Get Your Business Noticed
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Ask ten different people to define public relations and you’re likely to get ten different answers. That’s because PR can mean different things to different businesses, especially small businesses. PR has changed a lot in the last decade because of social, mobile and content marketing. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines PR as: “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” The truth is, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to implementing PR. PR should really be a part of your small business’s overall marketing strategy, and it should align and support the vision and mission of your business.
In simple terms, PR helps you build awareness, credibility and interest for your company, product or service. The goal of PR is to establish, maintain and protect your brand’s image in the eyes of your customers, prospects, media, influencers, investors and partners. PR is about sharing your story across multiple public platforms in a way that rallies your stakeholders to believe, support and share your cause. Common PR activities can include: building relationships with media and influencers, sharing news and trends in your business and industry, creating and publishing content, winning awards and speaking at conferences and events.
We recognize that for small businesses, time and money are finite resources, and that there are never enough hours in the day. It can be a struggle to balance the day-to-day responsibilities of running a business with the strategic marketing activities that help entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level. A lot of small businesses want to invest in PR, but don’t know where or how to begin. PR can even seem intimidating at times, but it doesn’t have to be. A lot of bigger organizations will hire an agency, consultant, or full-time employee to build and manage a strategic PR game plan. Unfortunately, this isn’t a luxury that most small businesses can afford. So what types of PR activities can time-strapped small business owners engage in to get noticed?
In this article, you’ll learn how to earn recognition for your small business by focusing on the following five proven PR tactics:
1. Determining What’s Newsworthy
2. Pitching Your Story to the Media
3. Locating and Winning Awards
4. Getting More Mileage out of Content
5. Measuring the Success of Your PR Efforts
Before we dive into each section, it’s important that you start by defining your goals for PR. Some good questions to ask yourself are:
· Who are you trying to reach and influence?
· What is the message you want to convey?
· What stories can you share that will rally people to support and share your cause?
· What can you bring to your industry discussion that is new or interesting?
· What market problem are you trying to solve?
· Can you be a thought leader on a particular topic?
· Are there national or industry trends you can speak to?
· What is your desired outcome?
Answering these questions is the key to building a successful, easy-to-implement strategic PR plan that will help your small business gain the attention it deserves. Once you’ve developed a plan, you can focus on the tactical executions of your PR game plan, which is what we’ll focus on in this article. Let’s take a look at some of the things small businesses can and should do to share their messages.
Determine What's Newsworthy
Most of the news media works on a seven-point foundation for determining which stories are newsworthy:
What’s the significance of what you want to share? Is this news important or interesting to a large number of people in your community, state, country or the world? The broader the impact, the more newsworthy the story.
This is a big one for small businesses. Local media crave local stories. If you’re hosting an event, that might not be newsworthy for a national publication, but it could very likely be newsworthy to a community paper or local broadcast company.
This can be relative, but typically newsworthiness is increased when events are recent. If something important happened yesterday, don’t wait a week to share it.
Are you having a grand opening event and the local mayor is attending? Are you hosting an event featuring influential business owners? Did you win an award from the governor? Events that involve well-known individuals or organizations can make something newsworthy.
The media loves controversies! Does your business stand for a cause or purpose? Let’s say you stand for locally made products and national news covers a story about increased offshoring of labour jobs. Perhaps you have an opportunity to join the conversation by voicing your belief in locally made products. Your point may be controversial, but it could cast a favourable light on your business.
Make note of the three “U’s”: unexpected, unusual and unorthodox. Would a fundraiser with a cocktail reception make news? Possibly — if it satisfies one of the seven elements — but let’s say you host an annual fundraiser to collect clothes for a non-profit and everyone strips down to their underwear in public to celebrate the event? Believe it or not, it’s an actual event that gets plenty of local and national coverage.
7. Human Interest
This is the story where a man saves a puppy from a storm drain, or someone overcomes adversity to achieve his or her dreams. Are you doing anything that people would find entertaining or enlightening? Is your organization changing people’s lives? Do you have a tearjerker moment to share? Ask yourself if what you want to share with the media meets any of these points. Something can be newsworthy by only meeting one of the seven criteria, but the more points you meet, the better. Think beyond your local business journal, daily publication or local broadcaster. You’d be surprised by the number of trade publications that exist. You might have news that’s not meaningful in the local or national community, but it could be hot news in your industry. Check out the
However, do consider this: when you use your automated marketing software, you’re careful about the message you send and to whom it goes, right? You segment your list and target your message because you want the right people receiving the right message at the right time. No one should be receiving every message you send via email. Use discretion when pitching stories because you don’t want to flood a contact’s inbox with too many, slightly irrelevant pitches. No one wants their emails overlooked, but by pitching every little thing, you run the risk of becoming a nuisance.
