Feb 24, 2011

Publicity Tips for Small Business

On Tuesday, Feb. 22, ProfNet hosted the latest installment of its monthly #ConnectChat, a Twitter-based series that explores key communications and media topics.

Dan Janal, president and founder of PR Leads, a service that helps authors, experts and speakers get publicity, covered everything from building credibility to leveraging queries for more publicity, emphasizing public relations tips for small businesses.

Janal, a former business editor with Gannett, wrote one of the first books on Internet marketing, in which he predicted that women would be online. “Back then, he said, “people thought the Internet was for men only. People [also] didn’t think the Internet would even be used for sales and marketing!”

While much of public relations is the same as it was back in 1994, the tools are better. “Things are certainly happening faster and faster — real-time communication, video, etc. It’s lots of fun. I don’t think anyone would have predicted the Net would help foster regime changes in countries. I don’t think people foresaw that TV, movies, etc., would be so accessible on the Net and replace TV viewing. It’s easier for people to find friends, collaborators and share news that never would have been covered.”

Developing a Plan

The first step for small businesses in developing a publicity plan is to clearly define your goal, then ask what media reaches that objective. “It could be traditional media, or social media. Your followers might be on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or a combination. The definition of media is changing every day.”

Search and positioning are also more important, especially for local businesses. “I just helped a coaching client define herself better by using Google’s keyword tools,” said Janal. “She identified her audience, but no one searched for that term. We used Google to find what people were searching.”

Blogs as Promotional Tool

The biggest challenge in trying to get publicity, said Janal, is getting in touch with reporters. “They have so many filters now,” he said.

Janal suggests finding reporters’ blogs and posting on them. “It’s a good way to stand out and make yourself known,” he said.

Company blogs are also great for thought leadership and SEO, he said. “If you can have your blog hosted where it is seen by your target market, go for it.”

The Press Release is Just the Beginning

When asked whether press releases are still relevant today, Janal answered: “Press releases are relevant for SEO. Prospects go to Google to look for new services. Google is the front door to the Web. Press releases are also good as original source materials so reporters can check facts. For some markets (business-to-business, local), press releases can lead to articles.”

But keep your eye on the bigger picture. People think one article, one press release or one TV show will be the tipping point, said Janal. “It isn’t.”

Spreading the Word

When you do get PR, “tell everyone you know!” he suggested. “So many people fail to do that. No one reads every word of every newspaper. You can’t expect your article to be read. You have to e-mail it to people. Put it in your marketing kit, sales kit, book proposal. Post the article on your office wall (in a frame).”

Responding to Reporters

In order to get reporters to contact you, you must first gain credibility as an expert. One way to do that, said Janal, is to post a media section on your website. “It gives you more credibility. Let people know you’ve been quoted, printed, etc. Put notes on the website front page: ‘As seen in…’”

Also, become a content creator in your own right. “Post articles and blogs. Think. Share ideas. Offer advice. Comment on others. Do videos (I’m late on that). Use a search term title that people actually search for, not ‘PR Goddess.’”

If you do get a call from a reporter, the most important thing you can do is respond quickly. “Drop everything,” advised Janal. “Get them what they need. Reporters need speed.”

But remember that “everything is on the record,” cautioned Janal. “Think about what you want to appear in print. Stay focused on that. I tell my clients, ‘The less you say, the more you are understood — and the more control you have over what appears in print.’”

For a full transcript of the #ConnectChat, visit author Maria Perez’s blog on ProfNet Connect at http://bit.ly/elqSwS

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