Everyone wants good publicity, but running a small business on a budget means you often don’t have the time to concentrate on full-blown public relations (PR) efforts. But there are lots of things you can do to raise awareness of your brand, your products, and your successes – without breaking the bank. What’s more, some of these tactics can help build your sales funnel.
1. Start Small
First things first, forget any delusions of grandeur. Your PR efforts are unlikely to get you a headline in the New York Times or Inc.com. Your local press is the place where you’ll get the most traction. But instead of going in guns blazing with a press release and hoping they’ll be interested in your latest product release, pitch an article about your company, what you do, what makes you different, why customers should be interested.
Once you’ve got some publicity, start sending them press releases and links to interesting articles on your blog. Then move on to regional press and build your credibility from there. One way to do this is get to know industry influencers…
2. Cozy up to Industry Influencers
Influencers are the main target of any modern day PR campaign. They are active on social media, have a strong following, and are considered thought leaders in their space. PR agencies typically include these folks in their networking and outreach plans, and so can you. If you don’t know who these people are already, find out which outlets and media are appropriate to your industry and the reporters and experts in your field.
Attend industry events, read industry blogs and be active on social media (you can often spot influencers by their hashtag use, for example, cyber security experts in the IT space, often use #cyber or #cybersecurity tags). Once you’ve made a connection, follow up and interact with them regularly wherever they hang out online. For more tips, read How to Build your Brand in the Blogosphere.
3. Create Great Content
A great way to get noticed organically (i.e. without paying for it) is to create content that’s relevant to the industry, market and customer trends. Start with a blog. Provide answers to common customer problems or challenges. Show the world that you’re an expert and be authentic (this is not the time or place for a sales pitch). Great content can get you lots of attention both on search engines and social media (especially if its seasonal or topical). Many organizations also use their blog as a form of press release vehicle, using it to announce key company milestones and achievements (new partnerships, products, successes, etc.). Great content also attracts publishers who are on the lookout for new material.
Don’t stress about creating content, read my tips: How to be a Content Marketing Pro in Just a Few Hours Each Week.
4. Tell Stories
A great way to tell your own story is to write case studies about your customer successes. These make for great press release material and can also be used to help bolster your sales efforts. Read How Storytelling Can Help You Market Your Small Business.
5. Hold a Press Preview
If you’re launching a new service, product or opening a new location, invite the press for a preview.
6. Offer a Freebie or Demo
Again, if you’re launching a new product, send free samples, or a sneak peek to the press. Failing that, create a landing page that showcases what you have to offer (post a video of yourself demoing the product) and distribute the link to influencers and media organizations. Once the press has previewed it, share it on social media and give fans a look.
7. Enter your Business for Awards
Awards are a great way to generate free publicity and garner acclaim and accreditations for your business. A PR agency or marketing consultant can help you with this. Target awards that are relevant to your industry and community (chamber of commerce, etc.).
8. Find an Agency that Matches your Business
If you have the budget and the need, don’t be put off about finding an agency to do the heavy lifting for you. You don’t have to spend an arm or a leg or a PR campaign, in fact, you could spend a leg, arm or pinky finger and still get the same result. Spending lots of money won’t guarantee a ton of great PR.
A good rule of thumb according to Todd Brabender of Spread the News PR, is to find a PR business that reflects your business size. In this way, you’ll find an agency or even a consultant whose services are in line with your budget. Smaller PR shops and individual PR specialists often have more experience than the PR junior that you might end up getting paired with at an expensive agency. Brabender suggests you choose a firm who has the same tools as the bigger agencies (media distribution, tracking services, etc.).