Does public relations actually work? Of course. Should you have a public relations plan in place? Quite possibly. But before you take a deep dive into PR, you should know: It’s not the 80’s – everything has changed. You may have built a profitable company, but with the right public relations strategy, you’re on the brink of developing a world-class “brand.”
Before you develop illusions of grandeur about landing on The Today Show or the front page of national news — you should be keenly aware of the mistakes that most small business makes when it comes to PR. We’ve tapped some of the nation’s leading public relations firms, run by entrepreneurs just like you, to uncover the number one PR mistake your small business makes. Are you, and your agency, doing PR right? Let’s find out.
#1 Don’t discount relationships with bloggers. Keep media relationships at a happy and healthy pace with timely information – it works wonders! Heck, one of my clients will be on the Today Show because of it.
#2 Make your business newsworthy. If you think editors should just write about your company simply because it launched – think again. Don’t leave out news value or potential news angles and ideas.
#3 Trust your PR agency! You hired us for a reason, so listen to us. If we suggest you need new photography, you probably do. If we tell you that you need to do this interview, you need to do it. Challenging your PR agency’s expertise is only going to defeat the purpose of hiring us. We’re here to help you, so let us help.
#4 Include PR as part of your ongoing business model. If you opt for DIY PR, remember that sending a poorly crafted press release here and there and expecting it to bring you exposure won’t work.
#5 Invest in your company’s profile. Invest your time, energy and budgets in building your brand through media relations, social media, speaking engagements and more. As a small business, it’s important to build a strong foundation for your brand, and in turn, your company will appear more credible and dynamic to target media and potential customers.
#6 Choose the right firm to represent your brand. It is crucial that you and your public relations firm are on the right page, and definitely a part of the same industry. Don’t sign with a PR firm just because your friend owns it, you like the website, or because you can afford them. A PR agency should be the final missing puzzle piece and the right fit to complete your vision.
#7 Random pitching is not a strategy. Don’t send poorly constructed, non-targeted press releases and pitches to random media outlets – it is a huge mistake. A large majority of business owners don’t take the time to understand how journalists and editors work, and in turn their press releases and pitches end up in the trash.
NYC: Kristin Marquet, President at Marquet Media: @KristinMarquet
#8 Don’t underestimate what it takes to make media magic. A tremendous amount of time and energy is required to make media placement magic happen! And once you land a major press hit, not using the placement for marketing is a huge mistake. A mention in Real Simple, a quote in the New York Times, or an appearance on Good Day New York should be a part of your credentials.
#9 Don’t hire an agency that doesn’t do research. Research is an essential component to any PR plan. Your agency should know your audiences, industry, competitors, relevant media outlets and appropriate contacts. Post-campaign research is also necessary to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. Though research is the most neglected, it is the most valuable aspect to ensure results.
#10 Get out of your own way. Don’t create your own hurdles by spending too much time on who you want to be instead of who you are. Finding your own voice is so important because PR will broadcast that, so that people can find you. This is the reverse of what a lot of small businesses and publicists do, which is to go out and try to change minds. You run a business, not a charity. Sell nuts to squirrels.
#11 Refine your media lists. Targeting big-name press and media outlets, just because they have name recognition and large audiences isn’t always the best way to go. There is far more value in a local and niche media outlets, where your audience will be more relevant and interested in your message.
#12 Maximize the momentum. Most businesses don’t know how to maximize the exposure they get with a public relations program. There is so much more you can do with an article, a news clip, radio interview or blog review after it airs or runs. And once you receive press, don’t rely on PR solely to move the needle with sales without any other type of marketing or advertising program.
#13 Be realistic and give it time. You don’t give PR enough time to work effectively, and expect it to make your business flourish overnight. Many small businesses only utilize PR for a short amount of time and then abandon it quickly when it doesn’t live up to their unrealistic expectations.
#14 Invest in your brand. Don’t underestimate the value of investing in professional photography, branding collateral and press samples. Presentation is everything when you launch a new brand and introduce your business to influencers, media and to the public for the first time. To get the most out of your PR investment, be sure to equip your publicist or agency with the proper tools to succeed.
#15 Understand your target audience. Small businesses sometimes shoot for coverage in outlets that are not relevant to their audience or end goals. When planning PR strategy, the intended business results should always be at the forefront — not coverage just to have “ink”.
#16 Hire a Firm that Get’s It! Don’t hire a large PR firm for namesake that can’t cater to the unique needs of a small business. With a small agency or consultant you can, more often than not, spend a lot less money and get a higher level of work done. If you hire a consultant, you can gain 11 years of experience for the price of a junior account executive at a larger firm and know who’s handling your account.
#17 Learn what public relations really means. Many small business owners are extremely excited to be in business and assume the most immediate need for their business is public relations. PR is a component of Marketing, so it’s essential for you to have a clear understanding of your brand first and to set some long-term marketing goals prior to seeking PR.
#18 Create a crisis management plan. A mistake or failure on the operations side requires fast mobilization to address the underlying issue as well as the resultant problems with key audiences. Too many small organizations don’t think it’s worth investing any time or capital in this area, and they frequently pay for it in the long run – because the margin of error drops to zero over time for any successful business.
#19 Stop pitching the wrong media outlet. Too often small businesses (and some PR firms) don’t take the time to make sure a media outlet is the right fit for their publicity needs. Pitching to everyone is a waste of time and a great way to get blacklisted.
#20 Think beyond the press release. PR is a relationship between your company and the media. Nurturing that relationship is invaluable. Befriend reporters relevant to your business and make sure they know you and your company long before you have a new release or other press event. Then when the time comes you’re sharing news with a good friend and not sending a Word document full of press speak.
BONUS: Be prepared. Great, we can get you coverage but you need a call to action. Always invest first in a web site that functions before investing in media relations as part of PR. Also PR needs to be a priority; it is an investment in the longevity of your business so please make time for it.