Ask ten different people to define public relations and you’re likely to get ten different answers. That’s because PR can mean different things to different businesses, especially small businesses.
PR has also changed a lot in the last decade because of social, mobile and content marketing, but in simple terms, PR helps you build awareness, credibility and interest for your company, product or service. PR for small business has grown in necessity and the goal of PR is to share your story across public platforms and get your business noticed by your customers, prospects, media, influencers.
Common PR activities can include: building relationships with media and influencers, sharing news and trends in your business and industry, creating and publishing content, winning awards and speaking at conferences and events. In order to have a successful go at PR for your small business, you need to craft a plan.
Define your goals
Before creating your plan, it’s important that you start by defining your goals for PR. You can build a successful, easy-to-implement strategic plan by using the answers you have to the following questions:
• Who are you trying to reach and influence?
• What is the message you want to convey?
• What stories can you share that will rally people to support and share your cause?
• What can you bring to your industry discussion that is new or interesting?
• What market problem are you trying to solve?
• Can you be a thought leader on a particular topic?
• Are there national or industry trends you can speak to?
• What is your desired outcome?
Identify media outlets and contacts
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Start with newspapers and broadcast stations in your local community, and spend time researching other media types later. This list of media will be a great resource to reference and add to in the future. With your target media outlets identified, it’s time to pinpoint exactly who you will pitch your story. Most news sites have an employee directory that lists contact information and beats, but you might have to do additional online research to gather information, like Twitter handles. Do be careful to contact the correct person for your story.
Pitch the Media
Ever wonder why your competitor down the street gets featured in magazines, newspapers, or local websites when you have a far better product or service? It’s probably because they pitch the media more than you do and publicity trumps quality in today’s information-heavy society.
It’s not easy to break through the clutter, but a well-crafted, targeted, relevant pitch to different media outlets can do just that. A pitch is simply a description of a story you’d like the media to cover — an email, a mailed sample product with a note, a tweet, or a comment on a blog. Write a headline that gets attention! Don’t let your pitch get deleted before it’s opened. Be precise with your pitch. Get to the point by leading with your best stuff. If you bury the actual meat of the news below the first or second sentence, chances are it won’t get read.
Keep it short and sweet. A pitch is designed to entice the person to ask for more. Make sure everything you’re including in the pitch is relevant to the story and remove anything that’s unnecessary.
Even the best pitches can get overlooked; the rule of thumb is to follow up one to two times via email. If you don’t hear back and you feel your story will be of interest to readers, you can follow up with a phone call. Do this sparingly.
It’s actually common not to hear back, but ask yourself if you could have done anything differently. Perhaps pitching smaller publications or connecting with bloggers who cover your industry will be more beneficial. You can even write an article to post to a blog- a contributed article - which will give you exposure.
Build strong relationships
One of the best things you can do as a business owner looking for media coverage is to forge relationships with those in the media. Thanks to social media, the divide between you and them has grown smaller and is much easier to cross. If no one responded to your pitches, spend time reading articles written by those you pitched.
Over time, leave a comment or two; chances are the author is monitoring the comments and will see you engaging. Be very clear about your motives and be genuine. Showing interest in the topic you’re commenting on helps you get your name out there and could increase the odds of your next pitch getting a response.
Measure the success of your PR efforts
Small businesses don’t have big marketing budgets, so it’s critical that each investment delivers ROI. The impact of PR can be hard to measure, but there are a few ways you can see if your PR work is impacting your brand credibility, awareness, and even your bottom line. Public Perception and Tone: Does the story on your small business reflect a positive or negative tone? The sentiment in the comments section of articles is often a good indicator of how your piece was received.
Google Analytics: Every small business should use Google Analytics, and it should show you how PR impacts your web traffic, leads and sales, as well as referral traffic. If you discover that media coverage on a specific site drives significant traffic to your business’ site, then you might want to invest more time and energy into securing more coverage there. If you have sales and marketing automation system in place, you can take analytics to another level. Not only can you track leads coming to your website from PR, but you can also follow those leads through the sales funnel to see who is converting into prospects and sales. This is a great way to track ROI on PR!
Social Shares: When you land a media story, are people sharing it on social media platforms or leaving comments on the article? This is a quick and easy way to see if your content and delivery is resonating with the audience.
Year-over-Year Growth: Are you getting more media coverage this year than the previous year? Are you seeing an increase in the number of incoming requests from media? PR is a great way to build awareness, credibility and trust for your brand, so that people will want to talk about your business, buy your products and refer you to friends. You don’t have time do it all, but getting your small business in front of more customers and potential buyers is important, so try reaching out to local media to give your small business a public boost.