If you are an entrepreneur who's launching or building your small business, you likely don’t have a vast supply of money to put towards advertising. You are (rightly) spending most of your money developing your product or service. But how will you promote your business if you don’t spend loads on advertising?
If you are offering something unique, PR is your cost-effective solution.
PR is about building and maintaining a good reputation for your business by developing your story and a dialogue with key journalists, influencers and competition.
Using PR effectively will help your business thrive. It will increase the value of your company, attract investors, open doors, generate leads, and ultimately it will boost your sales. But it doesn’t happen overnight. It can take six to nine months or longer to start seeing the results of PR so be patient.
I recently attended a workshop on ‘Bootstrapping PR’ with Lizzie Slee, journalist-turned-PR-specialist, and with her expert advice I’ve developed this six-step guide to help small businesses master their own PR.
1. Make your business newsworthy. Before you spend any money on PR, invest in building a newsworthy business. How do you make your business newsworthy? Create a unique product/offering to start. Then make sure you know how to position it against the competition: why is yours the best solution? What are you doing differently and why does it matter to people? Highlight this newsworthy information on your website, and start leveraging social media, your blog, and word of mouth.
2. Develop your story. Now that you’re unique and newsworthy, build your business story. Are you newsworthy because you’re a new company doing something different? Have you overcome adversity to do something amazing? Have you launched a totally new trend that will change lives or the way people do business? Whatever is notable about your business – focus on that and develop it into your business story. (Read more on Types of Stories and Tips for Telling a Great Story.)
Consider the following:
• Timeliness: Is it part of a trend?
• Impact: Will it have an impact on the industry or community?
• Relevance: Will it mean something to a journalist?
• Revelation: Is it controversial
3. Write a press release. This is not as hard as you might think! But it must be tailored to your audience. There are likely different angles depending on the audience, so write a few different versions. It should be only one page - two maximum – if you want high-profile journalists (read: busy) to look at it. Include three key messages, in bullet point; a boilerplate (three lines max.) if you’re not well-known; add some background information: founder biographies, product facts, target audience. The key is to keep it concise and to the point!
Free tips on how to write a press release:
4. Get the news out there. Once you’ve written your press release, you need to get it out there. Email and Twitter are the best ways to reach journalists. Provide a short pitch in your email to highlight the most likely angle, and paste the press release directly into the email body. NEVER SEND IT AS AN ATTACHMENT. Is it exclusive? If so, decide on your target list and tackle it one-by-one. Make embargos VERY clear. Do not BCC – it’s time consuming, but you must send the release out one-by-one. For key journalists, follow up with a phone call – but keep to the facts. And don’t exaggerate your story. Use words like “revolutionary” and “controversial” cautiously.
5. Develop your opinion and become a thought leader. This is a great way to get continued coverage for your business. Once you’ve developed a reputation and dialogue, offer more of your thoughts on the topic. Send your media contacts your (expert) comments on relevant news. Position yourself as an authority in your field. Campaigning, or partnering with a campaign, is a great way to do this if you’re trying to change something in your industry or field that’s relevant to your business.
6. Know when to get help. As a small business owner, you probably already wear many hats at once and have become an ‘expert juggler’ in the process! Developing the right PR strategy for your business, collecting and building relationships with the right media contacts, knowing how and when to pitch your story to get the best coverage – all of this does take time and will stretch your own precious resources.
Working with a professional PR consultant will save you time and enable you to reach your business goals more quickly. Even on a relatively small budget, using The Work Crowd you can find freelance professionals with great contacts and specialist, industry knowledge to help you get your story into the right media outlets and promote your business in the right way.