7 DIY PR Tips for Small Business Owners
by Jesse Gaddis
Hands down, public relations is the single most overlooked marketing method in the small business promotional toolkit. Not utilizing PR, however, is inherently bananas when you think about its potential return on investment. The ability to generate thousands of engaged eyeballs on your product without spending oodles of cash is a skill most small businesses can’t afford to leave on the table. My handy-dandy DIY guide to PR can get you, dear reader, started on your very own PR journey today.
1. So What’s Your Story?
You know why you started your company. But does anyone else? The first thing you need to do after launching (or perhaps prior to) is get your origin story embedded onto your website along with any collateral you think it would be appropriate for.
I will make it easy for you. Build this sentence with about 400 words –
Hi, my name is __________ and I started _______________ because _______________.
Pros: Congrats! You’ve created the perfect canned response on why you started your company.
Cons: Whoa! Don’t just go slinging that story around like the perfume lady at a Poughkeepsie Bon-Ton. Outside of posting it to your site, wait until someone asks, “So, what’s your story?”
2. Go Local
You are few degrees of separation from the local reporters who cover your industry. Tap into your network, query friends on social media, and find out who knows who you need to know. Once you obtain those connections, introduce yourself and tell them why you are the best source for future articles.
Own a plumbing company? Let these contacts know you are the singular authority on frozen pipes, winterization, and/or when a boiler needs replacing. You might not score a story right away but you are now signed up with those journalists who write those stories. When relevant topics hit the news, be sure to email your new contacts and remind them why you are the ultimate person to quote.
Pros: You’re dialed into the press connects you need to know.
Cons: Usually, there isn’t an immediate need, so you will be playing the waiting game.
3. Sponsor Live Events
Event organizers are always on the hunt for funds and are usually agreeable about terms. Find a local events company, concert promoter, radio station, or whoever is doing big things for your community, and partner with them.
If you have some gumption, just do it yourself. If you have an accessible product you can hand out, try doing a giveaway at the door. Events are a double-edged sword of incredibleness because: A. You get your brand in front of an audience primed to know you are sponsoring the event; and B. Events bring press naturally so you can use the event to tie into your brand’s story.
Pros: A good way to drive engaged audiences to trial; you get heavy brand exposure; and the draw from press is easy. Look at you – you’ve basically created a newsworthy event.
Cons: Watch how you spend money. Events can become money pits, so tread lightly.
4. Why Not Help a Reporter Out?
Reactive pitching is a good way to get in front of a journalist that works in or around your industry. Push newsletters such as Qwoted and HARO are a kind of Craigslist for news stories. This is a terrific way to fit your business into a current story in process. All you need do is respond to the query with a pitch on why you would be most qualified to address the topic.
Pros: Targeted inquiries mean there’s an article in development. Supply solid information (and be quotable!) and your chances of coverage increase.
Cons: Be careful of wasting time and pitch only relevant requests. Don’t expect your pitch to be picked up, either. There are hundreds of people submitting answers daily to either group.
5. Public Speaking
Find a cause and become vocal about it. Gain visibility in your industry by representing its position at every community hearing offered on the cause.
Pros: Press shows up to public hearings. Engage and be the smartest speaker in the room.
Cons: There are no cons, get out there!
6. Trust Building Exercise
Journalists love to poach less-frequented social media pages, as they are forever on the hunt for a unique story. The key is to find a community lacking representation from your industry. Set yourself up as the de facto expert and engage as much as you can to build your own reputation. Users will begin mentioning you on industry specific conversations.
Pros: The moment you have a whole forum sounding like a broken record for your brand.
Cons: This is a major time eater. Set aside 10 minutes each day for each of those communities and that’s it.
7. Turn Your Customers into Brand Ambassadors
You’ve probably heard this before, because it totally works (provided you have happy customers). Simply e-mail or DM customers that you believe are right for promoting your brand and give them a deal in the form of coupon codes, free product, or something attractive—in return for them talking about your products.
Pros: It’s a great way to amplify your message. Word-of-mouth is the best type of buzz.
Cons: You have no control over what a brand ambassador says. Make sure they are trained on any branding guidelines so they stay on message.
In conclusion, you don’t need to wait until you have a massive marketing budget to get started doing public relations for your small business. Use these tips and get going! We’ll see you in the headlines.
This article was written by Jesse Gaddis, an Account Executive with RLM PR, a no-nonsense, award-winning public relations firm working with tech and emerging markets clients since 1991.