Most small to medium enterprises (SME’s) start with a small to non-existent PR and marketing budget. Amid the day-to-day struggles of starting up and running a business, these functions often fall by the wayside.
And it’s sad, because with a few hours a week and the right tools, you can get a good start at building your own media relationships and PR. Here, we’ll show you how.
What is PR?
Imagine your brand is a person. Would people like him/her? It is all about how you are perceived by the public.
PR is short for Public Relations and according to Hubspot, public relations professionals “help a business or individual cultivate a positive reputation with the public through various unpaid or earned communications, including traditional media, social media, and in-person engagements. They also help clients defend their reputation during a crisis that threatens their credibility.”
However, the reason PR is often dealt such a bad reputation is when it is used to cover up morally deficient or ethically wrong conduct in a business and we believe the public and media can see right through it.
Let’s look at the three areas where you can get stuck in to manage your own public perception:
Get a Media List together
A big part of our day involves building and maintaining relationships with the media – journalists and editors of newspapers and magazines and online publications.
Do your research. Who is your ideal customer? Do they read traditional publications at all? Are they national or are they local? Are they CEO’s, mothers, work-at-home-moms, graduates, small business owners or pet-lovers?
Once you know who your customers are, find out what they read. You can do this using simple surveys (telephonic or online) and through online research.
Now you can call up these publications you have narrowed down and ask for names of the journalists on the “beat” that most closely resembles your business. It will depend on whether it is a local or nationwide publication and varies by publication type, but beats could be SME’s, lifestyle, finance, business, local news, sports, exhibitions, crime or education.
Next, send a friendly, personal email introducing yourself and offering to contribute in your field of expertise if they ever need it. Only 10% of them will get back to you because they do get thousands of emails daily, but it is worth persisting and even following up with a call. We have found that by personalising an email i.e. placing the person’s name in the subject line in a non-spammy way (Eg. Att: Andrew – Possible Contribution to your Article on Traffic Congestion), does help your chances of getting your emails opened.
Alternatively, write straight to the editor, doing the same.
Respond to current news events
Sometimes an article deals with something that affects your business. If you’re an accountant and you read an article about the tax effects of a recent change in the tax law, you could comment on the ways people could legally work around it.
You would need to pitch your “angle” to the publication and then be ready to keep to the correct word count and tone of the publication in about 100 words or less. You can also do this by telephone, but journalists and editors are often very hard to reach.
Send to your local publications, not only nationwide
Local publications are much more loyal even though they may have a limited reach. A non-salesy story about a business solving a local problem is much more likely to get published in a local newspaper, than a nationwide publication. Get to know your local journos and editors.
Media Alerts is a free platform by Encyclomedia, for journalists and PR companies. You can register as a PR agent and will receive daily emails featuring requests from journalists for comment or interviews or information on articles they are working on. The golden rule is not to use the journalists’ email addresses for other unrelated stories.
Checking these on a daily basis can get time-consuming, but will be so worth it one day when you are the only accountant reading them and Financial Mail needs an opinion piece on the budget speech.
Step Away from the Boost button
FaceBook (FB) offers business accounts the option to “Boost” a post when the organic reach of a post is low. It is an easy process, but the effects can be detrimental.
Read more about it , but targeted ads are shown to be much more effective. You are able to target the audience of your post by demographics, which device they are reading from (desktop vs. mobile), interests, separate audiences by gender and age and you can even target people who like your competitor’s page.
A small amount per month of social media marketing targeted at your audience will go much further, as will Google Adwords.
Anthea May, digital marketing specialist at Rebel Zoom says, “It depends on your keywords and how well optimised your ads are, but luckily it’s pretty easy to get an idea what a Google Ad click will cost, because there is a keyword planner built into Google Adwords, which will give you the average cost per click for different keywords. The alternative, if you don’t want to set that up, is to install the “Keywords Everywhere” Google Chrome browser extension. With it, you can search for your keywords and the plugin will show you an estimated search volume and cost per click.
If you’re running on a limited budget, I’d take R1,000, split it in half and spend half on Facebook and half on Adwords. See which gets you better results for less money. The beauty of online marketing is you can make assumptions, but then test them out pretty quickly. For my campaigns and target audience, I tend to find Adwords 4-5 times more effective than FB. But it all depends on your business.”
We also found a handy roundup of free courses and training on Google Adwords provided by DigitalDefynd.
Co-working spaces, networking events, expo’s, exhibition events – All of these are often looking for speakers to weigh in on expert topics. If you know a lot about your business and it is something others will want to hear about (i.e. brings value and is not just promotional or a sales pitch) then you could approach the organisers and offer (pitch) a topic in line with their event.
For example, if you are an interior decorator, you could speak to exhibitors at an exhibition about how to make their stall attractive to prospective clients visiting it. As an accountant, you can talk about 5 free tools they can use to manage their finances.
Watch Media Alerts also for opportunities from other PR agencies. Your craft gin may be perfect for the opening of a new co-working space or a business launch. Or your hair product could be perfect as a prize at the Mrs South Africa pageant. You do have to weigh the options carefully as not everything will be suitable, but, eventually, an opportunity will pop up. Alternatively, you can offer your service or product to other PR agencies.
Influencer marketing is wildly popular and successful in China and it is just gaining traction here, but unfortunately, you are going to have to pay in many cases. Unless you find someone who really believes in your product or service and whom you can offer it to for free with the hope that they will mention it on their social media and other channels.
The benefit of paying for influencer marketing is that you can pay a relatively small amount although, it is hard to track the return on your investment unless you can track sales directed to you by the influencer from a landing page or your website.
The Female Entrepreneur Collective, Moms In Business South Africa (MIBSA), and IWG Plc in South Africa (Regus and Spaces) offer immensely beneficial (and often free) networking platforms and events to support entrepreneurs. Often members of these communities will refer new business to other community members in their tight-knit group.
The key to being successful in these networking groups is to “show, not tell” your skills. Be a generous, valuable community member. Answer questions. Help others for free at times. Be real and engaged. People prefer to deal with people they can trust.
As the owner of a growing business, you have to wear many hats. You might be able to outsource some of the functions like PR and marketing at a later stage but while you find your feet, any basic knowledge you gain of PR and marketing will be a massive advantage. Especially, the research on who your customer is and most importantly know your brand and what makes you unique. Now all you need is to get writing!
Contact us for any questions and let us know your free PR tips.