Public Relations Strategy on a Tight Budget

Do you need publicity for your business, but the funds to hire a public relations professional are non-existent? Don’t despair. There are several public relations tactics you can use to get your business mentioned in the press and increase brand awareness. Here are five steps you can take toward a public relations strategy to position your business for some great exposure, something every entrepreneur can use to help land new customers!

1. Research media venues

Start by researching media venues that focus on your target audience. Ask your customers what they like to read, watch and listen to on the radio. Search online or browse periodicals at your local library to find publications that are pertinent to your target audience. For example, if you are starting a daycare, check out magazines, newspapers and online publications that target parents.

Once you have a good understanding of the key media venues you’d like to pursue, pay attention to which reporters cover your particular industry, or “beat,” at each venue. Try to obtain their contact information and review their previously-published articles.

Then, ask yourself some important questions:

  • What topics do these reporters cover?
  • What are their areas of expertise?
  • Who have they interviewed in the past?

Record the information in a database or file that is easily accessible. Many media venues have high turnover rates, so you’ll want to keep abreast of new reporters and update your notes accordingly. Try to faithfully read each publication, and pay attention to reporter bylines as they come and go.

2. Develop story angles

After you have a list of prime media contacts, the next step in your public relations strategy is to figure out why these reporters will want to write about your business. Why will they care about what you have to say?

Create some interesting story angles by relating your products or services to current trends, news, case studies, and recent research. For example, if there is a big story in the news about a computer virus, and your new business sells virus-protection software, you’ll want to let media members know how your software can fight against this particular virus and that you have experts available who can discuss the issue in detail.

Once you have a few good ideas, create an outline of all the key points you want to share with each media contact. Then, practice what you are going to say. You will want to communicate your thoughts clearly and with great enthusiasm, without having to read from a script. Try to capture each reporter’s attention by speaking intelligently and with authority about your story angle.

3. Make contact

Once you’ve lined up your ideas, contact the media members you’ve identified by sending them a pertinent announcement, press release or simple introduction that elaborates on one of your story angles. You can send your press releases via fax or e-mail or use a press-release distribution service such as PR Newswire.

If you are sending a press release, make it as succinct as possible . We've got examples of press releases you can review for style and tone. Another great way to discover how to write a release is to review news from your competitors and other successful companies in your industry.

Remember, reporters receive hundreds of pitches each day so you need to convey your story idea quickly and truthfully. Also, have someone check your press release for errors, tone and newsworthiness prior to announcing it to the public. This will help you convey information that builds credibility and generates interest.

At this point, you can also call or e-mail each media member directly to follow-up and make sure that they’ve received your release. Introduce yourself and ask if he or she would like to continue receiving appropriate news about your business. Just be sure to keep your conversation brief, and end the call if a reporter does not have time to speak with you. If you follow up too frequently or annoy reporters, your efforts can easily backfire. And that media venue may not mention your business for a very long time!

4. Get involved

If you want potential customers and the press to know about your business, it is also essential to get out and attend local club meetings, events and presentations . Tell people about your products and services. Volunteer to speak about your area of expertise at local events hosted by the chamber of commerce or other organizations.

Reporters cover important community events so if you are a part of the activities, you significantly increase your chances of receiving an interview and published quote. Many times, press members will seek out event speakers for interviews before, during or after the event. It’s a great way to position yourself as an expert in your field and attract attention from potential customers. Plus, just by attending and networking at the event, you can build some valuable business and media relationships.

5. Be persistent

Once you start promoting your business, don’t stop. A sustainable public relations strategy is a long-term endeavor. It can take months to capture the attention of targeted media venues. Plus, it’s important to remind the press about your business on a regular basis so they don’t forget about you.

Are you launching a new product or service? Is there some hot topic in the news that relates to the product you offer? It might be time for another press announcement to remind reporters that you’re still out there.

Also, make it as easy as possible for media members to know the products, services and expertise you have to offer. Provide the news and resources they need to meet their deadlines. Give them your current contact information so they can get in touch with you at any time. And don’t get discouraged. If you’ve done the work, and the time is right, you will get a call.   

It is possible to build a sustainable public relations strategy on a shoestring budget. Spend the time necessary researching targeted media venues, creating compelling pitches and participating in appropriate business and community events on a regular basis, and you will be well on your way to drumming up some great media exposure.

Melanie Rembrandt is the owner of Rembrandt Communications, LLC. She provides targeted writing and public relations services for small business owners who want to increase brand awareness on time and within budget.

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