Advice on getting great PR for your small business

Small businesses can exploit opportunities and forums beyond the usual advertising and networking options and can learn to be their own best promoters. Featuring in an article in the local press, television or
radio station is an extremely powerful marketing tool, because editorial coverage increases your credibility and helps potential customers get to know you. However, good PR requires some research, thought and planning.

Which media should you approach?

Your list of publicity prospects should include the local daily newspapers, weeklies, the local business journal, trade journals, the free tabloids, and the neighbourhood and university papers. The media,
particularly at local and regional levels, are on the lookout for a new story, a different angle and a fresh approach. Find lists of possible publications to target by using directories such as BRAD, Willings Press Guide, or Hollis UK Press and Public Relations Annual.

What’s your story?

Reasons to mail out a press release to an appropriate reporter or features editor could be when your business gets an important new order, contributes or takes part in a local event or charity, launches a new product, wins a community award or comes up with a solution to a community problem. Look through the paper or magazine and see who writes what and phone the publications switchboard if you want to find out the names of the news or features editor. Think of a fresh angle or human-interest link. You may not always get coverage but you will have nothing to lose by cultivating these relationships. You could also create your own publicity by commissioning a survey on a topical issue and sending the results to the press, give your expert advice and
volunteer quotes or send letters to the letters page using your business address.

Press releases

You could mail out or email press releases on the same story to a number of outlets. But you’ll need to tailor each release to the audience. There are some golden rules when it comes to press releases:

  • Print
    press releases on company letterhead. If this is not feasible, adding the company logo is essential. The company’s name, web address, location address and phone number should be printed clearly at the top
    of the page. PRESS RELEASE should be spelled out in caps and centred in bold. The press release contact person’s name should be underneath the wording and all contact numbers printed clearly underneath. If the press release is for IMMEDIATE RELEASE, say so, on the left margin directly above the title, in capitals.
  • The Headline or title. This should be centred, in bold and be short and snappy, so that it hopefully grabs the attention of the journalist and impresses them enough to read on.
  • The body of the press release. The first paragraph of the press release should contain in brief detail what the press release is about. The second paragraph explains, in detail: who cares; why you
    should care; where one can find it; when it will happen. Also, included in the second ‘informative’ paragraph is generally a quote that gives the release a personal touch. Press releases and news stories need a ‘human interest’ or a clear ‘hook’ to make journalists want to write or broadcast a feature or news story about your company. The third, and generally final, paragraph is a summary of the release and further information on your company with your contact information clearly spelled out.
  • Press releases should be followed up by emails and/or phone calls, offers of images, an invitation to your event or product launch, samples of products, further information and alternative angles.

Non-media PR

You can also raise your profile in your community or in your business sector by giving talks to local schools and colleges, becoming a figurehead in a local organisation, sponsoring events such as a school fete or exhibition, donating to raffles or a promises auction, sponsoring a local sports team, helping with or donating products/services to charity, and teaming up with suppliers or customers to work on attracting joint publicity.