You’ve got an amazing product or service, and the world should know about it. After all, that’s why you’re on this brave journey of small business ownership. But if you’ve never been in the business of publicity, figuring out where to start might seem a bit overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.
First, it’s important to gauge whether or not your business is ready to be out and open to the public. If you’re just starting out, you may want to wait until your business is a bit more established before you start putting resources toward your public relations (PR) strategy.
If you are ready to take the leap and have a solid foundation to back you up, we’ve got you covered on the basics of your PR adventure with this list of public relations dos and don'ts.
DON’T dedicate a huge portion of your income or resources to PR. When you’re a small business or just starting out, you should be focusing more on growing your business and building a solid customer base, then maintaining it with a tool like Keap's CRM. You should only focus on PR when you have a really big announcement to make or have solid input on an important topic in your industry.
DO write press releases—when necessary. While you don’t need to announce every update to your products or services, you should certainly bring attention to any major milestone your company has reached, or an important event your company will be involved with.
Not sure how to write a press release? Check out this helpful guide from Cision, How To: Write a Press Release That Converts.
DO make sure your messaging is compelling and unique. Your audience and reporters need to know why they should care about what your company has to offer right off the bat. Find what differentiates you from the pack, and promote the heck out of it.
DO share your story. PR is all about sharing your story across multiple platforms in a way that rallies your stakeholders to believe, support and share your cause. Rich Kahn of eZanga recommends thinking of your brand as a human persona: “The more interesting and genuine its personality is, the more trust others will feel toward it.”
If reporters aren’t already familiar with your business and what you offer, they’re going to want to know what sets you apart from others like you. They’ll want to know your business’ background story, especially if there’s anything strikingly unique about how it came about. Life-changing events that made you ditch your old 9-to-5 for this new venture, or major errors that could have been detrimental but ended up being a major cornerstone of your business, are examples of interesting background info that reporters love.
DO spend money on relevant media lists or media contact database software, but only if you have the budget for it. Not all reporters have their contact information listed on their bio pages, and not all reporters have bio pages. Database programs, like Cision, have hefty contact records of reporters and bloggers from around the world, which can be easily be searched by keyword, publication and name. Many reporters' entries even include notes about their preferred mode of communication. You can even create and export media lists from within the software.
DO follow up when a reporter doesn’t respond the first time, but…
DON’T stalk or harass them. If you’ve already sent them an email, wait a day before you send a follow-up.
“Calling us within hours of sending your first pitch, or emailing us several times a day is not doing you any favors,” said Nicole Fallon, managing editor of Business News Daily. “On a related note, one of my biggest pet peeves is being contacted via my personal phone number or email address.”
Reporters are notoriously busy as they often have multiple articles to write on short deadlines. If they find your pitch interesting enough, they’ll be in contact with you.
DO research the reporters and bloggers you want to pitch. Make sure you understand what they write about most, what they’re saying on social media (if their accounts are public), and read some of their latest work. When a reporter knows you’ve put the effort into getting to know them and their needs before reaching out, they’re more likely to be less abrasive about your outreach.
DON’T mail merge the same email to all the reporters on your list. Reporters know when they receive a generic, cookie cutter pitch, which not only is a turnoff to most reporters, but it can also get your email address blacklisted as spam.
DO personalize your emails with what you’ve learned about them from your research. It may not earn you instant coverage, but it will certainly help in building a rapport.
DON’T argue with a reporter who didn’t take your pitch or write about you or your company. You had your chance to prove your point, and it didn’t land. Try again in a few weeks, with a different angle or a different announcement.
DO ask for feedback. If the reporter doesn’t take your pitch, it’s OK to ask them for feedback on why your pitch didn’t land. Most reporters don’t mind taking a few minutes to impart their wisdom on those pitching them. It means you genuinely care about improving your message and meeting their content needs.
DO set a goal and key performance indicators (KPIs) for results, and benchmarks to track success.
Some ideas for goals to set are media coverage or the number of hits, the number of mentions and the sentiment of those mentions, and how that tracks against your competitors (also known as share of voice).
Some KPIs to consider are: social engagement (number of content shares, likes, and comments), organic website traffic, and lead volume and quality (the ultimate reason you’re investing resource into PR).
Public relations—especially for small businesses that don’t have a dedicated PR staff—can be quite intimidating. However, if your strategy is well-organized and flexible, your messaging is compelling and on point, you approach media with tact and grace, and you have a clear picture of what success should look like for your business, you’ll have the PR beast tamed in no time.