Starting a new business, expanding, or launching a new product are just a few occasions when an entrepreneur may consider PR. Vegan companies have some particular needs when working with the media, and face some distinct dilemmas. Kezia Jauron offers up five things to keep in mind whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or working with a PR professional.
1. Understand you challenge the status quo.
Getting vegan business topics into the mainstream media can be much more challenging than a non-vegan business. Your product or service may be deeply offensive to the meat and dairy industries, fast food companies, or the pharmaceutical, medical, and healthcare industries.
These are the ones advertising on the nightly news, and journalists who aren’t afraid to be honest have told us our clients won’t get coverage because we’re a threat to their advertisers or corporate sponsors, in the case of public media.
2. Understand you need a soft pitch and a hard pitch.
As a vegan running a vegan business, you probably want to change the world, or at least change things for animals. You may encounter resistance when you talk to non-vegan journalists about issues such as animal cruelty, exploitation, factory farms, or diseases that afflict or kill meat and dairy eaters.
You may have to ease into it, and focus on the positive aspects of vegan diets and lifestyles, delicious food and recipes, or inspiring stories about rescued animals you’ve met. Save the stomach-churning details of animal agriculture for when you know the journalist a bit better and you sense they are opening up.
3. Understand your expectations may need to be managed.
Vegan business owners often expect that the vegan community will somehow automatically embrace them, and feel entitled to the support of vegan customers. However, you still have to earn it.
First those customers have to hear about you, meaning you still have to do the hard work of getting the word out there. I have talked to many purveyors of vegan products who overestimate how famous their brand is.
Yes, vegans are a very loyal bunch, loyal to the companies and products that enrich our lives. But don’t get arrogant, and don’t assume that what you’re doing is so innovative or noteworthy that vegans will flock to you. And please don’t hint that unless we buy your products, animals will die. That makes you sound psychotic.
4. Understand you can’t rely on social media alone.
Isn’t social media great? With only some spare time and brains invested, you can build an online following. But don’t think of it a replacement for PR and traditional media.
Social media is the way to have conversations with your followers – PR is the way to start great conversations.
PR can generate highly shareable content for your social media platforms. TV or online news stories, even ones from fairly small outlets, can be shared thousands of times on Facebook alone.
Also keep in mind that large platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are trying extremely hard to squeeze ad revenues out of everyone. You may have a respectable number of fans, but the platforms are making it harder and harder for those fans to see your content unless you pay. Getting editorial coverage in print, online, TV or radio is free publicity.
5. Understand sometimes you still get screwed.
Let’s say you’ve just done an interview with a local business reporter, and it went well. You felt a great connection and he or she was sympathetic to the vegan cause. Maybe they were inclined to be antagonistic at first, but you won them over with your sincerity and authenticity.
You wait for the Google News alert to hit your inbox, and, to your surprise, the story skews negative. Or, that Google alert never comes, because the story about your business got round-filed.
It’s sad, but even when you’ve done everything right, you might still get screwed. Sometimes the writer’s story is torn apart and reframed by their editor, or someone else up the ladder, and it’s not the writer’s fault. Sometimes your story gets bumped to make room for bigger news.
Just take a deep breath and move on to the next opportunity. Not everyone is going to understand what you do and why you do it, but it’s okay; not everyone has to.
Don’t let the fear of a ‘bad’ story stop you from getting yourself and your brand out there in the media. The benefits of PR vastly outweigh the potential negatives and you’ll do your vegan business a disservice by hiding in the shadows.
Liked this story? Then you’ll love this Vegan Business Talk podcast on PR, featuring an in-depth interview with Kezia Jauron of Evolotus PR, in which she shares a heap of tips on how to win positive media coverage and use publicity to gain visibility, increase your following, and generate revenues.