Creating a Targeted Media List
After you establish what’s newsworthy, you now need to determine what media will agree and want to share your story. A target media list is a go-to resource that can take some time to build upfront, but it’ll make life ten times easier down the road when you have those outlets at your fingertips.
Ask yourself, where do I want to see my company mentioned? Where will I attract the most interest? Which media outlets are my prospective customers reading?
Think about websites, blogs, broadcast media, print publications, radio stations, trade publications and podcasts. Don’t forget to think about local and national outlets. Start by noting the media outlets you know, and then do some Google searches to identify industry-specific media outlets.
Step One – Identify Media Outlets
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Start with websites, blogs, newspapers and broadcast stations in your local community, and spend time researching other media types later. This list of media will be a great resource to reference and add to in the future. If national broadcast isn’t a goal for you, don’t worry about it. Just remember, you need to start somewhere and participate or you’re likely never going to be heard.
Step Two – Pinpoint Contacts
With your target media outlets identified, it’s time to pinpoint exactly to whom you’ll want to pitch your story. Most news sites have an employee directory that lists contact information and beats (the topical areas cover). You might have to do additional online research to gather information, like their Twitter handle. Do be careful to contact the correct person for your story, as you would not want to pitch a fundraising event to someone who covers an automotive beat.
If contact information isn’t listed, the site will likely have general news desk contact information where you can email your pitch or call them directly. If you can’t find that, it’s OK to give the media outlet a call and ask who’s the best contact for the type of news you’ll be pitching.
Organize your target media list in a way that works for you. Some colour code by media type (print, broadcast, blog, etc.), and some keep completely separate media lists (one for blogs, one for print).
Preparing for the Pitch
Before you pitch your small business’s story to the media, make sure you go through the following steps:
Step 1 – Ask yourself if what you want to share meets at least one of the seven elements for what makes something newsworthy.
Step 2 – If the answer is no, perhaps it’s best to share your news or story on social networks or your company’s blog.
You can better control your message that way. If yes, select the media outlets and contacts who might find this information valuable. Make sure you are familiar with the type of news that media outlets and journalists cover. You wouldn’t want to pitch news about your new princess-themed clothing company to a motorcycle publication, right? That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the media absolutely hates pitches that aren’t relevant to their readers. If you are going to reach out to the media, make sure you know what they write/talk about, or you risk being blacklisted. Now that you’ve compiled your list of media contacts, it’s finally time to craft your pitch. Let’s focus on email pitches since they’re the most common.
Pitching Your Story to the Media
Ever wonder why your competitor down the street gets featured in magazines, newspapers, or local websites time and time again, while you have a far better product or service, yet get no attention at all?
It’s probably because they pitch the media more than you do. Publicity trumps quality in today’s information-heavy society, and if you’re not trying to garner any media attention, you’re doing yourself an incredible disservice and denying yourself the opportunity to capture more leads.
So how does one compete for the media’s attention when there are even fewer full-time media professionals today than there were in 1978 (according to the Pew Research Centre)?
It’s not easy to break through the clutter, but a well-crafted, targeted, relevant pitch to different media outlets can do just that.
A pitch is simply a description of a story you’d like the media to cover – an email, a mailed sample product with a note, a tweet, or a comment on a blog.
Media outlets get hundreds of pitches each day. Unfortunately many of those email pitches get deleted before they even get opened. Why? It’s simple — the subject of the email wasn’t compelling. Think about this: the media person has project deadlines, interviews to conduct and meetings to attend. He/ she simply doesn’t have the time to read every email, and with the declining number of journalists, they are getting more pitches than ever before.
Write a headline that gets attention!
Don’t let your pitch get deleted before it’s opened.
- Subject Example 1 – New Research from Infusionsoft on Small Business
- Subject Example 2 – Research from Keap® Reveals 4 Types of Small Business Technology Buyers
Which subject headline do you think is better? Why? One is more compelling and provides specific, intriguing
information to the reporter. It tells them why this is interesting and will raise the possibility of the pitch getting
opened. You need to grab their attention with your best stuff right off the bat. And most of all, show how it can help the reader.
Be precise with your pitch.
Get to the point by leading with your best stuff. If you bury the actual meat of the news below the first or second sentence, chances are it won’t get read.
- Lead Example 1 – “The American Dream: What Really Motivates Small Business Owners” surveyed a range of small businesses to examine the attitudes and behaviours that drive their technology decision-making process.
- Lead Example 2 – According to a new research study from Keap®, the sales and marketing technology buying decisions made by small businesses are influenced more by attitudes and beliefs than by demographic factors such as industry, revenue, and years in business.
Keep it short and sweet. The reporter doesn’t want to read a novel (A pitch is designed to entice the person to ask for more. Ask yourself if everything you’re including in the pitch is relevant to the story you’re pitching. Remove anything that’s unnecessary) and only include what’s pertinent to the story. Don’t include irrelevant info, be specific, not verbose. There isn’t a specific word count to follow, as every pitch is different; however, make every word count.
