How to get free PR for small business owners
July 16, 2019
PR is one of the most powerful tools for small business marketing – if you can get it.
The term “public relations” often brings to mind a high powered political fixer, sweeping scandals under the rug while sipping a glass of red wine. While Olivia Pope’s tactics can be aggressive, the same principles of PR can level the playing field when it comes to small business marketing.
Know your medias
Earned, paid, owned: let’s break down some media jargon.
Paid media is the opposite. It simply means any media you have paid for. This includes everything from traditional television ads to paying an influencer to wear your t-shirt.
Owned media refers to all of the media products that you produce yourself. Since you are in complete control of the content on your blog, website, and social media channels, they are said to be ‘owned’ media.
It’s important to remember that none of your media elements (earned, paid, or owned) exist independently. For example, while the content you post on YouTube is owned by you, you likely paid someone to create the video (making it also paid media). When users share your video across their own channels, it becomes earned media (because you didn’t pay anyone to share it). This infographic details how paid, owned, and earned media work together.
Incorporating earned media into your small business marketing plan is a valuable method of creating customer trust and word-of-mouth buzz.
But how can online business owners score media mentions without the help of an expensive public relations firm?
Earn your media
In the olden days, earned media was difficult and expensive to obtain. Thanks to the internet, today it’s much easier and cheaper for small and online businesses to gain media exposure (thank goodness).
Social media has exploded earned media. A Yelp review, a tweet naming your product or brand, or a mention in an industry blog: these are all examples of earned media.
A single Facebook post may seem inconsequential, but it’s not: over half of social browsers are using social media to research a product or brand. A mention or positive review by a respected blogger or journalist can attract new customers, increase your brand recognition, and improve your reputation as an expert in your field. In an age of tech savvy and connected consumers, you can’t afford to ignore your online rep.
Public relations and earned media don’t need to be front page bylines, trending hashtags, or spots on the evening news. Sure, you might get a lot of clicks, but how many of those clicks will convert to customers?
Your PR strategy should begin with small, manageable wins. Target smaller and industry specific publications that are in line with your market. While Organic Beekeepers Weekly may not have as many readers as Good Housekeeping, if you sell natural insect repellent, it’s probably more in line with your niche.
Another key source of earned media is user or customer generated content. When a happy client leaves a positive review on Yelp, they have provided you with valuable user generated content. An excellent example of this is my local hair salon. Not only do they offer free wifi while you wait, customers who share a photo of their completed ‘do receive 15% off their next cut. The result is an Instagram feed filled with reviews by satisfied customers.
Another great way to grow your influence among your target market is to utilize your existing network. For example, Veem Rewards harnesses the power of our network to expand our customer base. When a user invites another business to send money securely through Veem, they earn money to put back in their own pocket.
See how Veem can make your business payments simple.
Prep your pitches
Contrary to popular belief, press releases (or ‘pitches’, as they are commonly called) did not go the way of the dodo. Far from extinct, they have simply migrated online. Thanks to the rise of the 24/7 news cycle, fresh content is constantly required to keep that homepage fresh.
To capitalize on the insatiable desire for new content, sign up for a pitching or media monitoring service with targeted lists for your industry. HARO, or Help A Reporter Out, is a free subscription service that collects pitches from journalists and sends them straight to your inbox three times a day. You can select targeted industries and even publications you are interested in. If you have a SaaS company, you probably don’t need to monitor media outlets dedicated to fashion or celeb gossip.
Find the media outlets that your customers (and competitors) are actively using and monitor them daily. Research journalists who cover topics you can speak about as an expert, and support their work publicly on your social media platforms. The average journalist receives over 200 pitches a day, so a little goodwill goes a long way.
Once you’ve decided who to pitch, it’s time to get down to it and actually start doing it. For those of us who dread public speaking, this can sound intimidating. Good news, glossophobes (those who fear public speaking): over 90% of journalists prefer to receive pitches over email.
Journalists are a busy bunch. For example, a quarter of UK journalists write seven articles a day. Don’t waste their clicks: organize your press release into a simple but compelling story. Ask yourself, why is this news and why should people care? Don’t hold back – put your best quotes, stats, or expert tips in your pitch right away.
Another no-go? Attachments. Many journalists are wary of opening attachments for fear of malware, so embed or copy/paste your press release to the bottom of the email. A link to dropbox or another file sharing site also works.
Don’t forget to include an image: of your product, your logo, or even a headshot. This sounds obvious, but many non-PR professionals forget that the web is a visual medium. When was the last time you saw an article without a picture?
In the media industry, time is king. Deadlines wait for nobody, and neither do journalists. Include your personal contact information in your pitch with an invitation to reach out. If a journalist does call you with more questions, respond ASAP. The early bird gets the worm, and the early business gets the free publicity.
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Another common public relations mistake by small businesses is the “one and done” mentality. Your PR is never finished, complete, or done.
Once you’ve scored some positive customer reviews, turn them into customer stories, social media graphics, or advertisements. If you were featured in an industry publication, share the absolute crap out of the article: on social media, in ads, and on your homepage. Carefully cultivate relationships with journalists in your industry; even if they decline one of your pitches, they can be a valuable resource down the road.
What’s the most surefire way to get noticed by the press? Be newsworthy. This sounds obvious, but truly innovative and disruptive companies tend to reach the front page a lot faster. Which headline would you click on: “A new way to send an international wire transfer” or “Veem uses Blockchain to revolutionize fintech industry”?