PR for small businesses

Added: 16/03/2018

What is PR and why bother with it?

PR is an essential business activity for any size of business – you have to make sure that your customers not only KNOW about you, but that they WANT to do business with you.

I’ve been helping clients to build their brands and raise their profiles for a number of years now. Whenever I meet a business owner that hasn’t yet thought about their PR, my first question to them is “Why not?”. Here are my top five answers:

That last one always makes my flinch a little! But the simple truth is that PR doesn’t have to take a lot of your time, it certainly doesn’t have to cost a fortune, you don’t need to know any journalists (that will come), and EVERYONE has a story, it is probably just so much a part of your day to day life that you just haven’t spotted it yet!

Good PR will help to build your business’s reputation – a vital and invaluable asset. Telling stories builds trust, generates dialogue and increases customer engagement.

  

Good PR is FREE advertising!

Editorial coverage in the media beats advertising hands down.  An advertisement sends a two-dimensional message – it yells “my business is brilliant because I say so – and I’ve paid a small fortune to this publication to tell you so!”

Editorial coverage, on the other hand, gives a three-dimensional message. Perceived as third-party endorsement,  the publication, seen by its audience as the true expert, is saying that they believe your business to be worthy and not to be ignored. They are endorsing you, thereby demonstrating your business’s credibility and authenticity.

And it is FREE!

  

What is NEWS?

All businesses have a story, but not all business owners recognise theirs. Any event that is unusual, interesting or out of the ordinary is news.

If it is about people or has a human interest, maybe how your business/product/service has an effect on people, then that’s ideal for mainstream media. Or it might be something more technical about your product which would be of interest to readers of the specialist press.

As a business you may have a range of different audiences to communicate with, and carefully targeted PR sends the right message to the right people. So, although your news is about you and your business, it should focus on how it benefits your audience and how it is relevant to them.

  

It’s all about your BRAND

Your brand is what makes your business unique. It is how you are perceived by your customers, reflecting your values and distinguishing you from your competitors. Your brand is why your customers trust and ultimately want to buy from you – and it is vital to communicate this to the world.

As part of your initial business plan you will (should) have researched who your customers are and what makes them tick. And you will have given a lot of thought to your USP and values and why your business is the best. So focus on communicating this in your PR, keeping it clear and consistent.

  

What’s your STORY?

Your story could be obvious, but sometimes spotting your story can be tricky. Sometimes it is so much a part of our everyday lives that we can’t see the wood for the trees!

It could be general company news of expansion and growth, investment, new appointments, financial milestones, community activities, award nominations or staff achievements. Or it could focus on the launch of a new product/service, project news, or maybe an interesting case study where you can show how people have benefitted. You might have some good news to share about overcoming diversity or problem solving. Your story could be topical or seasonal – or even controversial! It could be a commentary piece where you become a spokesperson for your industry, a voice of authority, an expert!

Every business and every story is different, but the general principles of PR usually apply across the board.

  

Target the media

Do your research! Find the key media for your business and look at the type of stories they feature. Are their readers your customers? Then pick up the phone to get the name of and best way to contact the relevant journalist – and get in touch with them to send them your story.

  

It’s the way you tell ‘em!

There are no guarantees when it comes to securing free editorial coverage. Whether you do your own PR or hire in a specialist, the aim is to provide the media with well-written, newsworthy information, relevant to their readers/viewers/audience. Journalists receive hundreds of news stories in the inboxes every day and they have to decide in a nano-second if they are going to read them or not. So your story must stand out and be presented in a way that makes their life easy (i.e. it doesn’t require research or too much editing.)

 

TOP TIPS for the killer press release:

A press release is a form of communication to help a journalist decide if they want to cover your story. It is NOT a description of your fantastic business; an impressive list of your qualifications; or your superbly crafted mission statement. It is simply a collection of facts constructed in a way that grabs the reader’s attention. BUT remember - if it sounds like an advert, it will be treated as such and deleted.

  1. Keep it short and simple; use good grammar and punctuation and avoid jargon
  2. Be formulaic, not creative; objective rather than subjective
  3. Write in the third person
  4. Answer as many of the 5 Ws as you can (where, when, who, what and why)
  5. Try to keep a customer angle/hook
  6. Don’ sweat over the headline – sick to one sentence that summarises the point of the story
  7. Include a quote from an expert (this could be you) to bring your story to life
  8. Include a good quality image that captures the essence of the story
  9. Include background information in notes to the editor at the end
  10. Always include the date and your contact details (and make sure you are available to answer any questions)
  11. Proof read it before sending! A badly written press release can be permanently damaging!

 

What next?

Don’t forget that a good story doesn’t always get published. Bigger stories may come along and know yours down the pecking order. Space is at a premium so even if you do get published, your story might be edited to fit.

You can (and probably should) also self-publish online. There is a growing number of online sites that publish articles, regionally and nationally.

Don’t forget to SHARE links to published articles on your social media and your website – let the world know that other publications think your business is great!

Finally, once you have started try to keep up the momentum. A steady stream of articles will really help to build your brand, so keep going!

 

 

Sixty7 runs practical DIY PR Toolkit workshops with former journalist, Fay Marcroft, where you will learn about planning your PR strategy, identifying story opportunities and writing the perfect press release - and you’ll discover the best way to gain free media coverage. For more details, including forthcoming dates and venues, visit their Facebook page /DIYPRToolkit.

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