It can seem like quite a daunting task to find appropriate publications to feature your small business, without hiring a public relations agency to do the work for you. It can actually be simple if you know where to start. And that’s why I am here.
Small business public relations is creating and maintaining relationships with your public. If you’re a small business owner then your “public” is your customers or prospective customers. A lot of impressions are made in the media every day. People watch the news, read the newspaper and skim through magazines. Within that media are messages of new (up and coming) companies establishing themselves as experts in their field; warm fuzzy stories of do-gooding companies; and (unfortunately) headlines of companies who have made poor business decisions. You need to make impressions of your own! Good ones, we hope.
You have two different angles to take when approaching the media for small business PR. 1: You are a successful business owner and there is a lot to say about that—you are a hard worker with a great product or service, and you have raised your company to be what it is today. 2: You also hold a plethora of knowledge about your expertise, whether you provide a service to your customers or a product, you are the expert. That knowledge should be shared!
A common misconception of small business public relations is that “it’s all about who you know in the media.” This could not be farther from the truth! It doesn’t hurt to know a few people in the media, but if you have a good story for your business and you approach the media appropriately, your story will run!
The very first step to getting media pick up for your business is to create a list of media you want to approach. Start by simply creating a spreadsheet named “Media Contacts”, then do the following to fill it in:
1. Local Media
Begin with your local newspaper, the one you likely read everyday. There is plenty of local media that targets your market, once you absorb that media you will be surprised by what you find! For example, if you sell auto parts or are an auto repair shop, find the editor of the weekend car section in your local paper. These contacts are easy to find at the end of articles or on their Web site in the editorial section. Also check the business section of local publications. Do they feature local entrepreneurs or start up businesses? If so, find the writer/editor’s contact information and add it to your spreadsheet.
2. National trade specific publications—find ‘em
After you have researched the local media, the next step is to look for national publications, specific to your industry or expertise. These are usually magazines (print and digital). A simple Google search is bound to pull up a few national publications of specific industries. You can also visit www.freetrademagazines.com, find the publications in your industry and subscribe to them. Search for the contact information of the editors or writers so that you can pitch them. This can usually be found at the end of articles or the front or back of the publication. As a small business owner, you are likely reading other industry specific publications—be sure to also be on the lookout for contact information of writers or editors who have written about topics you are familiar with. The more you know about a publication and an editor, the easier it will be to pitch to them.
Once you have found a few publications you see fit for you and your company, go to their Web sites and look for their editorial calendars. They can be found in the editorial section of the Web site. If you are unable to locate them, feel free to reach out to the publication and ask for a copy of the calendar. This calendar will provide you with general topics and stories for each issue and is a good base to know what the publication will be researching. Add all of the contacts you find to your spreadsheet, along with any editorial calendar information you found.
3. Blogs: Search for your expertise
Blogs are also a huge resource for you. Check out Google Blog Search to find blogs specific to your expertise. Once you have found a Blog specific to your industry, you can find many more similar blogs by looking on the side tool bars as well as from guest posts from other expert bloggers. This is also a great way to learn of other publications in this industry as many Bloggers will credit them in their posts. Find the contact information for the blogger on their “about us” page and add them to your media spreadsheet.
Pretty soon, you will have built up a robust media list that you can now send PR pitches to. Later on I’ll go over just how to craft your pitches; in the meantime, build your lists!