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How to Use Public Relations for Your Small Business

Tips and tactics for finding your voice, getting media coverage, and growing your audience.

How to Use Public Relations for Your Small Business Hero Illustration

Public relations (PR) can be a great way to generate attention for your business, and you don’t have to hire a PR agency to get results. Small businesses have access to many tools that can be used for self-promotion; it just takes some time, research, and consistency to find the methods that suit your personality and style. Your audience wants to hear directly from you, so if you know how to handle PR on your own, you can save money—and grow your business.

Find your voice and your audience

Make a strategic decision about how to reach your potential audience. Before you begin a do-it-yourself PR approach, ask yourself the following questions; the answers will help you hone your voice and speak to the right people.

  1. Who are you as an entrepreneur?
  2. Who is your target audience?

If your business offers a service, you could highlight someone from your team, giving them a platform to discuss their area of expertise and to explain what sets your business apart from the competition. Or, you can share personal stories about your journey as an entrepreneur and a business—this is both relatable for your audience and attractive for media coverage.

If you sell products, you can create connections by explaining why you made them and what they mean to you. Personal anecdotes foster emotional relationships with your audience.

Put yourself in the spotlight

There are a vast array of PR tactics for different levels of expertise and resources, but anyone can use the ones outlined here. Ideally, you’d apply a combination of approaches and evolve based on what works.

Write a guest article

When you write a blog post for someone else’s website or an article for a newspaper or magazine, everyone benefits. You give them content, and it gives you an invaluable opportunity to demonstrate expertise and an authoritative point of view about your business or industry.

Typically, you’ll send the site owner or publication a pitch on what you’d like to write about, and if they accept, they’ll provide writing guidelines. Don’t be afraid to express a radical or controversial opinion. Creating discussion leads to engagement, improving your chances of writing elsewhere—which is perfect for those who prefer to write rather than speak in front of crowds.

Speak at an event

Speaking in public gives you an opportunity to connect with an audience, show off your personality, and share insights about your business. This idea fills a lot of business owners with dread—many people find public speaking scary. But with a little practice (and perhaps some training, too), it can become more natural and prove to be a powerful skill.

Speaking engagements range from informal Q&As at a workspace learning session to appearing on a panel at a conference to being a keynote speaker on a global stage. A memorable public speaker can make a long-lasting impression. And in this digital age, your talk might be recorded and shared by audience members on social media.

Appear on a podcast

If you’d prefer to speak publicly without the pressure of a live audience, a podcast might be the perfect medium for you. Some podcasts feature interviews with experts for advice, some focus on personal stories and business journeys, conversational interviews, or case studies.

Whatever your business or personal story, podcasts offer the opportunity to raise your profile. Seek out appearance opportunities on podcasts your audience listens to, not just the shows that have the biggest following. Engaging your target market is often more important than reaching the most listeners.

Join newsworthy conversations

Responding quickly to the news is a PR technique known as "newsjacking." This could mean you post something about a major happening on your social media channels, create an ad in response to a crisis, or express your view in some other public way.

Share your connection to a story by injecting humor, expert analysis, or social commentary. This can be easy for small business owners, who can respond without corporate red tape. When done well, newsjacking can lead to social media traction and press coverage. The key is to react quickly, so if you prefer to take your time when planning media opportunities, this might not be the right strategy for you.

But first, be ready for press

Before seeking publicity, update your media kit, which will be the backbone of your promotional tools. In it, be sure to have:

  • Your founder’s story
  • Your biography
  • A high-quality photo of yourself (or the teammate to be featured)
  • Photos of your products or services
  • An up-to-date press release

When your business gets media attention, the journalist covering the story will need imagery, context, and colorful details about what you do. Every entrepreneur should prepare these things to make it easy for someone to write about you. Journalists remember cooperative sources, and if you’re able to quickly supply someone with what they need, they’re more likely to come back to you for stories.

The same is true for most speaking engagements. In order to advertise your event or podcast appearance, the promoter or host will need this information about you and your business. You don’t have to write a memoir or take expensive photos, but your press kit should cover all the basics.

Reach out to the media

Start by putting together a simple plan that identifies where the audience for your business might be and how best to reach them. Then match this list against the PR tactics that you feel most comfortable using. If you’re still feeling stuck or need inspiration, evaluate what your competitors and other aspirational businesses do.

Most importantly, don’t be disheartened if you don’t hear back from a media pitch. Breaking through can take time, so be persistent, perfect your pitch, and keep telling your story through the medium that works best for you. Successful PR doesn’t happen overnight, but with patience and consistency, opportunities will come your way.

As an entrepreneur, you’re the voice of your business. You can respond quickly and sincerely. Take advantage of your unique position and use these techniques as you grow.

Written by Lucy Werner for Mailchimp. Lucy is an expert in PR for small businesses.

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