As an entrepreneur, you’re undoubtedly wearing many hats. You’ve found yourself becoming a marketer, business development manager, accountant and perhaps an employer. Amongst all of this, perhaps much further down the “to do” list, is PR. You’d love to hire a public relations agency some day, or perhaps you’d like to do it yourself, if only you had the spare time to enroll in a course.
However, PR needn’t sit on a wish list. It is much more doable than you think it is once you have the know-how and confidence. It’s about taking bite-size chunks and building upon your expertise. The good news is, you can master PR for your brand, whilst still running your business.
You simply need some basic PR know-how, and an understanding of how your story fits in with what journalists are looking for.
In its essence, PR is about good storytelling. Whether you run a startup with four staff in a funky office space, or are building your empire from your home office, you can use PR to gain invaluable coverage and credibility for your brand. Read on for a little bit of PR 101.
What is PR?
In the simplest terms, PR is the practice of working with influencers, from press to broadcasters to online media outlets, in order to raise awareness or influence public opinion of a particular person, organization, issue or event.
A PR consultant will sell or pitch stories to relevant members of the press, and it is up to the journalist and his or her editors or producers to decide whether or not to include the story in their publication. A skilled PR consultant knows to tailor the story to the particular publication, and finds the most interesting angle in order to maximize the chance of getting it published.
Crucially, unlike advertising and advertorials, coverage generated from PR is not paid for; it is earned entirely on the quality of the story.
How can PR benefit your small business?
PR gives you way more than column inches in a newspaper or free press on a news station. Every startup needs positive publicity to grow and develop. It’s natural to focus on word-of-mouth at the beginning. Though this is powerful, it is largely out of the hands of the business, and is at the mercy of whether or not a past client or contact had a positive experience and will remember to recommend you.
For example, an article about your new product line, or an advisory piece on your area of expertise, is a much better testimony to your work than a paid-for advert. PR in itself, which is an external endorsement via the media, adds a level of credibility to your business, and also makes people more aware of what you do.
Also, how you market your PR can make a huge difference to your business. For example, putting thumbnails of any coverage you have received on your website gives automatic gravitas to your business. Similarly, an “as featured in” note at the bottom of your email signature or marketing literature with logos of the publications in which you’ve been featured also shows that you mean business. Many of my clients have reported that deals have been sealed after a prospect has seen their article in a newspaper or magazine, while others enjoyed a boost in traffic after a website they were featured in gave an all-important backlink.
How you can get some of that PR magic for yourself
- Find out what your audience is reading, and see what stories are featured there. It might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s an often-overlook first step to growing your brand. Do you know what newspapers, magazines and websites your target audience reads? For example, if you’ve got a clothing line, is your target audience pouring over fashion magazines? Identifying these titles is the first step. After that, take a detailed look at the publications. Are the stories aligned with your startup? What makes the news? What is the key point of interest? What angle does the journalist go for? What is the underlying message? Doing this research upfront will pay off later in your PR efforts.
- Think of what stories you have that they might like to cover. For example, if it’s a local newspaper, they often have a business section dedicated to championing local businesses. They might be interested to hear about launches, anniversaries, business growth (such as new hires) and more. Take a look at this storyfinding toolkit here to help with this step.
- Get your pitch nailed down. To get a journalist’s attention initially, you need to summarize your story in one or two sentences. Ask yourself, what is the main point? At this point, it’s easy to waffle on about your key objectives, mission, etc., but remain focused on what is priority for the journalists you are pitching and what they would be interested in, not what is a priority for you. Cut out the jargon, keep your pitch tight and concise. Have your key facts ready to read over the phone or email, and convey the key points quickly and effectively.
- Make the story about yourself, as well as your startup. Journalists love a good human interest angle, so think about your own personal reason for setting up your business. Why did you choose to work in your sector? Were you frustrated by a gap in the market? What does your product or service provide that was previously lacking?
- Get the journalist’s details. For this, Google is your best friend. Most publications have the details of their editors and reporters online. So grab their email and telephone number, and have your pitch at hand.
- Get your approach right. There is a bit of an art to approaching journalists, as getting it wrong the first time can be costly. I detail my best advice on how and when to pitch to a journalist here.
Good luck! Let us know how these PR tactics worked in action in the comments section below.