For SME and Start-Up Owners: How To PR

I started freelancing not too long ago. I’ve been supporting start-ups and SMEs in their bid to get publicity so that I dont starve to death while I work on my pet project. I know that it can be very daunting to enter a field that you know nothing about.

And, Public Relations is one of those things where you dont really have clear perimeters on how you should go about getting publicity as compared to other things like content marketing or SEO (which may have clearer guidelines to follow).

So, I’m creating this list. It also serves to help me explain PR to new clients.

So, here goes:

  1. Public relations is earned

I can’t promise that you will appear on the front page of The Straits Times. To me, public relations is the most mystical subset of marketing. On every other platform that you own (your website, social media channels, email etc.), you control all the content that is out there.

You can’t control the content on earned channels whether it’s TV, newspapers, radio or influencers. If you do, it’s an advertisement.

This means that it’s what the media wants to cover, not what you want to sell. The challenge is in identifying how you can tell your story, such that the media will publish it.

2. It’s a free press

Let’s not get into the debate on press freedom. But, simply put, you can’t control what the media writes. You can influence a story in the way that it is angled in your pitch and such. But, all media coverage is subject to editorial discretion which means that the editorial team has a final say.

If you’re launching a cake shop and you’ve invited all the media to your cake shop. You can’t blame them for saying your cake is too sweet or is terrible for that matter. It’s subject to editorial discretion.

If you want to control your content, you would then need to venture into the realm of paid media — sponsorred content/advertorial.

3. Public relations can’t guarantee you sales

I understand that its crucial to have metrics to evaluate whether it’s worth venturing into public relations or any other marketing effort.

But, it’s almost impossible to guarantee that PR can generate you XX% increase in sales. If you use certain monitoring tools like meltwater/trendkite, you may be able to track the correlation between each media feature and website visits.

But, it requires much more investment to prove those numbers. (which may not be entirely conclusive at the end of the day?)

If you’re doing PR in isolation, then it may be easier to prove the numbers. If you have a way to prove conversions through PR, I would love to hear from you.

4. You can’t sell yourself.

Selling yourself or talking about how good you are isn’t going to work. For example, you know you’re headed in the wrong direction if your pitch sound like a sales pitch. And, your press release reads like a corporate brochure.

It’s about telling a story.

How do you go about it?

Find a story angle:

  • Is it a first-of-its-kind/ first in your country/ first in the world etc?
  • Is it related to an often talked about issue (e.g. driverless technology, ageing, inequality)
  • Are there interesting profiles in your story? (People who have overcome great adversity, People who are pursuing a different way of life, People who rose from rags to riches)
  • Is it impacting/has the potential to impact a wide community? (Basically, will the general public care about your story?)
  • Does your story involve research — Public perception polls on key issues people care about, medical breakthroughs, new inventions etc.
  • Does it break a record?