A small business owner constantly thinks about trying different forms of marketing to attract new customers. After all, especially in today’s economy, marketing can make all the difference giving you a leg up on the competition. Traditional marketing programs like brochures and direct mail or even social media marketing platforms like Twitter and Facebook can provide a sizeable competitive edge.
But another area of marketing that’s very popular right now is something that we all want for our business, although it can be very challenging to accomplish. Every small business CEO wants good public relations (PR) for his or her company. Good PR can do wonders for a business – in particular a small business – because it has the power to reach customers through third-party credibility (something pure marketing can’t deliver).
Also, small business CEOs are notorious for watching the bottom line. And they should be. After all, we’re all in business to make as much money as possible while keeping costs down. Traditional marketing can get expensive quickly. And if you want to advertise on the radio or television, those costs can soar to tens of thousands of dollars each month on top of your other marketing costs.
PR is a much lower investment. Even if you make the decision to hire a PR firm at $5,000 per month (a reasonable entry-level investment) you will start to see some pretty good results as long as you hire a good PR firm, of course. This cost can pale in comparison to other marketing investments.
But believe it or not, why spend that $5,000 every month when you can do PR yourself on a much lower budget. Getting a reporter to do a story on your company isn’t a very difficult process if you know how to do it. Use the “BIG” three-step approach to get some great press coverage on a tiny shoestring budget.
1. Build your story
First you want to create a compelling story angle that will interest the news media. Look inside your company to find a few ideas. What’s new with your company? Who are your customers and why do they use your products/services? Do they have interesting reasons? Who are your employees? Do they have any fascinating stories to share about their experiences in working for you? Do you or any of your employees help out any charities? Is your company experiencing a shift in business because of a national trend (recession, environmental green movement, social media)? Are you running any special promotions for holidays or seasonal events (Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day)? By answering some of these questions you’ll be able to identify some interesting stories to bring to the media. Keep in mind that the news media aren’t in the business of promoting you. It’s their job to write an informative story for their readers.
2. Investigate the media
Who do you want to cover your story? Read your local newspaper and watch the local television news to find reporters who typically cover stories that coincide with your angle. For example, if your story has a health or medical angle, find out who writes about health-related stories in your local newspaper. Go to your local bookstore and read through different magazines to identify publications and reporters you’d like to approach with your story. You don’t even have to buy a copy – simply sit there and browse trough a few editions.
3. Go after the reporters
Once you’ve identified which reporters you want to approach for your angle, read their stories often. Send them emails commenting on those stories so you can build a relationship with them. After you’ve built up a little bit of a relationship, send them an email saying you’d like to speak with them about a story of your own that may interest them. Or, if time is of the essence practice your best phone pitch that will get them interested in the story in a 15-second span and give them a call. Although you may feel intimidated, they won’t bite.
About The Guest Author: John Sternal has been practicing PR for nearly 20 years. He is the co-creator of understandingmarketing.com small business Web site and author of the PR Toolkit for small business.