How to get PR reach when you can't afford a PR agency

MFMG Cosmetics started out as an online community celebrating makeup artists. A pivotal moment that turned that community into a brand was a feature in the New York Times recognizing the community I was building for championing diversity in the makeup industry.

Soon after the feature, I had family members reaching out to me congratulating me and members of our online community clamoring for products (which I did not have at the time). It made me realize that press helps tremendously with brand credibility and gives buyers more confident with an online purchase. 

I'm sure you're thinking "Of course I know press can have a great impact on my business, but how do I get press on a shoestring budget" . PR agencies can be expensive, the first quote I got from a PR agency was $4000 for a monthly retainer and I knew with a bootstrapped, startup budget I was not in a position to enlist PR services. 

So here are the scrappy steps I took instead: 

  • Create a Media List 

    • Find stories/journalists that have covered products or services similar to yours. For example, for MFMG Cosmetics, I specifically looked for journalists and articles that written about leading Black Owned Beauty Brands. If your brand is a natural, skincare brand for example, use similar brands or competitor brands in that niche. 
    • To find these stories, you can simply enter the name of the brand and click on the News tab and the top of the google search bar. 
    • I hired a Virtual Assistant/Data Entry expert from Fiverr to make a list of 100 articles that featured similar brands to mine. 
    • You or your VA hire should fill out the following fields in the Media List spreadsheet "Publication, URL, first and name of the writer and links to relevant post by that writer.
    • Using Rocket Reach, you or your VA hire can find the emails of the journalist & or blogger.  This is the part that takes the longest time but its worth it to find details of a relevant journalist willing to write about your brand. Sample URL List


  • Prepare your email templates 

    • This is an important step as the goal is to write a pitch that is relevant and summarizes your unique selling point quickly. 
    • Here is an example cold-email I sent to a BuzzFeed reporter that led to a press feature: 

It's been a tough week for those of us that champion diversity and I hope you are slowly recovering from the Election results. Although I'm still reeling from the results, I have some  pretty exciting beauty news for you! Makeup For Melanin Girls, a platform created to celebrate beauty influencers of colour and underrepresented skin tones, is releasing a  new line of liquid lipsticks.    I have attached a sneak peek of the launch from our recent photoshoot. You can also see an exclusive sneak peek of the website here, which is officially launching November 20th.  Do you think this could be an interesting story for you and your readers?  P.S: I really enjoyed your recent post that featured beauty gurus with hijabis. Black hijabis in particularl have voiced their lack of representation on our platform so its awesome to see posts like that. 


    • I tied the pitch to something significant happening in the US (New election results) 
    • I offered exclusivity 
    • While this is not in a traditional "Press release" format it still converted into a press feature. A traditional Press release is great for a new launch but if its not a new launch, it's okay to reach out directly to the reporter with a short email introducing the brand and why you think it is relevant to them and their readers. 
    • Now that I review this email, it was definitely too long (edited some parts out for this article). A good rule to thumb is a length that can be easily read on mobile. also has some good email templates you can use. 


  • Follow up

    • There will likely be rejection during this process, don't take it personal, keep reaching out to relevant journalists in your niche. 
    • Don't focus on large publications alone, some smaller outlets or blogs may have a lot of reach (use to review the reach of the outlet you are interested in. 
    • If you do get press coverage, follow up and say thanks and look to check in once in a while. For example when I got news that a news outlet had laid off staff, I reached out to my contact there to make sure they were doing okay! 

Good luck!