Free publicity for your small business

By: Ari

Last night I participated in a great event for small business owners in NYC.

Ramon ray hosted this event at the “Samsung Experience”, Samsung’s great showcase store at the Time Warner Building in Manhattan.
The event was moderated by Robert Levin, the Publisher of the New York Report and addressed some fundamental questions all small business owners have: how do I get some (good) PR?
The panel of experts provided good suggestions of what a small business can do without spending the big bucks on a public relations firm.

Ramon summarized it nicely, see below (with my edits):
1. Have a plan – don’t approach a reporter (or any other media personality) with out a plan. You need to be (or at least appear) knowledgeable. If you run your own business you must be an expert in something (even if you think you are not – you are!). If you think you have some news worthy message present it as such. Don’t be blunt and pitch your product or service.
2. Follow your customer’s interests: It is always a full circle. Know what they want, who they are (and also what they read) it will help you prepare for any reporter. Remember, a story with a customer involved could be so much more interesting! Perhaps especially for a small business.
3. Know the media you are targeting: know the publication, the editor, the journalist etc. You can find everything on the web these days, from contact info to past articles and reports to plans for future issues including editorials and topics the publication plans to focus on. You must know what the interests of a specific publication are and the journalist you are approaching.
4. Timing: if you present yourself as a news source for the journalist/reporter and demonstrate your knowledge perhaps you won’t be the first think they write about but you may be someone they call on for a future story. In general, marketing is a long process – so is PR. Timing also relates to the deadlines of a publication: don’t come in the last minute. If you find out about an issue coming out tomorrow and that features your area of interest, you are most likely late.
5. Have News! – not everything that seems news to you is of interest to the journalist. Think about how you do things differently, how your product or service are special.
6. Be knowledgeable
7. Follow up: don’t harass a reporter but do follow up. You might be considered for a future story

To some, many of these comments may seem obvious, to others they might sound nice but not helpful as you are still not sure how to get in front of the reporter. Remember, getting someone to write about your business is not trivial and you do need to work on it. For some it comes more natural than others.
PR is generally good. Even bad PR can be good as some examples were given by the panel of how some stories that seemed negative actually helped a business. One always needs to know what their goal is: is it to attract new clients? Investors? Or perhaps impress your existing customers.

There is so much to write about this topic and so many experts out there who can guide us but one more comment I would like to make: we live in the web generation (for any one that forgot) and with so many new tools out there we all need to balance new and old (or should I say “traditional”) media.