If small to mid-sized business owners ask the right questions, they’ll find there’s far more to a successful public relations campaign than meets the eye…which is why most toss the concept aside as a “distraction”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“You have to do a little research before you pitch your story – and then find creative ways to continue a stream of follow-ups.” said Jeffrey Hodnett, who has run his own public relations firm for over 10 years out of Beverly, MA. He specializes in helping the small businesses professional. Jeff continued, “The follow-up is the key public relations task, and often the most skipped over”.
This research doesn’t require a trip to the library, but it does require diligence, research and some common sense. First, businesses need to identify local publications, trade magazines and online resource sites that cover their market – or components of their market. Second, they need to connect with writers within these media outlets that are most likely to be writing a story that might touch upon their business. For example, I knew that Robert Hof covered e-commerce retail for Business Week magazine – therefore, I used my network to make sure he “got wind” of my online shoe start-up. The grapvinehill.com “story” had a close correlation to some of the buzz surrounding the e-commerce boom – and *BAM*, there we are in Business Week! BIG uptick in business 🙂
Now…think of an interesting story. What sets you apart from competitors? How does your personal story figure into your business? Is there an important event or date that might give writers a news hook? Are there market conditions that are headline news that can be tied to what you have to offer? When making your pitch…Get to the point quickly! Writers want to quickly assess if your story is a good fit for their next article – otherwise you will lose them 🙂
These efforts cost a business nothing more than short bursts of time, (5-10 minutes a day) which is important to note because public-relations expenditures are typically in the discretionary budgetary ledger. When the bottom line gets thin, PR often gets whacked.
Luckily for me, and for those of you with tight budgets, there are a number of Do-It-Yourself PR services available on the web. While a PR firm like Jeff’s can cost as little as $500 per month (and well worth it, I might add), many of these services cost almost nothing at all.
- PRWeb – This website helps companies create press releases and then pumps out the releases to search engines, news sites, subscribers, journalists and more. Press releases start at $80, which PRWeb distributes to all major search engines, various news sites plus five industries and two geographic regions. Distribution expands as prices ramp up. At the top end, for $360, PRWeb says your release will go to the New York Times, USA Today and other premium outlets, and you can include pictures, videos and other bells and whistles.
- 1888 Press Release – Similar to PRWeb, this site offers more a la carte pricing, arguably giving businesses more finite control. Its editors review press releases to make sure they have appropriate content while checking for grammar. A bare- bones release costs $15. A few options can be added on, such as search engine optimization, at $50 per module. Interested businesses should sample the different offerings.
- MediaSync offers its users access to millions of pieces of content that it aggregates according to markets or subject matter. It allows users to identify and contact the writers and bloggers who have paid the most attention to a user’s business. And MediaSync does this for free. I believe MBlast just launched two refined services that charge subscription fees in exchange for “going deeper in measuring influence” of writers.
- Handle Your Own PR is a do-it-yourself PR service specializing in serving entrepreneurs and small, medium and home-based businesses. The website offers free PR tips, low-cost media lists, and press release writing services. Media lists cost, on average, $100 each.
- Help a Reporter Out, commonly known as HARO. Businesses register as sources, identifying their specialties. Journalists make queries—on average over 200 per day. If a source can help out, he or she e-mails the journalist. If a journalist is interested, he or she will contact the source (you or your PR agent) and conduct a 10-20 min interview. The service is free and can be a HUGE payoff.
True grassroots PR is effective when you persist in follow up and find “cheeky” yet relevant stories to share with the world. Editorial departments want to know your story. Journalists want to learn about what makes you tick and what obstacles you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today. They all love telling stories…”Stories” are the heart and soul of PR. I can tell you from years of experience with PR – this is a KEY part of my SEO secret sauce. Good, smart, effective, relevant and persistent value-add CONTENT. When it becomes more than just YOU talking about your business, you become relevant to the WORLD!