You’ve hit send, but you’re not quite done. Even the best pitches can get overlooked — perhaps the reporter didn’t get a chance to review his/her inbox and the email was lost. Maybe the reporter did open your email but neglected to follow up with you.
The rule of thumb is to follow up one to two times via email. If you still don’t hear back and you feel strongly that the news you want to share is going to be of interest to their readers, you can follow up with a phone call. Do that sparingly. The last thing you want is to be labelled as pesky and annoying.
It’s very common not to hear back at all. Reporters are incredibly busy and if they were to reply to every email, we wouldn’t have news to consume the next day. Don’t beat yourself up if no one bites, but do ask yourself if there was anything you could have done differently. Perhaps you might be better off pitching smaller media channels that are hungrier for news. Maybe there are bloggers who cover your space that would love to write about your news. You can even offer to write an article for them so they can simply post it to their blog and give you exposure.
These are called contributed articles and going this route will give your news its own life when others won’t.
Build Strong Relationships
One of the best things you can do as a business owner who is looking for media coverage is to forge relationships with those in the media. Thanks to social media, the divide between you and them has grown much smaller and is much easier to cross.
If no one responded to your pitches, spend some time reading articles written by those you pitched. Over time, leave a comment or two. Chances are the person who wrote or produced a piece are monitoring the comments section and may even reply to some – this is especially true for smaller or local publications and broadcast stations. Just be very clear what you’re trying to do and be genuine. Show interest in the topic you’re commenting on, as this gets your name out there and will hopefully increase the odds of your next pitch getting a response.
Another way to reach out to media is to connect with them on Twitter. Many media people today get story ideas from Twitter and are tweeting multiple times throughout the day. Try engaging with them on this social network. Over time, you might find yourself getting responses from them there, as well.
By spending some time reading the articles journalists write and watching the video segments they produce, you’ll find yourself gaining a better understanding of what it is they cover. This will help you craft your future pitches. If you’ve been interacting with them in various spaces, they’re more likely to recognize a familiar name and read your note.
Forging relationships is crucial in virtually every aspect of business, and the case is no different when you’re trying to get media support.
Building an Awards Calendar
You may be surprised to learn that most of the awards businesses win aren’t handed out based solely on merit. In many cases, the winner applied to be considered for the award. This can be a great way for your small business to gain some recognition in the media.
Applying for and winning awards can be a great investment for a small business. It’s relatively affordable – if not free – and fosters instant credibility and publicity. Just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean you can’t win big. Best of all, awards help you attract and retain great talent, acquire more customers, and entice others to partner with you because everyone wants to work with and do business with the best.
One side note: make sure you qualify for the award before applying for it. There’s nothing worse than spending time on an award application and discovering after the fact that you didn’t even qualify. Be sure to read the rules and guidelines very carefully.
Let’s take a look at what kind of awards are out there:
Chambers of Commerce
Many local chambers have awards specifically designed for small business owners. These are typically free to enter and the application process is fairly straightforward.
Towns and cities want to showcase the best small businesses located in their boundaries. Chances are good that you will qualify for a handful of awards as a small business. Whether it’s Best in Class or Fastest Growing, you don’t want to miss an opportunity to garner publicity on a town or city level.
Local Media Channels
Search your local paper to see if they have local small business or trade-specific awards. Your local business journal hands out awards all year. Many papers today have a whole host of awards that cover everything from CFO of the Year to Best New Startup. Don’t forget local magazines, either.
The competition is higher but the reward is even greater. This is where the best of the best compete, but just because you’re small doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance. Often times there are awards for different sized businesses (micro business, small business, medium business, and large business). Getting attention at this level can really give you credibility and notoriety, which will elevate your public profile and could ultimately lead to future media and business opportunities.
Does your industry have a local association? If so, check to see if they have awards and apply. This is a great way to get noticed and share/learn best practices from those in your space.
Associations Outside Your Industry
Are you doing innovative things with your marketing efforts? Did you create a stellar social media campaign that resulted in amazing results? Focus on your strengths and make the most of them. You don’t have to belong to the association or be a marketing professional to apply for these associations. Results speak for themselves; if you’re achieving great results, apply for the award.
Industry Specific Media Channels
Research what industry-specific publications are offering awards and accepting applications. This is a great way to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Is your small business growing year-over-year at an incredible speed? If so, consider applying for this prestigious award that’ll give you national attention. There’s nothing better than saying you’re an Inc. 500/5000 company!
This non-profit association helps grow successful small businesses across America. A great way to keep track of all the awards you want to apply for over the course of the year is to keep an awards calendar. Below is a basic table to keep track of the various awards you’ll want to pursue. You don’t want to miss an awards application deadline and get stuck having to wait a whole year to apply again. Stay organized and up-to-date to ensure you don’t miss
Repurposing and Sharing Content
According to a study conducted by the Content Marketing Institute in 2013, 94 percent of B2B small businesses use some form of content marketing. Most rely on social media, their website, newsletters, blogs and case studies to get their content out into the world.
