If you are a business owner and you can’t afford to hire an agency, it’s not the end of the world. PR is still achievable without hiring a professional.
If you are in a new job, and you can’t afford to hire an agency, how would you advise someone to be their own pr machine?
This post is part of our “Business Startup Guide” – a collection of our articles that will help you get up and running quickly!
Whether you’re a new entrepreneur or a seasoned SMB owner, you probably want to improve the visibility of your message to a certain target group. There is a target audience you want to engage, whether it’s consumers, prospects, or partners.
However, you may not be ready to employ a high-priced creative firm because it is out of your budget or you have had negative experiences in the past.
Whatever the situation may be, as an SMB owner, you have tools and tactics at your disposal to help you develop a social and public relations strategy. It also does not need a monthly retainer.
Walker Sands Communications, a Chicago-based public relations firm, has assisted us in compiling a list of suggestions to help SMB owners promote their businesses without the assistance of an agency. We’ve expanded on each of their suggestions to offer you a clearer picture of how you may achieve marketing success!
1. Use social media to interact with other opinion leaders.
Establishing their own team as thought leaders in the field is crucial for a small company to acquire credibility in their market.
As a small company owner, you most likely follow individuals on social media for advice and to keep up with relevant news. Engage with these individuals on Twitter and LinkedIn. It will almost certainly improve your exposure on these platforms among relevant audiences, as well as help you establish relationships that may be beneficial in the future.
However, Jonathan Michael, Community Manager of Palo Alto Software, has a word of caution: “Never have your first contact with an influencer be a ‘ask.’” Instead, cultivate a connection with the individual you’re attempting to contact. Begin by praising something they’ve accomplished or sharing something they’ve written. Basically, do something that requires you to give more than you take.”
Start by familiarizing yourself with sites that can help you discover influencers, such as Followerwonk, Tweepi, and Keyhole, if you’re not sure what you can do. If you’re successful in establishing that connection, you can utilize these sites to discover Twitter influencers who can help spread the news.
Here’s an example of how to utilize Followerwonk in practice:
James Shields, a UK unicycling enthusiast, has released an app named “Learn to Unicycle” two days ago. Nothing has been done to promote the app as of yet, mainly so that James can work through any technical problems that may arise, but also since he is new to the marketing industry.
When he asked where he should start, I recommended Twitter since it’s the simplest way to connect with people you don’t know but who may have clout. It’s also one of the quickest methods to spread the word!
In addition to utilizing Twitter’s search function to locate individuals who may be interested in what you have to offer, Followerwonk eliminates the guessing. You may log in using your Twitter credentials if you already have one. After that, a keyword search for “unicycling,” for example, will yield a list of individuals who have the term in their profile or bio.
You may filter the people depending on what you’re searching for from here. Maybe you’d want to reach out to someone with 100,000 followers? Or is it possible that their “social authority” is more significant? Maybe it’s the quantity of tweets they send?
Rather of focusing on just one of these areas, I recommend considering them all at once.
Make an effort to decipher what they mean to you. If someone just tweets a few times a day, you’ll have to work a lot harder to get them to mention you. And, if they have no followers, don’t expect them to follow you just because you follow them. Even if someone has a modest follower/tweet count, they may be worth your attention if they have strong social influence. Consider developing a connection with them because if they do mention you, you’ll have a far better chance of being picked up!
Also, don’t be scared to go through other people’s Twitter accounts. I’m not encouraging creepy stalking, but they are public and therefore open to the public’s scrutiny. You never know what you may learn or what interests you might have with someone else.
While interacting with thought leaders is a fantastic method to get your company’s message out there, becoming a thought leader yourself will be a long-term commitment.
Maintaining a regular blog, like marketing guru Seth Godin does, or using services that enable you to write and reach your target audience are both excellent ways to get started. LinkedIn, in case you didn’t know, has evolved into one of these platforms.
