DIY PR: 5 Tips For Getting Free PR For Your Small Business

In the last year and a bit, Jamii was featured in national news outlets like The Metro and The Voice, influential business publications like Forbes and Courier, and two radio stations, Reprezent and BBC Radio Bristol. We don’t work with a PR agency; all of this exposure was due to us telling our story to people we knew wanted to listen. 

We’re often asked how we managed to do this and so below we’ve outlined the approach we’ve taken to create our own buzz – we hope this helps your business gain the attention it deserves.  While hiring a PR agency or freelancer is always an option, especially further down the road, there’s also a lot you can do by yourself to get started.

What is PR and why do you need it?

PR means ‘public relations’, and while there are several strands of it (for example, crisis management or social media presence), in this post we’re focusing on getting your business, product or story featured in the right media platforms.

PR is a great way for you to establish a trustworthy brand image; as a business, being recognised by reputable sources can reinforce your value, quality and relevance to the people who need to hear from you. Not to mention, they are likely to have a much wider audience than you, or (depending on your strategy and the outlets you approach) simply the right audience for you.

Particularly if you own a small business, getting PR is a great opportunity for you to tell your unique story for no cost. Why did you launch? What innovative problem are you solving? Why should the world know about you? Share your distinctive brand narrative and soon your reputation will precede you.

Tip #1: Make sure you land PR that fits into your business strategy

It’s easy to get caught up in PR for PR’s sake, but a feature in Women’s Health when you run a men’s skincare company won’t do much to get exposure to the customers you want. It has to make sense and fit into your overall business strategy, otherwise it’s a waste of your time, energy and resources.

Before anything else, know what types of readers, viewers or listeners you want to be reaching and what type of message you want to send them. This will help you to define what platforms you should target.

For instance, you should take a different approach depending on whether you are using PR to target shoppers ahead of Christmas, build awareness in a new market, or drum up new relationships with prospective suppliers. Though an opportunity might seem appropriate for the type of business that you are, it might not make sense for your current strategy.

For us, our January 2019 feature in The Metro, a national UK newspaper, was the perfect way for us to tell our brand story at a time when we were ready to refresh our marketing efforts. The exposure led to a huge surge in website visits and Jamii cardholders, and we still get people telling us that the Metro was where they first heard of us.

On the other hand, our feature in business magazine Forbes, in August 2019, was more about increasing our legitimacy within the entrepreneur community and generating professional partnerships.

Tip #2: Do meaningful research

To get started with researching the most relevant PR to pursue, go down the path of least resistance: who is already talking about your area of expertise? For example, if you run a plant-based skincare business it might be a good idea to reach out to someone who writes about veganism. Keep in mind to offer them a fresh angle – whether it’s your pioneering production methods or extraordinary backstory.

What distinguishes you from a story that has already been told? Think hard about what different people would find really interesting about you and your product, and deep dive into it. For us, we emphasise that we are the UK’s first discount card for Black British businesses, as this fact is impressive, impactful and instantly makes us stand out.

Get in touch with platforms you’re already familiar with, because the chances are you will more confidently be able to tell them where you fit on their platform. Create a PR calendar to keep track of important dates coming up and reach out ahead of them. International Women’s Day, Notting Hill Carnival, Black History Month – there are a lot of great times in the year for you to tweak your proposition and get noticed.

Depending on your audience and strategy, niche platforms can often be more effective than big names.

Keep an eye out for publications that take content submissions and write up your own piece. On Twitter, the popular hashtag #journorequest is full of journalists looking for stories and stories looking for journalists. Check it regularly to see what people are interested in and where you could slot in for a story.

Tip #3: Relationships are key

Good PR relationships will serve you well long-term, and you want to be top of everyone’s mind whenever they talk about anything in your field.

Seek to build genuine relationships with journalists and content creators. Think about how you can help them, for example with your own expertise or connections.

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Tip #4: Writing the first pitch

Keep your message short, sweet but informative. Use bullet points to highlight the key information and leave white space in the message so it’s clear what you’re saying. Don’t waffle!

Try to hit these key points:

  1. Why would their readers love to hear about you/your product/your business?
  2. Where would you feature on their platform?
  3. Why do you think that you/your product/your business is interesting to the journalist?
  4. Highlight the key details of your story/your product/your business

Write bespoke emails – naturally they will retain most of the same structure and information, but thinking deeply about why each journalist or content creator would find you interesting makes it more likely that they will respond.

Tip #5: Following up

It’s normal if you don’t hear back straight away. Do follow-up, but don’t harass them. Sometimes it’s just not the right pitch or right time, and that’s fine. Sometimes they won’t respond for weeks and then will get back to you when your pitch makes more sense for them.

PR is powerful but can be slow, so really evaluate what you want from it and which platform can deliver those results. The research, the analysis and the writing of the emails will cost you in terms of time, rather than money, and so it should still be seen as an investment and needs be deployed wisely.

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