What small businesses might not realize is that websites and blogs are always looking for educational content to feature and promote to their audiences. When developing your media list, we recommend that you do some extra research to find out if the sites you’re targeting for pitches accept guest contributor pieces. For example, Marketing Profs, a popular site for marketing professionals, accepts articles from guest contributors.
Spend some time looking at other guest contributor pieces to see what type of content is being accepted. It’s important to note that guest articles should in no way be self-promoting, but should be one hundred percent educational.
Take an inventory of content you’ve created, like blog posts, newsletter stories, or case studies, and see if you can turn any of them into articles. It’s important that you make changes to your content and customize it for the media’s audience as they don’t want to run content that you’ve already featured on your blog or website. Take a look at Google’s duplicate content rules. You can send off a pitch for an article idea and if it’s accepted, make sure you read up on the editorial guidelines to ensure your content meets their requirements.
Also, check out the How to Pitch the Media section in this article for more information on sending ideas to the media.
Here’s an example of how to get a lot of mileage out of content you’ve already created simply by repurposing:
Keap®’s CEO, Clate Mask, did a webinar and e-book on strategic planning for small businesses. Our PR team took that content and turned it into an original article that we placed in Small Business Trends. We also promoted the webinar and e-book on our company blog and other social channels such as Twitter and Facebook.
We did this another time with a guest article our CEO Clate Mask produced for Small Business Trends titled The Ugly Truth About Small Business. The article had a ton of social media activity, including 1,000+ shares over Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. We later turned the article into a video interview and ran it on the Keap® (at the time Infusionsoft) blog.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, PR should be a part of your overall marketing strategy. As you can see here, Keap® used PR to promote a workbook and also relied on our other marketing channels to get our message out there to our prospects and customers. Integrating your PR with all your other marketing activities is a great way to attract interest and generate leads.
Measuring the Success of Your PR Efforts
Small businesses don’t have big marketing budgets, so it’s critical that each of their investments delivers ROI. The impact of PR can sometimes be hard to measure, but there are a few ways you can see if your PR work is impacting your brand credibility, awareness, and even your bottom line.
Public Perception and Tone
Does the story reflect a positive or negative tone? This is important to measure. If people leave comments in your article that say it delivered no value, then I wouldn’t deem this a success; however, if there is an overwhelmingly positive response, I would start celebrating!
Every small business should have access to Google Analytics, and it should be used to see how PR impacts your web traffic, leads, and sales. You can also use Google Analytics to identify your top referring sites. If you discover that media coverage on a specific site drives more traffic to your business’s site than other referring sites, then you might want to invest more time and energy into securing coverage there. If you have sales and marketing automation system in place, you can take analytics to another level. Not only can you track leads coming to your website from PR, but you can also follow those leads through the buying cycle to see who is converting into prospects and sales.
This is a great way to track ROI on PR! By following what’s happening in your industry or local market, you can easily find opportunities to pitch yourself as an expert source.
When you land a media story, are people sharing it on social media platforms or leaving comments in the article? This is a quick and easy way to see if your content and delivery is resonating with the audience.
To sum it up, PR gets your small business in front of more customers and potential buyers. It is a great way to build awareness, credibility and trust for your brand, so that people will want to talk about your business, buy your products and refer you to friends. You don’t have time do it all, but hopefully you can put some of the strategies and tactics we’ve outlined here into place soon in order to get in front of more prospects and customers. PR is about driving interest in your business, product, and service, and we believe that with the right strategies in place, anyone can make an impact. Go for it!
Tools for Small Business PR
· HARO (Help a Reporter Out): Subscribe to this free resource to find out what stories the media is working on and where there might be opportunities for you to pitch yourself as an expert or pitch your small business. I shared this tool with a small business, Topline Foods, and they pitched their story and ended up appearing in USA Today.
· Google Alerts: Stay on top of what people are saying about your company, industry and competitors. Free and easy to set up.
· PR Web: PR Web distributes your press releases to media outlets and directly to journalists and bloggers so you can be found all around the web. There are different price options available depending on where you want to send your press release. You can send a basic press release for as low as $99.
· Cision: Use Cision to find media outlets and contacts that cover topics relevant to your company. You can find all their basic contact information including name, email, phone number and address. There is also a more robust version that allows you to send and track your pitch activities from Cision. This tool might be outside of a small business’ budget, so if that’s the case, it’s pretty easy to find contact information online these days.
There are different price options available starting as low as $350 per month.
· Hootsuite: Build lists for media and influencers you want to target with your pitches. Start following and engaging with them online through LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
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