Only a few well-known influencers could previously express their views on LinkedIn’s news site, Pulse. It is now accessible to the general public. If you want to position yourself as a leader in your industry, make advantage of this platform.
You may immediately publish a “blog” or article to LinkedIn from the home page that appears when you first log in. Have you seen the spot where you typically update your status? If you instead click the pencil icon, you’ll be brought to the visual editor, where you may upload an image and start writing.
Your home feed is the best place to start writing a LinkedIn article.
Deborah Shane, a small business specialist and author, has put up a fantastic list of things to bear in mind if you want to grasp LinkedIn’s publishing platform. At the very least, make sure you have a catchy subject line!
Begin by include the clients and customers with whom you currently do business—if this is appropriate—and then start creating material that will set you apart and that clients will find useful.
Make a point of responding to everyone who leaves a remark. This applies to all social media sites. If individuals take the time to engage with you throughout the day, make sure you reciprocate.
2. Make your own content and distribute it across all of your social media platforms with relevant hashtags.
Creating unique material that helps your target audience is another element of being a thought leader.
Blog articles, white papers, case studies, and webinars are all excellent ways to build your authority and reputation. Furthermore, these materials are simple to distribute through email and social media, guaranteeing maximum exposure.
Snooping is the greatest method to discover how to advertise. What are the best practices in your industry? What are other individuals doing who aren’t in your business doing? What will your target audience find most helpful, and where will they spend the most time online? If it’s in their inbox, newsletters may be a good place to start.
We refer to “content creation”—for the sake of marketing and branding—as content marketing in the digital age. While this isn’t a new technique (John Deere used it in the late 1800s), it has arguably superseded a lot of previous SEO methods. This is how you are discovered on the internet nowadays. Furthermore, the better and more helpful the material you produce, the more likely it is to become viral.
Look through some of the free booklets on the Content Marketing Institute’s website to get a sense of how others are approaching their content marketing strategy. The Content Marketing Playbook, which is also available as a slideshare, is my personal favorite. Spend some time considering the kind of material that will be most helpful to your target audience, and don’t be hesitant to try new things.
Selecting the Correct Hashtags
If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase, a hashtag is just a keyword that you may use to label anything you post on social media. It starts with the # sign and has no spaces in it. The inclusion of a space splits a hashtag in half, making just the first portion meaningful and undermining the hashtag’s purpose! So, when #30DayChallenge is split down, it becomes #30, and who is looking for the hashtag #30?
#websummit, #Election2014, #cwf14, #alexfromtarget, and #RuinAComedian are some of the popular hashtags trending on Twitter today.
A hashtag is usually attached to a tweet on Twitter or a post on Facebook or Google+. Hashtags are also used on sites like Instagram to make content more searchable.
If you’ve never used hashtags before, it’s best to start with pre-made tags rather than creating your own. If you do decide to utilize pre-existing tags, be cautious how you do so. After all, you don’t want to “hijack” a bad tag and ascribe it to your company, like Jell-O did with their #FML debacle. Just be cautious, do your homework, and consider how your followers and non-followers may utilize this tag in the present and future. Is it possible that it will have a negative effect on your business? If there’s even a remote possibility that it could, don’t use it!
Take a look at Twubs or Hashtagify if you’re not sure what hashtags already exist or if they’re popular.
Once you’ve mastered utilizing a hashtag to boost your post’s visibility, try coming up with your own. Our hashtag, #TrackThis, was established to be used solely with Palo Alto Software’s CEO, Sabrina Parsons, addressing issues related to the appropriate metrics to monitor in a company during webinars.
Using more than one hashtag may sometimes assist explain what you’re talking about. This is especially essential if you’re utilizing a tag with several uses, such as #30DayChallenge. Others on Twitter use this tag to refer to 30 day yoga challenges or other fitness challenges, while we utilized it to connect all of our articles relating to establishing a company in 30 days. This does not exclude us from using the tag, but it does imply that we run the risk of individuals not subscribing to the tag since they are uninterested in exercise challenges! They’re just interested in making money.
