May 1, 2020

The PR Playbook: Meet Lexie Smith, Founder of THEPRBAR

By Emily Merrell 

You did it. You finally launched your new product, service, store, etc. and then Covid-19 hits. The grand launch you had planned with events and press releases is all put on hold. Or is it? With so much still up in the air with Covid-19, is your new thing still relevant? It sure is, it just needs a new playbook. That’s where Lexie Smith, founder of THEPRBAR comes through. She teaches PR so you don’t have to empty your pockets to PR agencies, and instead focus on your marketing. Keep reading to better understand how THEPRBAR can help you with your playbook. 

SDS: Lexie, you’re the founder of THEPRBAR— which I found out does not have a bar involved. So while you’re not slinging cocktails, what is the THEPRBAR and how does it differ from traditional PR? 

LEXIE SMITH: Not a physical bar, no, but we do have a Bar Menu 😉 I created the THEPRBAR Inc. to establish a fun and inspiring brand, specializing in helping motivated entrepreneurs exponentially expand their impact, influence and revenue through PR.

My signature offering is a program I call Pop Fizz Clink! (seeing the theme here? *wink wink*). Essentially, I teach entrepreneurs how to rock the world of PR like a pro and how to make money with PR.  

Now, I wouldn’t say THEPRBAR is different from traditional PR, but it is different from an agency who does it all for you. What I offer are programs DWY (done with you) so you can eventually DIY PR. There are pros and cons to both outsourcing or doing it yourself, which is why I decided to make sure entrepreneurs have access to that alternative option!

SDS: While the economy is struggling, I know brands are hesitant to do PR on their offerings. What is your advice to companies or individuals on how best to engage with PR? 

LS: It is definitely a hyper-sensitive time to do PR. I recently interviewed a series of journalists on what they do and do not want to receive in their inboxes right now. While they had variations throughout their answers, I did find a few common takeaways.

First, Covid-19 is dominating the news, so related pitches will take precedent 9 times out of 10. However, they also all agreed that as long as the pitch is well thought-out and relevant to their beat, they aren’t opposed to receiving other pitch ideas. People pitching just need to be aware of the fact that they may not get covered until a later date.

Founder of THEPRBAR, Lexie Smith. Courtesy of THEPRBAR.

SDS: PR always seemed intimidating and a lot of money to me. What are your thoughts on doing PR for yourself versus hiring an agency? 

LS: There are pros and cons to both scenarios. Let’s start with hiring an agency.

PROS of hiring an agency are: 

  • It saves you time (because they are doing the work for you).
  • It fast-tracks relationships (aka they should already have established media relationships).
  • You have access to a team of PR experts. 

CONS of hiring an agency are: 

  • Like you said, it costs a lot of money! Typically, PR firms lock you into minimum time retainers as well (i.e. 6-months) at rates into the mid-5 figures, at least.
  • If or when you stop working with that agency, their media contacts go with them.
  • Agencies have other clients, so you are not the only company getting their attention. Depending on the firm, this may cause campaigns to move more slowly or you may not receive as much overall attention when compared to their higher ticket clients.

On the other hand, what are some of the pros and cons of doing it yourself?

PROS of learning to DIY PR:

  • Far more affordable.
  • YOU are creating the media relations, so it becomes an owned personal asset.
  • You have greater control over your overall narrative. When you do one day want to outsource, you’ll be more prepared to make an informed decision/investment.

CONS of learning to DIY PR:

  • It takes more time since you’re doing it yourself.
  • It can take longer to build authentic relationships with the media.
  • You don’t have immediate access to a team of PR experts.

Here is what I typically say is the most ideal situation: You start with doing it yourself. Then, when you have the means, you hire someone to take over in-house. You eventually have an in-house team member and outsource to a firm for extra support.

SDS: As someone who advocates for doing your own PR, what are your favorite platforms or resources to connect with editors? 

LS: Let me first quickly clarify, I don’t advocate for DIY over hiring a firm. What I do advocate for is knowing that there is a time and a place where each avenue makes more sense – it just depends on the business owner and the stage of their business.

That being said, there are SO many resources available to those looking to do their own PR. HARO is a great example. Studies show that email is king when forging new relationships, but second to email comes Twitter. According to Muckrack’s 2020 State of Journalism report, 85% percent of Journalists vote that Twitter is the most valuable social network to them.

SDS: Can you break down some PR terminology? What is owned media versus pitched? 

LS: Great question! In short, “owned media” is when you leverage a channel you own or can control. For example, your blog, a YouTube channel, your website, etc. When you pitch for coverage, on the other hand, it is called “earned media”. Earned media is when a third-party publishes content on your brand on a platform you don’t own – think a magazine article, podcast interview or TV feature. Both are great in PR, just serve different purposes!

SDS: Lastly, can you share any advice you have for a new business on timing for pitching your business? Should a business pitch themselves pre-launch or once their product/offering has launched? 

LS: I wish I could give you a black and white answer to this – but unfortunately, it’s not that simple. I wrote a blog post on Editorial Calendars which gives a more in-depth break-down of pitch timing, but high-level I advise new businesses to just be strategic and conscious of the timing of their pitch. Take note of what’s happening in the world and what’s dominating headlines. Understand the intricacies of editorial calendars and pitching deadlines. Be weary of seasonal events and upcoming holidays. 

Lexie Smith, founder of THEPRBAR. Courtesy of THEPRBAR.

There is a lot of work to be done to “get press ready” before a business ever launches. So, should you ask someone to write about you before you have anything to offer or show them? Likely, no. However, you should be starting to forge meaningful relationships, and that in itself can require a series of “introduction pitches”. As you can see, there are a lot of deciding factors!

To hear more of Lexie’s insight, join her event on Thursday May 7 at 12:30pmET/9:30amPT: PR In The Time Of Crisis. Join Six Degrees Society and speaker Lexie Smith of THEPRBAR to discuss how to best leverage PR in a time of crisis. At this event you’ll walk away with new angles and ideas to pitch your product and brand and learn tried and true tricks that will last longer than this crisis. Reserve your ticket here.

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