Many business owners know they need PR, but don’t know where to begin. They think they can’t afford PR until their business is off the ground with income to invest back into it. This is a counterintuitive approach.
While it may not be ideal to spend a lot of money on a monthly retainer required by a fancy PR firm, you can do public relations yourself, for free. And that’s the whole point of PR outcomes: unpaid media exposure.
Public relations is literally a tool used to obtain media coverage. It is earned media (or free media) that is gained through promotional efforts other than paid media advertising.
PR may sound like an elusive unicorn, but actually it’s not.
PR without a budget
The good news is you don’t need to spend a lot of money on PR. In fact, when done right, you shouldn’t have to spend any at all. PR can accomplish many of the same goals as paid media, but without budget. You can get your business mentioned in the same publications and get the same message out.
For starters, have your brand messaging down pat, create professional press materials, and get your business in front of the right media gatekeepers.
Then you can pitch your business to specific outlets at the right time, and secure an article or press mention with an even bigger reach and impact than thousands of ad dollars would secure.
Get results with earned media
Earned media takes more time to secure and outcomes are not as reliable as paid media. Your pitch may or may not be accepted and a journalist, reporter or blogger can share your story however they see fit. But if your messaging is clear and concise, attached to a compelling pitch angle that resonates, the end result won’t be a total surprise.
The best part about securing a story, feature, or mention is that since your pitch was chosen for inclusion by the outlet, it’s considered to have more clout than paid media. Readers know your brand is in the headlines because a journalist, editor, blogger, producer, etc. thought it was a story that deserves to be told.
Another plus is that in today’s digital-driven world, PR has a longer shelf life. News is often archived on a website, shared on social media and picked up by other outlets for weeks to come. This gives brands multiple opportunities to get in front of an audience, and repurpose the press hit again and again.
All of this is at no direct cost to you.
Again, I want to acknowledge that PR (earned media) doesn’t guarantee a direct outcome like paid media. But public relations activities have proven potential to promote your business beyond what you could even imagine.
This article has been edited.
Alessandra Pollina is the founder and CEO of pollina PR, a Boston-based full service PR and marketing firm that works with small businesses of all kinds. She also works one-on-one with business owners, especially female and millennial entrepreneurs, to teach them the skills and strategy to do their own PR in a cost-effective way. Connect with @pollinapr on Twitter.