Public Relations to Grow Your Small Business

Is a public relations (PR) strategy part of your small business marketing plan? Even on a tight budget, PR is vital for small business success. You may not think you’re in need of public relations, but your business could likely benefit from media coverage.

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Often, a small business with a limited budget can’t hire an outside PR agency. Typical monthly retainers can range between $2,000-$5,000 all the way up to $20,000-$50,000 per month, depending on the scope of work.

If you’re looking for a more economical way to get your story out, consider a DIY approach. Here’s information to help you shape an effective PR strategy.

What is public relations?

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) states, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

The goal of public relations is to share important company news or events, build and maintain a brand image, and put a positive spin on negative events to minimize fallout. PR may occur in the form of a company press release, news conference, interviews with journalists, social media posting, or other venues.

Why is PR important?

Your business’s reputation is very important. Reputation is how your business, products, or services are perceived by current or prospective customers. If your business has built a positive reputation, you can be perceived as trustworthy, high-quality, valuable, caring, and dependable. This perception can lead to business growth. On the other hand, if public perception of your business is negative, your sales can dip and put your enterprise in jeopardy. PR builds and protects a strong reputation.

PR is also important because it’s considered “earned media”. Earned media is publicity or exposure gained from methods other than paid advertising. Because you’re not paying for the coverage, your goal is for the public to view your company as valuable if presented by a trusted media source.

How does PR work?

A comprehensive PR campaign targets both traditional and digital media. When business owners establish relationships with the press, you could become a sought-after source for information as well as a voice to be followed on social media. Putting a personality or a face to your brand is valuable.

How to write a press release

It’s not unusual for a journalist to receive 100 or more press releases per day.  With so much competition, it’s vital that you create an effective press release. Here are tips to help:

Make sure it's newsworthy.

Are journalists going to find your news interesting enough to share with their readers?

To avoid being ignored as irrelevant, PR professionals recommend saving press releases for major announcements, like new products or services, industry news, or special events.

Craft a short, interesting headline.

In general, a press release headline should be able to fit into Twitter's® character limit. Sending a link to your press release through Twitter® and email, where the entire headline is viewable, increases the likelihood of having it read. Your press release should answer the question: “Why should I care?” If your headline doesn’t convey this, you might want to consider rephrasing it.

Cover the basics.

Journalists just want the facts. The first lesson of news reporting is to cover the five W's: who, what, where, when and why. Answers to these questions should convey important points clearly and concisely. Keep in mind that reporters don’t have a lot of time to read press releases.

Proofread, proofread, proofread

A mistake or inaccuracy is the number one way to lose the attention of a reporter. A good practice is to have one or more people review your press release to ensure it is free from errors.

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Do-it-yourself public relations options

Once you have a solid pitch and press release, you need to take the next step and pitch it. Consider exploring these public relations outlets to help you get the word out and track progress:

Localist®

Localist® is an interactive online calendaring platform that aims to help small businesses with limited marketing resources manage promotional events.

Localist's ® software helps organizations easily publish, manage, and promote their events. Built-in tools such as widgets, Bulletin® , and Register® help you to connect your audience with your events.

Cost:  Starts at $19 a month for a starter plan

Help a reporter out (HARO)®

Help A Reporter Out® , commonly referred to as HARO ® by media folks, gives you direct access to reporters, bloggers, and journalists from all types of publications and media properties who are looking for sources with your expertise.

When you sign up, HARO® will send queries from journalists to your inbox in batches throughout the day.  If any are good fit for your expertise and business, you can directly pitch the journalist via email.

Cost:  Free with paid plans at $19, $49, and $149 a month for advanced and premium features.

MuckRack®

MuckRack®  offers users a database of more than 20,000 journalists and media contacts. Features include inbox alerts, direct email pitches to journalists, social sharing data and media list creation and organization.

Cost:  Starts at $179 a month.

PRWeb®

PRWeb®  publishes press releases across the web on search engines, blogs, major news sites and websites — no tech or PR skills necessary. You need to write a strong press release that will engage your audience. If you need help in that area, PRWeb ® has tutorials and examples to guide you.

Cost:  Starts at $99 per press release

MyBlogGuest®

MyBlogGuest®  connects bloggers with brands and content creators to share their expertise, build links and cross-promote their offerings. Once you have a MyBlogGuest ® account, you can search for guest blogging opportunities or post an ad in the forums for free. You can also post content directly in the Articles Gallery for blog owners to find (requires a GO PRO account).

Cost:  Free to sign up with costs starting at $50 per month.

Google Alerts®

Business owners need to be on top of any outlet that mentions their business. Google Alerts®  lets you monitor your presence online and find out where you appear on the web, what people are saying about you and how your PR campaigns compare to that of your competitors.

Enter a search query — like the name of your business, competitors, industry, and other keywords — and set up the frequency and types of alerts you wish to receive right in your inbox.

Cost : Free

Final thoughts

The SmartBiz Loans ® small business blog has lots of resources to help you market your small business. Here are a few articles to help you shape and execute a marketing plan:

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The SmartBiz® Small Business Blog and other related communications from SmartBiz Loans® are intended to provide general information on relevant topics for managing small businesses. Be aware that this is not a comprehensive analysis of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide specific recommendations to you or your business with respect to the matters addressed. Please consult legal and financial processionals for further information.

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