Can't afford a PR agency? Here's how to do your own PR
You’re running an SME. You’re working night and day to grow your business, and you’re doing it on a shoestring budget. You know that you need to increase visibility for your brand in the market, and yet you can’t seem to find the money to hire a PR firm. What is a driven, focused business owner to do?
Believe it or not, you can do it yourself. Sure, you might not have the level of connections earned by public relations firms, but there are lots of actions you can take to not only get your business noticed, but keep it top-of-mind and prominent in industry news.
Small business PR: do it yourself
If you’re considering doing your own PR, and you’re a bit nervous about getting started, you’re not alone. After all, the UK’s public relations industry is now worth £12.9 billion, an increase of 34% on three years ago, according to the 2016 PR Census. That means the industry is doing well, and you’ll likely be competing with an increasing number of influential and connected PR specialists.
That can make your task seem more daunting, unless you consider that at least one of those firms is willing to share some industry secrets. Here are some of the top strategies we use at Adia PR, all of which a business owner with little or no PR experience can put to work directly, and with surprising effectiveness.
Learn to write a press release
If your business isn’t in the news, that could be because journalists don’t know it exists. Business owners are often surprised to learn that many news pieces are initiated by press releases (a.k.a. proposed articles). So, familiarize yourself with the types of stories your targeted news outlets tend to publish, and look for parallels with your brand.
A Google search will throw up a load of articles on how to write an effective press release, and many will offer you a template to work from, so you don’t have to worry about being a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. As long as your press release contains all of the relevant information, and offers a strong enough story, you’ll have a good chance of securing coverage for your business.
Assemble a press kit
A press kit should contain digital copies of all items that help to introduce and explain your business, such as bios and headshots of key individuals, brochures, and any other brand collateral, including your company logo. I would recommend creating a file in Dropbox and sharing the link, rather than emailing attachments, which can frustrate recipients with slow load times. Send out the link with your press releases and always have it ready to go for new and time-sensitive enquiries, proving that you’re prepared and responsive. To make life even easier for journalists, you might wish to have a link to the press kit on your website too.
Connect with the right journalists
Who writes about your industry, small businesses, or happenings in your geographical area? Knowing this will help you make connections with journalists who are regularly looking for the stories and information that you have to offer.
Search online for an established database of journalists who are regularly looking for contributors. Sign up through the website to get alerts about press opportunities, and respond to those that apply to your business. You can also follow journalists you respect on social media; they will often post requests for quotes, articles and other contributions.
Study your industry
One successful news piece leads to others, so it’s important to understand that these opportunities often arise without much warning. That’s why I always recommend being on top of the latest trends and happenings in your industry, so you can speak intelligently about them at any time.
Signing up for Google Alerts is a great way to stay on top of what the competition is doing, where your own business is being mentioned, and what trends are emerging in your industry. Simply set up Google Alerts for your business name, the names of your competitors, and industry terms. Journalists will take note of who is generally most prepared, and go to their most cooperative, timely and informed sources for future contributions.
Include news leaders in your network
Journalists don’t always report for just one news outlet. Often, they look for reporting opportunities across several industries and for a number of publications. For this reason, it can be mutually beneficial to keep a few of these busy journalists in your circle of business connections. Keep up with what they’re doing, so you can stay informed about what kind of news they’re looking for. Invite them to events and introduce them to your business associates. Let them know that you’re following their work, and comment on it. Stay in touch so that you’re front-of-mind whenever a PR opportunity arises.
Offer your expertise
Is there an event coming to town that will catch the attention of your ideal clients? Is there something in the news on which you can shed some light or offer an alternative view? Is there a publication for which you could write a weekly or monthly column that appeals to its readership? Think of ways in which you can serve publications and their audiences (which are also your audiences), and make a proposal.
Write a thought leadership article
A thought leadership article is an editorial piece that you can submit to a news outlet, business magazine or trade publication, to be published in your name. What can you provide insightful comment on? What is making headlines right now? What topics are publications focusing on? What are your ideal clients focused on? Use the answers to these questions to draft a thought leadership article that not only gives your opinion, but proves your expertise, imparts advice, introduces you to more ideal customers, and more.
There are lots of professional PR agencies out there, and they get things done like no other. However, this kind of service isn’t feasible for all businesses, especially those with ultra-tight budgets. By following these tips, you can start making connections and building relationships with media outlets that will give your business the best kind of coverage.