Done the right way, public relations can help a small business speak with the authority of a corporate titan. Media opportunities seized in a smart, timely way can turn a squeak into a roar. The catch? You need to be willing to take risks, ruffle feathers, and share the spotlight.
One way to be included in a prominent news article is to hitch your business to a breaking news story. For example, if Google is pulling out of China and your small business manufactures high-tech components in China, you may share some insights on cultural differences that can sink deals unless handled right. It takes a brave company to openly discuss problems, even those you have managed to solve. But that kind of candor is what may win you a place in an international news story no matter what your size. If you have the courage, offer yourself for an interview. Write a brief e-mail to the reporter who has been covering the breaking story. Offer to comment, and in a short paragraph or two explain your basic points.
There are more ways to use breaking news to your advantage. In nature, small animals sometimes puff out their fur or arch their backs to appear larger than they really are. In PR, it’s the op-ed in newspapers and speeches at industry conferences that can create this aura for you. Position yourself as a leader; prepare to take a stand on an issue that has been recently in the news. Be bold and shake things up. That’s the only way your op-ed submission will rise above the competition and make it into print or your speech will be remembered after the meeting ends.
Determine the stand you want to take and then bolster it with supporting facts. For example, if recent headlines are about health care reform and the rule that fast-food restaurants should post calorie counts, a gym owner might write an op-ed arguing that calorie counts will do nothing to fight the obesity crisis if Americans don’t get off the couch and start exercising. The piece must be supported by facts, such as citing medical studies that support your argument.
Share the Spotlight
For the news media, there is power in numbers, and the magic number is three. Trend stories sell, and at least three things make a trend. So if you’re willing to share the spotlight with others, you can pitch a trend story that will include your business in the bigger picture.
The most strategic way to do this is to pick a trend that affects your business and two others. For example, you might pitch a story about indicators the economy is on the rise for this spring. Your business, a restaurant with outdoor seating, should be the only eatery in the pitch. The other two businesses might be a lawn mowing service and a bicycle shop. Be sure you include some solid facts to show that your business has increased over last spring (e.g., a percentage increase in reservations) and some colorful details too (quotes from wait staff about bigger tips, perhaps) so that you improve the chances your business will lead the story. The information about the other two businesses, while less than what you offer about your own business, should still include facts to back your claim that spending is trending upward this spring.
Be bold, be willing to share, and you can be as big as you want to be with the help of smart PR.
In her 16 years as a PR professional, Barbara Goldberg has helped clients in health care, alternative energy, and the performing arts tell their stories in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CBS News, ABCNews.com, and many other media outlets.