Public relations and getting media attention is something every small business owner and start-up has on their mind as a way to boost sales and grow their business.

Unfortunately, because I started my career as a writer, not a day goes by when a small business or start-up owner doesn't tell me about how they've invested thousands in PR and don't have much to show for it.

There's a simple explanation for that: Traditional PR makes no sense for a small business or start-up.

It's mostly because they simply don't have the budget. According to data gathered by Mustr, a platform that allows businesses to organize their media contacts, in the U.S. start-ups can expect to shell out $5,000 to $10,000 in PR retainer fees. If you just want a simple campaign you're looking at a cost of a few thousand dollars.

"Imagine spending $6,000 on a campaign to make only $2,000 in sales in the short term. That's a bitter pill to swallow for an entrepreneur with small profit margins," says Josh Elledge, a PR expert you has gotten himself over 1,000 media interviews without spending a dime and founder of Elledge, a PR expert who has gotten himself over 1,000 media interviews without spending a dime and founder of UpendPR.com.

The good news is the rise of the internet has made it easier than ever for small businesses owners to do their own PR. Here are some strategies you can implore to get some media attention while saving yourself thousands.

Build real relationships.

As a writer, an entrepreneur who knows how to get PR for her own business and a consultant who coaches clients on how to do the same, I teach people to go out of their way in building authentic relationships. At the end of the day, that's all PR is about anyway.

As a result of this strategy, one of my coaching clients was able to get quoted in a large entrepreneurial magazine two weeks after publishing his first blog post. All he did was help a writer he met on LinkedIn with a story about resumes. 

"If you know how to network then you know the basic principles of public relations," notes Elledge. "You can't just reach out to writers expecting to get something in return, you need to be of service first," notes Elledge. "You can't just reach out to writers expecting to get something in return, you need to be of service first."

What does this look like, exactly? It look like making friends, helping writers when they need it, engaging on social media, showing up to conferences and being of service to others.

Figure out your unique story.

 Media loves a good story, and it's up to you to figure out how to craft the kinds of stories they'd want to write about. As much as traditional PR may try, they simply don't know your story as well as you do.

What constitutes a good story? It's not a product launch because those happen every day. Again, it's an awesome tactic for a Fortune 500 company but not so great for a small business.

Instead, it's your unique perspective of your niche, it's the story of why you started your company, it's the story of struggles you've overcome, it's the story of how your company has helped people.

Another way to craft a unique story is to think of the writer's audience. "The most important rule in pitching a journalist is that you need to give them what is going to be extremely interesting for their audience," says Elledge.

By keeping the writer's audience in mind, and coming up with a story they'd find interesting, you increase your chances of being quoted.

Learn how to pitch yourself.

The next step is to learn how to pitch yourself. No one is going to have as much passion and drive for your story as you do - and that passion is infectious.

One of the keys to a good pitch is to make the writer's life as easy as possible. That means hooking them in with a good story from the beginning, giving short but concise answers to their questions and letting them know you're available to talk if they need more information.

For example, let's say you are using a free service like HARO and you're receiving queries from writers via email every day (which, by the way, already saves you time and money). It's not enough to respond to a query with "Hey, I can help. Here's my number."

Writers are busy people with tight deadlines. You need to give them what they want and give it to them fast. For example, if they are looking for a person who has overcome student loan debt and you fit the bill, you need to email them with how you overcame your own student loan debt.

Final Thoughts

The most important thing to remember about doing your own PR as a small business or start-up is that it's a long game. This is not something that happens overnight and it takes consistent effort. However, when done properly it can save you money while getting better results.

Published on: Apr 18, 2016