Publicity Ideas for Small Business Success

Last week, I attended a PRWeb webinar entitled Publicity Ideas for Small Business Success. The webinar presenter was Peter Shankman, founder of HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and founder/CEO of The Geek Factory, a NYC-based marketing and pr strategy firm.

Some of what Shankman said during the webinar I had heard plenty of times before and are things that I already do in my own business. However, he also served up some fresh ideas and some of his comments were good reminders of what I ought to be doing. So, I hope that you will find something of value in this webinar recap.

Shankman began by reviewing the results from a recent small business marketing survey conducted by PRWeb. Some of the more interesting results of that survey are:

47% of respondents are confident about their current marketing programs, but 34% are not confident at all.

48% of respondents say that generating high quality leads is the main objective of their marketing efforts, while 26% want to generate a PR “buzz” about their businesses. Shankman wants to kill the term “buzz”. He says that if your marketing is not generating revenue for your business you are wasting your time no matter how much buzz it may be generating.

59% of respondents cite budget constraints as their biggest marketing challenge. However, Shankman noted that business owners never feel like they have enough money to spend on marketing and that they should not let lack of money prevent them from coming up with great marketing ideas. In fact, he expects that the businesses that are doing the best marketing are spending very little because they are being creative.

58% of respondents actively use social media in their marketing, while 13% say that they should, but haven’t had a chance to do so. Shankman labeled this a “crap response.” He said that if you think that social media is worthwhile, then find the time to do it. Get up an hour earlier, for example. 2% don’t think that social media will work for their kind of business, but Shankman disagrees. He feels that with some creative thinking just about any type of business can benefit from social media. For example, Shankman cited a funeral home that tweets about the accomplishments of the deceased people it buries.

When asked about the marketing activities that would have the biggest impact on their businesses, respondents rank social media as #1, followed by public relations, search engine optimization and email marketing with print advertising and direct mail marketing lagging far behind.

Once he had completed his review of PRWeb’s survey of business owners, Shankman discussed marketing dos and don’ts and best practices for small businesses. Here is his advice:

1. Use social media to engage your audience, not to talk at your audience or to tell them how good your business is. Be communicative and talk to your audience. Offer them something that makes them want to engage with your business. In other words, what can you do to make your audience feel special, to make them feel so positive toward your business that they will tell “the world” how great you are?

Use social media to listen to your audience at all times. What are they saying? Also, use it to find out what your competition is up to.

2. Pitch the media using email and make your messages short and to the point. Do not call the media. They don’t have time to listen to you.

Limit your email pitch to no more than 3 paragraphs with a catchy subject line that is up-front about what you are looking for.

Paragraph 1: Here is what I am and what I do (or Here is who my client is and what my client does)

Paragraph 2: Here is why what I am pitching this story (tie your pitch to a trend or something in the news, or tell the reporter something he or she does not know)

Paragraph 3: Here’s how to contact me

Shankman also recommends cultivating relationships with reporters by helping them do their jobs, because they are doing 10X more with 5X less these days. If you give them what they need and help them look good, they are more likely to give you the coverage you want. He warns that when you are pitching a reporter you are asking that person to do you a favor, but at the same time, the reporter wants to know “what can your pitch do for me?”.

Another way to be helpful is to offer to put a reporter in touch with other business owners in your industry. For example send a reporter an email that says something like: “I know a lot of people in XYZ industry. If you would like me to put you in touch with some of them, feel free to contact me.” Shankman says making this offer can be a good way to introduce yourself to a reporter for the first time, rather than making your first contact a pitch.

3. Rather than sending every reporter exactly the same pitch, Shankman recommends taking the time to customize your pitch for each reporter you are contacting. He says that you're more likely to get the results you want from a few great pitches that you send to a couple reporters than from a mediocre pitch that you send to a lot of reporters. To help customize each of your pitches, use Google to find out what a particular reporter has written about in the past and how the reporter tends to present information. Shankman also notes that it can be helpful to reference in your pitch an article or column a reporter wrote and to relate it in some way to what you are pitching.

Not sure who to pitch? Shankman recommends using Google to find out who writes about the subject of your pitch.

4. Maintain customer loyalty with smart business practices. According to Shankman, people today have tons of choices regarding who they will do business with, so you should begin building customer loyalty the very first time someone “meets” your business. Build loyalty; don’t sell. When you build loyalty, you will also build revenue.

How to build loyalty:

• Be transparent

• Be credible

• Be honest

• Be relevant. For example, ask your customers how they would like to receive information from your business - - blog, podcast, e-newsletter, video, etc. -- and then act on their wishes.

5. When you are communicating in writing with your customers (and potential customers), be brief because these days you have about 3 seconds to reach an audience with your message. Also, avoid bad writing - no typos or grammatical errors, for example. Bad writing will destroy your business, says Shankman. Good writing will generate sales. Social media requires that you write well because you have to make every word count.

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