How do I get free PR for my business?

PR is all about managing the reputation of your business. In particular it’s how you communicate with the public, promote your business and ultimately build a positive reputation for you and your brand. It affects all aspects of your business, from the way your team communicates with customers, the messages you send out on social media, the tone of voice you use in your press releases and marketing materials.

When it comes to press or media coverage, the publication is running your story because they feel it’s news worthy and is of interest to their audience. A PR or press article is not an advert. News stories and features are written by journalists who have ultimate editorial control over the copy. You’re unlikely to see a proof before your story goes to print and usually they’ll give your business one name check and possibly also a website or one other brand mention. The job of a PR article is to create brand awareness, inform and educate your target audience rather than act as a direct sales pitch; if that’s what you’re looking for then you need to consider placing an advert or advertorial where you’ll have full editorial control.

So what makes a news story?

Your story needs to be relevant to the audience of the media outlet your targeting.  For example, if you want to get an article in your local paper then you need to have a local angle and make it relevant to the audience.  

  • Perhaps you’ve just won a large contract which means that you’ll be expanding your workforce and providing local jobs.
  • Have you just launched a new product or service that would be of interest to the local area? Maybe you’re running a series of workshops to help improve people’s mental health and wellbeing. COVID-19 has really helped to bring mental health and wellbeing to the forefront of people’s minds which would make this story of interest.
  • Are you doing something for your local community? Maybe you’ve recently updated the laptops for your team and have donated the old ones to your local school to help the children with their remote schooling.
  • Timing is so important. We were all captivated by the story of Captain Sir Tom Moore during the first lockdown. This started out as a local press story about a man simply wanting to raise £1,000 for the NHS before his 100th birthday. This feel good news story snowballed once the national news media got involved and turned him into a media celebrity, with his story being featured around the world and him ultimately being on the front cover of GQ magazine.  But timing played a key part in the success of the story, if we hadn’t been in the middle of a pandemic with little other news to report on, then it’s unlikely the story would have snowballed in quite the way it did.
  • Does it have the fun factor? You may remember that ITV’s News at 10 had their “And finally…” slot for just these sorts of story. Given the tough times we’re living through at the moment lighter stories, that bring a smile are likely to be well received.  
  • Is there a human interest story? Loneliness, particularly amongst the elderly, has increasingly come to public attention during the pandemic and initiatives to support and befriend them have come to the fore.

You might not have an obvious news story to share but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities out there for you. Do you have expert knowledge in a particular field that you can share? Maybe you’re an expert in wills and trusts with an interesting case study the would be of interest for the publication you’re targeting. Perhaps you work in the travel sector and have advice that you can offer to readers on whether summer holidays overseas in 2021 are on the cards or not?

If you’re not working with a PR consultant, the best way of getting your story in front of a journalist is to have a well written press release. This document needs to sow the seed of your story and grab the journalist’s attention.  Your first paragraph needs to contain the five W’s: who, what, where, when and why.  When it comes to the why, you need to remember that this is the bit that the journalist is going to want to get their teeth into, explaining how you’re solving a problem that their readers have is one of the best ways of doing this. Make sure you can support any claims you might make in your release and be sure to have some images to help illustrate your story.

Which publication should you choose?

This comes down to who you are trying to target and the story you want to get across. Each publication will have a particular reader profile, when I started out in PR 20 years ago The Daily Mail was the holy grail if you wanted national coverage for a women’s interest story and this still holds true today.

Trade and business publications can provide good opportunities to build your profile. Not only can you place news stories in them, think client wins, new product innovations, and business growth. They also offer opportunities for case studies allowing you to talk about a project and show how you solved a problem for a client. There may even be an “Ask the Expert” section, again this gives you the opportunity to provide comment and advice on how to tackle a particular issue or problem that the readers may have. This not only helps to raise your profile it also positions you as an expert, which is ultimately good for your PR.

It’s about building relationships.

Don’t view PR as a one hit wonder. Securing your first piece of coverage often opens the door to other opportunities within the same publication or wider afield. I would regularly receive calls from journalists asking whether a fashion and lifestyle client I was working with would be able to comment on a particular fashion trend, for another, a trade magazine, was always keen to know about the latest trends in homewares. Each opportunity meant they were able to provide advice to an audience that was relevant to their brand.

PR is one of the best ways to generate that all important word of mouth buzz about your business. It may take time to achieve but is so worthwhile, helping as it does to build trust and credibility for you and your business.  Imagine how good it would feel the next time you’re at an event, even an online one, and the person you’re speaking to says that they’d read about your business.

Eleanor Lester
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Eleanor Lester

Eleanor Lester is a PR and Marketing Professional with over 20 years’ experience, including B2B, lifestyle, food and drink, fashion and online retail. She is a passionate believer in the value that good PR and strategic marketing can bring to small and medium sized businesses.