Public Relations (commonly known as “PR”) is often mistaken to be a tool used by the “big players” – large brands or organizations that can afford to invest time and money in such “luxuries”. The truth is that PR is every bit as important for a small business as it is for the big fish.
PR work is largely based on the fact that customers are far more receptive to a product or service when they hear about it through a third party. That’s why businesses have traditionally focused their PR efforts on reaching out to journalists and publications (often with the assistance of a PR agency).
Today, PR is the art and science of marketing your brand not only to old-school media sources, but also to bloggers and influencers with a large social media following. The goals of PR remain the same, only the methods are evolving.
The good news is that social media networks and free web-publishing platforms like Wix provide a powerful way for small business owners to integrate cost-effective PR activities into their marketing efforts. On the flip side, everyone has access to the same tools, and it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. That’s why we’ve put together some tips to help you get noticed in the PR game.
Create a Clout List
The goal of your PR efforts is to market yourself to individuals who can get the word about your business out to potential customers. You need to identify the top 5-10 journalists or bloggers in your industry and list them. Whether these are fringe bloggers or leading journalists, if you think a mention by them would be great for business, put them on your list.
Quick Tip: While veteran writers might have a large sphere of influence, don’t underestimate the long-term benefits of creating relationships with talented up-and-comers.
Connect Through Social Media
Get on the radar of the folks on your clout list by signing up for their mailing lists, liking and following them on Facebook and Twitter and engaging with their posts. If you are consistently visible on somebody’s Facebook or Twitter feed, you will get noticed. Just be sure not to overdo it or you will be considered a troll.
Quick Tip: Avoid generic comments. Stand out by writing intelligent, insightful or helpful responses to posts.
Write a Winning Press Release
The basic purpose of a press release is to tell journalists and bloggers what is happening with your business and why is it interesting. When artist Jason Borbay approaches the press, it’s with the full knowledge that he is the lowest priority on their list. His winning method is to send journalists a detailed and concise press release that includes direct links to images and relevant videos of himself.
Keep your press release short, write follow up emails, and never expect a journalist to do extra research to find your links. With dogged determination and what he calls a ‘disgusting’ degree of follow through, Borbay has landed on the pages of large publications such as Forbes and the Huffington Post, and built up a loyal following.
Quick Tip: No matter how great your business is, avoid superlatives like “best” and “most Incredible” in your press release – it sounds spammy.
With a press release ready, it is time to approach the folks on your list. Send them an email letting them know that you really enjoy their work. Make this letter as personal (this is where all that social engagement comes in handy) as possible. Tell them you have some big news, and that you would like to offer them exclusivity. Let them know when you are breaking the news, and give them a chance to hold it. If they are interested, you can get into details.
Quick Tip: Don’t create a press release about every company update. It should be truly newsworthy.
Tell the World
One of the most powerful marketing tools is a mention by a third party – especially a writer in your industry. If your press release has made it to the press, share it on your social media channels and website to generate buzz and traffic. Once you have garnered a few press mentions, it’s a great idea to create a press page for your website. This will serve to add to your credibility in the eyes of writers in your industry as well as of potential clients.
Quick Tip: If you don’t tell your story, someone else in your industry will tell theirs. This is not a time for being coy.
Check out The Coop Idea media page on their Wix site:
Offer Them Real Value
Ask not what your favorite industry writer can do for you, but rather… well you know the rest. Adding value is a great way to build the kinds of relationships that can lead to more press mentions down the line. There are many creative ways to do so, often beyond the context of PR.
For example, when Selena Soo, founder of the PR firm @S2Groupe, was searching for a mentor, rather than simply sign up to attend a mentoring event, she actively helped find mentees to participate in the event. Through adding value and making herself available to organizers, Selena ended up being matched with the ultimate mentor, Pattie Sellers (Editor-at-large, Fortune magazine).
Quick Tip: Sometimes the best way to connect and build a relationship is outside of the framework of your next Press Release.
You are now ready to embark on your own PR efforts! Before you hire an expensive PR firm, give these tips a try. You might just discover your inner PR ninja.
Thanks Eric Mason, Selena Soo, and Jason Borbay for some great PR insights.