Do you do public relations for your business? Many small business owners neglect PR because they think it takes too much time or requires hiring a PR person or agency. Others think their businesses just aren't newsworthy or that they can't write a good press release - so why bother?
The truth: PR is a great way for any business to get noticed - for free. 'Earned' publicity - publicity that comes from a blog, newspaper, or magazine writing about your business - is far more valuable than 'paid' publicity (that is, advertising). Prospective customers trust earned publicity more, and it has long-lasting results in terms of building your brand and your credibility.
The nuts and bolts of PR have changed a bit in recent years, with the advent of social media and the rise of the Internet, but the basic rules of PR still hold true. Here's what you need to know:
- Get to know your target. Just as in any type of marketing, understanding what your target market wants and needs is key to success. In this case, your target market is the media - journalists, bloggers, TV and radio reporters, etc. To find out what they need, pay attention to what they already write about. A local reporter who covers the retail industry is the perfect person to pitch your new store to, while the reporter who reviews restaurants won't care.
- Craft your pitch and press release. There are many websites that provide templates for pitches and press releases. PRLog.org is one my company uses, but PRNewswire andPRWeb.com offer useful tools, too. Following a template helps by suggesting how and when to use hyperlinks, photos, and other elements to add interest to your pitch or press release. Of course, format isn't the only thing that matters when writing a pitch or press release. You need to find a 'hook' - something timely, interesting, or newsworthy to the media person you're pitching. If your retail store sells children's toys, for example, a pitch about the '10 Hottest Holiday Toys for 2015' will get parenting magazines or mom bloggers intrigued.
- Hit the target. Send your pitch and press release to your target media members. Email is the generally accepted method today; you can find most media members' emails on their publications' websites. Use an attention-getting subject line that clearly states what you're offering without being boring.
- Follow up. Develop a spreadsheet of media contacts with contact information to help you manage your PR efforts. After your first pitch, follow up if you don't hear back - but don't be a pest. I've noticed a disturbing tendency of PR people emailing me the day after (or even later the same day) I get their pitches to follow up. Give people some time to get through their emails before you hit them with a second attempt - but do follow up; emails often fall through the cracks.
- Make an offer. Spell out what's in it for the media if they take you up on your press release. Provide some useful data (such as statistics from a survey you've done), an interesting or compelling quote, an offer to serve as an interview source, or an invitation to your grand opening or other event.
- Be active. If your business targets local customers, getting out into your community is a great way to get PR. Become an active member of local networking groups, Chambers of Commerce, and other business organizations in your area. Local media often reach out to these groups when they need quotes or interview subjects, so being involved gives you a better chance of getting press.
- Make the most of it. Once you do get publicity, make the most of the attention by posting the article on your website, framing it in your store, and generally spreading the news about your 15 minutes of fame. Also be sure to thank the journalist or blogger for the attention - that helps build relationships and leads to more publicity.