Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wed. on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @PRSarahEvans. Sarah is a public relations and new media strategist at @SevansStrategy. Sarah has worked extensively in the non-for-profit, higher education and healthcare sectors, focusing on media relations, message management, coalition building, deployment strategies, and organizational change. A self-described social media freak, Sarah is the founder of #journchat and MediaOnTwitter. Her personal mission is to engage and employ the use of emerging technologies in all communication – that connects her with a rapidly growing base of more than 26,000 people. Contact Sarah online at: http://card.ly/prsarahevans
Smallbizlady: How much time should you dedicate to PR for your business?
@PRSarahEvans At least 10% of your time should be spent working on your business. That time should include building relationships with journalists and bloggers, identifying stories your public should know, reputation management, tracking who is talking about you…to name a few. Public relations is more than media relations. Here’s how I define it: Public relations is an ongoing conversation, which builds sustainable relationships between an entity and its publics resulting in change, action or influence
Smallbizlady: What’s the best way to generate traditional media coverage? What about social media?
@PRSarahEvans The best to generate traditional media coverage is to have a good story to tell to the right journalist with the right audience. That means knowing who covers topics appropriate to your business and reading/listening/watching their work. Nothing kills a potential relationship faster than an off-pitch. It’s not all about the press release (more on that later). Social media coverage means blogs, online news publications, content distributors and influencers. Same rules apple.
Smallbizlady: Are press releases still in vogue, does anyone read them?
@PRSarahEvans I host a Monday night chat on Twitter, #journchat, where journalists, bloggers and PR professionals discuss questions like this. Recently we had the New York Times social media editor @NYT_jenpreston who said this in response to the value of press releases, “Honestly? Minimum value.” @JeffJarvis recently told PRs that the press release is dead. However, I work with many local daily print publications who request press releases because of their cutbacks in the newsroom. If you really want to know if a journalist reads a release, ask them. There are other uses for press releases than for pitching stories. I’m the community manager for Pitchengine where we’re changing the way press releases are created, written and distributed–social media release (more on that in a bit).
Smallbizlady: How often should to use press releases as a small business?
@PRSarahEvans It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. The press release isn’t your magic cure all pill. Use the basics of “what is newsworthy” to determine whether you should write and distribute a press release: timing, significance, proximity, prominence, human interest. It’s not about how often, rather the quality of what you share.
Smallbizlady: What about social media press releases?
@PRSarahEvans I’m biased and I like the SMR. The social media press release is the first wave in the evolution of the release, there’s more needed to make it a truly great tool. Use the same rules as a traditional release. However, the caveat I offer is in regards to search engine optimization. SMRs are helpful in driving awareness to your site if they’re written and distributed effectively. I wrote a post for Mashable on this topic: 10 ways to make your press release SEO friendly http://bit.ly/GEdLx.
Smallbizlady: How do you craft a pitch? How much time should you dedicate?
@PRSarahEvans One of the great things about social media is that I research a journalist or blogger’s online presence before a pitch. If they’re on Twitter I might check out what they’ve been talking about in addition to their recent work. It’s nice to add a personal touch–especially if it’s the first time you’re communicating. The research takes time. The pitch takes time. The follow up takes times. Your best bet is to create a small, targeted list of media you reach out to on a regular basis. You’ll put the bulk of your time into the initial contact and build a relationship from there.
Smallbizlady: What are your top 5 pieces of advice for small biz owners doing their own PR?
@PRSarahEvans 1. Develop a small, targeted list of media and bloggers (10-15) you communicate with on a regular basis
2. Engage a group of stakeholders (friends, family, customers) who serve as your third party coalition of supporters. When you have a message or story to share, include them and encourage them to share, too.
3. Use traditional and online media to share your stories
4. ONLINE: Set up Google alerts for you, your business, your competitors to monitor your online mentions. Secure your user name across all social networks, even if you don’t use them (knowem.com). Use a resource like @alltop to aggregate your favorite media outlets so you can easily research trends.
5. Participate in discussions and chats like this to share with one another. It’s good karma.
Smallbizlady: How often should you pitch a particular media source?
@PRSarahEvans It depends on the frequency and reach of the media outlet. If it’s a blog written about one topic with a targeted audience and they recently wrote about you, pitching them the week after is probably not smart.
Smallbizlady: Do you need to have a media reel to get national media coverage?
@PRSarahEvans No. I would however, recommend an online newsroom. A place where journalists and bloggers can easily obtain your logo, photos and headshots, boilerplate, recent releases, bios, etc.
Smallbizlady: What determines a story?
@PRSarahEvans This goes back to the definition of newsworthy. I’d also encourage you to think about a story in this way: if you go home at the end of the day and can’t wait to share something with your significant other, parent, child, it’s probably a story. In fact, when I think about a story I ask myself, “would my mom care about this?”
Smallbizlady: Is PR only generating media coverage?
@PRSarahEvans No way! The larger umbrella of PR is communications and that encompasses a whole host of activities. It can include media relations, community relations, internal and external communications, and legislative affairs (to name a few).
Smallbizlady: What’s the benefit of hiring someone to do PR for my small biz?
@PRSarahEvans Do write your own legal documents? Unless you’re a lawyer, I’m going to guess no. I hired a lawyer and an accountant for my small business because they are the experts. There are some things small business owners can do on a PR front, but in reality do not have the time to conduct full PR outreach.
Smallbizlady: What are ways to use social media to further a story?
@PRSarahEvans 1. Write a blog post. This can be for your blog or as a guest post.
2. Check out CNN iReport to see if there’s an appropriate segment for your story.
3. Share information on social networks.
4. Use a social media release.
5. Include bloggers and online influencers in your media database.
Here are 5 case studies of small businesses successfully using Social Media http://ow.ly/vJW2
Great information on social media press releases: http://budurl.com/SMReleases
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9pm ET follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
For more tips on starting or growing your small biz subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com