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We’ve all heard the saying before: No publicity is bad publicity.
But as many small business owners know firsthand, getting publicity at all can be pretty challenging.
Since small business owners are often working with limited resources and staff, PR for small businesses is a different beast—and it takes some experimenting to get it right.
Here are some of our favorite tips and tricks to help get your small business in the news.
Every brand has a story. Telling that story is an opportunity to build awareness for your business. While each business’s story is different, there’s one easy and consistent way to tell your brand’s story: customer stories.
You can start by collecting stories from your customers about how your business has helped them, and how they’ve used your product or service. Once you get a sense of the interesting ways people are interacting with your business, see if it could be a good fit to offer up the story to local journalists!
The best customer stories demonstrate your business’s positive impact on the community. For example, this CW article and video is about customers’ positive experiences at restaurant The Local Variety in Bucksport, Maine—and it’s great exposure for the business.
“Newsjacking” is what it sounds like: hijacking the news. This PR trick entails keeping an eye out for breaking news that might be relevant to your business, and then piggybacking on it to try and get your business into the story. When it’s done right, capitalizing on breaking news is great PR for small businesses—it can expand your reach and get you a lot of play while the story is relevant.
The key to successful newsjacking is getting the timing right—you have to pounce quickly. That starts with understanding the news cycle so that you can estimate how long a story will be relevant. The best time to newsjack is after the story has broken, during the time that journalists are scrambling for additional information and perspectives to inform their coverage.
This Refinery29 article is a great example of a small business PR strategy gone right. Clearly Cookies, a Dallas bakery, created their own news by latching onto the popular fidget spinner trend. This savvy business owner created a fidget spinner cookie, an interesting twist on the story that generated coverage in top publications like Eater, Vice, and Mashable.
In some cases, it might make sense to newsjack ahead of time. For example, if you know that a certain report is going to be released about your local economy or that a particular community event will generate news coverage, you might reach out to the reporters you think will cover those things a day or two ahead. That way, the reporter might use your quote or interview you for your perspective in time to make it into the article.
Have trouble keeping up with the news? No problem—set up a few Google alerts for key terms related to your industry, and updates will be emailed to you.
If you’re a bit late to the game, you can always reach out with a new angle or idea for how to cover the story. In your outreach, acknowledge that the reporter covered this news issue previously—but offer up a new or exciting angle, like the impact of a particular announcement or policy on small businesses, for example.
Keeping an eye on industry news is always a good idea for business owners, but tuning into how you might be able to capitalize on the news can also help you spread your message.
Local reporters cover the news items that matter most to their communities. They are interested in stories about new or expanded businesses that provide goods or services in their neighborhoods. Whether you own a restaurant or a hardware store, or anything in between, it’s worth reaching out to reporters at local publications to inform them of your expansion plans!
Need help figuring out which reporters cover your industry? Google News is a great tool, and with some creative searching, you can find articles similar to the ones you’d like to see written about your business. Those reporters—in addition to those covering small business and whatever industry you operate in—are the ones you should keep on your radar.
Industry news outlets might also be a good option for expansion or new business stories. For example, food publications like Eater and GrubStreet might be interested in new restaurant openings—though they’d be a reach for most small businesses to secure coverage in.
It’s great to keep these reporters in mind to invite them to events, and keep them in the loop with any news about your business.
As a local business owner, you’re already pretty tapped into what people care about in your industry. So why not use that knowledge to your advantage?
It’s helpful to think about what people in your industry are talking about or what they might want to know.
In one creative but simple example of thought leadership as a small business PR strategy, this Philly.com article interviewed Russell Carter, owner of Body Cycle Studio in Philadelphia, to discuss his favorite workout songs and create a playlist. The end result? More great press for the business.
Sharing industry knowledge is a great way to generate press coverage, across sectors. For example, this Rapid City Journal article interviews two employees of the Knecht Home Center about the basics of the lumber business. They shared lessons they learned in the industry over the years and built some awareness for their lumber company along the way.
Above all, just remember: Not every pitch will land. Reporters get hundreds of pitches a day, and sometimes they will get back to you—but don’t be discouraged if they don’t! PR for small businesses requires a balance of diligence and creativity, so don’t give up if your pitch doesn’t land!
The best approach you can take to getting press attention as a small business owner is to remember that you have to create your own news.
Whether it’s hosting a community event for charity or launching a product in response to the latest trends, it helps to keep up with the news so that you can stay relevant and contribute to the conversation.