You may think only big corporates and multinationals with a reputation problem need public relations (PR) but the truth is, all business types can benefit from some positive PR.
A good PR story about your business in a local paper is infinitely more effective than advertising and it’s actually affordable. All you need is a little time and a lot of persistence.
Before we get into all that, let’s talk about what PR is – fundamentally it’s about communicating and building relationships. More specifically it’s how you as a business, communicate with your audience and build relationships with customers, the media and the world.
When done well PR can be hugely beneficial for your businesses because it generates exposure and brand awareness. These are both important tools that can foster customer loyalty, reduce the costs involved in customer acquisition and act as key decisioning factors on a customer’s path to purchase.
PR campaigns can include anything from engaging journalists and influencers to managing social media, producing content or strategising. You’re probably thinking that sounds expensive and to be fair, a large-scale PR campaign isn’t cheap but you can strip it back and DIY.
Engaging journalists is a good place to start for a small business with limited time and resource, so here are my top five tricks of the PR trade to help you make an impact:
Always tell a story
Storytelling is as crucial to good PR as it is to journalism or public speaking. Our brains are wired to understand and connect with stories and we’re more likely to retain information received in that way.
If you’re thinking, “but I run a shoe store – I don’t have a story to tell?,” you’re mistaken. Every business has stories to tell you just need to find them.
So where should you look? Speak to your customers, review your sales and customer data and keep on top of movements in your industry.
Don’t make it all about you
If you want an impartial third-party to tell your story, it can’t be all about you. Think about the bigger picture and the kind of stories you like to read. Tales of overcoming a challenge, taking a chance or making a big change are generally well received. Just find something that works for you and aligns with the story you want to tell about your business.
Never contact a journalist without doing a little research.
Do you know who reads their stories, what kind of stories they write or what they’re interested in? You can find all of this out by reading their work, checking out their latest tweets and researching the publication they work for.
When you know all this, consider if your story is right for them and if it’s not, find a new target.
Craft the perfect pitch
The perfect pitch is simple, direct and will summarise the story in one sentence.
Journalists are time poor and don’t have hours to spend on single stories. If you want yours to get a run, make sure all of the key components (interviews, comments, photos, research) are accessible and be sure to proof-read your email before you hit send. I seriously can’t stress this enough!
Once you’ve submitted your pitch, be available. If a journalist has to hunt you down to get answers or arrange an interview chances are they will drop the story completely.
Always pick up the phone
Journalists receive hundreds of emails every day so it’s easy for yours to fall by the wayside. If you don’t get a response, put in a call. Be prepared to sell in your story and if he/she isn’t interested, ask why. This can help you prepare a better pitch the next time around.
If you don’t hear back right away, don’t be discouraged. The news agenda is fickle and a small event can see stories bumped. If you believe you’ve got a great story, try again on a slower news day.
Interested in strengthening your branding and marketing tactics? Download our free guide to building a brand. It will help to define, design and promote your brand.
Originally published November 18 2015 , updated May 3 2017