For many small business owners, the most important thing to keep business running is leads in the door. Due to cash flow, small businesses need to be continually working on their marketing as that is what keeps them open.
However, if only focusing on marketing, they are really missing the boat. The key to really making it is actually having the right public relations program in place. Not only does the right PR program change how a business or business owner is looked at, but rather since all business is now online business, it changes your online footprint.
The purpose of this article is to help small business owners start a Public Relations program the right way and start implementing.
- Public relations versus marketing
- Starting with a brand audit
- Making sure that your website is set up correctly
- Your media “Small Pond”
- Gathering media features
- Leveraging for More Media
Public Relations Versus Marketing
Public Relations and Marketing are NOT the same thing.
Marketing is the concept of bringing your product to market and creating need and desire and thus public reach for your service or product.
Stop marketing, then sales stop.
That’s where the right PR program comes in, it changes how you are looked at and perceived; the right PR program is a game-changer. Marketing is always about driving new leads, where PR is actually changing the scene of what people find on you, who’s talking about you and where your expertise is seen.
It’s the first step to really amplifying impact and setting it up so not only more people find you, but all of your marketing after is more effective and takes less effort; it creates the know, like and trust factor.
PR doesn’t stop after you’ve done it, marketing does.
Investing in the right PR is one of the best investments you can make. Why? Not only does it enhance your impact, but it also controls factors that are typically out of your control.
What do I mean by that? Someone chooses you over a chiropractor in the same town. Your office is further traveling distance, open fewer hours and more expensive.
So why did they choose you?
They chose you because you are the go-to expert in your space. When that happens you don’t have competition. You’re featured on top-rated podcasts, have a podcast of your own, are interviewed on TV regularly and speak at the top conferences.
Your time is perceived as more valuable and in higher demand. The difference? Marketing stops when the budget ends. PR changes the game permanently. Working on your PR and branding one of the best decisions you will ever make. Instead, change the game.
Starting with a Brand Audit
The toughest part of a PR program is where to start, many small business owners get lost in this. Part of the issue is they don’t quite understand how the game is played. Some have a false idea that if they create good work and continue to flourish, the media will want to cover them. While it’s great that you are prospering and helping more people, it’s also important to understand that the media does not look for you.
With the advent of the 24-hour media cycle, most media outlets just don’t have the time or the manpower to be searching. For the most part, you have to understand that in order to get the right media coverage, you have to become your own evangelist; just like Guy Kawasaki did with Apple.
Your first step is actually to audit what is already out there about you. Create a Google Sheet, in which you can add all the media you find, you’ll keep track of links and titles here. At the top, add your social media links for each platform (Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook), as well as your follower count for each.
Next, Google your name and your business and add any relevant articles to the above created Google Sheet, repeat the same process for your own name. Don’t be discouraged if there are not a lot of results, that’s why we are starting this process.
For context, I often wrestled with actor Jeremy Slate, who’s since passed on, for any relevance on Google. It took me forever to even show up on the first page for my own name “Jeremy Slate” so I started using “Jeremy Ryan Slate” in all written works, this allowed me to get more authority for “Jeremy Ryan Slate” and therefore rank on Google for “Jeremy Slate” as I gathered more authority for my full name. I’m now the first 11 pages on Google for “Jeremy Ryan Slate.”
The lesson here is that if there is someone with the same name as you, starting also using a middle initial or your middle name to help you become more relevant as you gather media.
Setting Up Your Website Correctly
The next thing that is important is to make sure that your website is media ready, meaning that once you start gathering press and attention you are ready to harness it as well as you look ready for the media that check you out.
Your website design should be modern so that your company looks like its a leader in your space; whether you are there yet or well on your way. In addition, there are a few pages that are very necessary: an About Us, Blog, Media and Contact Us.
Your About Us page should give the history of the company, your mission statement as well as photos and media bios of ownership as well as any other important members of the business. A media bio is usually 50 – 75 words and written in the third person, this way it is easier for media to use it. While bios written in the first person may sound really great, any time that there is work left for media, such as changing the voice it’s written in, will result in losing the opportunity. Members of the media are busy and your goal should be to make their job easier.
