Behind nearly every news feature, profile or review about any company is a great public relations strategy. Take it from a reporter: You might have a great story to tell, but getting the word out — and more importantly, getting the media interested — requires some real PR know-how.
You may not have the budget to keep a PR firm on retainer, but that doesn't mean you can't have a professional-level media outreach strategy. With a little bit of research, planning and effort, you can get your business's name out there while keeping your communications fresh and creative.
Whether you're handling your own public relations or thinking about hiring a consultant, here are a few affordable but effective strategies to boost your business's recognition and engagement. [5 DIY Public Relations Tips for Startups]
Make friends with industry influencers. The first step in creating a good communications strategy is to connect with the right people. This is especially true if you're doing your own PR, as you won't have the advantage of established PR firms' robust media lists. Margie Zable Fisher, founder of Zable Fisher Public Relations, said that it's critical for businesses to do their due diligence and identify the appropriate outlets and reporters who cover your industry and market. Then, reach out, cultivate a relationship and send your pitch.
Even if reporters aren't able to write about you at first, Meghan Gross, founder and president of GEM Strategic Communications, noted that you should try to maintain regular communication with these key influencers to keep you on their radar.
Refresh your messaging. Not getting any press attention? You might want to give your message a makeover. Gross advised analyzing a few of your competitors and creating a "message map" by identifying key phrases and message points of competitors and comparing them against your own. When done, it provides a way for you to clearly see your company's position against those of its peers so you can adjust messaging as necessary.
When you're updating your media message, be sure to figure out a few different story angles that you can "sell" to the media, who likely won't be interested in writing a piece that's essentially an advertisement for your company.
"Reporters don't just write about how fabulous you are or how wonderful your company is," said Jenny Finke, founder of Red Jeweled Media. "Journalists want to learn about what makes you tick and what obstacles you've had to overcome to get where you are today. Stories are the heart and soul of PR."
Hook into seasonal trends. Seasonal or event-based pitches can be a great way to offer a timely story that isn't all about you and your company. Look ahead one or two months — is there an anniversary, a national recognition or celebration day or a seasonal change that brings different activities, entertainment or foods into focus? Gross recommended creating an infographic around it to put your company into that context for reporters.
"Infographics are also great original content to share through your social networks and with customers," Gross said.
Distribute a multimedia news release. If you want to reach a large number of news outlets at once, you can try a distribution service that will send your news release to many national and local journalists who might be interested. These services aren't always free — PRWeb, one of the best-known services, begins at $99 for a basic press release — but it's money well spent if you're interested in spreading the word about your company quickly and effectively.
Gross noted that while long-term strategic planning is best, your company might benefit from diving right into some of the above-named strategies to see what kind of response you get.
"Doing 'active' public relations, even without a full strategic communications plan in place, allows you to test and hone your messaging in real time, and get feedback from existing customers and stakeholders," Gross told Business News Daily. "It informs ongoing plans and programming."
Additional reporting by Business News Daily contributor Patrick Egan.