Launching your small business is challenging enough but once you’ve accomplished this, it’s time to get the word out about your new company. One of the best ways to do this is through publicity – even better, free publicity.

If you play your cards right, positive media coverage could lead to more new business than paid advertising. Now the question becomes: How do you entice media outlets to feature your small business?

Although there are many ways to go about this, here are our 5 top steps to generate media coverage:

  1. Create a media portal. Reporters work on deadline and time is of the essence. If they are seeking information and you can provide them with details fast, you have a better shot of ending up in a news or feature story.

Perhaps the best way to create a one-stop media shop is by including a media resource or “in the news” page on your company website. This is where you can warehouse a company overview, fact sheet, bios and headshots of your team, product photos, a fun Q&A and any other media resources. This way, when reporters come calling, they have a central place to go to find all the background they need.

  1. Write compelling press releases and send them to the right journalists. Press releases can center around a new product that your company is rolling out, an acquisition or anything else that makes an engaging story. You can even position yourself as an expert to speak on behalf of your company about a news event. Along those lines, if you’ve got something to say, you also have to know who to tell. So, get to know which publications and reporters cover your industry and write about companies similar to yours. From there you can compile a spreadsheet of names, phone numbers and email addresses.

Once you’ve written your press release, email it to a reporter with a catchy subject line and compelling pitch letter. Email communication is key as 93 percent of journalists prefer to receive press releases via email, according to Cision, a global PR and communications firm.

And, don’t get discouraged. Even if your press release doesn’t lead to a call back or story, that reporter may remember you the next time he needs a source.

  1. Use Helping a Reporter Out! (HARO), a free media services company run by Cision. HARO helps connect 35,000 journalists with 475,000 potential sources. If you join the service, you’ll get three emails a day from reporters looking for experts to interview for their stories. Story queries are broken down by industry so you can even filter out queries you don’t want to see.

As a recent example, a reporter was looking to interview a small business owner who would be willing to share his experiences hiring employees through LinkedIn, Monster or Indeed. Another reporter was creating a spring gift guide and looking for items to include from owners of online stores.

If you deem yourself an expert or potential source on any of the topics listed in the HARO emails, respond right away and the reporter may contact you.

  1. Interact with journalists on social media. For starters, follow reporters on Twitter and like their pages on Facebook. From here you can actively engage with them by retweeting, sharing and commenting. This won’t necessarily lead to media coverage but eventually those reporters will know who you are. When the time is right, you may be a go-to source for a story.

Invite media to your company’s event or fundraiser. This is a savvy way to reach out to journalists. You can use this opportunity as a way to get to know reporters. If you’re lucky and a journalist considers your event newsworthy or topical, you may end up with media coverage. Even if reporters don’t attend your event, your invitation alone is still a chance to get your company’s name in front of the media.

Robyn is a journalist and business writer based in Boston. A former writer for Investor's Business Daily (IBD) and NerdWallet, Robyn is also the founder and director of Pretzel Kids, a children's fitness brand and online kids' yoga teacher training school. You can follow her on Twitter at @RobynParets and keep up with her musings on her blog Away From Om.

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