You may think public pelations is some kind of Black Magic that the big guys brew up. Or maybe you have heard it’s just for slick types who don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. PR people may have earned a bit of their reputation as “Spin Doctors” but public relations itself is something small business owners should pay attention to and use. PR’s intangible and not easily measurable nature might make it a mystery but the costs VS results are worth your time.
What is Public Relations, Exactly?
Public relations is not advertising or marketing, but it could be a component of both. PR is free publicity that is generated by newsworthy items. The bigger the news you have the more likely someone is going to write about it or broadcast it through the media. It’s easier than ever to get your story out and promote yourself and your business by simply providing the story to the media.
Press Releases and Media Alerts
Say you want to submit a story about your new business to the local paper: they may be receptive to a call but what they are looking for is a press release. This is a simple document with the facts of your story: a who, what, where, and when. You don’t have to write the article, but you do have to provide the facts for the news outlet to create theirs. If you are unsure how to format it, look up a guide to writing a press release on the web, or hire a pro to do it for you. Send the release to your local news outlets and thanks to the internet you can self-distribute your news through free online press release sites.
How to Get Your Press Release Read
Make sure your release contains “news.” Opening a new location or hiring a new person is considered news but just promoting yourself is not going to make the cut. Editors tasked with choosing which stories will run what seems to be the latest or juiciest news. Catch them with a great headline: instead of “We have the best cupcakes, ” try “Cupcake Master reveals secret recipe”.
A quick way to reach the media is through a news alert. If you are having an event or you actually have some breaking news at your location its fine just to send outlets a quick paragraph to remind them that something is happening and they don’t want to miss it! “Mayor reveals Cupcake Recipe, 3:00pm at City Hall”
Put Yourself Out There
If you supply a consistent stream of stories and updates the media will start to rely on you for stories. If they know your name they could come to you as an expert in your field to provide a quote for a story they are doing. Make yourself available to the local media and become a go-to resource.
A great tool for promoting yourself as an expert in your business is HARO (Help a Reporter Out). You can sign up to receive a free daily email from them with inquiries from their collection of over 30,000 reporters, writers, journalists and TV shows who are looking for story sources and expert commentary in every field. These media outlets range from small blogs and local papers to the Wall Street Journal and Today Show. Helping a reporter may lead to national exposure for your local business.
Blogs and Newsletters
Your company blog, newsletter or email blasts are actually public relations tools where you can craft your own stories and promote your brand. Much like other news outlets your customers will respond to what looks and feels like news, i.e. a fresh item of interest. If you aren’t a writer you can re-post interesting blogs and articles (like this one!). Blogs are especially useful in keeping your company at the top of search engines. Your blog reflects your business so if you never get around to updating it, it can’t help you. If you simply don’t have the time or know-how, PR or social media companies can help you. If you are on a small budget consider hiring a freelance blogger to help you write and post once a day, per week or month.
Facebook and Twitter have been deemed essential for small businesses to communicate and connect with their customers but who has the time? And what’s with tweeting, anyway? Does anyone really want to be a friend to a cupcake? They do and they want to hear about you and from you! If social media updating seems daunting look into using a program like Hootsuite, a tool that helps you organize all your social media channels in one place and post scheduled Facebook updates and tweets.
PR is free advertising and free promotion for your business. Use it all you can to stay in the news, on the minds of your customers and to keep your business in business.