In the 16 years since I started my journalism career the media landscape has changed dramatically in some ways but the fundamentals have not: things like tailoring your story idea or pitch to individual journalists or bloggers and being timely in when you issue a video or media release.
I am often contacted by some amazing small business owners who, quite frankly, can’t afford to engage a consultancy like Bespoke Communications or hire an in-house PR manager despite the exponential benefits this can bring to building their profile and brand.
Taking that on board, this year I launched my first book Well Spun: Big PR and Social Media Ideas for Small Business, as a cost effective and jargon-free way for me to give entrepreneurs insider PR tips to help SMEs and their leaders boost their media profile and social media presence and avoid common pitfalls. I have interviews with seasoned journalists, PR experts and small business owners in a range of industries, which brings the book to life. There are a few amusing stories as well as the more strategic advice. Being just 12 x 12cm, this 138-page the print book is small enough to fit in your laptop bag and e-book can be read while you are on a plane or have some time between meetings or have a want to read a chapter on particular media issue you want to address.
So here are some of the big ideas extracted from Well Spun: Big PR and Social Media Ideas for Small Business.
Top Five Tips for approaching media for SMEs:
1. Be prepared and invest in some professional media training if you can afford it, before you line up interviews. Bad media interviews last a long time in the online era – just think of former BP CEO Tony Hayward during the Mexican Gulf Oil Spill saying to media in 2010 “I want my life back” on TV. Know your facts and figures and back up everything you claim. Have your business’s media story rehearsed and what you want to get across before you speak to a reporter.
2. Be polite to journalists. Manners are very important and rare in this ever busy modern world. Thank journalists for their time and coverage, and also know when to leave them alone – like when they are on deadline.
4. Don’t pitch an idea via social media. Phone or email is still the best way to approach a journalist with your ideas.
5. Tailor your story angle or pitch to the particular media outlet and its audience. A blanket mass email approach is lazy and you will fail to engage a reporter if you have not researched what they cover and how your story can appeal. For example, a TV story has to have moving footage and not just still imagery!
What are some of the common challenges that small businesses face in getting their stories out to the media?
Two familiar challenges come to mind:
1. Being patient and realistic about the coverage you will get in the early days. Unless you have a very new kind of product or service with an interesting story behind it, many SMEs struggle to get any journalists to take notice of them until they come a more known brand. It can help if your individual career profile was say in a larger corporate beforehand, but not always.
2. Many small businesses and passionate entrepreneurs also assume that media can or want to attend their launch or come to big fancy events after hours – most journalists are very time poor so you need to cater to what they really need: a newsworthy story. A great party with French champagne will not replace that if you want media coverage.
What is the key advice you would give a small business person wanting to do their own PR?
1. Decide how much time, money and in-house expertise you have at hand. That will impact your PR success in the end. Do you have at least one day a week for PR and social media implementation? Less than that and you may find you lose momentum and can’t do any pro-active media activities like pitching and writing a guest blog to a business e-zine or responding quickly to a call out on Sourcebottle.com. You reap what you sow with any PR program.
2. If you do have a PR plan in place it helps vs. a scattergun approach. Social media and traditional PR is a long term process so while getting a few articles generated or creating a buzz on your Facebook page when you launch may make it seem easy, the media landscape is very fickle.
3. Maintaining good working relationships with media people are the key to managing your reputation in TV, radio, print and online. And that is what a PR professional does for you.
4. Sometimes hiring a consultant or agency may seem expensive but if it lets you delegate PR management and focus on what you do best (like running your business), so it can be a worthy investment even if it’s a financial stretch at first.
Embarking on PR will always be adventure – with road humps and freeways and everything in between. Enjoy the ride.
To purchase a copy of Amber’s book Well Spun: Big PR and Social Media Ideas for Small Business as an e-book ($12.95) or printed book ($19.95) and for a free download of the first chapter go to the website: http://bespokecomms.com.au/blog/shop/