By Rich Benson, Launch Group

Many big brands are in an envious position when it comes to persuading journalists to write about them.

Some, like Apple, innovate to grab headlines. Others, like Ryanair, use controversy to stay front of mind. Even more, like Adidas, use celebrity ambassadors to front their campaigns.

Sadly, most SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) simply don’t have the time, budget or size to compete with the big boys.

So can PR do a job for smaller businesses? The answer is a resounding yes — thanks to the cost effective art of online PR.

Given the sheer volume and variety of blogs, forums, social networks and other websites out there, many serving niche interests, it’s far more likely that a business will be able to find an online audience interested in what it has to say.

So far so good. So how can SMEs exploit online PR without breaking the bank? Here are five top tips for success:

1. Create a killer media list:

Just like traditional PR, a bespoke media list is integral to the success of an ‘optimised’ PR campaign. Scour the web and build a database of influencers who can persuade potential customers that your business is valuable to them. This should include online journalists, bloggers, forum administrators and social network influencers.

2. Blog, and blog well:

There’s a lot to be said for positioning yourself as an expert. But there’s another reason why every SME should have a blog: Search Engine Optimisation. Google looks more kindly on sites that constantly create relevant content than those that don’t. And better ranking means more attention.

3. Get links (in a nice way):

The more inbound links your site has — and the higher the quality of those links - the higher up the search rankings you’ll be, and the more traffic you’ll get. This is called “Link baiting” and is where PR and SEO meet; creating content so damn interesting that other sites link back to it. Think how-to videos, industry insights, interviews, surveys, diagrams or top tips. Refer to your media list and let relevant influencers know about your marvellous content.

4. Be more social:

Put simply, social media is the lubricant that helps spread content around the web. So upload videos to YouTube and share the embed links, interact on Twitter and exploit Facebook Like buttons. And don’t be shy. Use free widgets to clearly showcase the latest activity on the home page of your website.

5. Email marketing:

One of the most cost effective marketing tools available. Harvesting opted-in email addresses is something of huge and permanent value. Plaftorms like Campaign Monitor make handling email campaigns cheaper and easier than ever.

In summary, online PR is a meritocratic discipline which rewards those who produce the best content. So focus on being genuinely interesting — and letting key influencers know about it.

Launch Group www.launchgroup.co.uk is a top-50 independent, integrated PR agency with experience working with entrepreneurs, start-ups and other SMEs — as well as big, household names. To book a free, no-obligation ‘Optimised PR’ workshop contact Rich Benson, Head of Digital Strategy richb@launchgroup.co.uk.

Rich Benson, Head of Digital Strategy, Launch Group - www.launchgroup.co.uk

Join us on