I don't care how small your business is. If you're not getting some type of press attention at least once a month, you're doing something very wrong.
I know what you're thinking: "How can I compete with the big guys?"
The answer to that one is simple: You can't.
But that's not a reason to give up. There are plenty of opportunities for small businesses to get media coverage. The key is understanding which stories you are qualified to tell and which ones you aren't.
In trying to generate some buzz, many small businesses make the mistake of pitching the "home run" story. While swinging for the fences isn't necessarily a bad thing, the top media outlets aren't likely to jump on your offer for them to profile the business or do an in-depth feature on the CEO/founder. Unfortunately, for most small businesses, that story is a one in a million long shot.
Instead, go after a very different angle. Virtually every major publication and media outlet has reporters who cover small business, entrepreneurship, the economy and human interest stories. There are also dozens of smaller media outlets whose sole focus is small business.
They may not come to you looking for an "expert" in your field, but they will come to you for your real-life experiences as a small business owner. No matter what business you are in, you have a story to tell. If you started your own business, are struggling to build your business or if you have a success story to tell, there are members of the media hungry to talk with you.
What stories are you qualified to tell?
Anyone who has gone through the process of starting and running a business has plenty of stories worth sharing. A few tried and true entrepreneur-related pitches include:
- "How I left a big company to start my own business"
- "How I got my first major funding"
- "Mistakes I've learned from"
- "How government regulations are killing my small business"
- "Hiring disasters"
- "Hiring success stories"
- "The worst employee I ever had" (be careful not to name names!)
- "Growing pains"
- Stories tied to current events ("How Obamacare will affect my small business")
- "Interview tips for people looking to be hired by a small business"
- Anything to do with social media and small business
- Anything to do with mentoring or being mentored
Who to pitch and where to find them
There are a number of tools you can use to find reporters who write about small business and entrepreneurship. Three times a day HARO (Help a Reporter Out) emails lists of reporters seeking sources for stories. Muck Rack provides the Twitter feeds from reporters at dozens of major publications and lets you search by their "beat."
If you are willing to invest a bit more, there are many services that will give you detailed contact information about reporters covering your industry and covering small business and entrepreneurship. These services include Cision, Vocus and Burrelles Luce.
Do it yourself or hire a PR firm?
I know a lot of people are probably going to disagree with me on this one. Getting a steady stream of press takes time and effort. Sure, you can do it on your own. But do you really have time for that? If you want to do it right, hire a communications/public relations person on staff. If you can't invest in that hire, which may not be in every small business's budget, then find a PR agency with a real track record of success serving companies of similar size and similar industries.