There are few accomplishments in small business quite like the day you realize your marketing efforts are working. Your social media accounts are engaging. Your content strategy is connecting with customers. And, lo and behold, targeted leads are finding their way into your funnel. But settling is not what small business owners do. You're not satisfied with strong marketing alone. You know that you have to take the next step in order to thrive. You need something else.
Then someone mentions PR.
If upon your first exploration of public relations tactics you feel sweaty and a little nauseous, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Deciding to incorporate a PR strategy into your marketing plan can feel like starting over, but you don’t have to try every tactic in the book right away. Getting coverage in the media is a great way to start, and here’s a little secret: You don’t have to be (or hire) a PR professional to get media attention for your small business. Dedicating just a few minutes each day to a select number of tools can be the difference between no news coverage and a few articles that help you become a more familiar name in your niche.
Feeling small and acting big
Being told to have a PR strategy can feel like really corporate advice, but preparing for a public disaster or being featured in the New York Times doesn't have to be your end goal. For many small businesses, getting media coverage can help build credibility and awareness for your company. Consumers tend to pay more attention to a story they read on their favorite blog while skipping over an advertisement they see in the newspaper. Having other people tell your story gives it authority. Amplify and monitor your business’ public appeal using one (or all) of these resources:
HARO can be a small business owner’s most user-friendly tool when it comes to pitching the media. This simple, but shockingly effective, platform connects reporters and news outlets to expert sources like you. And whether you believe it or not, you’re an expert in your space. If you know enough to make a business out of your experience, you know more than enough to provide expert insight. According to the HARO website, nearly 30,000 members of the media have integrated a source from HARO in their stories. To get started:
- Visit the helpareporter.com
- Sign up to be a source (there are free and paid versions)
- Select the appropriate industry categories to receive “HAROs” every day
- Skim your “HAROs” daily for topics that relate to you and your business
- Respond to “HAROs” with quick, insightful information about your background and knowledge of the topic
While you’re never guaranteed that you’ll be featured, the time allowance versus the potential gains is worth dedicating a few minutes a day.
Whether you’re interested in actively pursuing media coverage or not, knowing what news outlets are saying about your business is important. Setting up Google Alerts is an easy way to do this. Plug in the search queries that are most relevant to your brand and let the information come straight to your inbox. You’ll want to make sure you’re following queries that include the name of your business, your name (if you’re the owner, founder, or CEO) and possibly the name of any partners, stakeholders or even competitors. If there is good publicity surrounding your company, you want to find it so that you can share it with your network. If there are poor representations of your business out there, you’ll want to know about it so that you can develop a strategy for defusing the bad press. You don’t have to actively seek exposure to receive it; make sure you have a finger on the pulse of what’s being said either way.
If you have news to share, a press release is one of the oldest tricks in the books. While the value of a press release in the digital age is often debated, it remains an option used by businesses big and small. According to PR Daily, an average of 1,759 press releases are sent out per day. Compared to the number of tweets, blog posts and emails that go out every day, this figure pales in comparison; nonetheless, there’s still relatively stiff competition. Different pricing options will provide different levels of reach and visibility for your content, but you can send a basic press release for as little as $99. Warning: If you've never written (or read) a press release, do some research before you begin drafting. The style is subtle, but significantly different from blogs or news articles and a certain level of protocol is expected.
4. Contact Research and Cision
Finding media contacts that cover your business is a huge leap to make in PR; however, it actually takes less effort than you might think. Finding a topic that aligns with your business’ product, principles, and purpose is nice. Finding a reporter that syncs with the core of your company is even better. Think of the resources you turn to when you want information or affirmation about your industry. Who wrote those pieces? A reporter that covers your industry is a good start, but a journalist that lives for the same stories as you might be more interested in what you have to say. To start, you can mine the news outlet’s site and social media for contact information. Frequently a well-structured tweet or a kind (but inquiring) email can get you moving in the right direction. But that can take time. If you would like to get in touch faster with relevant reporters, a service like Cision can help. Cision offers a massive database of media and their current writers and editors. In addition to just finding great topics, you’re likely to find news outlets that you never thought would cover topics related to your business, but do.
Being great at PR means more than just having a bank of media contacts, it means having the connections and truly living in the news environment that involves your business. While you may not have aspirations of being a world class PR pro, inserting yourself into the media conversation will really bulk up your rapport with journalists. To start identifying the key reporters in your field, you can set up specific search terms in Hootsuite to follow (even with the free, basic package).
Once you've determined the tone of conversations around a topic and who the top players are on your social networks of choice, you can start engaging in a meaningful way. Build lists of influencers and start to communicate. If you’re already using Hootsuite to manage your social media, great. This is just another tab. If you’re not using Hootsuite, the platform can help bring some automation to all of your social media tasks in addition to boosting PR.
Now that you've put the effort into PR, it's time to see the payoff. Tracking analytics is at the top of marketing trends list for 2017, so why not incorporate analytics into your PR? TrendKite is an analytics tool dedicated to PR, giving you comprehensive coverage of your brand. It pulls across all media types, both national and international, and spans years of coverage, so you get historical data from the day you sign up. You can conduct market research, measure your campaigns, and create and share reports. TrendKite allows you to quantify the effectiveness of your PR strategy.
PR, like the other branches of marketing, can be as big or as small an undertaking as you want it to be. Whether it evolves into a major lead generator or sits as a small staple in your business, being at the forefront of your brand’s message is a smart approach. These tools can get you started without dominating your time.