Takeaways for small business owners who may not yet have the budget to hire a professional PR team.
1. Get social
Social media offers free tools to help promote your business and brand as well as your products or services and any events you may be hosting or sponsoring. If you don’t have a Facebook page, Instagram account, Twitter profile or LinkedIn presence, do yourself a favor by setting those up today.
If you’re ahead of the game and already use social media, set up a content calendar to guide posts. The calendar should include dates relevant to your business (events, holidays, fundraisers), frequency of posts per social media site and content (links to blog posts or content on your company website, photos, messages you want to share, positions toward thought leadership from executives, etc.) Things will always come up but having a content calendar to guide and plan social media will keep it from slipping through the cracks.
2. Know your story
Make a list of “story starters.” These can be industry trends or topics that your company’s spokesperson can address and items you think are newsworthy.
What’s newsworthy? Anything with proximity to location; significance to a broad base of people; timing with a recent story or event occurring; prominence with well-known people, businesses or groups; and lastly, human interest stories that draw the average reader, viewer and listener in, usually eliciting a strong emotional reaction to the story.
In creating story starters, see what your competitors or other companies in your industry are doing to make the news. Then, determine how to differentiate your business and ensure you’re not being left out of important conversations happening in the media.
3. Tell your story
Pay attention to which reporters are covering your industry and who has published articles that could leave an open door for you to follow up with an idea that tells your story. Research TV station and print (newspaper, magazine) websites and make a list of contacts reporting stories that align with your business and your story starters.
Most print outlets use an editorial calendar that lists the media outlet’s plan for what topics and stories they plan to cover for the year. You can find this online or by calling the magazine or newspaper and requesting a copy of the editorial calendar. See what planned features are relevant to the content you want to share.
4. Build your database
Databases are a direct form of marketing that will enable you to keep track of your contacts and update them when necessary.
The larger your database of email addresses and contacts, the larger your audience is for communicating about your business and what it has to potentially offer those people.
Offer incentives for people to share their email addresses and make sure to offer opt-out. There are several sources available online that can show you how to build a database or even build one for you. Best of all, it’s free!
5. Sell, sell, sell
Your business is likely about selling something – a product, service or both. Think of what you would want covered by the media. What would you tell a reporter about your story angle to sell them on it? Think about what they (not you) might find interesting. How would your story add interest to a news broadcast or make an article more appealing to read?
Don’t lose the sale with information overload. A few to-the-point sentences via email are sufficient. Reporters and producers will appreciate the brevity, and you won’t have to spend a ton of time going into detail (that likely won’t get read). If they like it, you’ll hear back. If not, keep fishing.