10 Common Small Business PR Mistakes

imagesSmall businesses and PR are like Oil & Vinegar. They can be at odds, tasting acidic and unctuous without accomplishing anything special; or they can be vigorously combined and result in a unique product that pleases the palate and makes the mealtime more memorable.

Okay, call me a hopeless foodie with that comparison – but it’s accurate. Small business PR can help small businesses in many surprising ways, but it can also fall short of its true potential and leave a bitter taste in the mouth.

Here are some common mistakes small businesses make when contemplating and executing PR:

  1. Fail to plan for success: perhaps the most common mistake made, and one that can be rectified with just a little strategic planning. Some small businesses approach PR like it’s a one-and-done event rather than an ongoing component of a marketing strategy.
  2. Give up too easily: sometimes when small businesses do decide to use PR and they don’t see any immediate results (e.g., an article about them in the local newspaper), they may dismiss PR as ineffective or just not applicable to their particular business.
  3. Fail to experiment: when at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Many small businesses fail to tinker with PR until they find the right formula for success.
  4. Ignore or miss current trends: sometimes the best opportunities for media coverage are trending in today’s news. Because many small businesses are so busy, they often miss golden opportunities to promote themselves to the local (or even national) news media.
  5. Forgetting social media: while social media is not the same as PR, failing to do both is a critical error. So many businesses miss out on integrating a PR message with messages on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  6. Confuse marketing with PR: a lot of business owners do their own marketing, which means they may occasionally confuse marketing and PR when it comes time to write a news release and communicate with reporters.
  7. Think PR is only about a press release: thanks in part to online distribution websites like PRWeb, the press release (or news release as it’s often called by marketers) has become a popular way to communicate with customers and prospects – NOT, however, to the news media.
  8. Unrealistic expectations: think you should be on Dr. Phil, CNN or the Wall Street Journal? Thinks again.
  9. Missing the singles: many business owners fail to make the easy “singles” that can get them incremental media coverage and instead swing for the fences only to strike out each time.
  10. Neglect the trades & blogs: business owners also overlook a potential goldmine of referrals that can come from getting mentioned in industry trades or blogs. These specialized vertical media outlets are often hungry to learn about new innovations and news in general, so ignore them at your own peril.

So enough bashing on small businesses! The good news is that they are only mistakes, and we can all learn from our mistakes, right?

It’s time to take a new, fresh look at PR and start owning it like we do at PR over Coffee everyday! Your business will never look the same if you do.

Got some good suggestions you want to share? Leave a comment below or feel free to visit the PR Over Coffee Facebook page and leave your thoughts (don’t forget to like us)!

How to Ask a Reporter out for Coffee

coffee-black

Coffee, it’s not just for breakfast anymore. Turns out, it’s a great way to get to know a local reporter you have been hoping would write about you!

Why leave coffee strictly in the realm of sales prospecting, chats with long, lost friends or a pit-stop on the way to work? Why not use it, and the opportunity it affords to enjoy another person’s company while sipping your favorite coffee beverage, as a means to promote your business, your brand, your PR?

Some considerations to weigh as you look to invite a local reporter or TV news anchor:

  1. They are very, very busy people
  2. They get a lot of invitations to coffee (and lunch, drinks, dinner, etc.)
  3. They look at anybody trying to cozy up to them with a natural amount of skepticism

So how do you win the trust of such an elusive creature as that? Try a few of these tricks:

  1. Get an introduction from a mutual friend (even ask that friend to set the meeting up if neccessary)
  2. Email the reporter and briefly let him know what you do and how you would love buy him a cup of joe and hopefully get to know how you could be a resource (in other words, just be honest and be yourself)
  3. Tweet or email relevant information that might help the reporter by adding details to a story she recently wrote (retweet her tweets as well, just don’t overdo it)
  4. Meet the reporter at PR over Coffee, ask for a business card and a chance to grab a cup of coffee “on the house” – it’s hard to turn down an offer made out of goodwill and in front of others
  5. Blog about the reporter’s work and reference how your business is somehow related or in contrast to what he has written in the past (don’t forget to tweet the blog post and put the reporter on @ copy)
  6. Pick up the phone and ask the reporter out for a cup of coffee

In other words, don’t miss out on the pleasant opportunity to both enjoy a cup of coffee and indulge in a little PR over Coffee! In as little as fifteen minutes, you could be on your way to some local news coverage courtesy of the humble coffee bean!

