Shouting about your business is not something that comes easily to female entrepreneurs, but good public relations is a brilliant and cost-effective way of getting your name out there.
It’s all about having a subjective look at your business and thinking about how you could generate great stories that will be of interest to journalists.
Before you make a start on your PR though, here are some things to think about:
1.Customer service. Your customer service must be impeccable. Ensure all of your team knows what your company ethos is and keep them up-to-date with any special offers. When I was a journalist, I was asked to write about a woman who had set up a new business in town and when I went to see her, her assistant was so incredibly rude that we pulled the story.
2. Know your message. Keep things simple – one message at a time. Don’t overcomplicate stories by trying to include too much. Work out what your USP is and stick to that.
3. Read the papers. If you want to appear in the press, then you need to actually read the publications you’re targeting. Familiarise yourself with their style and to know what kind of stories they use. You also need to see what the competition is up to! Reading around your own trade is essential too and only takes a few minutes a day. It’s also a good idea to know what’s going on in the national news as this will help inform your writing and keep it up-to-date. It will also provide great ideas on which you can piggyback. As a former journalist myself, I felt it was quite disrespectful when people phoned up asking us to use a story and then ask for copies when it’s in print “because I don’t ever read your paper.”
4. Prepare a bio. Write a short piece that is up-to-date with your work achievements, awards and anything else that highlights your expertise. It’s also worth including your age plus anything quirky you do outside work.
5. Make sure you have a good quality headshot ready. “Yes we’d like to use your release! Have you got a photo please?” Don’t say “help yourself to one from my website or Facebook page” – it shows you’re not interested, plus will be entirely too small for print. Try not to send a picture from your phone or one with your dog or even one where you’ve hastily chopped someone else out! Ask a professional photographer – preferably one who understands you and your business and can reflect this in the pictures.
6. Make time to brainstorm. Set aside some time every week, with your team if you have one, to find out what’s going on and what they’re up to. You’d be amazed at what you find out!
7. Follow newspapers on Twitter. Also follow your favourite journalists. They often will post queries on Twitter and if you can help, your name will be the first they think of when they need an expert in your field.
8. Know who does what. Familiarise yourself with various publications and make sure you don’t send motoring stories to the sports editor.
9. Know the deadlines. Make sure you’re not calling at a bad moment as this will get you remembered for the wrong reasons. Weekly papers tend to be slightly less busy at the end of the week and daily papers are busy in the evenings. Check before you call!
10. Case studies. Always ask your customers whether they’re happy to be quoted as it gives credence to the service you offer. When someone gives you a testimonial, ask if you can use it, plus their name, for your media activity.
About Your Guest Blogger: Margaret McDonnell works with small businesses (and sometimes bigger ones such as the NHS, NatWest and Renault) to help them get their name in front of their customers by earning press coverage and getting featured in newspapers, magazines, blogs, radio, TV and online. She was previously a regional journalist and moved into PR in 2006. Since then, her work has appeared in UK newspapers (for example The Sun, the Guardian and the Independent) and in national magazines such as Prima, Good Housekeeping, Yours, Waitrose Weekend and Essentials. When not writing, she’s usually to be found in either a swimming pool or at a music festival.