- Advertising is about telling people how good you are, PR is letting other people talk about how good you are.
- Aim to find media source opportunities, plan your stories ahead, and get to know the different media companies and publishers.
- You can also try speaking gigs, host events and invest in high-quality images.
It’s the start of a new year, you’re feeling refreshed, and fired up for a big year ahead.
Before you get back to the daily grind and business as usual, stop!
Now is the perfect time to reflect on where you’re at, where you want to be and set yourself some goals for the year ahead.
If your goals look something like this:
- More sales
- More sales
- More sales
Then, do you know how to get there?
If marketing is not the first answer that springs to mind, then it should be.
But marketing is a term that can mean just about anything and is often overwhelming for many business owners.
Should you spend money on ads? Invest in SEO? Be more active on social media? Start a podcast? Do some PR?
With no idea where to start, you’ll likely go back to square one: Do nothing.
Don’t let your business become a ‘hidden gem’ in the industry. Getting the word out and building hype doesn’t require you to invest your life savings in advertising costs.
Many business owners make excuses for why their offering hasn’t taken their community by storm. Does this sound familiar?
“My products are just too niche”
“I’m not established enough”
“I just need to hustle harder”
“I’m relying on word-of-mouth”
Reignite that fire in your belly, just like when you first started out, as PR is the secret weapon that makes the rest of your marketing easier.
Why is PR the secret weapon of marketing?
Not only does media exposure gets you eyeballs on your brand, it is also crucial to SEO. Backlinks from high traffic sites and media outlets will fast track you to the top of google search results.
Great PR will bolster your social media following and could land you a spot on a podcast or other media gigs. It builds credibility in the eyes of potential customers. How often do you read reviews before making a purchase?
If you’re unsure about the pros and cons of advertising versus PR, then here’s the lowdown: Advertising is saying you’re good, PR is getting someone else to say you're good. As a consumer, who are you more likely to trust?
If you don’t believe me, then here’s what Bill Gates has to say on the subject, “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”
It's not just Bill Gates who is pro-PR, “A good PR story is infinitely more critical than a front-page ad,” said Richard Branson.
But far too often, PR is considered by many as a mysterious dark art, which is only possible when you have the necessary contacts and long-standing relationships with the media.
While these can help, the good news is that you don’t need them to get ahead of your competitors when it comes to column inches.
PR is all about having an interesting story to tell and telling it to the right people at the right time, to secure unpaid media exposure for your business.
While a PR agency can cost anywhere between $5,000 - $15,000 a month, learning how to do your own PR and adopting some of the tricks of the trade can save you a fortune.
How can small businesses do PR on a budget?
Here are 8 industry PR hacks that won’t cost you a cent.
1. Be a media source
When journalists need something, i.e. someone to interview, products to feature or access to a special event, they will do a call out. They are looking to write about businesses just like yours but have no idea where to find you.
Sign up for these free services and receive newsletters with PR leads directly to your inbox.
Remember, you’ve got to be in it, to win it. Some of the established and credible ones out there are:
- Source Bottle – Australian focused PR opportunities.
- HARO – Help-A-Reporter-Out with this global service.
- Journo Requests – a daily email with a round-up of all the journalist requests from Twitter which can also be found by searching #JournoRequest.
- PR Hunters – connects you with journalists who want to discover your products and services.
2. Utilise Google Alerts
Set up a list of relevant keywords and Google will kindly alert you in real-time when a media outlet mentions your brand or your competitors. It’s also a useful tool for flagging interesting conversations and being in the know about events or issues which may impact your industry.
By ensuring your finger is firmly on the pulse, you can respond immediately. Offering expert opinions and advice will enable you to hijack the conversation for your benefit.
To get involved, simply, pick up the phone or email the journalist with your thoughts, provide a spokesperson to interview or change the narrative with new information or a differing perspective.
The media particularly love research or statistics, so if you have access to something which hasn’t been published elsewhere before, then this could be your ticket to drive conversation around your business.
3. Organise your PR events ahead
Year in and year out, there are events and days of the year when the media are guaranteed to cover, from Australia Day to R U OK? Day, The Melbourne Cup, Halloween, Black Friday and heaps of others in between.
Rather than realising its Mother’s Day at the last minute and it’s too late to make the most of the opportunity, it pays to be organised.
At the start of the year, take a holistic view of what’s happening and plot out key events that are a natural fit for your brand on a calendar, so you don’t miss the boat.
Brainstorm some ideas of how you can make some noise around these dates. Then ask yourself the question, what’s the hook for the media?
4. Become a media junkie
Read, watch and listen to as much as you can. From subscribing to industry newsletters to scrolling through social media and digesting all the traditional media in between, make a note of journalists covering stories related to your field, evolving trends and find new ways for your business to be a part of it.
5. Personalise your approach
Spotted a PR opportunity for your business? Familiarise yourself with the media outlet you are pitching to and the types of business stories they cover before identifying the best person to speak to.
For example, the sports editor isn’t going to be interested in a new restaurant launch.
Journalists receive hundreds of emails and media releases each day. Therefore, it’s vital you keep your email short and to the point. If it’s not immediately clear what the story is and what’s in it for them within the first sentence or two, you’re wasting your breath.
Remember, your email shouldn’t read like an advert for your business. The subject line is the most important part of any email as it determines whether it will be opened or not.
6. Invest in high-quality images
A picture tells a thousand words, so make yours count. Superb imagery of your products, infographics, or the team members delivering your services are not only going to drive sales but are key for securing media coverage.
In many cases, it’s style over substance as outlets will feature the best available pictures most prominently, regardless of whether another product is more superior.
7. Land speaking gigs
Publicity is more than just getting your name in the media; it’s telling your story to as many people as possible.
Speaking opportunities are another PR tactic and there are plenty of opportunities available. Google ‘Call for Speakers’ and pitch your business for anything relevant.
If there are industry-specific events you would love to be a part of too, think about how you can add value, rather than simply spruiking your products and services.
8. Host events
No ‘new news’ to tell people? PR practitioners often recommend hosting an event to promote a client’s goods and services.
Workshops, masterclasses and exclusive previews are all fantastic ways to engage potential customers, influencers and the media with what you do. Beyond a chance to shine, it also gives you something to talk about.
Worried that no one will show up to the party? Make sure you promote what’s happening through all your channels and then list the event on other sites where people are looking for inspiration on what to do.
To get started, you just need an image and some blurb on what’s happening and where it’s taking place. Here are some of our favourite free sites to promote your event (there are plenty more):
PR isn’t rocket science. Anyone can do it with a little know-how. It’s a tried and tested process, all you need to do is start, rinse and repeat. At its core, knowing how to tell stories, to the right people at the right time is all you need to do to get results.
I run a small business too and when I invest time in PR, good things happen. I get invited to speak at more events.
Another potential client replies to my email, my phone rings and I get more incredible entrepreneurs and SMEs signing up to do their own publicity.
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