Well have all heard of the benefits of PR, we all understand what it can do for your business but we rarely take the time to figure out the inner workings of public relations. This lack of understanding means most efforts from small businesses are pointless even before they are started.
The other side of the argument is that there’s not enough time to dedicate to quality PR. That’s understandable for a small business so just don’t do it if you plan on not doing it properly. But I want to help small businesses get PR, I want them to understand how they can do it all without the need to spend fortunes on agencies.
Below are 3 PR tips that you can try right now and you will be leaps and bounds ahead of the vast majority of small businesses out there.
Failing to plan is planning to fail as the saying goes and with PR nothing could be more true. Randomly blasting out press releases to unsuspecting journalists rarely converts into coverage. Actually all it does it keep making it harder for people doing quality PR to be heard. This is where the editorial calendar comes into play and becomes a valuable resource – how do you think journalists get all of those stories out? Just by winging it? Not at all, they have editorial calendars that cover the weeks or months where there is no breaking news or anything relevant.
Start by collecting focus outlets editorial calendar. This can be done all within a couple of hours spent in the morning so really focus on starting this and getting it finished. Targeting industry outlets that are relevant for you provides a whole bunch of fantastic opportunities. Do your best to collect as many as possible. Once you have been able to collect these up, move onto the next stage which is to create your own editorial calendar.
Creating your own calendar can sound pretty daunting. Especially if you are stuck for ideas on content but collecting the outlet’s calendar first does 2 things for you. Firstly, it gives you an idea of talking points that will be covered for the current year. You can follow in their footsteps. Secondly, you can now create your own content and reach out to the editor to show your version and ask if they would like any expert opinion or commentary added. You are now adding nothing but value to the editor just by becoming a source.
Editorial calendars not only make PR easier but they also make content development for your business easier. Outlets are happy to share theirs too as they tend to use them for advertising pitches (which you can probably expect at some point).
Focus on Media Relations
This one has been around for some time now but media relations seems to be going backward. With mass press release distribution platforms and poor understanding or appreciation of PR, businesses can now bombard journalists and reporters across many platforms. All without any effect other than making PR more difficult for people genuinely trying it.
Media relations is a vital element of successful PR and trust me it does not matter if you are a mega-corporate or a mom & pop retailer, if you send press releases to journalists that do not cover that beat or have no connection to your industry then you are doing a bad job. There’s plenty of this happening too so it’s time to really zero in on how you can make this a successful process.
I’ve found that the easiest way to look at media relations is to consider it in the same field as strategic account management. This means you need to do your research, you need to understand the benefit you will provide to the person you are about to contact and if you are really good at sales then you focus on their problems, not your solutions. You listen, you understand and you take the time to figure out the perfect fit with your solutions.
Replace ‘solutions’ with ‘press release’ and the ‘strategic account’ is now an ‘outlet’. Does this make it a little easier to picture?
Focus your efforts on really understanding the journalists that are of interest to you. If you stick with industry outlets then you probably don’t have to deal with a large number of contacts. Fantastic, you now have no excuse to dedicate an hour a day to research. Twitter is a great place to start your focus. Reach out and discuss a journalists lastest article, add some expert commentary all without expecting anything in return.
Remember the editorial calendar. These are only useful if you understand the outlet itself and the connection that it has to your business and industry. Without a clear connection how can you comment or create an article based some very loose connections between outlet and business?
Use Free Tools
As I mentioned before the amount the new tech that is appearing for PR is fantastic to witness. It’s showing that there is interest in improving the workflow and increase success. Whilst investing in a fully-fledged platform may not the best step now you can still use free tools and resources which are out there. I’ll provide some examples that are known to work and are used by many people for PR success – HARO, Google Trends and #JournoRequest.
HARO provides an email newsletter of your selected categories and any media requests that are coming in. All you need to do is sign up, pick your category and wait for the requests to roll in via a daily round-up email. You then get access to the request, what is required, sometimes the reporter’s name/outlet and an email to reply back to. This guide helps you get started with the platform.
Next is #JournoRequest which is similar to HARO but it focuses specifically on Twitter requests. #JournoRequest is a popular hashtag on Twitter so you can be sure to find something of interest to you. This is easier to follow up with as it’s a reply to the comment or direct message and you go from there. The only issue with this is that it is difficult to filter through them all which means you need to scroll through a big list of requests. The other option is to use a dedicated search tool for these requests which can be done via the Journo Requests websites.
Google Trends is the more ‘advanced’ tool as it requires additional thought and time to ensure it is used properly. With Google Trends you can spend hours sifting through global search trends. Reviewing general interest, seasonality, yearly increases or decreases and breakout searches too. The benefit of this tool is that can start to review any long term trends that might be appearing in your industry. If you can find a trend and link to to an outlets editorial calendar then you have a huge advantage of providing commentary AND data which generally gets coverage every time (if it’s correct and not biased etc). A more in-depth guide on how to use Google Trends for PR goes into the details of the platform and ideas can be found here.
Spend just an hour a day on another of the activities mentioned above and you will inevitably start to see opportunities for PR. Remember those huge media outlets are not for everyone, you don’t need to have a full-page spread about your latest innovation. You just need to start small with reliable commentary and opinion. Work your way up to the big outlets by understanding how the PR world works.