Column by Janine Popick, Inc.com "Girl Power Female CEOs" February 6, 2012
I’ll admit it, I wasn’t a public relations expert when I started my e-mail marketing company, VerticalResponse. I’m a marketer; more specifically, a direct marketer. I need to have a result and attach it to how much I’ve spent to get that result. PR is a bit squishy, so it was hard at first to embrace having to do it. But over the years, I’ve seen the success of PR and am a big supporter of getting your business name out there in the press.
Understanding the business of PR is paramount to your success. For the most part, it’s pretty simple. The press needs really great content so that people read their stuff, so that they can get advertisers to pay to put ads in front of their readers, so that they can make money. Clear?
From my experiences over the past 11 years starting and running my business, I’ve tried many things to get the attention of the press. Some worked, others were duds. So I thought I’d come up with a quick rundown of five ideas that you can do now to get media attention – and more potential customers to know about your business.
1. Run a Cool Contest
Contests can be a great way to get ink, and the ones that are more media-friendly tend to focus on helping people, not touting a company’s product. One year, we had a video contest where we asked small business owners to record themselves describing their business, what makes them passionate and how they’d use the money if they won. We called the contest “The New Deal for Small Business,” a take on how President Obama wanted to re-invigorate the economy at the time. We received over 50 videos and entrants were sending their customers to our website to vote. In the long run, not only did we get great press, we also got our business in front of voters who might not have known about us.
In fact, we’re running another contest right this minute, “The Next Teen Tycoon” – we’re searching for the country’s best teen entrepreneurs! Do you know one?
2. Get Your Bling On
There is an award for every industry and every business, and you’re probably already aware of them but for some reason you don’t apply. Maybe it’s the time commitment or maybe you just don’t think you’ll win. I say, apply for one! Take a few minutes to answer some questions about your business, tout how great you’re performing, and/or talk about a new service you’re offering. If you win, you are now an award-winning company. The most press pickups we get is when we win awards, both from our industry trades as well as local publications. Who knows, maybe it’s the economy, but it’s good news and you should benefit from it. You also might get some great new customers and new hires because people want to work with winners.
3. Survey Your Customers
You’ve got access to something very valuable: your customers. Why not use them to establish yourself and your company as a thought leader in your industry? All you need to do is conduct an online survey with your customers about something topical or timely that you think the press might find interesting. For example, we’ve amassed many small businesses as customers and we were able to survey them about the lack of productivity on opening day of baseball season one year; we were written up on a number of websites and secured two TV spots!
4. Flaunt a Success Story
If someone has used your products or services for something extraordinary, why not pitch the story to the press? Many media outlets are struggling for “feel good” or success stories and you just might have the perfect one for their readers. When we find a customer who is having real success with e-mail marketing or doing something unique, we ask them to share their story with media that we’ve identified for them. Our company gets a mention in the article and, more importantly, we’re positioned positively as a great solution. Check out this article about Pet Camp, one of our customers, as an example.
5. Show Growth
If you’re lucky enough to be growing, tell the world! A few things come out of this: strategic partnerships, potential acquisitions, new hires and new customers. Focus on the following:
Our press releases that focus on growth have been very successful, since it’s a positive story that a company is growing and hiring.
For press release distribution, check out PR Newswire, Marketwire or PRWeb, or you might want to try free-press-release.com, 24-7pressrelease.com or prlog.org if you’re on a tight budget. And services like Cision and Vocus offer media contact databases for you to find all the media outlets that cover your industry.
So step up your PR efforts; you don’t need to be a PR guru to get them going, and the potential return is huge!