Got any comments you’d like to add or care to mention how coffee has proved instrumental to your PR success? Please elaborate below. Or just invite me to a cup of coffee!

Anatomy of a Press Release

A press release is a written communication piece typically between 1-2 pages in length that consists of a straight-forward portrayal of information about a company, event, or person. It is a formulaic communication between an organization and the news media, as well as stake holders such as customers, shareholders, volunteers, etc. The ultimate goal of a press release is to influence the perception of the organization by the public.

What follows is a description of the parts that make up a press release. By understanding the “anatomy” of a press release, you will be better able to write them and persuade interested parties to take action.

press release parts

As you can see from the graphic, an inverted pyramid best describes how much time you should spend on each part of your press release! In other words, spend more time on the headline as it is what sets the “hook” in your reader; the PR contact info and Boilerplate should take the least amount of time.

  • Headline: This is where you will really capture the reader’s attention. Use action verbs, relate it to a trending news story, and use keywords to make sure your release is helping your SEO strategy.
  • Sub-Headline: The headline and sub-headline should tell 80% of the story. Use the sub-headline to provide a supporting fact that grabs attention, but make sure to save the most important fact for the actual headline.
  • Intro Paragraph: This is where you continue to hook the reader and add some quick info – it’s a summary of your whole press release. Mention the company name immediately. Be specific and keep the intro to two sentences over no more than 3-4 lines. Be sure to either embed (anchor text) or use a direct URL that links back to your website’s home page or to an appropriate landing page.
  • Main Body: The part where you really flesh out your intro paragraph and add on key facts. Keep the each paragraph short, no more than 4-5 lines if possible, for readability. For best results, include a quote from a company or nonprofit representative, as well as one from 3rd party if applicable. Also, include a call-to-action at the end of the body to prompt readers to act. Include a URL for about every 100 words so your releases are not seen by the search engines (and readers) as thinly veiled SEO vehicles.
  • About Us (“Boilerplate”): A quick about us section that just gives the reader a short summary of what your company is about. Be short and brief, no more than 5-6 lines. This part should focus on an overall description of your business from a strategic perspective. Don’t overdo it on the fact, though. Keep it high-level. Another URL for your company is appropriate here.
  • PR Contact Info: This is where you provide all of the contact information and links for journalists or readers to use to contact you. Without this, you will make it a lot harder for a journalist to write about your latest news.

That’s it! A press release stripped down to the bare basics.

With all of that – plus a few hours of blood, sweat, and tears – you will have your very own press release to share with customers, prospects and media outlets. They will be putty in your hands!

Have any other tips you’d like to share about press releases? Post them on our Facebook page or in the comment section below.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded his own PR firm in Austin in 2009 as one of the only PR firms in the country to provide performance-based PR pricing. Dave Manzer PR and Marketing helps startups and emerging growth companies become recognizable brands through innovative, value-driven PR campaigns, PR stunts, blogging and ghost writing. 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 much wider audience. For more information about Dave or PR over Coffee, email info(@)PRoverCoffee.com.

What Is A Press Kit and Does My Small Business Need One?

While a press kit won’t automatically increase your chance of getting media coverage, it does make it easier for a journalist interested in writing about you. And, by the way, making a journalist’s life easier is never a bad idea.

imagesMost small businesses are not very familiar with what a press kit is and how it comes in handy, so here is a quick run-down to help you decide if one is appropriate for your company:

Press kit explained

A press kit has everything journalists need to cover your pitch – right at their fingertips. The kit includes all necessary information about your company, its founders or management team, your news pitch, clients, etc. It also includes possible quotes for the journalist to use, product or service information, photos, historical information, or relevant key info relating to the topic at hand. Think of it as a bundle of important facts and notes for media outlets to quickly grasp what your company does and what makes it newsworthy.

Who can use a press kit?

