When people hear the term Public Relations, many think of messaging that’s reactionary – perhaps addressing a scandal or some other bad news that needs to be smoothed over. While that can be the case, most of the time Public Relations are proactive measures taken to help shape public awareness (and opinion) of a business, organization, event, cause, individual, etc.
Public Relations (PR) Doesn’t have to Cost a Lot
If you’re a small business lacking the luxury of being able to afford a public relations firm, there are a lot of options where you can create buzz for your business for free or at low cost. Most of what PR will cost you is your time – or the time of someone managing PR on your behalf.
Hold an Event
Do you have a business that may be suitable for having an event? If you are a retailer, you could have a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Or maybe you offer products that require a product or cooking demonstration. An after-work networking event coordinated with your local chamber of commerce (or similar organization) is a great way to drive traffic to your space.
Participate in a Charity Event
You have a few options for charitable events, depending on your budget tolerance. You could simply sponsor someone else’s charity event. Or perhaps hold (or co-present) a charitable event yourself.
If you do host, consider holding the event in your place of business – whether it’s a store, an office, or elsewhere. It could be as simple as an open house, where you invite people to stop by during certain hours, where you can offer light refreshments and have representatives of your cause mingle with guests to help spread the word about their mission. You have the satisfaction of doing something good, while at the same time providing great exposure for your business.
Show Off Your Public Speaking Skills
If you or someone in your company is good at public speaking, you have a myriad of options on ways to get in front of groups of people who could turn into – or lead you to – loyal customers.
The important thing is that whoever you get in front of, it’s best to give an informative talk that’s somehow relevant to your business. For example, if you have a landscaping company, talk to a homeowners association about the secrets to easier lawn care and design. If you sell products requiring continuing technical support, offer to be a speaker at a trade show to get in front of your distributors face-to-face.
The important thing is that any speaking engagement you have should be about delivering value to your audience. News they can use. This is not the time for a sales pitch, although these experiences will lead to expanding your business opportunities.
A press release is a written story, usually only one or two type-written pages, regarding a newsworthy event you want to get into the hands of the media (i.e. reporters and editors) – in the hopes they’ll run your story as is, or perhaps use some of its factual elements to create a bigger story.
Like reaching out to someone hiring who’s getting buried in resumes, it can be hard to cut through the daily clutter of story pitches reporters receive. So, if you’re going to try press releases, be prepared to send one or two a month consistently over time and, if possible, get the reporter on the phone so you can chat about your story ideas. But be very respectful of the reporter’s time. Whether written or verbal, get to the point right away of why you’re contacting them. Building relationships is the fastest way to get to know what publications are looking for and how you might satisfy a need. Which brings up a key point …
You want to satisfy the publication’s need, ergo their readers. Not your own need.
How do You Find the Reporters?
Another Way to Reach Reporters (HARO)
Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is a website that makes reporters’ lives a little easier. And provides an easy way for you to contact reporters.HARO offers a free option that makes it easy to try out. Once you sign up, you start receiving three emails a day with stories being written that need sources – meaning YOU. If you see a story that could benefit from your expertise, you pitch information to the journalist, answer his or her questions, and include a bio about yourself. And if the journalist has interest, he or she will reach out to you.Using HARO is potentially a lot faster route to appearing in a publication than generating a press release, plus you can gain instant credibility being positioned as a topic expert in a published story.
Searching Media Contacts
Anewstip.com is another way you research media contents, using a search engine just as you would with Google, only it focuses on the media. You may consider trying Anewstip, although it’s a little pricey.
Distribute on Social Media
Get the most bang for your buck by sharing your published stories that make it to news sites on social media. It’s the best way for gaining traction online, so people will see all your hard work pay off.
The Biggest Challenge
The biggest challenge with PR is finding the time and the will to do it. If you don’t have the time or feel like you don’t have the right talents, look for someone in your organization who does. Well done PR builds awareness and credibility that businesses can’t live without.