Brand Who You Really Are Series

Jennifer Hakim is a PR and Communications specialist. She runs the European branch of PR for my own Branding Company, Make Your Mark Global. Over the last decade, Jen has been helping a wide range of small companies and soulful entrepreneurs on positive missions to get their message into the media.

If you’ve ever tried to gain your own publicity in the media without the help of an expert, then you might feel as though PR is something of dark art. As I know it’s a mysterious world to a new entrepreneur, it’s something I love to support our authors in doing, to get them over that first big hurdle of getting press exposure for their first book.

If you are an author, coach, or soul-led business person, this interview will give you some insight into our world, and should leave you with a better idea of what to do next for your own exposure.

Dr. Andrea –
So Jen, before we get into your current activities, let’s take a step back.  I’d love to hear about how you got into PR and marketing in the first place.

Jennifer – So, totally transparency here, this was the first thing I went into out of University.  But I wasn’t really sure yet that this was what I wanted to do. Like a lot of new University leavers do, I hated my first job.  I found myself doing things without really understanding why I was doing them – so I actually wasn’t a big fan of PR at this time!

Then I went to live in LA for a few years.  I started to discover the world of wellness, and new, more specialty food.  I found gluten free food for the first time. And in general, I was getting really into anything that made people feel really good about themselves.

This was when I started to really appreciate what I was doing in PR.  It was all about helping small brands, like these wellness companies, to reach a new audience with their products and their message.  This changed everything for me. So now that I had a mission and felt connected to my work, I became a real fan of the PR world.

I started freelancing so that I could choose my clients, as I wanted to make a contribution to this space.  So now I help authors, coaches, and anyone in any industry who wants to make a real difference for good. My role is to make sure that their message and their mission comes across clearly, and gets seen and heard by as many people as possible.

Dr. Andrea – So over on the EU side of my PR, you’ve gotten me into magazines, online journals, radio in the UK and abroad.  Could you give us an idea, for say a coach or an author, or the different types of press you could help them get introduced to.

Jennifer –
Firstly, I’d say don’t limit yourself.  I’ve had clients who thought they could never get into their favorite publications.  But if the message is right, then it can and does happen, and that can be from print papers and online magazines to TV.  For authors and coaches, launching a course, event or book with a deadline, then I would advise aiming for digital PR. The turnaround is quicker.  If you are aiming to get press in a printed publication, and you have a deadline, then you need to plan for two months ahead.

I wouldn’t even say the sky is the limit – there is no limit really.  You just have to keep reaching out, as much as you can.

If you don’t have a PR agency helping you, then start with the magazines that you read and the shows that you watch.  Seek out the contact information and don’t hesitate to reach out and ask.

Dr. Andrea – So on that note, let’s talk a little bit about the anatomy of a good pitch.  When I was doing daytime television, I would get a lot of people come to me and say, “Oh you’ve got to bring my friend on your show!”

But that was about all they would say, and TV producers need a hook.  They need something more specific to work with, and something that’s going to really engage the show’s audience.  Really it needs to be an easy sell.

So I know the reads would love to know; what is it that you do to find the angle?  So if someone is doing this for themselves, what do they need to think about when they pitch themselves?

Jennifer – So the first thing is the elevator pitch.  This is really universal, no matter where you are pitching.  So many journalists are rushed and time poor. So imagine the person you are talking to has only one minute to spare.  Make your elevator pitch short; for example if it’s in written form then no more than three lines of text.

But, it needs also to capture all the essentials.  Let’s say you are pitching a book. You need the name of the author and the book, when and where it’s going to be available, and why it’s so special.

Everyday at work I am coaching my team to do this for everything.  Shorten those emails, make it keyword-focused and really attention-grabbing.  Don’t send three paragraphs when three lines will do.

The second thing I want you to know is that in doing this, you are not excluding the longer explanation.  But that longer piece of written explanation should be in your press kit. So if the journalist needs more then they can access it.  But only once they are bought in to what you are pitching. Then they have everything they need to refer to; and this includes your press release, contact details, website and social URLs, and your bio.

The idea behind the press kit is to give the journalist all the answers to their potential questions without them having to contact you to ask small questions.  This way, if the journalist has to publish at short notice, then they can go ahead and get you into the media.

