40 Unique PR Tips for Small Businesses

If you are a small business owner, you face a dilemma when it comes to promoting your business through the media. You can hire a PR firm, which can cost thousands in the form of a monthly retainer, or you can try to do your own PR, which can be downright scary for the uninitiated.

There are some PR firms that know how to work very flexibly with small businesses. Some firms lower their up-front retainers in favor of back-end bonuses tied to results, usually in the form of media placements in local or national news outlets. It’s a PR model – often called “Pay-for-Performance PR” or “Performance-Based PR – that is relatively new so finding one that practices it may not be easy.

For those who can’t afford a PR firm (or just like to keep all marketing activities in-house), I created a list of PR tips that will help you figure out ways to get your business into the local and national news media.

  1. Holiday Helper: find your special connection to a holiday and tell the local media about it. Travel agencies, restaurants, mobile apps, coffee shops, flower shops – pretty much any business can share their take on a holiday.
  2. Special Days: almost every cause, hobby, or treasured object has a day, week or month associated with it. Bird feeders, cheese, toy trains, runners, readers – you name it, there’s a day for your business to get some media love.
  3. Awards or Milestones: did you when a local civic or national industry award – share it with the local newspaper or business journal.
  4. Grand Opening: grand opening for retail and restaurants usually get the interest of the media.
  5. New Office: if you are moving to a larger office space, your local real estate reporter wants to hear from you.
  6. New Invention: did you create something brand new? Maybe it’s a new cocktail or a iPhone widget to monitor your sleep patterns and get better rest. The media loves a good invention.
  7. Hiring: the old stand-by, hiring is a great way to get your firm in the news. Most newspapers have a “People on the Move” section where you can get your business name in the news.
  8. Founder’s Story: most founders have an interesting story about how they started their business. Consider sharing it in hopes your hometown newspaper wants to do a profile about you.
  9. Charity: businesses get involved in helping local charities all of the time. Some of the more unique ones will get covered in the local news. I once worked in a company that staffed the phone lines for a local PBS station and we got really great exposure during the event.
  10. Product or Service Launch: some trade magazines will cover product or service launches. Find out your industry trade pubs and send them the news and you may be pleasantly surprised.
  11. Angel Funding: in these heady days technology startups, raising money from investors can be newsworthy in and of itself.
  12. Crazy Growth: say you experience insane growth because of a freak snowstorm in May and you sell out of shovels, the media loves to share anecdotal stories about how big news items like weather actually impact local businesses.
  13. Major Contract: some small businesses get big news because they win a large or high profile contract. I knew a stand-by EMS company that won a contract for the San Antonio Spurs and they got coverage in that town’s business journal.
  14. Help in a Crisis: some businesses get covered because their business is somehow intertwined in a crisis like selling oil control floats during an oil spill in the Gulf Coast. Or you could be a victim of a natural disaster trying to pick up after the damage.
  15. Expert Opinion: if you have extensive experience in your field, let the media know you can answer questions about your topic in case they need additional sound bytes for a breaking news story. I’ve been interviewed on NBC, Entrepreneur and other media outlets about best practices PR.
  16. Merger or Acquisition: planning to grow through a merger or acquisition? The local (and maybe national) media will want to know. Be sure to proactively reach out to the media in order to maximize the story’s mileage.
  17. Best Workplace: many magazines, online pubs and community newspapers are doing Best Workplaces. Contact your local business journal or newspaper to ask if, and when, you can apply. The rest is up to you.
  18. Fastest Growth Competition: other publications like local business journals or Inc. Magazine hold competitions to determine which companies are growing the fastest. It may take a little effort, but if you have been experiencing rapid growth then you might as well get congratulated in the media.
  19. Party Pics: if your company has a party or attends a community function, then try to get pics and send them to the local newspaper or business journal, which may just publish them.
  20. Expanding Geographically: are you adding an office in another city or country? This could be a great way to get a nice profile about your business.
  21. New Record: some businesses try to set records (think Guinness Book of World Records)
  22. Unusual Hobby: maybe you have a hobby that might get people intrigued, like cave diving in remote parts of the world. Or perhaps you supply these strange hobbyists and you can get news exposure for you and your customers alike.
  23. Strategic Partnership: maybe you’re not ready to be acquired, but if you sign a strategic relationship with another company it would be worth sharing with an industry trade publication.
  24. Social Good Entrepreneur: businesses that give back a healthy portion of their profits back to a charities always stand a good chance of getting in the news.
  25. Customer Success: highlight a customer success, and the role you played, in hopes of getting a local newspaper or trade publication to feature you both. I once placed an article about a mobile app developer that helped a famous rodeo in Texas go mobile and the local news loved writing about the juxtaposition of cowboys and tech.
  26. Struggles / Ordeals: there are some businesses who get in the news because they are undergoing difficulties, like the recent government shutdown’s impact on businesses operating near national parks.
  27. Obamacare: it’s a hot topic among the media and volunteering to talk about how it’s impacting your insurance situation – either positively or negatively – may get the interest of a reporter.
  28. Shark Tank: the wildly popular show celebrating entrepreneurship and innovation could be a great way to get instantaneous celebrity, and sales, for your business.
  29. Fundraiser: different from helping a charity, holding a fundraiser for victims of a natural disaster can result in two benefits: help for those in need and some press coverage for you.
  30. Survey: spend a little money on a survey – make sure it’s professionally done – that relates to your industry and a subject of interest. You can then offer the results to a trade publication or publication that would conceivably be of interest in what you learned.
  31. Stunt: I once knew a business owner in Florida that flew 4 parachutes in stack (one on top of the other) to draw attention to his store; he filmed the whole thing and sent it to the news stations, some of which covered it after the fact.
  32. Anniversary: how many years have you been in business? Coming up on a 1, 5 or 10-year anniversary? Celebrate with a party. One cupcake baker let customers launch cupcakes at their friends using an oversized rubber slingshot set between two trees. It was messy, sweet fun and the media showed up.
  33. Stand up to the Government: if you are a business owner who is impacted by state or federal regulations of some sort and you think they are unfair, then get involved in a legislative movement to overturn the regulation. Sooner or later you may find yourself in the news.
  34. Alma Mater Donations: if you bleed the colors of your university, and want to give a sizable donation, you could get some good buzz for your generosity.
  35. Kickstarter / Crowdfunding: some businesses and startups have gotten news for their business by launching a successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter or other crowd funding website.
  36. Reality TV: some businesses, many in the food and real estate industry, have been getting huge amounts of media coverage by participating in reality TV shows on The Food Network, The Discovery Channel and HGTV.
  37. National Entrepreneurship Month: every November is National Entrepreneurship Month, which is an opportunity to get your small business some local news coverage.
  38. Veterans Factor: if you are an veteran entrepreneur or have hired veterans for your small business, then this could get you some news coverage when the national media spotlight is on the state of veterans post-combat.
  39. National Small Business Week Awards: held every year by the SBA, it’s a chance to vie for national attention by the SBA, and receive some valuable media coverage. Click HERE for info on the 2014 awards.
  40. Back-to-School: businesses that specialize in helping students ease back into school (clothes, school supplies, tutoring) can usually get a mention in the local media with the right pitch.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded his own Pay-for-Performance 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. To pick Dave’s brain for your next big PR stunt, feel free to email him at: info(@)PRoverCoffee.com.

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