As an entrepreneur, the most precious commodity you have is time. It's enough just to be CEO, accounts receivable/payable, secretary and janitor, but throw in public relations efforts and it feels as if one ball must fall in order to keep a new one in the air.
Truth is that in the beginning stages you most likely don't have the funding to pay for professional PR help. However you desperately need to get the word out, generate interest and sales in order to create a PR budget. It's the chicken and the egg. So what do you do?
I am here to tell you that DIY PR is totally possible with some time management tips. And, when you're ready to work with a pro, you will be more knowledgeable about PR, your story/message and your audience.
• Keep it highly targeted. I call it the Bowl of Spaghetti Theory: You throw a bowl of spaghetti up on the wall and watch to see what sticks. Some use this theory in PR by blast emailing press releases to media/bloggers and it never works. The best approach is a highly targeted one where you go directly where your audience is. Know your audience and you will know where to target your press release.
• Research the media you want to be in. Do they even cover your industry or business? You might want the "Oprah Effect" by being highlighted in "O" magazine, but editors are mostly interested only in lifestyle consumer products and services, not your computer software program. It's important to find the right media outlet that will not only reach your target audience, but will also be interested in what you have to offer. You wouldn't pitch your energy drink to the local magazine's theater editor, would you?
• Break it down. You see an opportunity for your product/service with 500 media outlets and bloggers, but with limited time that seems entirely too daunting a task so, paralyzed by the enormity, you choose to do nothing. My suggestion: Pick your top 10 or 25 media outlets (depending on your time) and chip away at the long list slowly but surely, with a focus on those that will definitely be interested to create quick hits. Give each grouping about a month and then move on to the next grouping, only following up with those media that showed previous interest.
• Make the time. Schedule out time in your week, about two to three hours, to work on your PR efforts. That means developing a media list, writing your press release, pitching media and follow up. If you stay focused and really commit during that time, you will be happy to see how much you can accomplish. It may take some time to get started, but once you get rolling and generate interest, it will be easier and worth it!
• Be available and attentive. It's important to make sure you are available to media who do show interest in your business. This means getting back to them right away when they call or email, even if they can only do an interview with you in the next hour. This is what you wanted, right? So make sure you are responsive to their requests, meet their needs, answer their questions all in as timely a fashion as possible. Otherwise, you might miss out and your efforts will all be for naught.
Jennifer Fortney is president of Cascade Communications, a boutique virtual PR and marketing communications company in Chicago focusing on small business and startups. In her 15+ year career she has worked with some of the top Fortune 500 companies and a wide variety of small businesses and startups across the country. A journalism major with music minor from the University of Kansas, she is also the PR Instructor at SCORE Chicago and founder of @MyStorySource live media pitch feed on Twitter and Facebook. @SmallBizPRXpert