Startups and small businesses are often in the shadows of their larger competitors when it comes to media coverage - more often that not for the simple reason that they don't have the budget to retain a PR firm.
The other reason is that they're often so focused on the day to day (winning business and getting paid on time) that they forget to focus on how much profile their brand is getting and the impact this could have on their sales. They may dabble in 'marketing' - advertising, trade shows and other things that generally cost money; but PR is one of those mystical entities that either gets deprioritised, sidelined, or simply considered something best left to the corporates.
But small businesses can and do enjoy media limelight. They often have quirkier stories that appeal to journalists, and, as any PR consultant will tell you, getting your brand name positively covered in a newspaper article or TV or radio broadcast is at least three times more effective than any other form of advertising.
Top tips for small businesses taking their first steps into PR
1. Remember that PR doesn't have to cost you anything. Think of quirky, interesting ways you can use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to get your message to the right people - for free.
2. Embrace the fear. PR can be scary concept; I worry about sending an important email before it's triple checked and scanned by a colleague; the fear is tenfold when you're talking about a press release being sent to a Journalist. Find someone with a good grasp of grammar and attention to detail to look over your material.
3. Nurture self-belief that you have something worth shouting about. Think about the journey of your business, the challenges you've faced, the unexpected moments, failtures and successes - there will always be a new story or angle. Think outside the box - what about you and what you do would capture interest? Don't just limit yourself to your product.
4. 'Swap ears' with the person you want to hear you. In other words, put yourself in the shoes of the journalist or whoever it is you're trying to reach so that when you shout, you're shouting in the same lanaguage.
5. Timing is everything. Link what you want to say to stories already in the news. Can your product, origins of your business or any other factor of your journey be linked back to something topical - a sporting event, a celebrity story, something happening locally in your community?
6. Pass the 'uninterested' test. Think of the most boring person you know! Would your story stimulate them?
7. Pass the 'uninterested' and 'hook' tests. Would your story interest hook even the shortest attention span - your teenage child, your over-stressed spouse, a pre-occupied friend?
8. Pass the 'balance' test. Journalists will see straight through a press release which just unashamedly promotes your brand. You have to create a story. Think about what you're offering them.
9. Pass the 'good look' test. Is your press release laid out nicely. Does it have a clear headline, easily digestible facts, quotes or graphics?
10. Use a distribution wire that can assist in getting your story far and wide. Journolink is just one of these, providing what is effectively online PR.
When businesses told us that they wanted to get media coverage but didn't have the know how or the budget, and journalists told us that they wanted more entrepreneurial business stories and spokespeople, but struggled to find them, we scratched our heads, sharpened our pencils and built Journolink. A no-nonsense online service that links the businesses and their news directly to the journalists who want to write about them. That's what we set out to create, and that's exactly what Journolink does.