Small businesses can fall back on an ever-growing variety of PR opportunities to make a name for themselves. Here is an overview of the ones most likely to lead to success:
After you set up your account on Twitter, start looking for media outlets in which you would like to be featured. Use the search function and use relevant hashtags. As time is money and we’re on a tight budget, choose 10-15 journalists from the media outlets in which you’d like to be featured in and follow them. Engage with those influencers and make sure you post only relevant content, not just about your own business. I recommend you stick to Twitter lists as a free tool, but if you want to really splash out on your PR, give MuckRack a try. MuckRack.com is a very useful tool for freelancers looking for publicity although it requires a bit of an investment in the form of a rather high monthly fee. The Intro version provides you with lists of journalists covering a wide range of topics and tools to engage with them. You will see in advance what topics journalists are currently covering, giving you the opportunity to contact them and possibly be featured in upcoming publications. This puts you one step ahead of the competition who are most likely on Twitter competing for their targets’ attention with millions of other users. What’s more, Listorious, the popular directory of Twitter lists, is about to be merged with MuckRack.
Be a source
What does it mean to be a source? When media professionals publish a story, they usually look for sources to feature. These can range from experts in a certain field to provide quotes or expert advice to full-blown interviews. You should look for opportunities both in your capacity as a expert in your general field (e.g. accounting, marketing, etc.) and as an expert in your areas of specialisations, e.g. small business marketing, patent law, etc.). This will boost your credibility and your standing as an expert in your field in the eyes of peers and potential clients who see your feature. And ultimately, this could lead to paid work.
So how do journalists and experts (i.e. you!) find one another? There are a number of websites specialising in putting media outlets and potential sources in touch with each other. The most notable ones are SourceBottle (free) for the US, Canadian, Australian, UK and New Zealand markets, and HARO (Help A Reporter Out – monthly fee). Here media representatives post PR opportunities and experts (sources) can reply and pitch their ideas and responses. If you deliver a good, relevant pitch, you stand a good stance of being featured in the journalist’s publication.
Opportunities for small business owners, which includes freelancers, are published on a daily basis, and you are sure to find a suitable feature that lets you showcase your expertise and consolidate your expert position in your field or as a highly proficient language specialist. Make sure to have notifications of new PR opportunities delivered to your inbox or check the sites daily so you never miss out on an exciting opportunity!
Specialist blogs and online business communities
Other opportunities include specialist blogs by experts in their field. You can either leave comments on their posts with relevant content that draws their attention to you, or you can seek out opportunities to post guest posts on renowned blogs. Guest posts are an excellent method to raise your profile and boost traffic to your website which is usually linked to your blog post.
Freelancers can also join online communities for small business owners. There are too many to mention, and you can choose from dozens if not hundreds, so it may be worth spending a couple of hours to identify the most relevant ones for your purposes. Business communities usually offer their members the opportunity to be featured, either in an interview, or as part of a members’ promotion. Your business may, for example, be promoted on social media for a day, or you may be featured in newsletters that are sent out to hundreds of members by email – a great opportunity for exposure to professionals in other industries who may require your services at some point or can recommend you to their business network!
Last but not least, take a good look around the LinkedIn Group section. Join PR groups such as PR News to get in touch with media professionals and be notified of new opportunities.
A completely different PR tool is public speaking. Are you good at traditional marketing? Why not contact your local business association and offer to host a workshop and publicise it in local media. Is social media marketing your thing? Why not submit an article for publication in an industry journal and follow it up with a seminar or conference presentation? Write down three topics in which you consider yourself an expert and which you could explain to a layperson in your sleep. Then approach local business associations or professional institutes and actively seek out opportunities to present on these subjects.
Today it is also very easy to present webinars, which instantly gives you access to dozens of listeners – a sure-fire way to boost your brand and professional standing with minimal financial expenditure.
Press releases are another low-cost tool to get your small business featured in the media. Although criticised as ineffective by some, press releases will generate traffic to your website and are Google-indexed, thus good for SEO purposes. My personal recommendation is PRLog, which seems to rank very quickly and generate many hits. You can simply register with a press release site and publish your own press releases free of charge.
But be careful to choose a reputable site to avoid damaging your image and wasting your precious time. It’s worth publishing a press release every time something changes in your business, for example, if you offer a new service (a new source language, or localisation for a different target market) or area of specialisation, or if you have relocated to another country, completed a relevant degree or won an award.
The best kept secret when it comes to drumming up publicity for your business: most writers, editors, organisations and major publications use editorial calendars to manage their content. Editorial calendars are schedules of what topics are to be covered and when.
If you know that the summer issue of your favourite trade journal, for example, will focus on PR and you are a public relations expert and want to discuss a particular issue pertinent to the field, you can contact the editor in due time and discuss the possible publication of your article or interview in the relevant issue. The same goes for industry publications in those sectors relevant to your line of work.
Working with editorial calendars will increase your chances of getting featured, as you’re not just shooting blind but have relevant content to offer. To obtain editorial calendars, you can simply call the publications of your choice and ask to speak to the editor of the relevant section to request a copy, or you can check the contact or advertising section on your chosen publications’ websites, which often contains editorial calendars along with other information such as closing dates and editorial specifications and guidelines. Sticking to these will also increase your chances of getting your pitch accepted.