Public Relations: The Basics

by Emily Retherford

3 min read

For many small businesses, a strong public relations presence is essential to success. Unlike marketing or traditional advertising, a successful PR campaign is much easier to conduct on a tight budget and can often be more effective. Learn the advantages of public relations and how to conduct a low-cost campaign of your own.

Benefits of Public Relations

Handling your startup’s public relations requires time and energy; however, when done correctly, a PR campaign can offer your business significant exposure and traction. Unlike advertising, where clients know the company is attempting to sell them something, public relations has the benefit of gaining more credibility through third-party coverage of the product or service. Customers are significantly more likely to purchase your product based on a third-party endorsement rather than an advertisement.

Remaining consistent with your public relations program helps build a stronger awareness for your brand, product, or service. Additionally, this visibility can give people the perception that your business is bigger and more established than it actually may be, helping you secure customers, funding, and partnerships.

Moreover, growing your visibility online can be extremely beneficial. Most people use search engines to research a product or service before making a decision on whether to move forward with the purchase. To capitalize on this process, you want to increase traffic to your webpage to move your company up the search engine’s rankings. This is known as search engine optimization, or SEO.

Defining Your PR Goals

Before beginning your public relations campaign, first consider what you want to accomplish. Do you want to:

  • Create or reinforce your brand image?
  • Build goodwill with your customers, community, or suppliers?
  • Generate leads or sales?
  • Diminish the impact of a corporate crisis and/or negative publicity?
  • Demonstrate your industry expertise among your clients, peers, or the press?
  • Inform the public while improving the perceptions regarding your product or service?
  • Assist your startup in bringing a new product or service to the market?

After identifying an objective, define your goals to be specific, time-bound, measurable, and results-oriented. These goals should complement your overall operations, sales, and marketing aspirations. Additionally, consider what medium you plan on using to communicate to potential clients. Examples of communication vehicles include articles, letters to the editor, radio or television interviews, press conferences, media tours, and press releases.

Identifying What Is Newsworthy

As most people know, modern media operates within a story-driven, attention economy. Tell stories about your company that compel the writers or reporters to whom you are pitching. Focus on the controversial or sensational while trying to captivate their imaginations.

You can accomplish this by communicating any cool milestones your company may have achieved or sharing any unusual processes your company employs. One of the most funded apps on Kickstarter, Next Keyboard, had heavy user involvement from various online communities, including Kickstarter, Reddit, and Designer News, in the development of the mobile app.

Approaching the Right Publications About Your Story

Press releases aren’t the sole way to generate positive PR for your company. A genuine and concise email pitch to a local journalist may also work. Try to keep the email to no longer than five sentences. Instead of spending too much time perfecting your pitch, focus on editing the email down. There are four components to a stellar pitch via email:

  1. Subject Line: Design it as if it were the headline for an article featuring your startup.
  2. About: Describe what you are launching.
  3. Newsworthy Point of Proof: Identify what differentiates your business, product, or service.
  4. Call-to-Action: Ask the publication directly if it plans on covering your company.

When deciding on who to pitch to, divide your press outreach plan into two categories: targeted blogs and general publications. Then, make a list of your top five blogs within these two groups and send your tailored emails to their journalists.

The downside to emails is that everybody is doing them. This is why communicating with unusual and exciting mediums, such as gifs, memes, or even physical products, can spark certain publications’ interests. Before deciding whether to go a nontraditional route of pitching your small business, consider heavily to whom you are pitching and his or her personal interests.

Additional Resources

Typically, PR media kits include folders of text files, images, or fact sheets. To get the most out of your company’s media kit, consider hosting it at Medium.com. There, if you imagine a better angle or headline, or just need to update outdated information, you are easily afforded that ability without the need to send a handful of new emails. Also, PRNewswire.com is a great resource for expanding your public relations knowledge, increasing your written skills, and finding news release templates.

Related Articles

What’s Changed in the New QuickBooks

The new QuickBooks Online bookkeeping software has gone through quite a few changes. As…

Read more

Generate Buzz: How to Pitch the Media

Getting press coverage is one of the cheapest and most effective ways…

Read more

Checklist Before Leaving Your Job to Become Your Own Boss

So you’re thinking of quitting your job to become your own boss. In other…

Read more