We’ve covered lots of marketing and advertising subjects on this blog. Most of those posts, in fact, are designed to help start-ups and small businesses get over the initial marketing related hiccups. We’re referring to the near impossible glass ceiling that most new businesses have to contend with. Beyond this ceiling are all those established businesses that may not be successful but are sustainable.
Breaking through that glass ceiling would mean that you won’t have to worry about your business’s sustainability on a daily basis. But, what if you’ve already broken through the glass ceiling and are now looking at the shimmery force field? You probably can’t even see through that force field but what lies beyond is another level.
Once you break through that barrier, your small business will grow into something bigger. Breaking through the barrier obviously means increasing turnover and margins but the trick to doing that is more visibility. This is where Public Relations (PR) exercises come into the picture. The big businesses do them so why can’t you? You could if you knew what to do. Here are some PR tips for small businesses that may be of help to you.
#1 PR Tips for Small Businesses: Set-Up Media Alerts on Relevant Subjects
At a glance, PR is simple – you have to get your business, its promoter, or its employees into the news. It is a simple premise but very difficult because media gatekeepers are stringent in their requirements. You could always pay for advertorials and they have their place in marketing but advertorials don’t count as PR.
You need to be creative with PR. You need to know what you can offer to journalists and bloggers so that they cover your story and give you publicity. You need ideas! In fact, any list of PR tips for small businesses would be useless if it doesn’t tell you how to find the right ‘ins’.
The easiest way to find PR opportunities is to study what your competitors are doing. Another option is to see what is being done in the industry or even with respect to certain relevant topics. To get all this information, you need to set up media alerts. What’s the easiest way to do this? That would be Google Alerts.
Google Alerts can be set up for various keywords. These keywords could be your business’s name, your products’ name, your competitors’ name or even your industry. These regular alerts will contain updates on media references on your chosen keywords. Following what is trending in your industry and with respect to your competitors can give you some very good ideas on what journalists and bloggers value.
#2 PR Tips for Small Businesses: Identify the ‘Why’ but Now Obsess About the ‘What’
While following relevant keywords in media will help you recognise media PR opportunities, you still need to push the right message to have any success. Most small businesses make the mistake of thinking that PR is about the ‘what’. They think that it is about presenting the business, the brand, the products, or the owners in the right way.
Instead, PR is about presenting the ‘why’. When faced with a new business or product, every potential customer is going to ask ‘why’. Why should I go to this restaurant? Why should I try this new shampoo? Why should I listen to this expert?
Coming up with the answer to just such a question aimed at your business, service, or product is the foundation of a good PR exercise.
#3 PR Tips for Small Businesses: Create Your Own Media List
A media list is like a directory of journalists, bloggers, and writers along with their respective publications. Most PR professionals have their own media lists that they rely on to get in touch with the right people for various projects. Generally, these lists tend to be full of various types of people and organisations so as to suit as many clients and projects as possible.
For a small business, however, the media list doesn’t need to be exhaustive. In fact, it can’t be exhaustive because the range of subjects relevant to any small business will be limited. This means that it is very much viable for a small business to create its own media list and even maintain in-house outreach.
This is recommended too because it will not only save you a pretty penny but will also ensure a more targeted and appropriate media outreach.
#4 PR Tips for Small Businesses: Create a Press Kit
Big or small, every business and organisation interested in any type of PR exercise should create a press kit. A press kit is a simple set of documents, images, videos, graphics, and anything else that may be relevant to someone researching into the business.
Generally, press kits contain a document with details about the business, its history, vision and mission, personnel, achievements, and sectors of interest. Along with this, press kits are populated with images and videos pertaining to the story and business being circulated.
Adding quotes from prominent business officials is also good practice. Finally, press kits often contain gifts for the journalists. Bigger organisations have been known to offer Apple products too when trying to woo media professionals. In the case of bloggers, press kits can hold samples of products or discounts for the services.
#5 PR Tips for Small Businesses: Ensure That Your Pitch Is Not Generic
Once you know what angle you’re going to pitch to the media professionals (the ‘why’), which media professionals you’re going to approach (the media list), and what you’re going to provide to them to make their tasks easier (the press kit), you need to figure out the right way to approach them.
The common, and indeed a useless strategy, is to create a one-size-fits-all type of letter and make it a part of the press kit. The logic behind this is that it allows the business to go for quantity in their outreach. This strategy, unfortunately, rarely ever works. When it works, it only works with publications and bloggers that aren’t that high profile.
A better strategy is to choose quality over quantity. This means creating custom letters and emails for every journalist and blogger in the media list. A more personal email will have a greater chance to get through. Remember, journalists and bloggers worth your attention already get a lot of such requests.
#6 PR Tips for Small Businesses: Establish and Maintain a Social Media Presence
All the PR tips for small businesses we’ve mentioned till now combine to form the basis of any in-house PR exercise. You can elaborate on any of these steps to create a more detailed strategy but the fundamental principles will remain the same.
However, there are steps you can take to improve the impact your PR pitch has on media professionals. The most obvious of these steps is to have a stout social media presence. One of the first things any media professional worth his salt is going to do after receiving a pitch is to check the source.
These days, this means checking social media not only for business pages but also promoter profiles. Having a strong social media presence can make a world of difference in how a media professional sees your business.
#7 PR Tips for Small Businesses: Offer up Content Such As a Column or an Op-Ed
There’s something even more impactful than social media and that is previous mentions in media. If your name or your business’s name has already appeared in media before then it becomes easier for the media professional to trust you. Even Wikipedia requires multiple mainstream media mentions before allowing a page to be made in an individual or business’s name.
This is precisely why PR tips for small businesses are required. Most businesses wouldn’t realise that PR efforts progressively become easier. This means that the first breakthrough is the toughest and the subsequent mentions become progressively easier to attain.
One of the easiest ways of getting those initial mentions is to be a contributor. It is possible for citizens to contribute to media publications by way of Op-Ed. The Op-Ed, of course, needs to be of the same standard as other stories in the media publication concerned.
Sometimes, industry experts can even clinch a dedicated column. This usually happens in niche publications and blogs but it is very much worth pursuing. To become a contributor, you simply need to find the process for it. Writing to the publication and asking what is possible is a good way to start.
A less work intensive way of getting initial mentions is by signing up for Help A Reporter Out (HARO). HARO is a service that allows journalists to pose queries that are then emailed to people who have signed up as ‘Sources’. These queries are received in an email and the Source can then go about trying to pitch the journalist or simply answering the query.