Starting a business, whether from scratch or through franchising can be a huge endeavor, especially if you don’t have any experience running a business. Every task from finance to marketing to hiring talent is now yours and you as the owner of the business are required to make sure your business functions like a well-oiled machine.
One of the biggest challenges many business owners face is brand awareness, or more specifically, how to increase their brand awareness in their community or industry. This is where public relations comes into the fold. Many individuals pride themselves in being outstanding marketers and while this may be true on a business-to-consumer level, achieving notable media exposure is easier said than done. It takes years to build relationships and trust with local media, especially when the employee turnover rate amongst media professionals keeps increasing.
Identify Target Customers and Media Outlets
The most important challenge of public relations is identifying your target market. When I ask entrepreneurs who their market is, the most common response is, “everyone”. No, everyone is not your target customer. You need to pinpoint exactly who you are selling your product or service to and from that point, customize a list of media outlets which you think would be interested in running a story on your business. The same way every customer is different, every media outlet is also different. Trying to pitch a story to every outlet under the sun is a serious waste of time and money. Read and understand each publication in your market and only pitch the publications which you believe may be interested in your story.
Craft a Noteworthy Pitch
In today’s digital age, it is common for media outlets to receive the majority of press releases and/or pitches via email, and in some cases, social media. Calling editors on the phone is almost of thing of the past, however, if your news is extremely time-sensitive, I would recommend doing so. Before you dial or hit the send button, make sure you have customized your pitch to that specific media outlet. If your product appeals mostly to women and you are pitching a women’s publication, make sure you say that in your pitch. Don’t make the media outlet do extra work by researching your business. Put as much information as possible in your pitch so the editor can make an educated decision as to whether or not to run a story on your business.
Use Social Media
Love it or hate it, social media is a part of all our lives, both inside and outside the office. A company without at least a Facebook page is not a reputable company, or at least that’s what people now perceive. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media outlets are for the most part free vehicles that you can use to promote and market your business. The only challenge is, once you create a social media page, you need to update it regularly or the entire initiative will be thrown out the window. As a Facebook junkie, I see many businesses that haven’t updated their page since 2014. It makes me question if that company is still in business, and that’s the last thing you want people to think about your startup.
Network. Network. Network.
One of the most inexpensive ways to market your new company is to network and share your story with other members of your community. Attend as many events as you possibly can without losing sight of your overall business strategy and taking too much time away from running your business. But attending a networking event is only half the battle. The real challenge is actually, networking! Instead of running around the room with a stack of business cards in your hand, try to meet 3 or 4 individuals and have meaningful conversations with them. Ask them questions. Give them the floor. And most importantly, don’t pitch them immediately. If you think you have met somebody who can become a potential customer, follow up with a phone call or email.
Think Outside the Box
Editors receive dozens, and in some cases hundreds of emails and pitches each day. Your goal is to stand out from the crowd and literally think outside the box. What about your email is going to get the editor’s attention? Think about your subject line very carefully as it will be the first, and possibly, the only thing an editor sees. If your subject line doesn’t grab his/her attention, then the rest of your email may go unread. If the editor opens your email, present your pitch in the first 2-3 sentences. Think of it as a 60-second elevator pitch. How much can a person read in 60 seconds? That’s how much time you have to convey your message.
Public Relations is an integral part of any business and it must be given just as much thought and attention as other aspects of your business. If you as the business owner can’t dedicate the amount of time and energy needed, I would suggest retaining a public relations professional to facilitate these efforts.
Joey Amato is the president of Agency33, a Nashville, Tennessee-based public relations and creative firm that specializes in providing services for advertising agencies and their clients. Amato has over 10 years of experience and has worked with a variety of lifestyle and celebrity clients including iconic pop artist Peter Max, Rick Allen of Def Leppard, Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac and legendary songwriter Desmond Child.