It’s common for a small business to reach a point in their journey where they’re craving publicity – but for many companies, the ad dollars just aren’t there yet. Which leaves you curious about how to take advantage of earned media opportunities to spread the word about your business. But where do you even begin? 

You might have dabbled in public relations in the past, emailing journalists with no success or trying to network but never quite finding the right person or coverage opportunity. If you’ve tried a few things but haven’t gotten any PR traction, consider these five tips to help you get your footing. 

1. Think outside the box about coverage options

When many people think of PR, they immediately think of traditional media and strategize about how to contact journalists at news outlets like newspapers, magazines, and TV broadcasting companies. But there are plenty of other media opportunities outside of those three options – and they might be more impactful for your PR strategy. Here are a few to consider:

  • Podcasters: Offer to be a guest or share your product or service with the host for a free mention. 
  • Social media influencers: Share your product or service with a group of influencers in exchange for a post or two. 
  • Bloggers: Pitch a story to someone who writes an influential blog that targets your audience. 
  • Speakers or event hosts: Provide a free product for an event to get in the hands of your market.

To brainstorm other ideas, consider this quick market research activity: Identify a few members of your target market who you know, and ask them what media they listen to or interact with each day. Let that list be a jumping off point for your PR plan. 

2. Take the easy wins

The publications you’re targeting likely have easy ways for you to earn coverage, especially if you’re targeting specific geographic areas. Consider applying for local awards, like a business journal’s 40 under 40 list, or a competition that recognizes the best places to work in your area. While these opportunities don’t necessarily spotlight your product or offering, they can do wonders for brand awareness – and can help you attract future talent to your team. Plus, they’re free and easy to apply for.

3. Build relationships with consistency

Don’t be surprised if you send out a press release or email and don’t get a response – there’s no relationship there yet, so why would they reply to your email when they’ve probably got dozens like it in their inbox? Getting great coverage takes consistency and perseverance. 

The relationships you start building now might pay off in 6 to 12 months, so keep at it. Continue to reach out to relevant members of the media to get their attention. You’ll stay top-of-mind when the right opportunity presents itself.

4. Don’t lead with a bad pitch

If you want a journalist, podcast host, reporter, or other influential member of the media to take you seriously, you have to bring them good ideas. Simply emailing and asking them to cover your business is the quickest way to ensure you won’t get a response. Consider this litmus test for whether your pitch is worthy of their attention. It should be:

  • Relevant to their audience
  • Timely or newsworthy
  • Not a promotional pitch of your product  
  • Personalized to their media outlet
  • Not generic or applicable to everyone 
  • Simple and understandable in a sentence or two
  • Useful or interesting to readers

5. Consider the visuals

Unless you’re pitching a podcaster or radio host, the person you pitch will likely need strong visuals to accompany any story. Even then, podcasters have websites that are critical components of their shows. Your pitch will be more enticing if you have high-quality photography, product renders, or video assets to accompany it. Be sure to share that in your pitch so your target knows the full package you’re bringing to the table. 

Bonus: Help a Reporter Out with HARO

While you’re getting started on the tips above, sign up for a free tool. Help a Reporter Out – or HARO – is a great resource for small businesses looking for their big PR break. The website connects journalists with experts who they can contact for interviews. For example, if a journalist at Science Magazine needed an expert to contact about green trends in big tech, they’d send an inquiry to contacts in the database who identified that as an area of expertise – which could be you. Signing up is quick and easy, and could lead to your first big story.