March 3, 2015

Pro Tips for Building a PR Engine on a Shoestring


PR. That mysterious industry everyone has heard of, but many fail to properly understand. A common misconception shrouding PR is that it’s a luxury service reserved only for big business’ with ripe budgets to burn. Many entrepreneurs and start-ups are acutely in-tune with the power of PR, yet in the early stages of their business journey can’t afford to allow an agency to take the wheel and steer.

But does this mean PR is off limits to those on a shoestring budget? According the pros, it’s less about budget, and more about a considered approach and savvy attitude.

Last week, our Founder Sophie Toh joined MEPRA Director Stephen King, Chargifi CEO Lucy Crabb, and Osman Khan from Elance-oDesk, to address an intimate group of entrepreneurs and start-Up founders hungry for the inside word. Their advice? Simply, really. Here are the top pro tips for “Building a PR Engine on a Shoestring”.

1.  Know your story

Before you think about public relations, you need to know your story. What’s different about you? What is it that makes you interesting? Step outside yourself and reflect critically. Until you know your story (and believe in it), you really don’t have anything to share.

2.  Develop your “elevator pitch”

Practice summing up what your business is (and what makes it unique) in four or five succinct and powerful sentences. If you were standing in a lift with Donald Trump and had 15 seconds to convey exactly what your business does and what makes it great, what would you say? There isn’t time to mince words or sound unsure. Consider your pitch, write it down, say it aloud, and say it again (and again).

3.  Allocate time

PR is not an easy feat. It is time intensive, it takes commitment. This is why engaging an agency or consultant is in essence, buying time. When you can’t afford to hire help, set aside two hours a week (or several hours a month) and commit to those hours like you would your accounts. Set short term, attainable goals, and start ticking boxes.

4.  Be honest about your product

Cutting to the essence of what your business is all about is the key to PR success. The old PR “spin” is a dying breed; you must always approach your PR efforts with integrity and transparency. Who and what are you really? Again, this is where knowing your story is crucial. Remember, if you don’t truly believe in what you are, nor will anybody else.

5.  Network

Get out and meet people. Some of the biggest successes are a result of networking and forging fertile new connections. Yes, the old adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, is alive and well. Don’t know a soul? Use the internet to research relevant events and go along. Chat to people about what they do, find common ground. You’ll be amazed by the results.

6.  Pitch thoughtfully

Don’t take a scattergun approach to pitching out your story. Thoughtfully select a handful of publications which are well suited to the target audience you a trying to reach, and become familiar with the content the share. Before you pitch, read the last 4 or 5 articles that journalist has written and tell them you enjoyed their last piece! Then see how you can make your story relevant and interesting to them. Don’t be pushy, be helpful.

 7.  Build solid media relationships

You won’t believe how much easier your shoestring PR campaign will become once your media relationships begin to prosper. Journalists are human, not robots. They too enjoy having personal connections and will inevitably become more responsive once they’re familiar with you. Invite them for coffee, ring them to discuss how they like to operate or what they’re looking for (not on deadline), or simply write them a friendly email. Eventually, it will pay off.

 8.  Be bold

Do things differently, make an impression on people. Following the crowd is your least likely way to get noticed. Show you are interesting by actually being interesting. Let your imagination take some creative license and think of ways to grab the attention you know you deserve. Raising and eye-brow or two is more favourable than winding up in the trash folder.

 9.  Never give up

Being knocked back by media can be a deflating game. If your first approach doesn’t work, ask the journalist for constructive feedback and try to improve on your pitch the next time around.  Never be arrogant, don’t get angry, and certainly avoid being disrespectful on any level. As long as you grow from your mistakes and approach the media intelligently, you will eventually earn your success!

Copyblogger looked at 109 ways to make your business irresistible to the media in a timeless article back in 2011, and make some very relevant take home points still today.  Are you a running a PR campaign on shoestring budget? What difficulties have you encountered in getting your story noticed?


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