There’s a lot entrepreneurs can do without spending much money. An expensive PR or digital marketing agency isn’t needed. With a bit of creativity, you can see results without spending money unnecessarily. Here are some examples of different types of PR you can use to drive traffic – even if you’re just starting out.
Different types of PR
The PR Stunt
The classic PR stunt may seem a bit outdated in the era of social media, but the fundamentals still stand. The old mantra “all publicity is good publicity” is still true to an extent – just make sure you know who you’re likely to annoy. That’s not to say you should be outrageous for the sake of it, but while you may get haters, you will likely get equally as many fans. Standing for something will make your brand stand out from the crowd of blandness.
One example is the provocative Beach Body Ready campaign in 2015. By banning the tube advert, the brand got more publicity and online attention than it probably would have had the advert been allowed to stay up.
Whether you decide to be controversial or not depends on your goal. But it’s important to remember that the point of a PR stunt is to draw attention.
Here are some tips on how to make your stunt a success:
- Easy to understand – you need to be able to pitch your stunt to time-pressed journalists in a couple of sentences.
- Original – make sure no one’s done anything too similar in the past. Your stunt needs to offer something different.
- Not directly promotional yet related to your brand – there’s no point if your stunt can’t be linked back to your product. You will need to see some kind of return on investment which brings us to…
- Easy to measure – how will you know if your stunt has been successful or not? From social shares? From the amount of press coverage? Newsletter signups? Choose your KPIs wisely.
- Well organised – what can go wrong will go wrong. You will need to take potential hazards into consideration. From the weather, to a transport strike, to online backlash you must plan and then plan again.
- Sell-in – think carefully about the publications you’re going to target and why. Research the journalists beforehand. You could even offer your favourite publication an ‘exclusive’ (first publication rights) if it suits you. And get the timing right, make sure you don’t pitch when a major news event is happening or you’ll just annoy journalists.
In the past, a personal book of contacts was the lifeline of every PR professional. Who you know always helps, but the internet means that connections can be made without having to hire a PR agency to do it for you.
This is why the story matters more than ever. An unknown could pitch a great story to the political editor of a national newspaper and succeed in getting coverage while a seasoned PR professional could fail. The internet has changed everything.
On the other hand, relationships still matter. When approaching the media, a nice manner goes a long way and will help you leverage your brand in other ways and get people on your side. Sounds obvious? Maybe but there are a surprising number of people who don’t get this.
Here’s how you can build good relationships with journalists so you can pitch stories successfully and drive traffic to your site:
- Google News – find out what stories your favourite journalists last covered so you can tailor your pitches accordingly.
- Social handles – use them to discover more about the journalists you’re targeting, how they like to communicate, if there’s a pitching process and what types of stories they cover.
- Organise an event – invite journalists along to an event. It could be a webinar or an offline event like a quiz at a pub. The key here is not to have a specific agenda, use it just to get to know journalists generally and don’t ask anything from them. This way, you can naturally interact without pressure.
- Thank you follow ups – sounds obvious but again, many people don’t bother saying thanks. The journalist gave you a spot in their publication and got your brand out there, definitely worth a simple ‘thank you’.
- Phone them – don’t be scared to pick up the phone. Some journalists say they don’t like being called, but that’s because they don’t want to be inundated with irrelevant calls about pointless stories. If your story is good you could arrive in their office and stalk them online and they wouldn’t care (don’t do this).
As well as press releases, there’s a way of getting your business regularly in the media by becoming an “expert commentator”.
There are a series of tools you can sign up to where you will receive requests from media outlets related to the topics you choose (e.g. tech). You can then reply to the request with your comment and get your name and brand mentioned if you’re picked.
It’s best to check before replying if their links are no follow or not. A no follow link is one that doesn’t help a page’s placement in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). It’s worth noting that many mainstream media don’t use follow links as a matter of course, but it’s always worth being featured in them anyway for brand recognition.
Of course, coverage isn’t guaranteed, you have to pitch to the journalist in the right way, which is a skill in itself. But if you manage to master this, you could get a reasonable amount of coverage each month as an expert commentator.
The benefits are greater brand awareness and more backlinks for your website. Needless to say, these services can come at a price. One way to test them is to try them out before you buy using free trial services. This way, you could get a month free before you decide to sign up. If you continue, you’re looking at anything from around a few hundred to thousands a year depending on what services you require.
Some of the better-known ones are:
- ResponseSource (now owned by Vuelio).
- Help A Reporter Out HARO (this is free and owned by Cision).
- #journorequests – you can search this hashtag on Twitter to find out which journalists. are in need of a story (and build useful contacts along the way).
When using such services, it’s important to be careful what requests you respond to. Do some research into the publication if you’ve not heard of it. And make sure you are actually offering an expert to the journalist in question – be it you or someone else. HARO has come under fire in the past for falling for scams, although it’s still widely used by those in the media.
What other platform has had such a huge influence on setting the news agenda over the last decade than Twitter? While on one hand, it’s slammed as being the root cause of many of society’s problems, others swear that it’s a great way to build a brand, expand networks and even make friends.
Despite being such a controversial platform, Twitter certainly is an incredible PR opportunity for brave entrepreneurs who can combine authenticity with pithy writing skills.
Political agendas are made and news is broken on Twitter. Investors, journalists and serial startup founders can be found musing on a variety of fascinating topics. There are a lot of timewasters but equally a lot of very interesting people.
Here’s how you can stand out on Twitter:
- Don’t be boring – too many companies play it safe and just write banal posts and post a few office away day pictures. While it’s not worth being controversial for the sake of it, you shouldn’t bother at all if you’re going to be dull.
- Be credible – work on your bio. Make it original and also use it to showcase who you are. This way you can build a loyal following. This is why it’s best to do it under your real name with a real photo of you. Being yourself, being authentic and offering value is enough. This is easier said than done but worth working on.
- Don’t be annoying – there are many opinions that shouldn’t be taken seriously, so don’t get drawn into unnecessary arguments. There are a lot of professional provocateurs on Twitter, so it is best to a/ not be one of them b/ not join in.
- Avoid being overly promotional – as mentioned, you won’t need to promote your product all the time if you build trust with your followers. It’s ok once in a while, but it can work better when you tweet around the subject matter and add value.
- Measure engagement not follower amounts: engagement is the name of the game. Forget vanity metrics like followers. Some people have hundreds of thousands of followers and little in the way of engagement. Better to organically grow your followers and build lasting relationships.
One good way of starting out is to find some followers you rate and practice writing tweets in a similar style. Warm up slowly, start off just feeling your way and once you’re confident draw up a coherent strategy. Oh and remember to follow and engage with key influencers in your field. Make sure you find them interesting and actually want to interact with them though – this way you’re more likely to write from the heart rather than simply to get more followers. People can sense when you’re being fake – even online so do it because you want to or don’t do it at all.