The truth is you don’t really need a public relations firm to publicize your business. I realize that as the owner of a boutique public relations firm that’s probably not my best sales pitch. And yet, it’s true.
A PR firm will have experience and connections. They’ll also spend significant funds on media databases, memberships to various organizations, and a ton of magazine subscriptions. But as an entrepreneur, you already have the skills and passion you need to handle your own press outreach. Whether you’ll want to or not, well, that’s a different story.
If you’re looking to cut costs and invest time, here are five completely free ways to get yourself and your business in the news.
Know the Players
Players? What players? The journalists. Create an email account just for alerts, e-newsletter subscriptions and blog feeds. Then go to: www.google.com/alerts and www.alerts.yahoo.com and set up alerts for terms related to your business, e.g. if you run a pizza shop, set up an alerts for your business name, pizza, Italian food, and alerts for your key competitors. Next, using your new email address, sign up for related content that can help your business grow, like relevant emails from business journals, marketing gurus, etc. At least once a week read through your inbox and compile names of writers who’ve written about a topic similar to yours – it’s best to do this in Excel, so you can create columns. Once populated with journalist name, outlet, and link to the actual story, you’ll need to comb the web for email addresses. Take a peek on: www.everyonewhosanyone.com and also Google the writer’s name; it helps to include words like contact and @nameofpublication.com to narrow the field. You’ll need this information when you’re ready to send a press release and if you’re doing this for free, it will take a while to accumulate. To speed things up, register at www.listbuilder.bulldogreporter.com, click on create a media list and follow the prompts but when you’re asked to buy the list, find the “preview” tab and jot down the outlets and titles of the journalists. This will help you target your Google search more quickly. With a trip to your local library, you can flip through current magazines and gather even more information.
Become a Source
Surely you know a lot about something, which counts to register for free as an expert at www.helpareporter.com. Nearly 30,000 members of the media have quoted sources they found through Help a Reporter Out (HARO) in their stories; this includes The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many others. Once you sign up, you’ll begin to receive a few emails each day with a list of stories journalists are working on for which they need an expert to comment and/or interview. Another clever, free, site is www.BloggerLinkUp.com. While this one isn’t a media pool, once you register it provides you opportunities to write a blog or exchange content with another blog, which in turn promotes your business and boosts your Search Engine Optimization.
Toot Your Horn
Did you just write a stellar blog post? Great, now chop it up. Find at least three things you can tweet from your post and funny ways to call attention to it via Facebook and social platforms. Whenever possible, post a photo. People are most likely to engage with branded content that contains images (44 percent), according to a 2012 study by marketing firm Performics. But what if you don’t have any photos? Go to a royalty free photo stock website, like www.freedigitalphotos.net; just make sure you follow to rules on attribution. If you don’t have photo editing software, go to www.picmonkey.com and use the free text editor to insert a photo credit to your pic.
Send a Press Release
Think of this as one sheet of paper with all the pertinent information you’d need to give someone who’s writing about you, your product, or service. As a former reporter I can tell you, simple is better. You’ll find a wealth of sites online with free advice on how to write a press release; you could also head over to www.prnewswire.com and read through releases to use as samples. Once you’ve finished your pièce de résistance, you’ll want to send it in a blind carbonated copy email to that list of press you compiled earlier. It’s crucial that you bcc the media. No one wants to receive an email with other recipients in plain view. You’ll also want to send your release using some free press release distribution services, such as: www.prlog.org, www.pr.com, and www.i-newswire.com.
Create a free account with www.dropbox.com and upload a copy of your press release as well as any photos you may need to share with the press so that you may access these files from any computer if needed. Keep properly labeled low-resolution 72 dpi, web-friendly, images in one folder and high-resolution 300 dpi, print-friendly, images in another. Public relations is a mix of creativity, strategy, persistence, preparedness, and luck. Sometimes, something will happen in the news that provides a golden opportunity for you to approach your contacts. In those moments, you need to be ready to jump.