Having a PR strategy is something that is often overlooked by small business owners. Without the resources to engage a PR agency you might think that it’s too difficult to get coverage and build your reputation this way.

However, you can become your own PR guru and get your business in front of customers without it costing the earth. Ursula Errington, founder of PR company Hard Truth Media, recently gave a talk at the Bordon Hub. She’s spent more than a decade working as a correspondent and presenter for Sky News, Five News, BBC Inside Out, BBC Radio 4, BBC Look East and Monocle 24, and knows exactly what makes a newsworthy story about your business. Click here to book for our talk and workshop.

Here we explore why PR is something you need to be doing for your business’s success.

What is PR?

Broadly speaking PR (public relations) is about building trust, recognition and relationships with the public (your customers). It encompasses everything from news coverage of your business (good and bad), to the way you handle customer enquires and support.

The great thing is that with digitalisation it is much easier to get your PR stories in front of journalists and editors. It is relatively easy to find out who the best person at a newspaper or industry publication is to approach, and what their email address is. Failing that, you can find their Twitter handle or other social media profiles and engage with them this way.

This useful blog post lists the Twitter handles for several small business journalists to get you started.

However, as you can imagine you’re not the only person who will have got this information! That means the average journalist gets a lot of emails and messages, and therefore you need to ensure your press releases and news stories stand out. You need to identify exactly what different journalists and publications are interested in, how that fits with your business, and give them a story that makes them sit up and pay attention.

Fortunately, online publications have a huge demand for content. Therefore, if you pitch your story or press release correctly, you have a good chance of getting coverage.

PR and social media

Social media is the small business owners’ friend (although it can also be a massive timewaster!) Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn etc. give you the tools to reach your customers and promote your products and services. While many people use social media primarily as a marketing tool, it is just as useful for PR purposes too.

As well as connecting on social media with journalists, there are also opportunities to use social media to promote your news stories, reach customers and build trust and credibility.

Every interaction you have on social media is a PR opportunity. For example, if you respond publically to a customer complaint there is an opportunity to showcase your customer support and how you value your customers. If someone mentions your business on social media there’s a chance to use the free publicity to reach more potential customers and build brand awareness. And as well as engaging with journalists, there are numerous other influential people – ‘influencers’ – that can help you get good PR. They may be bloggers or vloggers, industry experts, celebrities, or simply a well-connected local person who your target audience trust and respect.

Targeting these people with stories and news that they will want to share is a great way to raise brand awareness and get third party validation from people your customers trust.

Your PR strategy toolkit

To help you prepare for Ursula Errington’s talk on PR, we thought it would be useful to draw up a list of useful PR assets that your business can be using. This will help you get the most from her talk and enable you to put her advice into practice.

Your Brand Message

Having a clear idea of how you want to position your business in the marketplace is essential. This can help you differentiate your business from competitors, and provide journalists and influencers with reasons to feature you. Ideally you want to be the ‘go to’ spokesperson for subjects related to your business. What are those subjects? What do you have to say about them? What can you add to them that is worthy of press coverage?

Social Media Profiles

Auditing your social media profiles is a good idea to ensure they are all aligned with your brand, making it easier to manage your online reputation. You may have set up company profiles on all kinds of different platforms, so make sure that you know where they are, what they say, and set up systems to manage them all.

Media Contacts

Draw up a list of media contacts that you can contact if you have a story worth sharing. Categorise them by their interests, whether they are local, national or industry-specific, and what type of media outlet they work for. When you have a newsworthy story you can quickly cross reference this list to select the most appropriate contacts to send it to. As well as their contact details (email etc.) also engage with them on social media; by sharing and commenting on relevant updates you can start to build a relationship and brand awareness with them, so that when your press release arrives in their inbox they know who you are.

Social Listening

It’s also a good idea to set up processes for monitoring what journalists and influencers are talking about on social media, and what people are saying about your company. Social listening tools allow you to identify engagement opportunities by searching for mentions of specific keywords that relate to your business, your company name and even competitors. You can do this using social media tools like Hootsuite, Klout etc., or simply by setting up Google Alerts for specific keywords and phrases.

To learn more about PR and for advice on becoming your company’s PR guru, book on our talk this month with Ursula Errington. Your first visit to the Bordon Hub is free and for that you get expert free advice and business support, as well as the chance to meet other likeminded local business owners. Click here for more details.

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