A Media page is the place where you will store any previous media features you have had as well as the future ones that you will gather in this program. The point of this page is to show the growing authority of your business; adding previous speaking engagements here helps as well.
You should also have a Blog page on your site as well, containing articles written by you, that have at least 900 words (so they qualify as cornerstone content). If you are an expert in your space, then you should have something to say. Be sure to write consistently, but pick something you can manage, perhaps bi-weekly or monthly.
Your Media Small Pond
Everyone has a small pond, the small group that they are a part of that cares about what they do and will talk about it if prompted. I grew up in a small town in New Jersey called Hamburg, it’s ⅝’s of a mile in size, doesn’t have a grocery store and was famous for trains that ran through there in the early 1900s. In modern-day, not a lot happens there. I’m also a graduate of Seton Hall University and have done quite a bit of work with Rotary International.
Each one of these groups is a small pond for me; the small group I am a part of. Each individual or business is a part of many of these, including trade associations and community groups. Many of these groups have newsletters or maybe the town you live in has a small newspaper that runs daily on even weekly. These small ponds are the perfect place to start gathering your initial PR features.
Your small pond is the best place to gather your initial attention and will be the attention that will give you the earliest benefits. So, how do you get that attention?
First off, you have to find something newsworthy about what you or your business currently does. Much of that comes down to positioning. Is there something unique about yourself that differs from other business owners? Perhaps you were in the military. Is there something unique about the purpose of your business? Perhaps a percentage of what you sell is donated to an anti-drug education foundation. Has your business achieved a unique or impressive statistic? For example, when my podcast reached 100,000 downloads, we looked for media opportunities.
Once you have that thing about yourself or your business that is newsworthy, the most basic thing that you should do is learn how to write a proper press release. Most of my early press pieces for myself and my business was through press releases I wrote and submitted to various Small Pond media sources. For example, we have several small newspapers that come to homes in the area via mail. Many of those small papers have run my press releases in their print version as well as their online version.
It’s important to look at any media piece not as the end result, but as something that can help you to obtain or get closer to your next media piece. For example, we ran a press release in one of the larger newspapers here in New Jersey. The producer of a television program happened to read the release and that led to me appearing on tv.
Gathering Media Features
Now that you’ve started to gather media features in your small pond, start adding them to your media page. If the news source has an online version, then use their logo with a link to the feature. If they do not, then turn the article into a PDF file and upload it to your website, placing a link to it with the media source’s logo on your media page.
The next important thing to do is to set up Google News Alerts for your name and your business’s name. Google Alerts to email you every time that your name is then mentioned in the news. When you do this, make sure to use quotation marks around your name and set up several variations. For example: “Dr. David Jones,” “Dave Jones” or “Dr. David Paul Jones.” The reasoning for this is that you cannot always control how a news source will print your name, so if you do show up in Google News, you want to make sure that you are found.
Not every media source that mentions you will show up in Google News, some may be blogs or smaller press outlets. Make a habit of googling yourself and your business name every week, using quotation marks as mentioned above. When doing this, be sure to change the Google search to the last 7 days, this way you will only find new mentions, which may not show up if you are searching infinite time.
Leveraging for More Media
Once you have some established media and your media page is starting to fill up, then it is time to start leveraging it for more media. Once you are shown as notable, its time to locate publications online within your area of expertise that you can write for. Each will have their own application process, but start making a list and then approaching them. As you are able to start contributor writing, you can add links to the finished pieces as well as logos to your media page, as well as sharing them on all your social channels.
Also, start actively looking for the right podcasts to appear on as well as locating individuals that run conferences within your niche on LinkedIn and begin the process of building relationships.
I would also recommend setting up an account on HARO so that you can see media pieces that writers need sources for.
Starting to leverage PR in your business is something that is never done in your business, continue to get it moving forward. However, what you are able to do through PR is something that will not just change how your business is perceived but will permanently change it. You will be found more easily online, your marketing programs will convert better and people will start to find you, rather than continually playing Hungry, Hungry Hippos with your marketing.