An Introduction to PR for Small Businesses Part One: Where to Start

PR - or public relations - can be a valuable tool when it comes to promoting your business, especially as part of a wider marketing strategy. However, it can be very daunting for small businesses. You want to increase visibility and secure coverage for your product or service, but you may not have an abundance of time or resources.

In part one of this series, we’ll cover where small businesses should start with PR, including how to take the first steps in creating a PR plan.

What is PR?

PR is the way businesses communicate with the public and the media, usually to create and maintain a positive image, promote the business, and target new customers as part of a wider offline and online marketing strategy. Activities might include sending news releases to the media, organising public appearances, or creating eye-catching "stunts" or campaigns.

PR for Small Businesses: Where to Start

The easiest and most effective place to start with PR is by determining your “Why”.

Your “Why” is the reason you want to increase visibility for your small business in the first place.

Are you launching a new product or service? Has your business recently won an award that you want to shout about? Or do you simply want to position yourselves as thought leaders within the industry?

Set some goals

Before you can measure the results or ROI (return on investment) of any public relations strategy, you have to know what you’re measuring in the first place. Setting goals and measurable objectives helps to focus your PR efforts and helps enormously when it comes to planning. Use the S.M.A.R.T. acronym to help you create objectives that are measurable and realistic, and be sure to set a deadline for achieving them too.

Creating a PR plan

To create a PR plan for your small business or for a particular launch or event, you should firstly ask yourself the following question: Is your story newsworthy?

Journalists don’t care about “content”, they care about stories. Here are a few criteria journalists look for when they’re deciding if something is newsworthy or not:

  • Timeliness - is it relevant right now?

  • Impact - how many people will care?

  • Prominence - prominent issues or people

  • Proximity - where does your story take place? Local stories often don’t lead to national headlines.

  • Bizarreness - a story about a dog biting a man isn’t newsworthy, but one about a man biting a dog is.

  • Conflict - can you piggyback on a story that’s already making the headlines and contradict it with relevant opinions or data?

  • Uniqueness - have you done something better/before anyone else?

  • Human interest - bring stories to life and invoke emotion in readers.

So, what is it about you and your small business that is a real story?

Building a media list

A media list is a list of relevant media outlets, including newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs, trade press, radio stations, and broadcast media. Ask yourself which ones will care about your story, but most importantly, which your prospective customers consume.

Next, use a media database site like Gorkana or Cision to decide which journalist you’re going to contact from each outlet.

A media list takes time to build, but it’s an extremely useful resource to have so it’s worth the effort upfront.

In part two, we’ll delve into how to write a press release, pitch journalists, and measure the success of your PR campaign.


About the author

Beverley Reinemann is a freelance digital marketing consultant and award-winning travel blogger based in Leeds, UK. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.