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The Problem With Public Relations

The problem with public relations, tooting your own horn

What’s the best way to get your small business or startup noticed? Although hiring a public relations (PR) firm might be the most obvious answer, unfortunately they just ain’t what they used to be.

The days of blanketing major news outlets with carefully crafted pitches and hoping to get a hit are long gone.

If you want to generate buzz, you need to roll up your sleeves do it yourself. 

PR can focus on the wrong things

There must have been a formula for writing the perfect press release that was passed down by PR folks from generation to generation but, somewhere along the line, things went askew.

Instead of focusing on building and maintaining relationships, generic mass emails about seed funding, new product features, or hiring a new CFO became the norm.

Don’t get lost in the weeds. It’s usually hard to turn granular updates into a story that most people (who aren’t your friends, family, or investors) are actually going to want to read. When it makes sense, focus on game changing trends in your specific industry or niche.

It’s okay if your business doesn’t take center stage, your first priority is giving them something juicy to nibble on—insights and perspectives that you think would make for an interesting story. If you get it right, you’ll get your quote and your business will get some publicity.

PR can be so damn impersonal

When you reach out, you’ve got to make it personal. Not in a creepy, stalker kind of way but by commenting on their posts and getting involved in discussions.

You need to show that you’re familiar with what they typically write about and that you’re actually interested in what it is they have to say—something that’s just not possible with one-sided press releases.

If you come across a blog post or article that you’re really passionate about, try picking up the phone or shooting them a quick email. It’s a strategy that can be very effective and one that nobody (PR or otherwise) typically does.

In the five plus years I’ve been an expert blogger for, only three people have reached out to me directly in response to a post. In every case their outreach led to a conversation and new connection.

Instead of focusing narrowly on their latest round of seed funding or a new product feature, they made it personal. They started a conversation based on a specific post about some of the cool stuff they’re doing at their company—an approach that’s way more effective than a static press release.

PR can be too late

You can’t wait until the last minute to pitch your story. You need to allow for enough time for you to establish contact (including a brief phone call with the reporter or blogger and any follow up conversations) and for the post to be written—a process that will usually require more than a week from beginning to end.

There’s nothing worse than reaching out too late when you’re hoping to make a big announcement within a specific timeframe. 

What about you?

How have you been able to generate your own buzz without having to rely on hiring a PR firm?

[Image: Flickr user rg-fotos]

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