Saturday, June 7, 2008

Extra! Extra! Do-It-Yourself PR Resources for Small Business Owners

What business owner doesn't want press coverage? More valuable than advertising because of the credibility that's implied, press coverage is a key ingredient to growing a business.

Yet not every business is ready for a full-on PR campaign or can afford to retain a professional PR firm to secure those mentions.

Sometimes, serendipity occurs and a reporter from Time magazine just happens across your website and thinks your company is the best one to feature in an article about your industry (this recently happened to a colleague of mine).

But to take matters into your own hands, take advantage of these two free, highly reputable opportunities to dialogue with the media.

Public Insight Journalism

First, there's the Public Insight Network from American Public Media. Sign up to be part of the network and receive opportunities to send your opinions, stories and news to some of the journalists of public broadcasting.

For example, Marketplace, the business show on public radio, is currently seeking entrepreneurs to respond to several queries, including one on unproven, untested business ventures ("Are you a bold entrepreneur?") and another to women business owners experiencing a tougher time securing funding due to SBA cutbacks ("How are women entrepreneurs getting funding?").

"An open door to our newsroom" at American Public Media? What's not to love about that. Sign up now.

Help a Reporter

Another great way to get direct access to reporters for some of the biggest TV, magazine and newspaper outlets nationwide is through Help a Reporter Out. By signing up to that e-mail list as a source, you receive three daily e-mails brimming with actual queries from actual reporters on a variety of topics.
Will your area of expertise be covered? No, not every day or even every week. But if you receive any opportunity—even if it's only once per month—to pitch a reporter from a major new outlet on a topic that's relevant to you or your business—SCORE!

Here's the caveat about HARO: if you're a PR novice, it's really, really easy to get yourself blacklisted from this source and to make a poor impression to the very reporters you want to impress.

There's a reason most people don't have direct access to reporters at The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal: it's because we do stupid things like annoy them with off-topic pitches, blatant self-promotion or useless emails that say things like "please call me, I can help you with this story."

If you do any of those things, or send attachments to your responses, fail to communicate why you're a relevant and trustworthy source, or otherwise act unprofessionally and disrespectfully to any of the reporters using HARO, you will be mocked and held up as an example of how not to interact with members of the press. Even worse, you'll be removed from the list and the reporter you contacted will also block your emails.

Then again, if you act appropriately, send on-target pitches and make a convincing statement as to your expert status on a given topic, you may just end up getting mention for your and/or your company in a national magazine, newspaper or online outlet.
Personally, I'm looking forward to letting you know when my interviews with the reporters from Parenting magazine and Bitch magazine get published and if the image consultant in Houston I spoke with mentions Maternitique's pregnancy-safe sunscreen to her TV show audience.

For important instruction on how NOT to use the HARO queries, start your orientation here: "How Not to use"
Have a success story? Let me know. Good luck!


Phil Bernstein said...

I've gotten a lot of use out of HARO. I design radio and online campaigns for local businesses -- all of which cost money. So when I can offer my clients a chance at free publicity, it's a nice piece of added value.

Two or three times a week I spot a request that one (or sometimes several) of my customers might want to answer. I have a template email ready to go -- I copy and paste the request in question and send it off to the client.

I also pitched myself for an article on email newsletters (scheduled for June on the National Federation of Independent Businesses site), and scored an interview for the piece.

Keeping up with HARO takes some work and attention, and you'll plow through a lot of requests that don't apply to you. But there's some real value there.

PR Channel said...

Absolutely love HARO. I run a site dedicated to Public Relations resources. Recently wanted to do an article featuring advice for new PR grads on entering a tough job marketing.

The response I got from HARO was unbelievable...turned 1 post into a whole series.

Phil is right, it does take some time to sort through the 3 daily emails. But the pay-off is completely worth the effort