Don’t worry – traditional PR is not dead… yet. And traditional PR agencies will not die if they adapt new methodologies. PR will always be built on relationships and good content, regardless of how the media changes. There are just new ways to build those relationships now!
Say you’re a small- or micro business and you want to “start doing some PR”. Where do you start? Do you hire a PR agency? Maybe, but first you should try doing a few things yourself.
- Write a press release.
If you’re not an excellent writer, hire someone who is– preferably someone with specific experience writing press releases. If you haven’t written them before, even if you put the main content together yourself make sure to have someone look over it before you send it. A traditional press release will include information about the newsworthy event, a few quotes from relevant people, and a final paragraph or two about the subject of the release (you and/or your company).
- Submit it to the traditional channels.
You can use paid methods like PRNewswire, especially if you’re looking for international attention. If you’re launching a groundbreaking technology product this might be the way to go, but for most purposes this route would be an expensive waste. Instead, think more personally. You should have a contact at your local newspaper (perhaps from a Chamber of Commerce networking function, a nonprofit organization you are involved in, or another special event). If not, leverage the network you do have to find out if they have an “in” with any editor or reporter relevant to your subject matter. It doesn’t have to be a major deal, but email the press release directly to them. Don’t call to ask if they got your press release. This will peg you instantly as an amateur! In addition to the local paper and television news stations, use the same method to submit the release to relevant industry journals, alumni magazines, and other traditional media. (Best if you’re a subscriber to these already and/or involved in the organization from which they come.)
- Submit it to non-traditional (new media) channels.
HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is a site where you can sign up to get a few emails per day from reporters asking for specific things. They may be looking for stories about a certain kind of business, people in a certain category to interview, or any variety of other things. By signing up at the site you agree not to send the reporters anything they didn’t ask for. Obviously the timing might not work out precisely on your schedule, but it’s a great way to build media relationships and get your content visible when relevant pieces are being created. (Urgent requests go out often on Twitter, so be sure to follow skydiver when you subscribe to the emails.)
Another valuable resource is PitchEngine, which helps turn your press release into a social media release. (Make sure to also become a fan on Facebook, because they often share new features or other news with Facebook fans first.)
Recently a collaborative effort was started to list all the Media on Twitter. Following the people on this list relevant to your audience should be an early step in your Twitter usage. Once you’ve been interacting meaningfully with and around these people, you can submit content to them directly too.
- Share it in social media.
Important caveat: You are only allowed to share your own content via social media if you have already spent time building relationships, contributing content, and generally getting involved in two-plus-way communication in a helpful, social way. If you know there are people to whom your are connected who will be interested in this content (especially if they’re interested in passing it on), go for it. If, however, you use social media only to broadcast press release-y content, you’ll never get anywhere; it will actually hurt you and your brand.
If you’re interested in “getting your feet wet” in PR, try it out yourself or use an experienced marketing consultant to help you out before full-out hiring a PR firm. If nothing else, you will learn precisely what you want out of a PR firm and not pay for something they can’t provide!