Press coverage and public relations (“PR”) can make or break a fledgling company. Knowing how to court the press, build connections, and get your name out there takes finesse. Concerted PR efforts also take both time and money, and as a start-up you may be short on both.
As a small business entrepreneur, you may not have the resources at your disposal to launch a full-blown campaign or hire a high-powered firm to handle your PR needs, but that doesn’t mean that developing a PR strategy or press relationship is outside of your grasp. It just means that you may need to be creative and resourceful with creating PR on your own terms.
At its most basic level, PR is about building relationships and making connections. When you focus that, your efforts will lead to natural PR and a greater customer base. Here are our top insider tips on how to build a PR strategy, earn press coverage, and get your brand out there.
1. Leverage Industry Influencers
Word of mouth is one of the most effective PR tactics. One of the best ways to start buzz about your company or products is to have others talk about why your company or product is terrific!
In today’s digital age, it’s a top PR tactic to couple with industry influencers to build credibility. “Influencers” are those well-connected people or public personas whose public presence, especially online, has clout. Having an influencer back your company or product can be highly impactful as a marketing tool, both because of their name and their huge audience base.
One way to forge a connection with industry influencers is through social media. Identify and follow the influencers who you think could generate good buzz for your company. If you develop an ongoing, digital relationship, then at a later date, you may be able to ask for a retweet, or even a testimonial.
Start with a bit of research into the people that have influence over your target customers. Then, reach out to them to forge a relationship. At first, you may need to give without getting anything back. For example, you may engage on their pages and mention them and their brand on yours. After a while, you can start to ask them to return the favor.
2. Focus On Engaging Content
Your audience wants high-quality, engaging digital content. Whether that’s on a blog, social media platform, or your company website, creating unique, shareable content is a savvy way to boost PR and attract customers.
Video and interactive social media are great ways to catch your audience’s eye. Customize that content based on your brand and your target demographics – show the people what they want to see! With the right content and little bit of luck, you may even end up going viral.
It can be daunting to try and manage multiple social media accounts when you’re just getting started. It’s fine to focus on whichever platforms you think will generate the most loyalty. Focus on building a dynamic community on that platform. Later, you can broaden your scope to more social media options, as your brand recognition and company resources grow.
3. Weight The Pros And Cons Of Mass Press
Even with today’s digital online constant news stream, traditional media such as papers and trades still carry weight. Trying to get your company name in a traditional media outlet can be a boon to business.
However, a generic mass press release might take a lot of work and may not get you the attention your company wants. Try to find the right outlet to share your brand and story. Angle for the right editorial spin to take your brand to the next level and convey the right tone for your story. Traditional newspapers and magazines reach a certain demographic, but skip others entirely. You’ll need to target your PR efforts to make sure you’re hitting the right tone and reaching the right audience.
4. Develop Social Media Relationships
It used to be that PR firms handled the ads and press for companies. Now, much of this heavy lifting has been shifted into the realm of social media.
We mentioned connecting with influencers in Tip #1 above, but social media also goes beyond that. You’ll need to create an engaging, compelling social media presence for your brand. When customers or curious people reach out to you online, engage with them! When you’re creating all that compelling content, put it out through your social media channels. Create an online community and following and you have a built-in audience for all of your marketing messages.
These social media relationships are especially important if your company or product skews toward a younger demographic. These audiences consume much of their media online, so if you’re not online, you may miss out. Cultivate these relationships, now and for the future of your brand.
5. Create Your Own Free Press
One drawback to traditional PR is that it can be costly. What can a start-up entrepreneur do to curb PR costs? Create your own (free!) press.
If you write and pitch your own press, you control the tone, the voice, and the facts. All you need is a story about your experience. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when drafting your own free press:
Entrepreneur suggests these topics to consider for unique pitch ideas:
- Trending Stories
- Business Advice
- Key Breakthroughs
- Mentor/Advisor topics
- Concerns you have about your industry
Now that you have story ideas, do some research to find the right outlet to run your story. Brainstorm publications which are in line with your company. If there’s a trending topic or issue in your field, consider focusing on that, with a personal spin. This takes a bit of background research. For messages that skew younger, you may consider sites like Buzzfeed or Mashable. For tech-related brands, you might consider io9.com or Gizmodo. Older readers may prefer more traditional outlets such as Yahoo! Finance. All of those outlets give you the option to submit your piece for publication, so you don’t have to go through an outside PR firm to get in.
6. Nail Down Your Bullet Points
When publications come calling to learn about your brand, it helps to have your message ready. You want to make information about yourself and your company easy to access.
Bullet points can help publications write about you. If you make their job easier, you’re more likely to see your name in the press.
Your PR bullet points should include:
- Company summary
- Your company story
- Product/service description
- High-quality photos of your products, if applicable
- High-quality video, if applicable
- Links to prior press and media coverage
- Contact information
You’ll want to take all of those bullet points, put them in an easy-to-read format, and post them on your website under a “Press” page. Now anyone who wants to write, tweet, or blog about you can!
7. Use Twitter For Soft Introductions
Maybe you’re looking for traditional media coverage from your local news stations or papers. Securing one-on-one press time with a member of the media is tough as a start-up. Twitter can help you meet and greet online, without ever leaving the office.
Journalists and media publications use Twitter on a daily basis. In fact, many of them use it as their main communication source. Follow your favorite members of the press or media outlets on Twitter and then make it a point to comment about their work, retweet their links, and develop a relationship.
Building a Twitter relationship takes time, so know that you’re building a foundation. Eventually this relationship may benefit your company with press coverage.
8. Get Out Of The Office
Digital relationships are key, but real in-person networking can pay off in PR and industry connections. Conferences are a terrific way to meet influencers, speakers, and academics. Moreover, while you’re building your network, you’re pursuing valuable continuing education and learning new skills.
Take the time to do your research ahead of time so you can comment on relevant industry players’ backgrounds and work. When you meet someone in person, get their contact info, so you can reach out after the conference in a way that feels authentic.
After the conference, work your leads. Follow up with an email thanking the speakers for their time and expertise. They may later return the favor and recommend you or your company to their contacts.
9. Seek Testimonials
Testimonials are free PR generated by your happy existing customers or fan base. Testimonials can boost your jump start your brand visibility, boost SEO, and even, with the right campaign, cause you to go viral.
Reach out to your audience or customers and ask that they post a unique testimonial on your website or social media platforms. To encourage participation, provide a special promotion for their efforts, such as a gift card or a discounted service. Customers sharing their good experiences with your brand may resonate honestly with prospective customers in a way that a targeted, brand-created ad couldn’t.
10. Focus On Quality Over Quantity
There are so many avenues to pursue PR and court the press that it’s possible to feel overwhelmed. Remind yourself that focus can help. It’s better to do one thing well than spread yourself too thin and end up doing many things poorly.
When you’re considering PR, know that the most prolific campaign may not always be the answer. When push comes to shove, value quality over quantity. A personalized, targeted approach to PR and to the press can be the most impactful. If you’re really strapped for time and budget, start with social media. It’s free and has huge reach. From there, you can build up your PR efforts from your existing online base.
Get The Word Out!
Know that getting the attention of the press isn’t always easy. Stay focused on creating a quality campaign, content, and connections, and keep preserving.
PR isn’t just one thing — it’s a combination of social media, internal efforts, and press coverage. All of these activities interconnect to influence your own PR strategies to set your company apart.