We may either develop our own tag or utilize another tag in combination with our #30DayChallenge tag to address this issue.
Keep an eye on your content marketing activities.
BuzzSumo is a fantastic tool to try out if you want to keep track of how your content is doing. At Palo Alto Software, we utilize it to keep track of the kind of content that are doing well across our major social networks. The best part? You may use it to keep an eye on your rivals. What’s hot right now? What is the most popular topic on Twitter?
Quicksprout’s Neil Patel has a fantastic blog. If you need to brush up on your marketing abilities or are just getting started, this is a great place to start. A quick look at Neil’s most popular postings this year reveals that Twitter is by far the most popular. That’s presumably because the first post is immediately relevant to a Twitter-based audience, the second is a “how-to” type piece, and the third is a list post, according to Neil’s top article. Both of these formats are popular on social media sites such as Twitter.
You may also use the following free tools to track your content marketing efforts:
- Google Alerts: Keep track of when and where your business is referenced on the internet. Someone may have given you credit for something you did but failed to contact you. You can keep on top of any mentions if you use Google Alerts.
- Use SocialMention to see what’s being said about a certain word across blogs, videos, and social media. You may use SocialMention to check how many times and how often a word has been used. You may also subscribe to an RSS feed to stay up to date!
3. React to current events in the news.
Offering oneself as an authoritative source to comment on breaking news topics is a fantastic approach to build connections with reporters. For example, if you work for a software firm that creates calendar apps for companies, you’re probably well-versed in Google’s new calendar app. Reporters are constantly on the lookout for specialists who can add depth and fresh perspectives to their stories.
This is precisely what we did the day before yesterday. Take a look at our article, “Midterm Election Issues Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners Should Keep an Eye on,” for more information. While we don’t pretend to be political experts, we do keep an eye on topics that may impact small businesses, such as corporation tax reform. As a result, we don’t only report on current events; we also report on topics that our audience will find helpful and important. Being “on time” is crucial. You’ve got it made if you can figure out what the “mood” of your industry is at any particular time.
I sometimes use Google Trends to see whether something is decreasing or increasing in popularity. Search traffic for our business planning software and company management dashboard has more than quadrupled in the past three years, according to a search for the phrase “LivePlan.”
Isn’t it crazy? Take anything that’s been in the news a lot lately, like Ebola, and Google can even direct you to some of the news headlines that will help you understand what’s going on.
If you want to see those news articles plotted on the graph, you’ll have to go to the Google Trends page, but the idea is that if you identify the trend early enough, you may be able to ride the wave and become a go-to source for people seeking for real-world insight into your specialty.
What is important to the individuals in your field? After you’ve figured it out, keep an eye on the news.
4. Before you purchase, try out free social media and content marketing tools.
Public relations companies like BrandWatch and Radian6 use social media and content monitoring technologies like BrandWatch and Radian6 to watch their clients’ online presence. However, these goods may be costly, particularly for a small company.
Before you commit to a purchase, take advantage of the free trials that many marketing products provide. Each has its own set of characteristics, and some may be more suited to your requirements than others.
Fortunately, “freemium” goods are many these days.
SproutSocial, BuzzSumo, Hootsuite, HelloBar, and Buffer may not have all of the tools you need to track your online performance and presence, but they’ll do until you can afford to upgrade to a premium membership.
5. Select the appropriate social media network for your business.
While it is obvious that businesses must be present on social media in order to remain relevant, not all channels are appropriate for your business. Determine who your target audience is and where they obtain their information. Is it Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook that they prefer? If you had a Pinterest or Instagram account, would they even glance at it?
As long as the material reaches your target audience, each channel may be utilized to concentrate on a certain aspect of your core message. Otherwise, it’ll be a waste of effort and a poor image of your company. It is much preferable to do fewer things well than to do everything badly.
