How to do your own PR on a budget

Want to spread the word about your business and attract new customers, without spending a fortune? Learn how to do your own PR on a budget.

PR consultant Halima Khatun from HK Communications explains why you don’t need a huge media budget to reap the rewards of PR – and show you how you can PR your own business on a budget.

Are you using PR for your business?

Yes, I get it, you’re probably thinking, how can I juggle my business, a family AND do my own PR? I’m not superwoman! Well, luckily, you don’t need to be.

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Most entrepreneurs recognise the value of marketing their business, and work hard on growing their customer base, sending email newsletters, and navigating their way around Facebook. But few think about PR.

That’s probably because many small business owners see PR as a luxury that is the reserve of established brands with big budgets. They see it as celebrity endorsements and big shiny product launches that cost thousands of pounds in PR agency fees.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. PR in its essence is about good storytelling, and whether you run a business with 12 staff or are building your empire from your home office, you can use PR to gain invaluable coverage for your brand, and column inches with credibility.

So to make sure we’re all on the same page, here’s a bit of a PR 101.

What is PR?

In the simplest terms, PR is the practice of working with influencers (such as press, broadcast and online media) to raise awareness or influence public opinion of a particular person, organisation, issue or event.

A PR consultant will ‘sell-in’ or ‘pitch’ stories to relevant members of the press, and it is up to the journalist and his/her editors or producers to decide whether to include the story in their publication or programme.

A skilled PR consultant will have tailored the story and found the most interesting angle to maximise the chance of getting it published.

Crucially, unlike advertising and advertorials, coverage generated from PR is NOT paid for. It is earned entirely on the quality of the story.

How can PR help your business?

A lot of people see the value of PR as restricted to the coverage itself, when in fact it is so much more.

Any business, no matter how big or small, needs positive publicity to grow and develop. Often smaller businesses rely on word-of-mouth. Though this is powerful, it is largely out of the hands of the business, and is at the mercy of whether a past client or contact will remember to recommend you.

Other businesses, for example a shop or restaurant, may rely on physical footfall, but again that isn’t without its limitations. As you’re relying on somebody to happen to walk past and need what you’re selling.

However, by raising your profile through PR, you can let your target audience know that you’re open for business. It’s a much more subtle form of marketing, too. For example, an article about your new product line, or an advisory piece on your area of expertise, is a much better testimony to your work than a paid-for advert that essentially says come and buy from me.

PR in itself, which is an external endorsement via the media, adds a level of credibility to your business that money literally can’t buy, as well as making people more aware about what you do.

But the benefits of PR go far beyond the column inches themselves. For example, putting thumbnails of any coverage you have received on your website gives automatic gravitas to your business. Similarly, an ‘as featured in’ note at the bottom of your email signature or marketing literature with logos of the publications in which you’ve been featured also shows that you mean business.

Many of my clients have reported that deals have been sealed after a prospect has seen their article in a newspaper or magazine, while others enjoyed a boost in traffic after a website they were featured in gave an all-important backlink.

How to do your own PR on a budget

So that’s what PR is and what it can do. But how can you reap the rewards of PR if you’re on a budget, and can’t afford an agency to help you? Here’s a quick, step-by-step guide to doing your own.

1) Work out where your audience are

The first step is to find out what your audience is reading, and see what stories are featured there. It might seem obvious, but it’s an often-overlooked first step to growing your brand.

Do you know what newspapers, magazines and websites your target audience read? For example, if you’ve got a clothing line, is your target audience pouring over fashion magazines? If you’ve got a coaching business aimed at fellow business owners, are your customers scouring the web looking for business advice?

Identifying these titles is the first step. After that, take a detailed look what is featured in the publications… Are there stories aligned with your business? What makes the news? What is the key point that is of interest? What angle does the journalist go for? What is the underlying message? Doing this research upfront will pay dividends later in your PR efforts.

2) Find your stories

Next, think of what stories you have that these publications might like to cover. For example, if it’s a local newspaper, they often have a business section dedicated to championing local businesses. So they would be interested to hear about launches, anniversaries, business growth such as new hires – there are lots of options.

3) Get your pitch nailed down

To get a journalist’s attention initially, you need to summarise your story in one or two sentences. So ask yourself, what is the main point? It’s easy at this point to waffle on about your key objectives, mission, etc, but keep focussed on the point that the journalist would be interested in, not what is a priority for you.

Cut out the jargon, keep your pitch tight and concise. Have your key facts ready to read over the phone or email. It doesn’t have to be a perfectly written press release, but you have to convey the key points quickly and effectively. (You can find out how to write a press release that gets results here.)

4) Be human

Make your story about yourself, as well as your business. Journalists love a good human interest angle, so think about your own personal reason for setting up your business.

For example, a full-time mum who decides to sell organic detergent after her baby gets rashes from the off-the-shelf products is a great, heart-warming PR story.

5) Find out how to approach journalists

Google is your friend here. Most publications have the details of their editor and reporter online. So grab their email and telephone number, and decide how to get in touch with them.

People are often nervous about calling journalists, so if you feel the same, drop them an email with your short pitch first. If you don’t get a response, follow up with a call, and have your pitch in front of you so you don’t get tongue tied on the phone.

Happy pitching!

If you want to know what stories you might have in your own business that are PR gold, check out Halima’s free guide