By Michele Bayliss

Attracting customers who will buy your product or service is the key to success for any new business. You can spread the word in many ways and public relations (PR) should not be overlooked because it provides excellent returns. Effective PR can create awareness and enthusiasm for your business and drive sales of your product or service. Your public includes customers, potential customers, your peers and your competitors, as well as opinion formers and influencers such as the media.

If you can afford it, hire an independent PR consultant or a small agency but, if you have the time to invest in applying your own PR skills, here are my ten top tips for building your profile.

1. Ensure your product or service is ready for consumption
PR drives customer demand but if the product or service is not available when the press coverage appears informing customers about you and your offering, you will lose sales and credibility from the start. You need to ensure that your product or service works, is something that people want and that is available when they want it.

2. Know your market
Successful PR is all about reaching the right audience with the right message. If you fail to understand your target audience and the publications that they read, the rest of your PR plans will be fruitless. The message and the medium have to be appropriate for your customers. There is no point in targeting the The Daily Telegraph if your target audience is more likely to be reading Creative Bloq.

3. Get your targeting right?
When defining your target audience, you should know what they read, what radio programmes they listen to, what TV programmes they watch and which websites they visit. Learn about the media outlets you are targeting, understand the type of story you need to produce that will encourage the media to give you coverage and will influence their audience — ¬your customers.

4. Tighten up your messages
Who are you and what do you offer? Hone your message and make sure it’s concise, clear and brief. If you cannot sum up your message in a few sentences, it’s too complicated: if the journalist won’t read it nor will the readers. Send the journalist the materials they need and anticipate their questions. Your press release must include: who, what, why, when, where and how in the first paragraph and all photographs should be captioned with the message you want to send.

5. Secure coverage
The best way to secure media coverage is to make your news topical and relevant to current events or breaking news and tie your business comment in with them. Every journalist is looking for a new hook. By persuading a journalist that your service or product is worth writing about can be a lot more credible than buying an advertising space to tell them yourself. Securing coverage in a publication that mentions your new service or product can go a long way to raising your profile. Target local, national and industry trade publications. And, as a small business owner you can engage with the press on small business issues, for example pitching in comment around the Budget and how it will affect you or campaigning on employment and tax issues. Your product or service is one story; you are also a story as a small business.

6. Build your relationship with the media
How you interact with your target press is very important. These relationships take time to develop and it is a long-term investment — but don’t waste their time. Your media contacts are very busy people with deadlines to meet. Ensure that you have a good story to tell them before you get in touch.

7. Write an article
Provide a story for your local newspaper or trade publication on a subject that is relevant to your business. Write your synopsis first and send it to the editor for consideration. The media like to receive articles that talk about the subjects in which they and their audience are interested. Write about those subjects but do not use this as an opportunity to advertise your company overtly.

8. Be social
The power of social media cannot be underestimated and it is a key part of the PR toolkit nowadays. But it is just one more way to communicate with your audience. Tweeting, blogging and posting on Facebook will reach your audiences quickly but it is important to remember that the quality of the message is key.

9. Network
Join relevant business groups. Offer to give talks about your profession. Attend industry trade shows and conventions. Get to know people and you will get known.

10. Be tenacious
Tenacity is the single most important factor when it comes to making your PR campaign a success. If you have a good plan and devote enough time to it, with or without the help of a PR professional, you will see a great deal of positive publicity for your business. You will raise your profile and reap the rewards as your business builds. But remember, PR cannot be turned on and off like a tap — it’s all about gathering pace and keeping momentum. Be consistent and be ever present. If your customers and potential customers don’t read about you for a while, they may think you have disappeared.

Michele Bayliss has been a PR consultant for more than 20 years, devising and implementing PR campaigns for large and small companies. She has never failed to secure national coverage for any of her clients. Read more about Michele here