The Internet enables small business owners to handle many tasks in-house that previously would have required hiring a specialist or outsourcing the project. Thanks to the proliferation of websites, and wide scale access to the Internet, you don’t need to be a marketing professional to launch and manage an online public relations (PR) campaign.
PR, as savvy marketers know, can achieve results that advertising cannot. Specifically, when a product or service is featured in an article—or in editorial copy—rather than in a paid ad, consumers tend to pay more attention to it. Third party endorsement—in the form of an article or story—tends to have more credibility with readers/viewers than advertising. If you’re not using online PR to support your business, you are missing an opportunity to gain the attention of potential customers and to support your sales efforts.
Here are some tactics you might consider:
- Write news releases for online distribution to the news media. A news release is the work horse of the PR profession. It is a factual, informative “who, what, where, when” document. Save the qualitative adjectives –e.g. “exciting”, “cutting-edge”, innovative”, etc. for any quotations you might include from key executives. The body of the news release should be free of subjective opinions or superlatives. Short, concise, and to-the-point, a news release is best for announcing new products or services, promotions, and any significant industry or community recognition that you, or your firm, have received. Get your key information in the headline and first paragraph. It must grab the reader’s attention to avoid being discarded immediately. Include links to your company web site for reporters who want more background as well as a company contact (with email address, phone numbers, website address) for editors. Give a contact phone number you are likely to answer. Editors need answers fast—deadlines are the name of the game.
- Take the time to develop a good online press list. Most newspapers include email contact information for the business desk, technology editor, metro news desk etc., and some reporters include their email address with their by-line. Larger metropolitan newspapers often have an online publication with their own set of contacts, and it’s important to include them in your online distribution, too. Don’t forget to include relevant contacts at trade or professional magazines. Not sure who to send it to? Skim through the publication and look for names of editors or reporters who are writing about topics like those mentioned in your release.
- Distribute your news release to clients and influential contacts, too. Send it as an email to your client base, to business associates, and to your local chamber of commerce. It is often a good idea to “paste” the new release directly into the email text. As an attachment, it may not get opened. Recipients, who may be leery of sales information, are often more receptive to this type of news bulletin.
- Add a virtual news room to your website and make sure you include all your news releases. List by date order (most recent should top the list) and include the headline (snappy and informative) in the listing. Be sure to keep your news room current.
- Finally, don’t forget to make sure you include words or phrases in your news release that will attract the attention of search engine spiders. If you are not sure what these might be, do a little experimental research with various phrases to see how the search engines respond.
Press releases are a great way of keeping your company name visible. Not only a great tool to generate press coverage, they also provide a cost-effective way to reach and influence customers.