Four Things Entrepreneurs Should Know About PR

As a small business owner or startup founder, you already know that your operation can reap big benefits from earned editorial media coverage. The trouble is, PR pros aren’t cheap. Most solo PR practitioners charge at least $2000 a month to work with a client. Agencies, even of the boutique variety, usually require at least $3500 a month to get out of bed.

The good news is you can do your own PR. If you choose go the DIY PR route there are a few items to keep in mind. 

Here are 4 things entrepreneurs should know about PR: 

1) Good PR begins with listening. Many small business owners think PR consists solely of sending press releases and pitching journalists. These are tactics – sometimes worthwhile ones – but no PR program should ever begin without a listening strategy. You need to know which media talk about your industry, their biases and the trends they care about. Absent this knowledge your liable to pitch the wrong people, or send a pitch to someone about something they don’t cover. The key is listening BEFORE talking, pitching, or blasting out a press release. There are so many free tools on the internet that will allow you to track conversations and monitor keywords related to your company. Start with Social Mention and a few Google alerts and give yourself some time to harvest intelligence. 

2) Avoid pitching media “cold.” Journalists get pitched all the time, and most pitches end up in their trash email folders. If you interact with a journalist pre-pitch with an eye to building a relationship you’re much more likely to score coverage. This might be sending a reporter an email to say “I’m a source on these subjects if ever you’re looking for one,” or retweeting their content on Twitter. It could mean leaving an insightful comment on a blogger’s post or sharing a relevant article with them that you think they’d like. The point is, HELP YOUR TARGET before ASKING for coverage.

3) Journalists LOVE talking to founders/owners. The media and PR pros have a symbiotic relationship that can get acrimonious at times. PR pros are sometimes viewed by media as gatekeepers. For that reason, hearing directly from a founder or business owner is refreshing for many members of the fourth estate.

4) Personalization and brevity are the order of the day when pitching. Because of the volume of pitches journalists and bloggers receive, you need to get to the point quick. Don’t take more than two or three sentences to explain why something is newsworthy. Pitches need to be short and directly relevant to the media you’re targeting. Reference your target’s previous work in the first sentence of your email, tell them what you have for them in the second sentence and why it’s worthy of attention in the third. No epic novels! 

In sum, you can do your own PR and score real coverage for your business without the fees PR pros charge. Listen before talking, interact and help before pitching, and then reach out to media in a quick and personalized way. Your business will thank you!

Jackson Wightman is a Montreal-based PR agency owner. He recently created MakePR, an integrated online program of study that teaches small businesses and startups how to score media coverage on their own, without the help (or expense) of PR pros. MakePR’s program features guest experts including PR agency owners, bestselling authors, and journalists from the Globe and Mail, National Post,, Flare, LOULOU, and PR Daily. Readers of Notable are invited to subscribe to the course for 50% off using the coupon code NOTABLE. Offer valid until December 1, 2012.