Small businesses & PR: what you’re doing wrong

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Have you given PR a try or experienced working with a journalist and it didn't work? Did you get frustrated by the experience and wonder what went wrong?

Here at CEW, while we are passionate about helping businesses of all sizes scale through PR, we always encourage early startups to spend money on getting their product right first before even thinking about spending on comms!

We want you to give it a go - but we also know the obvious potholes you can fall into, so today we're focussing on the common mistakes small businesses make in PR - and quick ways to fix them.

What you’re doing wrong: You think you don’t need a PR plan

As a business plan is crucial to run a business successfully, the same applies to a PR plan. You just cannot ‘wing it’ when it comes to Comms, you have to take time thinking about what you want to achieve and how you’re going to get where you want to be.

How to fix it: Sit down in front of your computer and start writing. Don’t postpone the work. Start setting PR goals - based on your business goals - they can be as few or as many as you need as long as they’re aligned with your business goals.

A PR plan for the year ahead is ideal but if you don’t feel confident enough you can start with making a plan for the next three months.

A great way to help pull your plan together? Talk to your customers to understand the way they engage with the media. Check out one of the first editions of the newsletter on this topic, here.

What you’re doing wrong: You have the wrong approach when it comes to dealing with the media

One thing founders get wrong is that the fact their product is great does not mean it will get covered by the media. Humility comes a long way when dealing with the media and building a reputation is something that takes time and a lot of work.

How to fix it: You should work on building a relationship with the media - and you can read up here. You can start by approaching them on email, telling about your company and your product. Journalists are always on the lookout for stories and are used to being approached with pitches on new companies and products, so you don’t have to hold back here. Be cordial and succinct and do your research, it is this first contact that will potentially lead to a good relationship with the journalist.

After you reach out for the first time, wait a few days until you follow up. Contact them only through their professional channels unless you already have a previous relationship with them. Reaching out through social media is fine, but don’t overdo it. Don’t use LinkedIn or Facebook - if you think their email inbox is bad….these are not better.

What you’re doing wrong: You're not using your website efficiently…

Having just a website is not enough, you have to have a great website. Think of it as the front door to your business as it is the first thing your potential customers will likely see when searching for you online. We all have to start somewhere, but considering anyone you speak to within the media will Google you, is your site up to scratch with the information they need?

How to fix it: Your website needs to work for your user or customers, so focus on the importance of User Experience (UX). Interview your customers to find out what kind of website they’d be attracted to. Watch your competitors to see how they are portraying themselves online. And remember to be clear and simple. You can also read more about UX here.

But also - "Think Journalist" - make sure your website covers six key points: What, Where, When, Why, Who and How. Always make it easy for them to get in touch - add a media@ email address somewhere on your site.

What you’re doing wrong: You are not taking advantage of social media

With over a billion people worldwide using more than one form of social media, your customer is within easy reach, so not using platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn you are missing out on a lot of business opportunities.

How to fix it: Put some time aside to think about which channels work best for the type of audience you want to reach - and ask your customers what they use. Once you decide which platforms to use, create the accounts and draft a few posts. Get feedback from friends, family and potential customers. Use it as a tool to create your own social media tone of voice guidelines and strategy (you can learn more about this in this blog post).

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* This post was originally published in our newsletter The Communications Workshop. Sign up to get more free tips on communications and marketing here!