6 Tips for Handling Your Own PR
All of those stories you read online or see on TV — the ones quoting or interviewing small-business owners like you — don’t happen by accident. Someone at those companies did something to catch the media’s eye.
You could hire a public relations firm to raise your profile, but it’ll cost you. Or you can handle your own PR as part of your overall marketing plan. If you choose to go the latter route, here are six tips for getting noticed by the press.
1. Have a clear goal. Knowing what kind of publicity you seek will help you define your PR strategy. Some examples: If your goal is to simply sell more products or services, you’ll want to reach consumers through local or regional media. If your goal is to attract investors, your efforts should target the financial press. If your goal is to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry, your strategy should focus on getting known by bloggers and reporters who cover your niche.
2. Make PR a priority. Of course you have a million other things to do, but publicity builds brand awareness, which typically leads to more customers. Try to devote 30 minutes a day to engaging in PR activities. After a few days, you’ll likely find yourself looking at your business through different eyes — as someone identifying ideal opportunities for media exposure.
3. Build a strong network. Look closely at the bylines on articles, blogs, and other news sources. Compile a list of people you’d like to get to know. Some may be big-name journalists, while others may be known only within a specialized area. Learn what kinds of stories appeal to each one (see #4). Seek out up-and-coming writers who cover topics related to your business; they’re often the most approachable.
4. Focus on content of value. Although the media constantly craves new ideas and information, reporters and bloggers won’t write about just anything. They’re wary of blatantly self-promotional “news.” Consider how what you sell or do ties into current events. For instance, let’s say you offer travel services to frequent flyers. A good story pitch amid the NSA/Edward Snowden news might be something like, “10 Ways to Be Productive When Stranded in Moscow,” writes Geoffrey James for Inc. The window of opportunity for news hooks is short, but the right angle can prove irresistible.
5. Craft an appealing press release. Once you’ve decided on a compelling topic, put together a press release designed to resonate with the media. A properly structured press release clearly states “who, what, where, when, why, and how,” but there’s more. Include the hook in your headline and in the first paragraph. Keep your sentences short. Offer only the business-related information that pertains to the topic of the press release. Stick to the facts. Hyperbole like “greatest” and “highest customer ratings” (particularly without any supporting data) will kill a writer’s interest.
6. Send a customized pitch. When your press release is ready, it’s time to pitch the people on your media contact list. Send an email — with a brief but compelling subject line — that describes in one or two sentences why your news is of interest to the reporter’s or blogger’s audience. Make yourself available for an interview at the other person’s convenience, not yours. Be prepared for rejection or to be simply ignored.
Journalists constantly receive pitches and press releases. The ideas that eventually get through come from small-business owners and others who are persistent and offer something of value.
Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.