How to develop a media relations strategy on a budget

It’s easy to forget that even the largest, most successful businesses had to start somewhere, but it’s fair to assume that, along the way, they all leveraged the power of PR to become the industry leaders they are today.

For start-ups and small businesses, developing a media relations strategy to get your key messages out to the right people at the right time is absolutely crucial.

However, for those running small businesses, particularly those with no prior experience of media relations and no budget to hire PR professionals, the idea of creating a strategy from scratch can seem daunting. Where to begin? And is there really any point? Afterall, the media are only interested in big companies, right?

Wrong. There are countless opportunities for small businesses and start-ups to gain media coverage that can make a real difference to their visibility and profitability. What’s more, you don’t need a big budget to create your own media relations strategy – all it takes is time to research your target media and an activity plan to keep things moving forward.

Step one – define your key messages

Think of this as your of ‘elevator pitch’: if you had just thirty seconds to sell your business to your dream customer, what would you want to tell them? What exactly is it that you do? What is it that makes your products or services unique and/or of value?

Step two – identify your target audience(s)

Who are your products and services relevant to? What sort of people would be interested in your key messages? If your offering is B2B, what are the job titles of people you want to engage and communicate with? If B2C, what demographic are you hoping to appeal to?

Step three – identify and research your target media

Having identified your target audiences, next identify the media channels that are most popular and/or influential with those audiences. That might mean newspapers, trade magazines, websites, blogs and even social media influencers. Take time to research each target title thoroughly. What sort of content do they run regularly? News? Case studies? Opinion pieces? Interviews? Vox pops? What sort of content could you offer that would be appropriate to each target title?

Step four – make first contact

In any relationship, someone has to make the first move. Having researched the needs and preferences of each media target, make initial contact with a brief, polite email introducing yourself and providing a short synopsis (100 words max) of the content you’d like to provide.

Feel free to make a follow-up phone call but, remember, it’s rarely wise to be pushy on a first date, so don’t get upset if the target seems cool at first. Ask them questions that demonstrate you’ve researched their prior work, then ask for their professional advice and tips on your own media strategy.

Step five – keep up the pace

Based on the time you have available to dedicate to PR, plan your activity so that you always have something on the boil. For example, schedule your news releases throughout the year or in advance of important trading times, e.g. school holidays, to ensure that you keep your business or brand in the spotlight when it matters most.

For small businesses, developing a successful media relations strategy doesn’t need a big budget, but it does need time, brainpower, a little bit of charm and a whole lot of stamina.

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