Dear small business owner: to be successful at PR, you must first…

I write a lot about what small businesses and startups can do to generate some viral buzz about their business.

What I don’t always do a good job of explaining is how certain conditions must be met for a business to benefit from PR. And if those conditions are not met, then the effectiveness of PR can at times be significantly diluted.

So without further ado, here are 10 non-negotiable conditions for a small business PR campaign to be successful:

  1. Patient: PR is a mid- to long-term strategy and rarely do you accomplish overnight awareness with most media coverage. Some notable exceptions exist, but those are truly rare. And if you dig deeper, you might find that those successes were part of an ongoing campaign.
  2. Risk taking: small businesses owners must be willing to take some risk with PR, as it’s not something that yields results like sales leads in a way that is easily measured. It’s part of a broad strategy designed to reach a larger number of people than traditional marketing can reach, and turn them into informed and interested fans.
  3. Experimental: to get the media’s interest in your business, you must be willing to experiment with your message and go for publicity opportunities tied to constantly-changing news headlines. Unlike advertising, you can schedule your media coverage.
  4. Open-minded: small business owners who succeed at PR are open to new ideas about how to position their company. Are you an upscale hair salon? To grab the media’s attention you may have to talk about how ladies can style their hair for football games Why? Because it’s football time and to get a shot at a TV interview it must be tied to current events like tailgating for college football games.
  5. Flexible: if you get a shot at an interview with local TV or print media, then you have to be ready to drop everything to make it happen. Trust me, they are doing you the favor, not the other way around. If you prove difficult to work with then you may as well kiss your PR chances good bye.
  6. Humble: working with the media can be exacerbating, maybe even annoying. They are extremely overworked and incredibly stressed out. That means you have to work with them on their terms, and be willing to accept the notion that their time is more valuable than yours.
  7. Persistent: don’t give up, ever. If the first news pitch doesn’t work, then let the PR process work through the impasse by searching for more news hooks, reaching out to different media outlets which may have more interest in your message.
  8. Realistic: be realistic about your chances for publicity. If you are a small art school, then you can’t expect coverage like Apple, or even a large company based in your home town. You have to be opportunistic and reactive to news trends to attach your company (and message) to larger stories.
  9. Optimistic: optimists do better with PR than negativists (just invented that word). It takes a true-believer to translate your passion into a message that will get others excited to learn about your company.
  10. Thankful: when you go after publicity, regardless of whether you use a PR firm or do it on your own, show the media how thankful you are. Make it a good experience for the media and they may just invite you back.

So as you can see it’s not just about the actual news pitch itself. You have to be a business owner who appreciates the value of PR and is inclined to work your ass off to make it successful.

Embrace the chaos. Don’t fear the great unknown of PR. Learn to love the unpredictability of the media.

Then, and only then, will you be ready for PR.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded his own PR firm in Austin called Dave Manzer PR and Marketing in 2009 to help small businesses become recognizable brands through creative PR campaigns. He also launched PR over Coffee to provide small business PR advice so that entrepreneurs and startups could practice “DIY” PR and promote themselves to a wider audience. Dave’s innovative MyLocalReporter app allows small businesses to find and pitch national and local reporters in up to 12 cities in Texas, California and Florida. To book Dave as a speaker or pick his brain for the next big PR stunt, feel free to email him at: info(@)

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