If you’re a small business owner, you know that one of the most challenging aspects of managing your business is getting the word out there. You may have unsuccessfully attempted to do so by reaching out to your favorite publication only to have your emails rejected or ignored. You may have even inquired about hiring a publicist only to realize that your marketing budget doesn’t have room for a PR professional just yet. While having a publicist would be amazing, it’s a luxury that most small business owners can’t afford when they’re first starting out, but just because you can’t afford a publicist doesn’t mean that you should count out PR altogether.
“PR has five times more value than advertising and marketing,” award-winning publicist and author of DIY PR, Nikkia McClain, tells MadameNoire. “PR is always going to be more effective because it’s earned and you’re never paying for that placement.”
In order to make PR more accessible to small business owners, McClain authored DIY PR with the intention of equipping entrepreneurs with the tools they need to represent and promote their brands effectively.
“I think people have the misconception that PR is only when they see people picked up in a magazine that that’s part of their PR landscape. It’s not. PR is how effectively you communicate your brand, product, or service to the community or the public,” McClain explains. “You should always make sure that it’s in good standing but if there ever is a crisis, PR should always be able to change that narrative in a short amount of time to really continue to push you forward. We all make mistakes and have mishaps but how are you communicating that effectively?”
In DIY PR, McClain offers actionable strategies that entrepreneurs can begin implementing immediately.
“I’m giving not only my story which I think helps people relate to me. They’re getting a little bit of my story but it really is real strategies in the book,” says McClain. “Not only am I diving into strategies to help people really work on their brand or even think of their brand and a different way as it relates to PR. It gives you out-of-the-box thinking. It helps you create the strategy. There are guides at the end. of each chapter. I wanna make sure you understand the concept that I talked about in the book so that you can identify how to begin making it work for you.”
McClain, who teaches PR strategies to cohorts of business owners via her “Become the Source” virtual classes, was also gracious enough to drop a few gems for our readers who may be looking for PR tips.
Recognize that you’re already doing PR
“Small business owners are already acting as their own PR. How many of us are putting ourselves in front of our brands? Not all of us are, are the best speakers. Not all of us know how to answer questions in the best way. If you’re going to pay for anything, I wouldn’t say pay for PR right away because PR requires time and money and you want to see a return on your investment. But you’re already acting as your own PR,” says McClain.
Don’t get distracted by competitors
“I think the first thing that they do is look at what everybody else is doing. I think small business owners are always focused on who’s doing the same thing in their industry and that really can make their judgment cloudy. It really can make them put money towards things that they see other people doing and not necessarily having the budget for it,” McClain explains. “I think small business owners need to understand that business takes time and that if you put a plan in place, even if it’s not a business plan, if you put a strategy in place, you can offset some of those mistakes. I know when I started out in my PR journey, I made a ton of mistakes. I would send the wrong press releases to people that didn’t cover what a client was talking about what they were doing. I didn’t take the time to do my due diligence. I didn’t take the time to do my research. So, I think business owners, because we’re being developed quite rapidly, we’re not necessarily putting business in place and that’s hurting us.”
It’s okay to aim high, but don’t underestimate local outlets
“I don’t think it’s anything wrong with aiming high as long as you can become a solution,” says McClain. “One of the things that I talked about in the book is becoming a solution. When you become the solution, you become the source. So if you can become the solution of let’s say a top publication’s audience. If there’s an issue that no one is addressing and you’re like, ‘Hey, I have a solution to this problem’ and you know how to craft that and pitch that in the right way and if that publication’s writer finds value in that, they may take a look at your pitch. There’s nothing wrong with aiming high, but I think that you have to start somewhere. I tell my Sourcies that are in this class, start with your local publications. Start with your local news station. It’s still NBC, it’s still Fox so it gives you credibility. The only issue with aiming high is that sometimes when people hear “no” it defeats them.”
Carve out your brand message
“Really understanding your brand message is important,” McClain advised. “The first thing you really wanna carve out is that brand message, that brand statement. Because once that’s clear it’s not gonna change. It may change slightly because you pivot or you scale, but when you have to enter a room and someone asks you who you are and what you do, it can just fly out of your mouth because you know your brand statement frontward and backward.”
Don’t shy away from self-promotion
“Put yourself out there. Put yourself out there at networking events. Be a walking billboard,” says McClain. “Talk about your brand, product, or service as much as you can. And then my last tip is to develop relationships. It is so important for anybody. If you don’t have relationships, you can’t leverage your brand at all. So it’s important to develop relationships.”
Check out HARO
“I’m all about sharing resources and one resource is called HARO: Help A Reporter Out. HARO is a free tool,” adds McClain. “I still use it, my staff uses it because we’re always pitching and looking for a story, but it’s these reporters looking for sources base and entertainment, health, wellness, finances, If you fit that mold of what they’re looking for, pitch your brand.”