Small Business Public Relations: Overview and Templates

Public relations is an important function for a small business. It can help bring in new customers, recruit talented employees, entice investors, and more, but actually finding time to do it is a constant challenge. Here are some basics to help get you started:

Making News
The story you tell has to be newsworthy. Make note of what's being covered in the newspapers and magazines you would target to help you decide what stories to tell. You'll find that these news stories will include novelty, visual impact, a tie to the local community, and/or a human touch (e.g., charity, humor, kids).

Press Lists
Now that you have news, you'll need to decide who best to tell it to. The kind of story it is will help you determine who to send it to. Ask yourself: Is it news, a feature, an opinion? Is it relevant to a local, national or international audience? It is of interest to the general public or specific to your industry?

Create a comprehensive list of all the news outlets in your area, including newspapers, business journals, radio and TV broadcast. For national news, add trade magazines and websites and subject-relevant columns in national newspapers.

To withstand changes both at your business and the publication, include as much information about your business as possible: news outlet name, phone, fax and email for multiple contacts, outlet's main phone and fax number, the street address, format/frequency (print, broadcast, weekly, monthly, etc.), deadlines, and details of each interaction you've had with the publication.

Press Releases and Pitching
If you're targeting more than a handful of reporters with your story, you'll need to write a press release. The key to writing a press release is to put the important information (who, what, where, when, why and how) right up front – in the headline and first paragraph. Use simple language, be clear and concise, and keep it to one page. Also, include a quote or two from your organization and or a customer. The goal is to get the news outlet to print the press release as is, so write it like a news story. You can distribute the press release by emailing or faxing to the targeting publications, or for more exposure, you can use BusinessWire to distribute to national or targeted news services.

To get started, see the Press Release Template (.doc format)

If you're pitching your story to a select few, or you're making follow up calls regarding the press release, here are a few things to remember. Prior to calling, send a short email outlining the key components of your story so they can reference it when you call. Call early in the day and early in the week. Thursday is typically deadline day for weekly publications – don't call then. Persistence pays – you can reach almost anyone if you keep trying. But once you get them, be respectful of their time and their deadlines. Ask if this is a good time and then be quick – give them the critical few facts about what makes your story important to them.

Successful interviews stick to a few key messages and repeat them. Talk in soundbites – keep your messages simple, quotable and interesting. Use anecdotes to demonstrate points. The key to successful interviews with journalists is to keep it simple and interesting.

Press Kits
Press kits are an easy way to provide the media with all of your company information in one place.
They can include:
  • Recent press release(s)
  • Photos and bios of key executives
  • Product photos, spec sheets
  • Company fact sheet/backgrounder

If you're hosting an event or attending a tradeshow here are some things to consider:
  • Pitch one publication with your news for advance coverage of the event
  • Send out a media advisory the week before the event to encourage press to "save the date." See the Media Advisory Template (.doc format)
  • Obtain the pre-registered press list from tradeshow organizers and set up onsite interviews with appropriate reporters. Discuss announcements being made, future plans, industry trends, etc.
  • Bring plenty of press kits

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