Getting a great write up in a publication your prospects and customers read is still one of the most powerful marketing opportunities going. From a trust standpoint few things beat the mention of your firm by what is seen as an unbiased 3rd party. In fact, and I can hear the PR folks cheering now, a well placed article just might be worth 5-10 times more than an ad in the same publication.
But, and I can hear the PR folks groaning, the game has changed dramatically. Like most forms of communication the Internet has change how we get information, who we have access to, and who controls what’s said. Since anyone and everyone is a potential publisher it’s kind of democratized the process of media relations.
Major media outlets are still important, but their importance has been diluted to some degree by a million bloggers and the flow of information that marches directly to the end user. Both of these trends spell opportunity for small businesses aiming to tap the awesome lead generation and customer loyalty building power of PR.
Below are five steps that any small business can take to create a systematic approach to PR generation.
Journalists and thought leaders are so easy to hear now that it borders on insanity to think you’re going to get their attention without demonstrating you know a lot about what they cover and care about. Make a list of 10 journalists and/or bloggers that cover your industry or town and get their names into Google Alerts and their blogs into Google Reader. Read what they write and get to know what seems to get their attention. This used to be a fair amount of work back in the day, but now it comes to you.
Because journalists can’t really do their job these days without Internet use, blogging and social media, you have unprecedented access to them. In the old days they could simply ignore your emails and faxes, but now you make relevant comments on their blog posts, send them links publicly through Twitter (where other journalists are watching), and engage them in online industry chats and forums or on Facebook events. Networking with your list of key journalists, in a way that demonstrates you know what you’re talking about, is how you become a resource for their next story. Don’t sell, build relationships. Hey, that kind of sounds like real networking doesn’t it?
3) Pitch curves
Resist the urge to lob press releases at your A Team list of bloggers and journalists. If you’ve followed through on steps one and two, you’ve probably earned enough trust to have a conversation that starts like this: You know I saw your story on the blah, blah, blah and I think blah, blah, blah would be an interesting piece for your readers and here’s why and here’s an example of how we did it, how a customer of ours did it . . .
Pitch curve ideas, kernels of stories that might have some impact, tie positive angles tangentially to your company, but don’t pitch your new widget unless it cures a rare disease. When you truly build trust with journalists you will come to understand they need your stories, but they get pitched so much crap, you’ve got to stay uncrappy or you won’t get heard.
OK, this one might seem to run counter to step three but another layer of your PR plan is the monthly, or more, press release briefly outlining some big gig you landed, a new special recognition, events, special promotions and general news. This isn’t the kind of stuff that makes front page, but it’s the kind of stuff that your prospects and customers might find interesting on their way to getting to know you.
Each month, make it a habit to distribute these one page announcements through online distribution services such as PRWeb or Pitch Engine. In some cases your story will reach thousands of end users at the hands of news and industry sites picking up new releases. You media releases will be picked up by news aggregators and real time search alerts and offer some amount of back link building to your website.
Post your press, however small it might seem, to your online profiles. Tweet your press releases (OK, do more than that on Twitter, but this should be one thing.) Create an “In the news” section on our site and keep it updated with mentions and press releases. If you use Google Alerts you can grab the RSS for your company name or set up delicious RSS feeds that automatically post. Print your one page release in press release format and send it to your clients and network. You’ll be surprised at the accumulated impact this little action has.
Image credit: marjoleincc