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Top PR tips for small businesses

Your marketing budget can be the first thing to be cut in a recession. However, with your competitors also cutting back due to the financial situation, this could provide you with a perfect opportunity to get ahead and make the most of free press coverage.

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Write a press release

Press releases are a key way of letting journalists know about your products or services. Keep them short and punchy and for maximum impact, focus on one product or aspect of your service. Read our tips to write a successful press release.

Remember, journalists get sent 100s of releases every day, so make yours as interesting as possible. Simply send the releases via email using contacts you have gathered yourself or use a press release distribution facility to reach as many journalists as possible.

Make it NEW

If your product or service is new, include ‘new' in the title, journalists love writing about anything new and original. Make your releases relevant and timely For any releases relevant to an event send it up to four months before the date, especially if you want to make sure you get in monthly publications. Always remember to include a reference to the day or event in the title.

Special offers

When times are tough in the economy, bargains, competitions and deals for products and services are well received by journalists. Again, make sure this is featured in the subject heading of any press release.

Make images available

The easier it is for journalists to access high resolution images, the more coverage you will get. Either create a simple download facility on your own website, or use an online press office.

Target journalists

Buy the magazines you want to appear in, look at the specific sections relevant to your product or company and then call the editorial assistant to find out the name and contact details of the journalist who works on that section.

Social media has also had a big impact on the way journalists source their stories. Follow relevant publications and journalists on Twitter, and spread your good news stories – you never know who might see it.

Send freebies

If you have relatively low-cost products or services to promote, the best way to get journalists to notice you is to send samples or offer free services. It is important however, to offer this to the right journalist.

Think ahead

Try to get into the mindset of a journalist or editor. In magazines, they will be working two to three issues in advance, whereas newspapers will be working to much shorter, tighter deadlines.

To find out about the latest articles that journalists are working on, you can subscribe to 'lead alert services'. Journalists who are urgently looking for leads send alerts using these services, which registered companies can receive, giving you opportunities to appear in the press.

Get online

The media is no longer just restricted to newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. There are now millions of websites, blogs and social networks that have just as much influence on their audiences.

The beauty of online PR is that you can link to all kinds of resources from your press release including images, your website, video content and other social media.

You can use an online distribution service to get your release seen by journalists. Free press release distribution is an attractive option for those on a budget, but bear in mind they are not as effective as paid-for services and, though they will send your press release to their subscribers, very few free sites will actually distribute your press release to a list of verified media contacts, or allow you to build lists of contacts by industry and geography. Generally, the more you pay for, the more targeted and relevant your distribution becomes.

You can also give your release a boost by sharing it on social media. Increasingly, this is where journalists and bloggers are sourcing the latest news and trends. Plus, you should make sure your press release is optimised for search engines to improve its chances of getting found.

Choose the right PR agency

If you don't want to do your own PR and you're fortunate enough to be able to hire an agency, choose very carefully and, if possible, select one where you only pay on results. Although long term brand building exercises are important, in this economic climate, your focus should be on getting high volumes of coverage to drive immediate sales. Read our tips for choosing a PR agency.

Forum members can download a free PR guide or call us on 0845 130 1722 for further advice.

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