Small Business DIY guide to PR

February 07, 2012

Small business tips series: Generating low-cost exposure for your small business.

Now that you have your business up and running, you need to let prospective customers know you’re here so you can turn them into clients. If you’ve got the money you can hire a marketing and PR firm, but if your budget is tight why not run your own PR campaign?

The rise of social media means it’s never been easier to get the word out on your own. Why not start a blog? It’s a great way to advertise your expertise and generate awareness with your target audience. Research who else in your industry is blogging and what they’re saying, and look to reproduce this for your company.  You can also get some tips on what makes these blogs so popular by doing some research on Technorati, the search engine for blogs.

Or, if you’re more practical than literary, why not record some “how to” video guides relating to your business and upload them to YouTube? The most popular videos can garner thousands, even millions, of hits and make their creators overnight sensations, as well.  Even if your video isn’t the next overnight sensation, the video link back to your website will help your search engine rankings.

Using traditional media can be just as effective. Take time to research the magazines, newspapers and websites that are most relevant to your business and prioritize them according to how important each is in getting your message across to your target audience. Then find out the names and contact information of the key reporters and get in touch to introduce yourself, and tell them about your business.

But, before picking up the phone, you need to ask yourself the question: what will journalists find interesting about my company? Once you’ve worked that out, pitch it to them as simply and as enthusiastically as you can.

You can try to take some strain off the editor by suggesting a story angle yourself. Some websites or publications will accept “by-lined” articles from subject matter experts,  and these can be a great way to establish yourself and get your company’s name out there. Journalists love case studies, so try to think of examples where you’ve saved customers a bundle of cash or helped them out of a jam and pitch them as stories.   Just be sure to check with the customers first before you identify them  by name. Not everyone wants publicity.  Understanding your small business risks could save you from a potential legal problem if you don’t get their permission. This strategy will work best with smaller, more focused outlets.

Another option is for you to put yourself forward as a speaker or a panel discussion member at an industry conference or webinar. This will immediately raise your credibility within your industry and provide your start-up invaluable exposure.

You may be reluctant to try to sell yourself, but look at it another way: who knows your company’s value proposition better than you? No one has more to gain from making your company a success or to lose if it fails. You’re the company’s best spokesperson and its biggest cheerleader.

So don’t be shy. Devising a good PR strategy can make a real difference to your bottom line by generating low-cost exposure for your business.