PR as part of your marketing strategy
Written by Amy MonaghanApril 10th, 2021
PR, or public relations, in it's simplest terms is how you manage communications between your business and your customers or end user. There are many companies that specialise in doing this, but when you're first starting out it can be a cheap form of marketing if you can learn to do some of it yourself.
PR is a really useful tool and should form one part of marketing strategy. It's about getting yourself talked about, in the press, on social media, even at special events and markets - crucially without paying for it. Some people confuse advertising with PR, but if you work on the basis that advertising is a paid media and PR isn't, you won't go far wrong. It might just feel like one more thing on your very long to-do list, but we wanted to show you that it might not be quite as arduous as you think
Firstly you need to learn to adopt an outside-in viewpoint. This means seeing your business as your customers see it - from the outside looking in. You know every detail about your business, how it operates, and why your products are so great - but does anyone else? And if not you need to educate them before you start to sell - why would people be interested in the massive discount you're giving them if they don't know why they wanted your product in the first place.
So figure out – What do you stand for? Why do people buy from you? What do you want people to understand about your product/service? – If you don't know ask your current customers, you might be surprised by the answers.
You should be using PR as one tool alongside your other communications such as email, social media, SEO and even paid ads to generate interest about you and your business. This isn't that you've found the free answers to your prayers, but it is important.
So what could you be doing to drive some PR?
Contact the media
If you're looking to appear in the press you need to have something to talk about. Although you think that your small business is fabulous, that's not especially news worthy. But there are many things that are. If you've been working hard on a new product launch, collaborated with another small business, won an award, supported a local charity or sent donations to a cause very close to your heart using some of your hard-earned profits, all of those good news stories can be of interest to local media and their readership.
Then make sure you're choosing your contacts correctly - this means the right publications and the right people. Do your research. If you want to appear in the local paper, pick one up, find the most similar news stories and work out who they're written by. Those are the people that are most likely to be interested. And then find them - this is where social media can come in handy. There are also specific shoutouts for journalist requests on twitter, so follow your favourites and respond (quickly) to any requests they make for relevant content.
If you want to appear in the national news, you might need a slightly more audacious story, but if you think that your story has got what it takes for larger publications then do pursue it. PR in larger publications are worth far more in terms of take-up and readership than any form of paid advertising. The beauty of PR is that someone is talking about you, rather than you talking about yourself, and relinquishing that control gives your potential customers much more confidence in the product they're seeing.
Next you'll need a press release. There's lots of info online about how to write a good one, but the general rules are, think about what the journalist need to write the story. Start with a headline - not a catchy pun but all of the key details of the story. Add the first paragraph of newsworthy info, including important details like the date of a launch, what the product is, and why people should be interested, followed by all of the background info. And then include all of your contact details including your website, social channels and phone number so that they can follow up on any details. Don't forget to include good quality but small sized images, and state that larger ones are available on request. Once you've sent it chase it up, preferably on the phone.
Make notes of any conversations to refer back to, along with details of when to get back in touch if they can't run it now, and what they were most interested in. Those details will be really helpful if you're contacting multiple people about similar stories.
Maximise your press coverage
If you're lucky enough to have done all of that successfully make sure you put in the work to maximise your press coverage. Post links to the stories on social media platforms, bring it up with potential clients/customers, maybe even create a press page on your website to include links to coverage with screen shots for when the story is removed. You've worked hard for that, so shout about it! As we said before this content resonates with your audience more than showing them where you've placed your paid ads.
Measure your success
If you're not measuring the results of your PR work then you're wasting your time. Ask new customers where they found you, even set up fields on your website to capture this information. It's as valuable as analysing your Google Analytics and it means that you can figure out what worked and what didn't. Allowing you to spend your precious time in the most effective ways.
Other things you can do
There are many types of PR, from volunteering to write blog posts with a byline about your business, sponsoring local events in exchange for promotion, and even just managing all of your social media output to ensure you're creating clear concise messages about yourself and your business. It's stuff that comes quite naturally to many people, but that others have to work at. But if no-one knows about you they're not going to think to buy from you, so exposure and recognition is key.
PR can be incredibly helpful to a small business, and especially so as you grow, so it's worth putting in the effort. Set aside time for it, keep your eyes open for opportunities and volunteer for them - don't be scared. What's the worst that can happen? (That's not going to happen!) Be persistent and patient and then be thankful when stuff comes off. Say thank you and build relationships with those that support you. Those people won't forget it and might be more inclined to help you next time around.