The going rate for a public relations consultant or publicist start at about $1500 per month. Experts will tell you that you need to have a publicist on retainer for about 3 months before you can expect to see any real traction so it can be a pretty costly business expense. If you’re a small business, just getting started, or don’t have a $1500 per month budget right to afford a publicist, there are still some things that you can do for little to no cost to get your brand out there. Here are some tips for handling your own PR as a small business owner.
1. Offer your expertise on stage
Speaking at an event, hosting or participating in a workshop is a great way to bring some recognition to your brand. You’ll be able to engage with the audience and offer them some valuable information. This not only expands the reach of your business, but also prepares you to speak at larger events and on larger stages. As you gain more and more speaking experience, you’ll increase your awareness among potential clients and become more known as the expert in that industry.
2. Rethink your idea of press
The press is no longer limited to major media outlets. While those outlets still hold a lot of authority, keep in mind that lots of bloggers have strong audience followings and influences. Just because you can’t land an interview in a major newspaper or other media outlet right now does not mean that you can’t get PR attention from other venues. Look for popular bloggers in your industry niche that may be able to help you gain some social influence
3. Use free tools to connect with reporters
Sometimes small business owners overlook the power of a mention. Just because the article isn’t written solely about you, does not take away from the power of a mention of you or your business in an article. A platform like HARO (help a reporter out) is a great resource to both build relationships with reporters, but also be mentioned as an expert in a particular field by giving your opinion on a topic. Sign up and get regular emails of reporters looking for articles.
4. Make your story newsworthy
Of course, your story is important to you, but in order for it to make the cut it needs to be actually newsworthy. Newsworthiness can change depending on the day and what other news stories have broken, so keep that in mind when you are pitching. When you are sharing your story with the media, remember to focus on the news angle that will strike a chord with media, and their audience. That is how you can get them to run your story.
5. Build relationships with key journalists
Before you start trying to pitch your story to a journalist, first start by trying to build a relationship with them. When searching for media professionals specific to your business, keep in mind that reporters cover different areas. For local platforms you may find that some journalists cover your city or region. Larger scale or national platforms tend to have journalists that cover particular industries, and others may cover something else that relates to your business in some way.
Compile a list of all the journalists you can that are related to your industry. Start by following them on social media. If you can, get their email addresses or some other way to contact them. Be sure to keep a list of these contacts for the future.
Don’t forget to include bloggers, magazines, local news, as well as national and international journalists. At the same time that you can be targeting those media professionals that will want to cover your stories, you can also find journalists that are actually looking for you.
If you actively engage with these reporters, read and share their other work, and if possible, network with them at industry related events. It will be even easier to get them to run your story once you have something newsworthy. And if you’ve become good friends they may be able to direct you to other journalists who would be interested, or help you build a press release that is eye catching.
Personalize your emails
When you are finally ready to pitch yourself to any journalist, be sure to send out a personal email. Nothing is worse for a reporter than to think that everyone else received this, because they know that their story will not be unique enough to cut it. Try not to reach out to your entire list all at once. This will allow you some time to sell the idea to a particular reporter, before another comes along and snags their “exclusive”.
Although you may not have a large budget for your public relations campaign like some bigger corporations, remember, an advantage you have over larger corporations is that they tend to be impersonal. Don’t down play the fact that you are a small business. Emphasize it, and show your passion.
Another way to show your small business personality is through your own pictures. Instead of using stock photos, supply media contacts with intriguing, attention grabbing, real life photos from your business, your staff and your customers.
Also, remember that public relations is a lot of trial and error, and it will take some time before you actually see any real response from the work you do. Don’t give up, keep working and tweaking your campaign. Sooner or later you’ll see all your hard work pay off.