Seven must-read DIY PR tips for small businesses

Alison Shadrack, founder of Adia PR, shares her insight

“Having a PR strategy can make a huge difference to the success of your small business, which I experienced first hand when previously I founded an online business that sold imported Italian food,” remembers Alison Shadrack. “I had no marketing budget, but I had know-how after working in PR, which I used to gain free publicity and help grow the business. We were regularly in the national newspapers and endorsed by top chefs and popular food influencers.”

Shadrack is the CEO of Adia PR, an Essex-based boutique PR agency she later founded. She also runs an online programme that offers small businesses advice for doing their own PR.

PR opportunity

As Shadrack explains, PR is free, a key advantage over other ways to publicise your business. “And it’s not just about getting media coverage,” she stresses, “PR can also be speaking at events, sponsorship and entering awards. There are so many demands on your time when you’re running your own small business, but doing your own PR can bring many rewards if you get it right.”

You don’t have to be an extrovert to be good at PR, Shadrack reassures, and you can gain knowledge, experience and contacts over time. “If you want to sell, people must know you’re there,” she emphasises. So, what key PR tips does Shadrack offer to small-businesses?

1. Be clear about your positioning

“You must know who you are, what you stand for and what value you offer. Focus on how you want the world to perceive and remember your business. This will shape your PR messaging.”

2. Identify your target audience

“Be clear about who you need to reach. To whom do you want to sell your products or services? Targeting a niche is usually wiser than taking a scattergun approach.”

3. Decide how to reach them

“What newspapers, magazines or websites do they read? What TV programmes do they watch? What radio stations and podcasts do they listen to? What bloggers do they follow? Answering these questions enables you to focus your PR energy.”

4. Target specific journalists and bloggers

“Press releases sent to general email addresses usually aren’t read. If you know which media you need to target, find out which journalists cover small businesses or your sector. Carry out research online to find their email address. If you can’t find them – ring up and ask politely. Twitter is a great way to find and establish a relationship with journalists. Never just spam your press releases.”

5. Have a good story

“A journalist will be looking for a good story or angle, whether you’re pitching an idea or writing a press release. Try to offer something new and different, not just ‘run-of-the-mill’. Don’t cram too much into your press release either, aim for three key messages with a good story and some interesting quotes.”

6. Get your timing and approach right

“An editor needs enough time to plan in a story, which can be three months for a glossy magazine. A journalist also needs enough time to write a story before their filing deadline, so don’t leave it too late. If you try to pitch a story by phone, some journalists will give you less time than others. It’s tricky. If you have someone’s direct email, send your press release with a brief pitch for the story. Politely follow up after a few days if you don’t hear anything.”

7. Plan your PR and marketing strategy

“Get together a PR schedule for the year ahead – wall planners are perfect for this. Think about what’s coming up for your business and sector. Plan in key calendar dates, awareness days, etc, because these can offer good PR opportunities. Are there any industry events that you can talk at or about? Once you can see what’s coming up, you can plan your PR campaigns, stay organised and make sure you pitch or send out your releases in good time.”

Shadrack has one final important recommendation. “Make sure your website looks good and is up-to-date, and that your social media presence is a good one. A journalist will probably check you out online before making contact – you don’t want to put them off,” she cautions.