to think about storytelling. 

Listen to the Episode

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