PR is huge business. According to a Holmes Report study, the global PR market is valued at close to $13.5 billion (7 percent annual growth) with just the top ten firms reporting close to $4.8 billion in total revenues. The size is understandable given how keenly interested a lot of businesses are about getting brand exposure across mainstream media. For start-ups, this is a moment to realize they have “arrived”.

But unlike what most people think, you do not have to always shell out those five-figure retainers to hope for brand visibility. A lot of media coverage happens when you are creative or least expect it. I asked several business owners and PR agents on their biggest PR win and how they achieved it. Here is a run-down of advice I could pull out from the experiences that they shared.

Be Consistent On HARO

HelpAReporterOut (HARO) is one of the best things to happen to PR and the trick to media exposure is to respond to HARO queries consistently. More than one entrepreneur I talked to cited responding to HARO as the reason to getting featured on media outlets as diverse and popular as Entrepreneur, The Associated Press, ABC, CNN to name a few. As someone who uses HARO regularly to source quotes for my articles, one tip would be to be extremely thorough, yet to the point in your responses. Not all writers are looking to talk to you – by answering their question in your initial response, you give yourself an opportunity to be quoted in case the writer found your response helpful.

Be A Thought Leader

One advice offered by a lot of PR agencies to their clients is to prepare themselves to be presented as thought leaders in the industry. This means speaking at events, being at the forefront of industry-related debates on mainstream media, etc. But many times, such opportunities do not come to startup businesses. A workaround for such cases is through Op-Eds. Thanks to the online media, the opportunity to present your thoughts on mainstream publications is much easier today than it was a couple of decades back. When Sam Polk, the executive editor of launched his non-profit startup, he simply emailed his draft to [email protected]. The result? A front page mention on the Sunday Review in NYT.

Apply For Awards & Recognitions

Ever wondered how those businesses you read about in magazines make it to lists like “Inc’s Fastest Growing 500 companies”? The bare truth is that you basically send them your application. Not only are these lists a PR-win by themselves, but they also open doors to a lot more news-worthiness over time. This is what Matt Behnke, the Founder and CEO of online footwear store Orthotic Shop did to get listed in the Dbusiness’ ’30 in their 30s’ award. He says that he succeeded in the PR campaign by submitting his application along with information about him and his business – and the publishers got back. This is not something you can always achieve, but by keeping yourself updated on the various awards and listings that you could be a part of, you can hope to get featured on at least a fraction over the long-term.

Do Good For The Community (and let your work speak for itself)

You might have often read about small businesses who offered free sandwiches to people in times of tragedy like during the 9/11 attacks or hurricanes. These business owners often do it out of the goodness of their hearts and are not exactly seeking publicity. But the concept of doing good is news-worthy and that is something to remember. Vic Skowronski was the Public Relations Director for Comcast Cablevision of Philadelphia when Pope John Paul II, the Polish pope visited the United States for the first time. Although the event was carried live on EWTN, the cable TV system itself was mostly unbuilt. So Vic called up the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and arranged for the cable TV to be connected to big screens across several parish community centers. The result was massive goodwill among the catholic population with words of praise pouring in from various pastors who announced it from the pulpit. Vic says this activity generated lots of positive coverage across all local news outlets and is something he considers a PR win.

Creating Viral Videos

This heading doesn’t quite explain how well Kent’s Meats and Groceries scored their best PR win to date. In April 2013, a drunk burglar attempted to break into their store by throwing a rocking but fell flat even as the alarms sounded off. Seizing the opportunity, the business owners (with their PR agents) used the surveillance footage to create an ad that stated that their store-made pastrami was so good that some people would do anything to get more. The ad got viral and fetched the business countless hours of PR through coverage on CNN, Huffington Post, Good Morning America, FOX news besides thousands of dollars in TV licenses (for using the footage) and sales. You can read the complete experience as shared by Rocky Slaughter the owner of Sugar Pine media, the PR company here.

Timing It Right

In the case of PR, timing is everything. You may have the best story to tell, but you may not really find success until you put the story in context. For Gary Spivak, the founder of, that context came with the Ashley Madison hacking incident. Gary’s website was a dating site for people who had been cheated by their spouses and was a way for them to find faithful partners. Thanks to the high-profile hacking incident, FidelityDating got profound coverage as the anti-Ashley Madison. Since the initial coverage on NY Post, Gary says this angle has also helped him land an interview with Fox News.

Getting brand visibility is a time-consuming job and is definitely not something you can do part-time. While it is important you hire a professional, it is important to be creative and understand the way media works in order to be able to land the right opportunities to tell the world about your business

This is a condensed summary of the ebook, “Your Biggest PR Win”. You can download a free copy of the ebook by clicking here.

This article originally appeared on the Entrepreneurship Daily Tips Blog