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DIY PR for small businesses

Alison is a freelance copywriter with a background in contemporary art PR. You can find out more about her work and read some of her features at www.alison-smith.net.

If you want to get press coverage for your business, hiring a PR company, or someone in-house to manage it is the best way to tap into specialist knowledge, and carefully cultivated press contacts. But if you are a really small outfit you might need to do your own PR. That’s fine – as long as you can write and have a personable phone manner, there’s nothing to stop you from having a stab at getting some press exposure for your business.

1. What do you want to say?

Work out your key messages. List the plus points and USPs (Unique Selling Propositions) of your business that show it in the best light. Keep them in mind and get them across if you are interviewed and if you have a chance when pitching ideas to journalists.

2. Research your outlets

When drawing up a list of media outlets to approach, consider a) what your customers are likely to read / watch and b) where you are likely to get coverage. For example, if you are a food or drink producer, hit all the niche foodie publications, trade press and newspaper and consumer magazine food & drink sections. Read them and see if you can spot any regular features that would be ripe for some input from you, and find out who is responsible for commissioning that section. The local press is often very receptive to new stories about local businesses.

3. Be the story!

Publications are always looking for case studies, so if you are the face of your brand, put yourself in the centre of the story. If there is a quirk or twist to your tale, bring that to the fore. For instance, if you have an interesting back story (eg. gave up a career in banking to bake brownies) or a USP the (eg. the only French patisserie in the Welsh Valleys). Then fashion a killer press release (see below) and send it out.

4. Ride the trends

As an alternative to case studies, look for a trend to base a feature on and pitch the whole story tailored to a specific publication. Maybe you are part of a wave of businesses using locally sourced materials and could suggest a feature based on this. By saving the busy journalist some work, you have more chance of coming across favourably in the piece.

5. Write a helpful press release

Write a press release that is concise, well organised and easy to follow. Try to come up with an engaging title that grabs attention, while also getting your point across. Aim to touch on the main points in the first paragraph, which should stand up on its own. Below this, give some more detail and maybe a relevant and useable quote. Round off with a paragraph about your company giving useful information about scope, size and mission.

6. Get on the phone

Once you have sent out your press release, follow up with a phone call. This is when your research pays off. You need to talk to the person that is responsible for commissioning that section. Remember that talking to the press is not like talking to customers – most journalists are pushed for time and need to you to get to the point fast. They will quickly be able to tell if they can use the information you are sending. So don’t be discouraged if you anyone is a bit short with you. Just keep working your way down your target list.

7. Get your materials organised

Have good quality images and a well-organised information pack ready to send out and to interested parties. You could use a well designed, branded presentation folder containing company information and your business card.

8. Add value

Once you have secured a nice bit of press coverage, you can put it out there on all your social media, and put it up on the ‘Press’ / ‘About Us’ section of your website so it will keep working to make your company look good after publication or broadcast.

 

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