Basic PR tips for start-ups and SMEs

If you are a start-up or an SME with a small budget and you need to get the word out, here are some essential PR tips from John Cradden.

Public relations can be a key part of any company’s marketing communications arsenal, alongside other tools such as digital marketing, advertising, direct marketing and sales promotions.

PR differs from other types of marketing in that you are aiming to tell the story of your business, and in so doing so create more awareness and visibility, and build credibility.

“Good PR is something you and your team can do for yourselves on a small budget and careful planning”

A large part of it is all about building relationships with the media, but there are also more opportunities than ever to use your social media presence as part of a PR campaign.

It’s often assumed that public relations is mainly used by big corporations who have the budget to spend on outside agencies and experts, but good PR is something you and your team can do for yourselves on a small budget and careful planning.

Here’s a list of essential PR tips for start-ups and SMEs that will get you started.

What’s your story?

Every small business has a story to tell, but the key is to focus on what makes you different. What service are you offering that no-one else is? Your story could also centre on major new customers or contracts you’ve won, an interesting new product, ambitious plans for business growth, an award you’ve won or a customer milestone you’ve hit.

Polish your pitch

Before pitching to journalists and media outlets, it is important to refine and craft the exact story of your business, and ensure that it is newsworthy.  Journalists tend to get loads of pitches every day, which makes it important to ensure that yours stands out from the rest. A good tack is to target a particular journalist and contact them directly and personally, with a pitch tailored specifically for them and the outlet they work for. You could also consider giving them your story exclusively in return for a decent spread rather than a few lines in a ‘news in brief’ column, particularly if it’s a publication that is popular with your target customer.

Do your homework

If you’re pitching a specific story to a journalist, offering a bigger picture angle can really help improve the likelihood of your story being picked up. For example, if you are announcing the launch of a new co-working space, point to industry numbers about the growth in hybrid working and the growth in shared office spaces around the country. Basically, make a case for your pitch by painting the broader picture with data. If the focus is on your own company, stats such as turnover, funding and employee target numbers will always be of interest to business journalists.

Learn how to craft press releases

Woman working with laptop.

Once you’ve identified your story, an essential step is to write it in the form of a press release, which is how 80% of stories in newspapers are triggered, according to the Local Enterprise Office. But it’s important to make sure it’s written well and that it follows the typical ‘inverted pyramid’ structure, which means starting with the most important and interesting details, followed by supporting details in later paragraphs. Make sure the release answers the questions: what, why, when, where and who? Above all, make the opening paragraph compelling – a short, snappy headline will help.

Build on your connections

Once you’ve successfully pitched a story to a journalist and secured decent coverage, be sure to keep the journalist in mind for possible future stories. One good way is to get yourself listed as a credible media source for your industry, so that you could be the person journalists contact if need a quote from an ‘industry expert’ for a story they are working on. There are various media directories out there, mostly online, but Twitter is also a good way to build relationships – check out the hashtag #journorequest.

Create a media kit

A media kit is something you can build to take advantage of impromptu or unexpected opportunities to gain exposure for your business in the media. A kit should include a fact sheet about your business, bios and headshots of the management team and founders, a high-resolution company logo, product photos, pictures of your team or staff in action, and information on your brand (including your origin story).

Build social media presence

People working in an office.

PR isn’t all about gaining coverage in the traditional media. Using your social media presence is another way to boost your company’s reputation and interact with your existing customers. For example, you can react to messages and comments on LinkedIn posts or Twitter. It’s also a good way to engage with your customers directly.

Consider working with influencers

Aside from engaging with customers one-to-one on social media, consider linking up with influencers in your industry. Influencers are content producers who generate large groups of followers. They’re generally experts in a niche topic about which they have a strong passion that in turn inspires their followers. It can be tricky to find the right influencers who can work with your brand, but if you do it right, then it will pay off. This means investigating their track record with other brand deals, including how their posts perform and who their followers are.

Engage with your local community

Good PR is not just about getting covered in the paper or the media, or attracting clicks on social media. Many people in your local community will have a vested interest in your success, so participating or sponsoring local events, supporting other businesses in your area, and doing charitable work will help build positive relationships and good impressions. The people you connect with as a result will likely become your most vocal advocates.

John Cradden
John Cradden is an experienced business and personal finance journalist and financial wellbeing content designer.