As a start-up the chances are your marketing budget is smaller than you’d like, so it’s important to get as much out of it as possible.
Although not right for every business startup, PR is a marketing tool that is well worth considering as it builds both awareness and credibility. It can showcase your expertise while delivering third party endorsement from respected journalists and media outlets.
In addition, PR is great for your SEO; having articles authored by you or quoting you filling up the first few pages of Google is just what a start-up business needs.
So how do you do it? We asked, Chantal Cooke, author of PR Demystified; how to get free publicity by giving journalists what they really need, to share her blueprint for DIY PR success;
Hiring a PR agency is the easiest way to get press coverage
Engaging a good PR agency is by far the easiest way; they know what will work for your business, what will attract the attention of journalists, they have the contacts and the skills, and they will be dedicated to your PR day in day out.
If they are any good they will generate coverage for you worth far in excess of the cost of their monthly retainer.
However, if your budget doesn’t stretch to engaging an agency yet, then it is possible to do it yourself.
You almost certainly won’t get the amount of media coverage a professional agency would deliver because you won’t have as much time to dedicate to your PR as they will.
A PR agency will also have a stronger skill-set and existing press contacts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it yourself – and generate coverage.
The other advantage of understanding the process is that when you do come to appointing an agency you’ll be better informed. This will help you pick the right agency for you and work more efficiently with them.
Doing your own PR – A checklist for success
If you are doing your PR yourself, here is the process I’d suggest. It’s a pared down version of what an agency would do for you. It’s simpler and easier to manage but won’t deliver the same level of results as an agency.
However, DIY PR is absolutely do-able even if you have no previous PR experience, and it will allow you to generate media coverage without having to spend days each week doing so. This will allow you to spend more of your time working in and on your business and less of your time doing your own PR.
Here’s the process:
- Pull together a list of the websites and magazines etc. where you’d like to be featured
- Look at each one carefully and get an understanding of what type of content they publish. Is this a fit for your business? Judging by their content would your business be of interest to them?
- If so, in what way might they feature you? Do they do news bulletins, or advice based columns, or perhaps they have a Q&A section, or a ‘meet the owner’. You need to understand what they are looking for and where you might fit in
- Once you’ve decided that the outlet is a fit for you (and you’re a potential fit for them) then look for the contact details of the editorial team. These are almost always on the website or inside the publication. In some cases, you may need to call them to find out the email address of the right person to send press releases to
- Even if you just have a list of four or five, this is enough to get you started. This isn’t about quantity. It’s about targeting the right publications
- Next, write your press release and email it to the journalists on your list. Ensure it is in the body of the email, not an attachment
- Don’t attach photos – but do let the journalists know that images are available if they want any
- Respond to any queries you get in a timely manner – journalists work to deadlines so ignoring an email for a week isn’t going to help you or them
- Use Google Alerts to track your coverage and do regular Google searches to pick up anything the alerts have missed
5 Tips to help you write a great press release
The process is relatively simple… but being able to attract the journalist’s attention is much harder. This is where a great press release is essential. Here are five tips to help you write an effective press release:
1. Use a clear headline
A clear “it does what it says on the tin” headline. Clever headlines that don’t tell you anything are not helpful. Journalists receive 100s of press releases every day – so make sure yours is clear about what it is, straight away
2. Get straight to the point
Get to the point as quickly as possible, lots of waffle and “sales talk” is irrelevant. Journalists are busy and don’t have time to read lots of prose. Use bullet points if that’s clearer
3. Establish your expertise
Be clear about who you are. You need to be credible so ensure that you give, briefly, some information about yourself or your company. In other words, ask yourself the question “why should anyone trust my expertise in this area?”
4. Make sure journalists can easily contact you
Be sure to add your contact details – landline, mobile, email and web site. Journalists often have tight deadlines so make it easy for them to contact you. Remember if they can’t reach you they will probably go elsewhere
5. Use a clear layout
If you are sending the release via email put it in the body of the email, not as an attachment, and ensure that the layout is easy to read. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to see the content. Extra files to open, closely packed text, reams of irrelevant background information are all ways of stopping journalists looking at your information.
Finally, when you do send out the press release, make sure that you have someone available to talk to the journalist.
Don’t send the release if you are about to go on holiday. If they follow up on it, they will need to speak to you further. So make sure you have a spokesperson available, who knows their stuff and feels confident speaking to the media.
Remember to deliver what journalists want
It is often said by those who don’t understand the media, that journalists are desperate for content as they have so many column inches/airtime minutes to fill. This is absolutely not the case. Most have far more content than they could possibly ever use. So don’t be surprised if they aren’t biting your arm off to use your press release.
However, by understanding what the journalists are looking for and delivering it to them in a way that makes life easy for them you stand a very good chance of getting that coveted media coverage.
About the author
This guide has been written for ByteStart by Chantal Cooke, an award-winning journalist and founder of Panpathic Communications, a boutique PR agency specialising in working with small businesses and authors. Chantal is author of “PR Demystified – How to get free publicity by giving journalists what they need” and “The Authority Guide to Marketing your Business Book”.
More tips on getting press coverage for your small business
You can find lots for practical help and advice on getting media coverage for your business, in these other handy guides;