You’ve come up with a great business idea. You’ve done your research, filed the paperwork and even have a few clients lined up. But you’ve only just begun. Once you get your new business off the ground, it takes discipline, focus and dedication to scale it for growth.
Most business owners focus heavily on advertisements, or paid media, without factoring in public relations (PR), or earned media. What many businesses overlook is that PR is actually one of the most cost-effective ways to raise brand awareness and increase sales.
Word-of-mouth can sometimes be much more effective than paid media, which is why earned media is a crucial part of gaining authority.
Of course, this can’t be done overnight, though it may seem that way.
A strategic PR outreach program is based on consistency to build awareness and relationships. It takes time, patience, due diligence and let’s be honest, spreadsheets.
Treat public relations as a marathon
In the age of social media, it’s easy to get sucked into the “viral vortex” of overnight success in the media. Realistically, your public relations plan should be mapped out during the course of six months to a year with milestones.
Craft your story
According to Seth Godin, “Great stories succeed because they are able to capture the imagination of large or important audiences.” Customers want to know about the story behind the brand name. What makes you stand out? Where does your passion originate? Why should they care? With advertising, you get to fully control how your story is expressed, but consumers tend to be skeptical of how this comes across. When it comes to spreading your message using public relations, you only have control over your pitch, but not the final story.
Once your story is established, it’ll also be a crucial piece of your public relations strategy. As you’re doing your outreach to journalists and influencers, your business’ story will be the foundation of your relationship.
Do your research
A great public relations strategy relies on strong relationships with journalists and influencers in your industry. Before doing your outreach, you have to first do your research to learn about those individuals. The first thing to do is to set up Talkwalker Alerts with search terms related to your business, industry and competitors.
This is where the spreadsheet comes in. As those alerts begin to come in, start populating the spreadsheet with the reporters and bloggers who write about your search terms. You should include their name, publication or blog name, email address, phone number, URL and a notes column. You won’t be using this spreadsheet for a couple of weeks, but it’s good to have this information at your fingertips.
Start a dialogue
Once you’ve identified bloggers and journalists, begin establishing a relationship with them by commenting on their articles and blogs. This is also where you’ll begin to establish your expertise and authority. Don’t forget the number one rule of commenting on the Internet: leave emotion out of it.
Treat the comments section as the beginning of a beautiful relationship with journalists and influencers before you pitch them stories about your business.
Put yourself in the reporter’s shoes and figure out your hook to capture their attention. What’s the angle? What are the upcoming events in your industry that they might care about? Is your company doing something unique that’ll be part of a trend? Are you really newsworthy or are you just promoting your business? Here are a few angles you can try when doing targeted outreach:
- The local angle: How are you giving back to your community? If there’s an issue affecting local businesses, you can reach out to reporters to give your opinion or even offer a solution.
- Human interest: Does your business cater to a specific group of individuals? Are you giving back through fundraising? Is there a charitable focus?
- Milestones: Is your business reaching a major milestone? Have you overcome a great challenge to grow and succeed as a business owner?
- Current events: Remember, reporters can’t be everywhere all the time, so they rely on citizen journalism to help with interesting stories happening around the neighborhoods.
Be patient and diligent
Follow-up is the key to success when it comes to public relations. Reporters won’t always get back to you, but don’t be discouraged. Let a week or so go by from your initial outreach, and try a different form of communication. Don’t forget to also make the most of social media by following updates across social networks and replying to them in real-time.
Remember: public relations is a form of sales where you’re pitching your story to a reporter or blogger so they will write about you. Treat journalists just like you do your top prospective customers, and you’ll find yourself in a win/win situation.