Take a look at the Pew Studies Center’s social networking research if you’re not sure whether your target demographic is using a specific site. This information sheet may help you figure out where your demographic spends their time online.
Knowing what each of these networks is used for makes choosing a platform a lot simpler. Scott Levy, the author of “Tweet Naked” and the creator of Fuel Online, devotes a section of his book to assisting you in determining which social media sites to use. In this excerpt, you’ll rapidly learn the most important facts about the most popular social networking platforms, including Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
If you’re still unsure, here’s an infographic that explains everything. While the data are somewhat out of date (the initial release was in 2013), it remains a useful reference for all other reasons.
6. Use social media to interact with your consumers.
Engage with consumers who are conducting discussions about your brand or a subject that is important to your company while on social media. It’s simple to observe what people believe is essential when you watch what they’re saying on your social media accounts and the keywords that pertain to your company. This is also a good way to stay on top of client concerns and keep the discussion under control before it gets out of hand.
Hootsuite and other social listening tools make this simple. Simply connect your accounts to the platform, and you’ll be able to access them all from a single dashboard. In Hootsuite, here’s a look at one of our Twitter tabs. You’ll see that we’ve chosen to display streams/feeds of tweets in which anybody mentions us directly using the @ tag, a column for retweets, and a stream/feed of tweets in which anyone just mentions Bplans. We also have seven more streams hidden away on the right, and they’re all for Twitter!
You’ll sometimes be stumped as to how to react to someone’s remark. Maybe they’ve voiced an unfavorable viewpoint or stated something that isn’t entirely accurate.
Small Business Social Media Response Flow Chart (click to view large)
While we still recommend nearly always replying (as do most PR companies), the best method to react isn’t always obvious. That’s why, if you’re still stumped, have a look at our social media reaction flow chart.
And, if all of this seems terrifying and you’re considering ditching all platforms, consider the following: Even if you don’t have an internet or social media presence, people are still talking about you. It just implies you aren’t paying attention to and participating in such discussions. This has the potential to be much worse from a technical standpoint.
Many businesses utilize social media channels like Twitter to provide customer care. Take a look at how Zappos, Verizon, and these ten UK companies handle online customer service.
But keep in mind that if you’re going to establish an account just for customer support, you’ll want to make sure that someone is checking it on a near-constant basis. According to Lithium Technologies’ study, 72 percent of consumers anticipate a response from a business they’re engaging with on Twitter within the hour, and 53 percent expect a response within the hour.
The bad news is that 60 percent of those polled said they would feel more negatively toward a brand if they didn’t hear back in a timely manner, with 29 percent telling friends and family about their bad experience, 26 percent escalating the issue through other modes of communication, 24 percent considering buying less from that company in the future, 21 percent who wouldn’t recommend the company’s services and products, and a further 19% who would not recommend the company’s services and products.
So, if you go on it, make the decision to stay on it.
7. Take use of Google Analytics
Google Analytics is essential for tracking your internet presence. Google Analytics is a free service that enables you to track certain keywords and your business name to see when they appear online. Other capabilities provide you information about how visitors found your website and how well your owned and earned media are doing.
In previous posts on our site, we’ve gone through monitoring metrics in great detail. Here’s some suggested reading if you want to learn more about how to keep track of your internet presence:
Do you have any additional PR advice for small businesses seeking to save money on a public relations firm?
How do you maintain your internet presence and promote your business? What tools or resources do you use? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!
The bplans blog is a blog that offers tips on how to do your own PR. If you are not able to afford an agency, this blog will help you with some tips on how to get the word out about your company.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get PR for myself?
You need to have a website or blog with some kind of content.
How much does a PR agency cost?
A PR agency costs $10,000 to $50,000.
How much does it cost to start a PR firm?
It costs about $10,000 to start a PR firm.
- how to start a business paragraph
- what is a pr machine
- marketing tools for small business