Every day we are bombarded with advertising messages from businesses who want to sell their stuff. Knowing how to stand out in the crowd without a big marketing budget can be a real challenge for a small business.
The trick is finding ways to get noticed for free. Ever wonder why some businesses get press and others don’t? Most of the time, it is not your qualifications or what you have to say – it comes down to knowing how to approach the media.
Tapping into traditional media like newspapers, magazines, TV and radio and new media like blog, online publications and social media is a great way to get publicity for free. Advertising can be expensive, especially if the budget is stretched. By learning how to get publicity through PR strategies, you can really make a big bang through the media.
What does every business want more off? Customers and sales. What do a lot of business not spend enough time on? Marketing – working ON their business. Public relations is a way to leverage a business owner’s time and money for far better results than traditional marketing alone.
Many small businesses overlook this strategy because they think they can’t do it, it’s too hard or their business is too boring. Public relations is not just something used by big business; any business, of any size, in any industry, for any topic can get their share of publicity.
Journalists and producers are not untouchable or unapproachable… they are keen to hear good news stories from small businesses. The secret to getting publicity for free is learning how to do your own PR.
Hiring a PR company is not always a viable option for most small businesses especially the start-ups or sole traders who are building their dream on blood, sweat and tears. The trick is to be creative in how you tell the world about what you do and what you offer.
You can get publicity for free by learning how to plan a PR strategy, write a media release and how to contact the media. The secret weapon is the business owner’s passion and knowledge of their business; no one can tell you story better than you. A PR campaign does not come with guarantees of coverage so why would your fork out big bucks when you have no control.
PR is like planting a seed; to help it grow, you need to water it, nurture it and pay attention to it.
Ten tips to help you stand out
1. Understand the media – Not all media outlets are created equal. Whether your target is TV, radio, magazine, newspaper or blog, they all operate differently. Your local paper will probably focus on stories that have a local angle. Your major metro paper, a state angle and the national papers….yes, you guessed it, a national angle. This will help guide you craft your media release or pitch.
Get to know the journalists – who does what. If you want to target a newspaper, know the section you want to appear in, who the journalist is, read their work for a few weeks, get to know their style. It is also handy to know the roles others play – editors, publishers, general managers, sales reps; all contribute to the editorial decision making. However, your first port of call is always the journalist you want to write or present your story to.
2. Deadlines matter – All media outlets have deadlines (don’t call when journalists are on deadline – great way to alienate yourself – unless you have breaking news). Find out what they are so you never miss an opportunity to get your story published. If you are targeting magazines, they often work months in advance, whereas a daily paper’s deadline is more frequent.
3. Respect time – If a journalist calls you, get back to them ASAP. Act with haste. Even if you can’t help, let the journalist know. If you are easy to contact and respond quickly, you become a valuable reliable source. If you take your time responding, the journalist will assume you don’t want coverage.
4. What is newsworthy? Follow tip 1 to help you understand the news value of a topic, issue, product or service. You might think the opening of your new office is really exciting, the major metro paper will not. Put yourself in the journalist’s shoes (possibly cynical and sceptical – they get 100s of story ideas pitched to them weekly).
5. Don’t give up – One media release may not be enough. If you have completed the Public Relation Mastery program, you will know there is a lot more to it than a one-off release. The secret to getting media attention is about developing a long term strategy.
6. Have a go – “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas A. Edison. If you do not have a go, then you will never know if your story could have got a run. After all, what is the worst thing that could happen to you? They say no? Pick up the phone. So what if you make mess of things. Learn from your experience and do better next time.
7. Deal with rejection – Ok, you gave it a go and got a no. Be gracious and polite. Never take a no personally. It could be there are other things going on that day in the newsroom you are not privy to. It just means your story idea is not a priority at that time. Always approach a journalist by asking if they have time to talk…may as well start off on the best foot.
8. So what? Your story about selling your 100th product may be a big deal to you but to a journalist it is a bit ho hum. Before putting your fingers to keypad, look at your story objectively…ask yourself “how does my story solve someone’s problem, does it have appeal”
9. First contact – There are multiple ways to make contact with your targeted journalist. Some media outlets have contact pages, dedicated phone lines or email addresses. Some journalists prefer a phone call, while others email. If your story is not time dependent, a media release or email is the best approach, followed up with a phone call. Many journalist are on Twitter or Facebook…you can send them your story idea that way. If it is breaking news, pick up the phone. What are you waiting for?
10. Don’t confuse publicity and advertising – There is a difference – advertising is paid for and is like saying ‘hey, look at we/me, we are great’. People are wary of advertising. After all, we are pummelled daily with people trying to sell us stuff. PR (getting publicity) is a way of getting someone else to say you are great. Third party credibility is a lot more powerful…and getting your story in the media using PR is free.