Accion and Jessica Paar from Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream break down how to drive awareness of your food, beverage, or brewing small business. Learn about how to identify your target customer and their media habits, the fundamentals of communicating with the media, and the tools and tactics you need to build up a buzz.
What is Public Relations (PR)?
You’ve probably heard a lot about “PR,” but what, exactly, does that mean? Basically, PR is all about presenting your business to the media and the public. There are plenty of ways to get impactful media coverage. At Sam Adams, for example, they use a combination of media relations, working directly with reporters, addressing customer inquiries, creating branded entertainment, crisis communication, and getting involved in philanthropy.
PR is different from your direct marketing efforts. It’s not about your ad campaigns, it’s about your relationships with various media outlets and how they present your business to the public. Your goal is to create positive media attention so that the public perceives your brand in a positive way and are encouraged to buy your products or services.
Why is PR Important?
No matter what business you’re in, you can’t afford to ignore PR. Your business has a public image and you need to manage that image. By working to get positive media attention, you can build a lot of customer awareness and extend your reach (without the cost of advertising!).
But it’s not just about taking advantage of those opportunities. If something goes wrong with your business or someone wants to damage your reputation, bad PR can cause you serious trouble. If you have strong relationships with the media, you have the chance to take charge of that narrative and make sure your story gets out the way you want it to.
Core Elements of Media Relations
In order to maximize your media relations, your small business should always have certain key tools and skills at the ready:
- Preparing a Media Advisory. Use the Five “Ws” to engage the media and give them enough information to get them interested. Media advisories are the best tactics for events or launches.
- Preparing a Press Release. The goal of a press release is to share enough pertinent information to get people interested, and that can then be turned into a complete article. Use this tool to help reporters tell your story. Press releases are best used alongside visuals, such as logos or photos.
- Maintaining a Web Presence. Your website and social media channels are another way to communicate with the media . Keep your web presence current so reporters and journalists know that the information will be up-to-date.
- Samples (THE Most Important Thing!) When you’re in the food and beverage industry, samples are vital for PR. Never leave home without them. Samples are the best tools to get into reporters’ hands, so they can spread the word about your products. Plus a great sample can put a journalist or reporter in a good mood – and that will make them more likely to put a positive spin on your story.
How to Prep for Media Engagements (the Two Knows)
The idea of talking to reporters, journalists, and other media members can be a little overwhelming. What do you say? What if you don’t have the answers to their questions? What if they come in and seem hostile? While you can’t anticipate every potential issue, there are a couple of fundamentals that will cover most media needs:
- Know Your Story. What’s your elevator pitch? How compelling of a story can you tell in the time it takes to ride an elevator up ten stories? You should be able to explain who are and what you do in a very concise statement. Try to pick the three most important things about your brand. Remember, this is like a sales pitch – don’t be afraid to brag a little!
- Know Your Target Audience. Create a target media list. Do you want to get in touch with local bloggers, national magazines, newspapers, reporters, or other outlets? Once you have your list, make sure to tailor your pitch so you hit the right note. A local blogger might be more receptive to the personal story of why you started your business and why it’s important to you. A national publication may care more about how you’re doing something completely new and different in your industry. The local news may want to know about how you’re involved in your community. Make sure your pitch fits your audience.
How to Achieve PR Success
PR success doesn’t happen overnight and it takes some work. But like everything else about your business, you can handle it!
First, set out a PR plan. Create a calendar with the dates for openings, product launches, and events. Create a list of people in the media community you can reach out to. If you have an upcoming big announcement for your brand, create a formal PR plan for how to roll out the news. That gives you the core information you need to get started. Start reaching out to the folks on your list about your next event!
Whenever you deal with your media contacts, be confident. As we said, it can be a little scary to talk to reporters and the like. That’s totally natural! But one of the best ways to build their confidence in your brand is to show confidence. Be proud of your story. And practice your pitch until you’re really comfortable talking about it.
Remember that your media contacts are like your vendors or your customers – you’re looking to build a relationship. Good PR isn’t about one-off interactions. A single local news story can be great for your brand, but what about future coverage? Cultivate contacts within the media. Check in with them from time to time. Send them samples. Be open if they want to do an interview or article – don’t turn down that publicity! That way, when something great happens in your business, they’ll be ready and willing to get the word out. And when something bad happens, they’ll be ready and willing to tell your side of the story.
Of course, you’re busy. That’s just part of being a small business owner. So, you may find that it makes sense to hire or contract with someone to manage your PR for you. First, that takes the work off your plate. It also means you’re starting with someone that already has contacts in the media. You can work with a PR agency or find a freelance consultant to help you deal with your PR needs.
Rules of the Road
One of the overarching principles of positive PR is to be sensitive to the outside world. It’s important to think through how what you say and do may be perceived and how it can impact your brand. PR can help manage your image in the world, but your day-to-day operations and actions will also have a big impact.
Here are Sam Adams’ pro tips for PR success:
- Remember that you are representing your brand at all times.
- PR comes in all shapes and sizes – be alert.
- Nothing is ever off the record – if you said it, it can be used!
- Assume everything you say will end up on the Internet.
- Guests and customers are reporting their experiences on social media and online so make sure they have a great experience.
- Tread carefully with tone and sense of humor.
- Be truthful, never lie to the media because it can catch up to you.
- Avoid policies and religion.
Managing Your PR
PR is about building relationships and communicating about your brand. Know your story and know your target audience. Prepare and implement your key tools. Spend time developing your media contacts and relationships, hire help if you need to. Finally, be sensitive to the outside world and think through how what you say can be perceived. By using these tips and tactics, your small business will be rewarded with positive media coverage for your business and brand.