Public Relations for Small Business: What You Need to Know

Learn how to build strong media connections and find the perfect public relations agency for your small business!

Have you found your business suddenly picking up and reaching new heights? Do you have bloggers, reporters and journalists knocking down your door to get their hands on your product to share with their audience? Maybe you have an amazing item but you don’t know how to get it the attention it deserves. These are all scenarios where it pays to hire a professional publicist or public relations firm to handle the delicate media balance on your behalf. So how do you find a great PR agency that fits the needs of your business? Keep reading to find out!

4 Keys to Building Successful Media Relationships

The key element in public relations is the media; there is no way around this fact. They are the vehicles which spread awareness of your product or service to the world, and building relationships with them requires time and effort. Strong connections within the media are built upon consistency, trust and dependability. We understand that in theory, these concepts are not foreign, but for a small business owner or entrepreneur it can be a very confusing road to travel. Here are 4 keys to successfully build relationships with reporters and journalists.

1. Be cognizant of a journalist’s niche:The first step in reaching out to journalists or members of the media is to create what is known as a media list. An effective media list will not only contain the outlets and the writers currently associated with them, but also the content topics covered by the outlet as a whole and a sub topic that is the main focus for each journalist, editor or producer. Be sure to keep your media lists up-to-date and constantly accurate, as journalists change publications and beats frequently. At Three Girls Media, we recommend refreshing media lists every six months.

There is nothing more embarrassing than sending a pitch about an upcoming cupcake bakery to a fitness writer or a pitch about renewable energy to a writer focused on classic cars. Taking the time to be cognizant of each individual niche will keep you from wasting the time and energy of everyone involved and prevents any chance of perceived disrespect.

2. Respect deadlines:Be aware that most journalists work under constant deadlines. Do not expect instant turnaround when reaching out to them, but in the same respect, do not postpone the opportunity to get information to the members of the media. If you get a message asking for more details, respond right away. Even if you need a little time to get what they are looking for, send a brief response letting them know you received their message and a time frame on when you will have for the information. You can also ask them what their deadline is so you know how to prioritize pulling together the information they requested. Not responding with urgency and disregarding a journalist’s deadline is the quickest way miss out on potential coverage while also alienating a member of the media.

Strong media relationships are the foundation to successful public relations efforts.

3. Return favors:Relationships with members of the media are a two-way street and must be mutually advantageous. If a journalist or a producer helps your business by securing coverage for your brand, it is only appropriate to become available if an opportunity arises to help them in their endeavors. Members of the media will be far more willing to help you out in a pinch if they know that the favor will be returned and that the relationship will benefit both parties.

4. Stay in touch:This is the simplest of the four steps. Stay in contact with your media contacts. Send handwritten thank you notes for coverage they secure and be aware of future opportunities as they come your way. By staying in touch and keeping these journalists in mind, you are building a two-way street in which a relationship can function for years to come.

Building relationships and maintaining a professional bond with members of the media is essential for anyone hoping to grow a brand or business. The connections you forge will make all the difference when it comes to public relations for your business.

While anyone can use the tips above to build media relationships, at Three Girls Media we understand many small business owners and entrepreneurs don’t have the necessary time available to develop these important contacts on their own. This is where hiring a professional can be beneficial. A publicist’s secret weapon and strongest tool for securing client coverage are these relationships within the media; relationships that are not simply created or solidified overnight, but strengthened over time.

7 Traits to Consider When Shopping for a Public Relations Professional

Enlisting the help from a professional is a big decision and should not be taken lightly. The best publicist or public relations agency for you is one that is not only aligned with your business goals, but has experience in executing a marketing strategy representative of your brand. They will not only support your desired outcomes, but will have creative ideas to help you design an approach that is perfect for your business and your budget. You need a visionary partner who will keep your best interests in mind, while helping you achieve your goals. Here are seven traits to look for:

  1. Compatibility. Schedule a meeting with a few different publicists. From the way the phones are answered to your experience during an introductory meeting, you can learn a lot about a public relations agency’s working style and whether you will be compatible. It’s a little like having someone watch your children; you don’t want to leave them with just anyone. Like kids, your small business is precious, so find someone who values your time and effort and will treat your company the way you would.
  2. Creativity. Do the public relations agencies you are evaluating have a variety of clients and projects? Do they specialize in one or two areas, or can they execute your entire package? Are you inspired by their vision of what your business can be, or are you driving the outcomes? Find a publicist partner whose creativity you can trust.
  3. When shopping for a public relations firm, do your research to make sure they are the perfect fit for your small business.

    Experience. The main reason for hiring a publicist in the first place is for him or her to achieve bigger results than you can envision, in a professional manner. Otherwise you could do it yourself! See if an agency has the energy and manpower to execute your plan. Above all, do they have the experience, a proven track record and other satisfied clients that show they can produce the results you want? Look at their portfolios and call their clients. Check references.

  4. Media Relations.Often, a business requires a public relations agency to work with the media on their behalf. If they need to pitch journalists, or talk to other media professionals, ask the publicist how they build their media lists. Does the agency subscribe to major industry databases such as Cision.com, giving them access to hundreds of thousands of journalists nationwide? This is a critical requirement, as you don’t want a publicist who is winging it on their own, working from an independent journalist list. Media contact information changes constantly, and your public relations agency must have the latest, most up-to-date information. If they don’t, run!
  5. Writing Skills.So much of marketing occurs “on paper!” It is imperative that a public relations agency represents you with good writing. Look at samples of their work. Can they adapt their style and content to fit your business image, audience and goals? Are they creative in their writing?
  6. Reputation. Is the publicist’s reputation among peers and the media industry a good one? Don’t forget: This person or their staff will be representing you and your business. Don’t hire someone who has ruined relationships with the media; these burned bridges equal missed opportunities for your business.
  7. Who will be your account manager?Ask specifically to meet the person responsible for your account’s daily management. If you are paying for the top executive to run your account, make sure it isn’t passed off to a junior staffer or intern. If it is a team management approach, make sure you meet every key player and that you feel comfortable with each. Above all, be sure you have rapport with your primary contact. Public relations is a personal endeavor; it is important that you are able to communicate openly and honestly at all times.

The bottom line is that you should do your homework when deciding to hire a professional to promote your business. It’s an important decision that’s vital to your company’s success; making the wrong choice from lack of research can lead to disappointment and devastation, but choosing the right fit for your company can take your brand to new heights you never dreamed of!

At Three Girls Media, we specialize in helping small business owners and entrepreneurs reach their public relations and social media goals, letting you focus on what’s important to you – your business! Find out if we’re the right fit for your brand; Contact us for a complimentary consultation today.

Want to learn more about public relations for small business before you call? Check out these three articles from Three Girls, A Dog & A Marketing Blog:

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