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The View From… A PR Expert

The View From… is a series of blogs where we speak to experts in different professions and gather their learnings and lessons from the work they do with small business clients. Rachael Taplin is the CEO and Founder of Media Matchmaking service BlueBoo Media. 

The most common mistake a small business makes when they are trying to promote themselves publicly is one of confidence – they just don’t know where to start.

They don’t know how to write a press release. They don’t know who to send it to. And, finally, they don’t know which media outlet to approach.

Good marketing and PR go hand in hand and it is important for small businesses to get it right and not be too easily daunted by it. 

Here are some of the ways you can do that…


Position yourself as an expert

You might want others to view yourself as a “Consumer Champion”, like Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, or “Retail Champion” Clare Bailey (formerly Clare Rayner). Expert opinions are always sought after and you can offer yours in relation to your industry. 

If you position yourself as an expert, media outlets can approach you to ask your expert professional opinion on news, changes in law or a special commemorative day e.g World Book Day or International Women’s Day.

With the rise of the influencer, now’s a good time to position yourself as the expert. There are over 700,000 influencers in the UK that share their knowledge and expertise.

If you have a social media profile, and regularly communicate to your community via your blog or email campaigns, then you are already an influencer and the next step is to simply connect to the media and share your expertise.

Remember, the role of the journalist is to interview you and to ask the questions. Your job is to be a great source of information and to be a sector specialist.


Be confident

All too often, small businesses lack confidence when it comes to publicly promoting their brand to media outlets: online, TV, radio, social media and so on. You need to believe in your business and your own story and media outlets will pick up on this.

Have a unique selling point (USP) to grab their attention. Start small by connecting with your local and regional media. Listen to your local BBC Radio station and see if there are any topical debates that you can contribute to.

The media are always on the hunt for new stories so have the confidence to approach them with a relevant story that could inspire their audience. Set up Google alerts to see what is trending within your expertise or sector and then offer your opinion and viewpoint both to your community and to the media.


Build up relationships

Knowing the right people, and, in the case of PR, knowing the right media outlets and journalists, is key to drumming up media interest in your business.

All too often, small businesses send their press releases to the wrong journalist or media outlet and they are just ignored and get no press coverage.

Try and build up long-term relationships with journalists – print, online and broadcast – they are people too! As a small business, you can return to them again and again, not only if you have something new to tell them, e.g. a change in management, a celebrity backer, a new product, but just to keep in touch generally about how the business is expanding.

Send them an introductory email and tell them how much you enjoy their content and that you feel their audience would also be interested in what you have to say.

Highlight your areas of expertise and suggest that you would be willing to provide them with ongoing articles and if you can add a link to your recent blogs.

Ask journalists to add you to their little black book. Help them out with any new stories that are trending that is within your expertise and offer them an expert comment or tell them you are available for an interview.

Show interest in others

If you have a small business which is a fashion retailer or if you have a small independent financial advice firm, try and establish yourself amongst those particular communities.

Why not become a fashion blogger and promote your line of clothing? Follow popular fashion bloggers on Instagram – the chances are if you follow them on social media, they will follow you back and you can build up a reputation for your business, as well as looking ‘on trend.’

Offer to collaborate and share content. That way you are creating new value to your prospects and customers and also reaching new communities.

Show an interest in the media outlets you would like to get featured with. For example, see who writes the articles and send an email or tweet to say how much you enjoyed what they have to say.

See what news is trending and offer them a viewpoint to say you are available for comment.

Connect to their social media platforms. Most media outlets will have a Facebook page or a presence on Twitter and Instagram.

Develop key messages and make an emotional connection

When you are interviewed by media outlets, it is important to have two or three key messages. Behave like a politician! Stick to the point, don’t get distracted. If you stick to the point, you can convey your business message across to the general public effectively.

Write your key business messages down in advance and cross them off when you mention them to the journalist. That way you can remind yourself that you need to bring the question round to give information that also covers your agenda.

The number one mistake made with press releases for SMEs tends to be that most businesses are trying to promote their goods or services which is advertising.

PR is about making an emotional connection with the audience so make sure you are telling a story that relates to the audience and that offers value.

PR tells a story, advertising sells a business. Do not make this mistake as journalists can see right through this and you don’t want your press release to end up in the bin.

The most important thing to remember is that PR is one of the most cost-effective ways to attract new customers, build your profile and put cash in the bank.

You do not need to hire a PR agency to secure media coverage. Allocate a small time each week to getting your story and expertise out there and remember one article or interview could literally change your business success overnight and skyrocket your profile.

Read advice on promoting your business with our 43 low-cost marketing tips

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Rachael Taplin

Rachael Taplin is the CEO and Founder of Media Matchmaking service BlueBoo Media. She was speaking to Sabuhi Gard, a freelance business journalist who has written for the Guardian and the Independent.

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