Whether you’re an artist, an aspiring entrepreneur, or an owner of a thriving SMB in Toronto, chances are you have a message that’s important to you and want to share it with a specific target audience. From customers to investors, or a potential fan base, you know there is a target group that you want to engage and the best way to do it would be through publicity.
Like many other small business owners, you might be working on a limited budget and aren’t ready to hire a PR or creative agency to get your name in the press. Before you give up or go broke on retaining a public relations firm, there is a multitude of tools and strategies that business can use to build a PR framework. Just about anyone with a laptop and an internet connection can access them, and the best part is that you won’t have to spend a dime.
I can tell you that was faced with the challenge of expanding my media presence early on in my career and used the same tools and tactics to get my message to members of the press.
As a serial entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience in e-commerce businesses specifically, I can proudly say that I still use the same tools and haven’t spent a dime on PR.
1. Create a database, not a Data BEAST
Organize a database of sources that might pick up your story. If you don’t have any contacts yet, Google local media, including newspapers, community papers, radio, TV, quarterly syndicates, relevant blogs, academic newspapers, and national and international publications. Our database contains nearly 500 contacts, all of which have been sourced through targeted searches.
As your database grows, you might find it difficult to keep it organized. Create a simple spreadsheet that contains the contact’s name, company, title, email address, phone number, and social media links. Set aside some time to update it. Often connections will change positions or companies, so it’s helpful to do some housecleaning on a regular basis.
2. Create a Newsworthy Story
People often mistake a story for a pitch. If your desired contact has opened your email, you’ve overcome one of the most challenging obstacles–don’t mess it up by making your story sound like a highly embellished pitch that is more fitting for a used car salesperson. If you’re not a writer, ask for help from a friend or get ideas off the internet. You’d be surprised at the number of aspiring writers who will write for free to gain exposure and build their portfolio.
3. Get your Story Out
Once you’ve created a story, you need to get it in front of your contacts. There’s nothing that annoys me more than blind email blasts that are generic. Many media pros have egos and would have no problem deleting an email from a random person. Personalize your messages and make sure your subject line is catchy. Attention grabbing subject lines that resonate with readers stand a better chance at being opened than one which is bcc’d to 250 people.
4. Be Patient
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was A Nerd’s World. Being bombarded by emails from media outlets would be any SMB owner’s dream, however, like anything, gaining recognition in your industry takes time and dedication. If you send our 200 emails, and receive one reply from a publication, you soon forget about the other people who did not read your story. Perseverance pays off.
Getting your name in the press doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, and shouldn’t require an expensive PR agent. Publishing your own press releases and stories is cost effective and keeps your company and brand personal. Having complete control over the narrative, and how your information is distributed, then receiving the desired response is priceless.
Chris A. Hughes