Entrepreneurs I work with and students at our entrepreneurship classes for wounded veterans have asked, “How do I shine a light on my business?.” Last night, I attended a great panel discussion hosted by Her Corner, an organization for women entrepreneurs, and the experts on PR had great advice. Combining some terrific points made by the panel with lessons learned from 100 plus entrepreneurs we’ve interviewed, let me shine a light on PR for you.
First, there are at least three ways to go about getting media attention:
1. Hire an established PR agency (for several thousands of dollars per month). They will use their extensive experience and contacts to take your great idea and get it noticed by the type of media that will most likely reach your target market.
3. Hire a PR professional (working solo) who may or may not have experience and contacts, but will charge you a great deal less, in most cases. Without a team of professionals working for your business, however, you may not have as many alternatives (see PR alternatives below) because many PR professionals are have specialties.
4. Do it yourself. This can be dicey, but if you are a great communicator, it is possible to get some PR coverage and even great coverage. Remember the success of this approach depends on whether there are good press contacts among your contacts (and the contacts of your contacts), as well as whether you have the time, communications skill and energy to learn what to do and gain the right attention from the media.
Second, define your objectives.
1. What do you want to accomplish with PR. If you are hoping that PR will make sales for you, it won’t. What it can do is introduce you and your business to your target market and create more prospects. You still need a sales channel to turn prospects into customers.
2. Who do you want to reach and how many of them do you need to reach? A specific target makes a PR strategy more likely to be effective. Do you want to reach women with small children? Do you want to reach CEOs who are veterans running IT companies with over $100 million in revenue? Do you need to reach 6 Million people or 50? The more specific the audience information is, the better the results are likely to be.
3. Define your budget and your scale. If you have a business that expects to bring in $50,000 in revenue next year, you may need to add Webinars and research on small business PR to your already lengthy to do list and figure out how to do it yourself. If you are a new business that plans to reach more than $1 million next year, you’re likely to need true experts in PR and advertising to help you grow that fast.
4. Weigh your alternatives between marketing, sales and PR activities carefully. New and small businesses are already spread thin and their budgets are already stretched. If you sell $100,000 items and want to sell 10 of them next year to hit $1 million in revenue, you will probably want a great sales person earning a high commission to focus on finding and bringing in those 10 sales. If, however, you sell $10 items and you have to sell 100,000 of them next year to hit $1 million in revenue, you will need to consider mass marketing and PR to help you spread the word.
The PR alternatives available to your company include:
1) Print, Radio and TV: a good story could be highlighted in local newspapers, magazines, and/or radio and TV stations, or it could run in national and international media sources. Note, it’s easier to get your business and story highlighted in a local news outlet than it is a national or international one. These opportunities come from press releases and contacts made within the news industry. If they like a story, they may contact you for an interview. Once you have one article or interview, other news sources may pick it up or set up their own articles and interviews.
2) Online: write a great press release and post it on free or paid press release distribution sites, as well as on Facebook, LinkedIn and on your website. Be sure to use key words about your business and it may be picked up by online media sources interested in what you do. The chances of search engines finding you increases. Use social media to follow and connect with media experts, either locally or nationally/internationally, or both. Create a video about your business and post it on video sites, as well as social media sites. A well done video can be picked up sometimes where a press release is not.
3) Create a news worthy event for your business, and send the media information about the event. If they are interested in the event, they’ll cover it! When they cover the event, they cover you and your business.
All the best!