Caption: Jennifer’s work involves matching the right stories with the right readership. Here’s a story of mine in Soul and Spirit Magazine.

Dr. Andrea –
This comes back to research.  So if you look at authors who have previously been interviewed by the magazine you wish to be published in, then you can reference similar interviews when you reach out to the publication – this shows them that you know what their readers are likely to be tuned into.  

Jennifer – Absolutely.  And then when you are reaching out in this way, make sure to give the journalist/editor a question to respond to.  So rather than just telling them about your book, then signing off, ask something like,
“Is this book of interest to you for your publication?”

This way you start a conversation and you are more likely to hear back, either way.  So to summarize what you said; let them know why you chose to contact them, based on their previous work, and then ask that question – “Is this of interest to you?”

Dr. Andrea – So you mentioned the press release and press kit.  Back in the day, when I was starting out in television, a press kit was something that came in the mail!  We would get a whole folder full of information with a glossy photo, the book, and sometimes a CD-ROM.

But today it’s much lighter!  For the launch of my recent book, I Love You, Me, you created me a lovely PDF with links to my TEDx talks.  And I know we’ve talked about the importance of links before.  A lot of people that a journalist will do their own research – but often there just isn’t time.  So it’s important to provide those time-saving links for them. We need to be proactive and present them with the best of our content upfront.  Don’t rely on Google to paint the best picture of you!

Jennifer – Yes, definitely it’s key to make the journalists’ job easier for them, as they really don’t have much time.  And again, come at it with a personalized approach. Know who you are pitching, know why you are pitching them, and tailor your approach to them.  And if you don’t hear back from the first email, do follow up. Sometimes an email is simply overlooked, and sometimes it goes to the spam folder. It’s worth trying again.

Dr. Andrea – So do you have any big, exciting things going on for any clients right now?

Jennifer – Well, I don’t like jinxing things!  What I’ve been really proud of in the last year was getting client coverage in The Times and on the BBC.  Some have felt like long shots that we just tried really hard for.  Sometimes many factors are involved, such as the timing has to be right, as well as the pitch being perfect.  This particular client that we got into The Times actually ended up being published on the same weekend as their wedding!  We were so happy for them, and so proud of getting that coverage. It’s framed on the wall here.

Dr. Andrea – So let’s talk about what people can do if they have no budget and are going it alone.  In the US we have something called HERO – help a reporter out. This service started as journalists always need a lot of stories.  Back in the day when I used to use it, it went out as a fax! But now with the modern version, people who are subscribed to this look through a list of headlines for a topic they are expert in.

So tell me about your experience using this sort of service.

Jennifer – So we use Response Source, which is one of many services that do this now.  The greatest thing from using this service is the quality of contacts I have gained quite quickly.  I get enquiries from journalists working for national publications and TV. You can get a piece accepted within an hour, if you respond quickly with a good pitch.

If you have absolutely no budget to work with, then instead of paying for a service, you can actually do quite well on Twitter.  If you search the hash tag ‘#journalistrequest’ you will see just how many journalists are searching for stories.  Try searching terms to do with what you are offering too, to narrow the results down.  And then reach out to people.

Dr. Andrea – You have put together some tools for people in this position who have to take the DIY approach.  Can you tell us about that?

Jennifer – I think there a 5 things that are really key to having the right information on your website – and this is what you will be showing to those journalists.

  1.  Know yourself.  Be clear on your brand, because this is what makes you unique.  Show why you are relevant.
  1.  Be genuine.  This can’t exist without the first point.  It’s essential for connecting with people.
  1.  The message has to be authentic.  You can’t sell or promote without a meaning – find your mission and share it in all of your branding.
  1.  Being sociable and nice is essential.  It’s a tool for connecting you.  This is a people business; so being supportive and friendly is essential.  When you speak to people, you need to ask how they are and mean it. This is about building relationships; so do take an interest in the people you work with.
  1.  Work, work, work!  It’s not just about sending a few emails.  You need to be passionate enough about your project that you can talk about it over and over.

Dr. Andrea – And here’s something really exciting!  You are very generously going to be giving 3 lucky people a PR assessment to get them started.

How can people contact you about this?

Jennifer – Just schedule a conversation with my team, we can talk about what you need and see if we are a good fit for each other.  


To learn more about how to properly pitch yourself to the media, check out our FREE training — the 5 Keys to Media Success


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