Large corporations can afford to hire PR teams that help them get noticed on social media and in traditional media. Often it is money well spent. But what about small businesses, start-ups, solopreneurs, self-published authors or anyone who wants to grab media attention without paying a monthly PR retainer? Often they go it alone. Some will get lucky. Others will get frustrated if their early attempts don't achieve their goals.
Here are some media relations/public relations basics that could help.
- Create a news calendar. Keep track of upcoming community events, special occasions, holidays and other dates that could be ideal opportunities for you to pitch yourself to the media. Example: you, your brother and your sister run a small business. Just the three of you do it all. You check your news calendar and note that National Siblings Day is celebrated on April 10th. That could be a news hook that a local reporter might be interested in. At the very least, share your unique story on social media platforms. There are a lot of these manufactured types of holidays that make it into the news.
- Even the best PR team in the world doesn't hit every time. You can't expect that one news release will do the trick. Don't set a strict timeline for upping your media visibility.
- Start building media relationships in your city. How? Start by following local journalists on social media. Learn about the types of stories they like to cover. Maybe a friend or colleague knows someone who works at a local TV station. It doesn't have to be the News Director, main Anchor or star Reporter. A personal assistant, a tape editor or camera operator who likes your story may just pitch it to the news decision-makers.
- If you want to write your own news releases, I'd recommend hiring a professional communications person to write the first one. You can use this as a guide when you write the next ones. It's not just the format but the tone that matters. And keep it short. Trust me, no one is the newsroom is going to read a long release all the way through. Your first paragraph really needs to hook the reader.
- Posting to social media is second nature to you. You post about your family, pets, movies, food, and even politics. When you share news about your business, give every post a second and third look before hitting publish. Maybe have a close friend give it a look too. They could catch something that doesn't occur to you.
- Create your own news. Example: you and your partner are opening a specialty ice cream shop. Invite local celebrities (could be a news personality, a retired sports figure, or anyone with name recognition in your community). Or, give away ice cream for a couple of hours. Or, stage an ice cream eating contest for kids. Anything that could, on a slow news day, spark a bit of media attention. This works best in smaller markets. If you don't get traditional media to bite, shoot your own video--including interviews with customers and post it.
- Try connecting with bloggers who appear to be a good fit. They need content and you've got it.
There is no single way to garner positive media attention. But winging it is not ideal. Even if you have a small or nonexistent marketing/public relations budget, you still need a plan. Measure your success over months, not weeks or days. When you get a hit in your local market, play it up. It's not uncommon for one traditional media interview to lead to another.
You're likely already wearing a lot of hats in your small business. But until you have the budget for outside help, your PR plan shouldn't wait. Put on that hat and give it a try.