Many kinds of businesses could benefit greatly from having a prepared press kit at the ready. Some of them include:

  • Pre-money and post-money tech startups seeking media coverage to enhance fundraising
  • Consumer product goods (CPG) companies interested in glossy magazine write-ups
  • Emerging growth companies expanding to new locations and adding employees
  • Innovative retailers with dreams of getting consistent news coverage
  • Tech companies launching new software or hardware products that may require more background information than a press release
  • Commercial real estate development companies in the habit of buying land for developments
  • Restaurants or food trucks with a cult following and chance of getting featured on the Food Network

Other uses of a press kit

  • Charity event to benefit a foundation
  • Museums of all kinds
  • New downtown condominium
  • Opening of a new entertainment venue or sports arena
  • Celebrities, rock bands and public officials

Worried you’re just a small business so you may not need one? Actually press kits are a great way to communicate what you do and share your “founder’s story” with all kinds of interested parties: media, customers, prospects, even job seekers. So don’t think small equates to insignificant or uninteresting in the eyes of the public.

Plus, with a press kit, you will have something of substance to share with a prospective journalist to make their job of writing about you even easier. What’s not to like about that?

Do you have any other clever ideas of how to use a press kit? If so, then feel free to share a comment below or leave one on our Facebook page!

To learn about our upcoming small business PR meetups, please visit our PR over Coffee website at: www.PRoverCoffee.com.

5 Surprising Marketing Uses of Press Releases

imgresRemember the famous Florida orange juice commercials that said, “Orange Juice, it’s not just for breakfast anymore?”

Well, we can now say this about the staid, good-old press release: “Press releases, they’re not just for the media anymore!”

True, press releases still help you communicate news announcements to the media in hopes of getting news coverage. But today any small business, whether a tech startup in Austin or a boutique fitness gym Chicago, can use a press release to spread “news” directly to customers and prospects in hopes of getting more business.

Here are five practical marketing uses for press releases that you may not have thought of before:

1. Inform customers of new offerings: It’s always easier to grow revenue from existing customers. Press releases can inform them of how your products and services are helping others. Customers will always want to know more, so why not help them learn more about your products and services by informing them of your new offerings, customer successes and new accomplishments?

2. SEO: Improve search engine rankings through by optimizing your press releases for key words that relate back to your website. In fact, thanks to PRWeb.com, press releases have taken on a brand new life as content marketing tools that deliver highly relevant content while at the same time increasing search engine rankings with back-links to your website.

3. Communicate a call-to-action: A call-to-action can immediately elicit a response to a promotion. Many consumers who may be turned off by advertising may react differently if the same promotion is part of a “news announcement” that describes the offer in less “salesy” terminology.

4. Win new business: Got some new prospects you want to close? Consider sending press releases to them to inform them of your latest news as part of an overall drip marketing campaign. People are naturally nosy, so sending “breaking news” is a side-door way to pique their interest in what you are doing. In other words, you’re selling to them without actually looking like you’re trying to sell to them.

5. Social Media content: Add share buttons to press releases so they can be shared to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. Social media is now an indispensable part of the marketing function, so utilize it in all possible ways. Allowing your press release to be shared on these platforms will help you gain a larger following and more views, ultimately resulting in more website traffic and new business.

Have a question or other tips you want to share? Leave them on our Facebook page or in the comment section below.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin PR agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009 as one of the only PR agencies in the country to provide performance-based PR pricing. In 2010, Dave launched PR over Coffee to provide small business PR advice so that entrepreneurs and startups could practice “DIY” PR and promote themselves directly to media outlets. For more information about Dave or PR over Coffee, email info(@)PRoverCoffee.com.

 

Press Release Tips for Small Businesses from Business Wire

Press Releases for Small BusinessesAs a small business owner, it can be hard to step outside your world and think about how you are going to get covered in the local, or even national, news media.

If your budget won’t allow you to hire a public relations firm, then the task can seem even more daunting. What media outlets should you target? What message about your business should you communicate? Should you use the Wire to distribute your press release or just a simple Internet distribution website?

Not to worry! Erica Schuckies of Business Wire provided us with a list of tips below on how to create and use press releases to promote your business to the media and public.

Newsworthy Topic: Ask yourself what is happening at your business that may be newsworthy? Avoid marketing slogans and sales pitches in favor of substantive messages tied to trending news or events that you have planned.

Headline: Arguably the most important part of your press release. This allows you to set the hook and get journalists to read the release.

Timely:  If there is a recent event or happening at the company, tell the story as it relates to the present time. What is happening in your industry that your business is contributing to? What relevant expertise can you communicate that will make your business part of the bigger picture. Timeliness can make the difference between beings ignored or picked up and written about.

Readability: Write your press release in an inverted pyramid style; the most important information should be in the first paragraph to help journalists determine if your release is worth a closer read.

