Public Relations Runners Crossing a Finish Line

Published on August 17th, 2012 | by Connie Sung Moyle

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Get Publicity: 5 PR Advantages Small Businesses Have

Unless you’re, say, Apple, you probably don’t have the press following and reporting on your every move. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck when it comes to getting publicity. In fact, small businesses have some key advantages over large corporations when it comes to getting positive PR coverage.

Here are five ways you can leverage your small business “angle”; perhaps they’ll inspire some ideas on how you can get out there and grab the media’s attention.

1. Small businesses have personal stories to tell. By now, most people know why TOMS Shoes got started or how Mark Zuckerberg founded (The) Facebook – because it’s been talked about in the press so many times (hit movie notwithstanding). Chances are, you’ve got an interesting story about how or why you started your business, or how you’ve overcome challenges along the way. Media love to profile success stories, especially business websites and magazines, because they are interesting and motivating to their entrepreneurially minded readers.

Our local business paper, the San Francisco Business Times, features an “Executive Profile,” “Nonprofit Profile” and “Entrepreneur Profile” in every week’s issue. Your local business paper or section probably profiles homegrown companies on a regular basis, too. Nationally, Inc., Entrepreneur, and the American Express Open Forum website publish profiles regularly and might be worth pitching if your “how I did it” story is really unique and/or your company is growing fast.

2. Small businesses know their customers. As a small business, you probably know your customers pretty well. They are the regulars at your establishment; the ones who send you thank-you notes; the ones who comment on your Facebook posts; the ones who refer you to friends. These customers are a great opportunity to get PR coverage. Customer testimonials go a long way when it comes to successfully “selling” a story to the press. Why? Journalists want to know how you’re actually making a difference, and aren’t just all talk. Again, they want personal stories.

Do a quick interview with the customer to get some background information and then offer him/her up as a source to support your media pitch. Make sure the customer you’re pitching knows to talk about how great you are in the interview. When you get written up, it’s great publicity for you and for that customer. Win-win all around. (For an example, check out this recent profile we secured about Westway Studio, one of our favorite customers.)

3. Small businesses can have a strong impact on their communities. Big companies spend a boatload of money on community relations, with the goal of putting a face to the brand through smaller-scale, local initiatives. Well, guess what? You’ve been there in your local community all along!

The more involved you are with your community, the more likely the local media will start noticing your efforts – and the more legitimacy you have as a business when you pitch them a story. Regional press are more interested in what’s going on in the trenches within their coverage area versus a company that’s based on the other side of the country, no matter how big that company is.

4. Small businesses are flexible enough to capitalize on current events. Let’s say your state is in the middle of a huge heat wave and you own an air conditioning sales and repair company. It probably won’t take you a ton of time to survey how much business has picked up and which brands, models and price points are flying off the shelves, then pitch those statistics to the press. A huge company like Frigidaire, on the other hand, might have to collect and analyze numbers from potentially hundreds of reps and offices. And by the time they’re ready to go to the media (complete with approved corporate talking points), the heat wave might be over.

As a small business, you’ve got the advantage of little to no bureaucracy and the ability to react quickly to what’s currently in the news. And one of the well-known secrets about getting a quick PR hit is to capitalize on what’s in the headlines.

5. Small businesses tend to attract more positive publicity. Let’s face it: a lot of the time, Fortune 500 companies are in the news and blogged about because they did something wrong. (Even if it’s something some might think is relatively minor, like this recent Alaska Airlines incident.) You’d have to really, really mess up for press to take notice. That alone is a huge advantage!

Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you don’t have a great story to tell to the media. Try these small business “angles” for your next PR pitch and you might be surprised by the response. If you have any other tips, please share in the comments!

© 2012, Connie Sung Moyle. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Connie Sung Moyle

is a contributing author for VerticalResponse.



9 Responses to Get Publicity: 5 PR Advantages Small Businesses Have

  1. Pingback: Maximize a Product Launch with This Plan | VR Marketing Blog

  2. Thanks for the advice. I’ve always equated PR to bigger companies but more recently have noticed the small businesses that are in the Up and Coming section of our paper. I’ll definitely give more thought to my story.

  3. Sungmoyle says:

    Jackie, I love that clever hook! I agree, we need to remember that reporters are people, too. Give them something that appeals to their interests and you’ve won half the battle. – Connie

  4. Sungmoyle says:

    Great tip, Wayne! Thanks for sharing. – Connie

  5. This is ideal for any physical business but for many that are online, it will be much more difficult. Overall, great article.

  6. Tara says:

    YES THIS! Everyone is talking about meme-marketing and viral marketing but PR and getting to know journalists is the kind of marketing that has staying power…long-term.
    So important to keep that mind-set.

  7. EllaJP says:

    I agree that EVERY business has a story to tell, and that being small, fast and flexible enough to respond to local, topical events (e.g. a heatwave) are BIG advantages for small companies.
    But, certainly in the UK, these tough economic times mean local newspapers are more keen than ever before to sell advertising – so you may find it tough to get ‘free advertising’ in as editorial. Maybe push your customer testimonials through your own website and social media and find a more newsy angle for the local press.

  8. Great advice and easy to follow!
    When you are dealing with local media as a local company, it’s also effective to provide the journalist or media outlet with a “hook” or interesting angle. Reporters know that if a story line catches their attention, it will most likely grab the attention of their readers/viewers as well.
    For example, we got great coverage for the Grand Opening of our magic shop by sending out targeted press releases with the headline “Grand Opening of the Oldest Magic Shop in Charlottesville”. The hook- we were the first> and only magic shop in Charlottesville! The result- front page stories with color photos in the three largest newspapers plus two spots on the local TV news.

  9. Wayne Liew says:

    This is a good blog post that every small business owner should read.
    If your business is still relatively unknown to the press, start making your connections. Find ways to contribute to a story, send a compliment or comment to a journalist on a story that they have written. When you actually try to pitch later on, all these will help your pitch to stand out among all the other cold pitches.

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