By Tim Prizeman, Director of PRmyBusiness,

Articles in newspapers and magazines are hugely influential – which is why large organisations spend £100,000s on expensive PR teams, and politicians go to such effort to be interviewed (although they are often a case study of the wrong way to do it!).

But for small businesses, great publicity is even more valuable – being covered by the media sells your products; impresses contacts; boosts your website’s SEO (media websites are highly-rated by Google); attracts recruits; gives employees & investors a positive buzz and even helps flush out potential business partners and purchasers.
Here are my 5 tips for small business owners considering a DIY Public Relations campaign.

1 – It’s not about you, it’s about the outside world

Most businesses mistakenly believe that PR is all about themselves – new products, new offices, new websites, new people joining, new milestones being reached. These sorts of press releases are ten a penny and, unless you are very large or very innovative, will never get you more than a “NIB” (news in brief – a small two centimetre summary) somewhere inconsequential.

In fact the best PR opportunities come from piggybacking on events happening in the outside world. Journalists will often be writing about these and looking for something interesting and different for their story.

When major events happen (such as The Budget, banking scandals etc), journalists are desperate for stories that give a fresh angle. Major anniversaries are also popular, so developing a slant on these events can be used to your advantage. By planning for these opportunities well in advance and having a plan you will be able to get great coverage rather than miss the boat.

As a great example, one local florist I noticed achieved front page coverage in the local Watford paper by offering to deliver bouquets of stinging nettles and thistles on Valentine ’s Day to ex’s from their jilted partners!

2 – Think “advice” not “puff”

Think about what advice you can give – publications want information that is useful (and even valuable) for their readers. Don’t write puffy sales pitches: instead provide useful information that proves you know what you are talking about.

Magazines and websites are very keen on such advisory articles, so think about what advice you can give to readers’. They also make great content for mailings and posting online.

3 – Focus on the publications read by your targets

An important element is getting the right coverage in the right place. The first thing is to ask the important questions that every marketing plan should ask (SMEs often skip this step as they think it is intuitive – a big mistake). The key question is who are you trying to sell to… the more specific you are, the more focussed and successful you efforts will be (having “everyone” or similarly broad targets indicates an absence of strategy).

For instance a lawyer based in Peckham High Street, doing legal aid work for low income families is unlikely to get much business if featured in the society magazine The Tatler. Similarly a lawyer providing exactly the same services to wealthy families from an office in the City would benefit from this, but is unlikely to get much business from a big article in local publication The Peckham News.

4 – The journalist is your “customer”, know what they want

If you are doing your own PR, you need to study the publications read by your targets to see what type of stories they like and what opportunities there are for being featured. Remember, most publications do not want to run long puffy profiles about suppliers – you need to come up with the sorts of ideas they will like (stories which are about, commenting on, or useful to their core readership.

Successful PR isn’t about schmoozing journalists at expensive restaurants to buy their favour… first and foremost they want good stories. If you can arrange a meeting for coffee or a drink, it can help enormously, but do expect to pay!

5 – Make sure you are ready to re-use the coverage

It is tempting to think that a nice bit of press coverage will set your phone ringing and that’s all you need to do. Sometimes this happens, but the most value comes from squeezing every bit of opportunity out of the coverage and the people it drives to your website. Press coverage makes great (and cheap) hand-outs for sales meetings, exhibitions etc. If you have published articles, getting “run on prints” of these for re-use in your marketing on a regular basis is hugely cost-effective and has great impact.

Tim Prizeman, director, PRmyBusiness (www.PRmyBusiness.co.uk) the specialist fixed-price PR service for small businesses. He has been advising business owners on getting great coverage and turning it into new customers for over 20 years, and has won various awards on maximising coverage with low budgets.

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