Links: Don’t forget to link back to your website or landing page. The average link-to-text ratio in a press release should be about 1 link for every 100-125 words. Make sure to include both anchor text and the full link text, in case the anchor text link does not work.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): To achieve a stronger search engine rankings, chose one to two keyword phrases that you want to center your press release around. Think of important words or phrases that will allow you to be ranked in search engines. Place those keywords in your headline and throughout the body of the press release. Be careful not to stuff your press release; the key is to give it finesse and a natural flow but still remain relevant in search engines. As Erica would say “You want to walk the fine line between writing for the real person and writing for the search engine robots.”

Concise: The longer the press release, the less likely someone will read through it. One option is to create bullet points, which are great ways to get information across in a visually appealing way.

Multimedia: If possible, make it high resolution. This can include logos, photos, videos, graphics, white papers, or sound bites.

Target the Media: It’s important to know the type of reporter you are sending your piece to so it is relevant to them. Otherwise you’re wasting your time and annoying them in the process.

Availability: Journalists are often on a very strict schedule. If one responds back to you, then be prepared to drop what you are doing to accommodate their schedule. Otherwise, you can kiss your opportunity goodbye.

A huge “thanks” goes out to Erica at Business Wire for helping us with this list! If you have any suggestions or want to weigh in on it with your own personal experience, then please feel free to leave a comment below. Or if you want to email Erica about how to get more out of your next press release, then feel free to drop her a line at Erica.Schuckies(@)BusinessWire.com.

If you want to attend one of our meetings or learn about our new Press Release Writing Service, then check out our PR over Coffee website!

How to Pitch a Busy Reporter by Phone

Picking up the phone to tell your story to a busy reporter can be very intimidating.

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There’s something about making a phone pitch — not seeing the face on the other line, hearing only the edge in the voice or an impatient exhale — that puts the pressure-cooker in overdrive and makes even veteran PR professionals become mush-mouthed.

That said, for those who try (and keep trying), phone pitches can be a very effective way to get news coverage.

Here are some things to keep in mind the next time you call an over-worked, stressed-out reporter in your community:

  1. Be polite: it goes without saying, but be nice on the phone. Keep your tone of voice pleasant, even if the reporter doesn’t return the favor.
  2. Nothing personal: don’t take any negative comments, brusque lanquage or evasive behavior as a personal affront. Busy reporters are asked to do a lot of work in very little time so when they receive phone pitches they tend to cut to the chase.
  3. Get to the point: reporters are asked to do more with less time than ever. Consequently, many reporters are experts at sniffing out the potential value of a story in 60 seconds or less, which is why you must present your pitch and supporting facts as economically as possible.
  4. Don’t be a pest: if the reporter tells you no, then don’t keep bothering him or her. Try again when you have a new announcement to share. If a reporter doesn’t respond to your initial overtures, then don’t increase the frequency and/or urgency of your outreach. Chances are the reporter is just too busy to get back to you or may find the news irrelevant or not compelling enough to respond.
  5. Think fast: if a reporter challenges your assumptions on why your news is important, then try to come up with a different angle or share another fact in hopes of building your case. Reporters will often to play devil’s advocate, challenging you on why your news is so important, mostly because their editors do it to them all the time.
  6. Learn from past mistakes: instead of giving up after one or two stinging defeats, try to figure out what went wrong. Often a journalist, even if busy, will tell you why she is not interested. I got shot down by a Wall Street Journal reporter based on the fact that there just wasn’t enough evidence supporting my claim, which, sadly, was the painful truth. The next time I pitched her, I had my facts ready before the call.
  7. Know their beat: it will help you greatly if you already know the reporter’s rea of interest. By doing a little research in advance, you save yourself the embarassment of finding out that the reporter doesn’t actually cover technology startups but is instead writes about real estate.
  8. Offer to help: when phone pitching, make sure you offer the reporter a chance to interview others for the story to make the reporter’s job easier. It could be the difference between rejection and eventual news coverage.
  9. Leave clear voicemail: if you don’t reach the reporter the first time, then on’t be afraid to leave a voicemail to set the initial ‘hook.’ Speak in a clear, well-paced voice. Practice the voicemail ahead of time so you can easily summarize the significance of your news pitch in 15-20 seconds or less.

If you keep these pointers in mind when you first hear that reporter’s voice on the other end of the line, then you just might save yourself a lot of hard lessons and wasted time.

Happy pitching!

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