Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Cathy Larkin, founder of WebSavvyPR.com,is a seasoned PR pro who writes, speaks, coaches and consults on how social media, blogging and PR helps small businesses connect with customers. She makes technology easy for authors, small business owners and entrepreneurs to use effectively. Connect with her on Twitter @CathyWebSavvyPR.
SmallBizLady: Can Social Media Really Help A Small Business Get PR?
Cathy Larkin: Social media is a great way to get the word out about what you do in your business. You can use it to connect with reporters and bloggers who might write about your product, service or business. A large, active and engaged social media following is sometimes used by reporters as a sign of legitimacy, but don’t fake it, they’ll see through it.
SmallBizLady: What are the basics of using #SocialMedia to drum up PR for my Small Business?
Cathy Larkin: The basics: know your customers, know what topics interest them, focus your content & social media profiles around those topics. Also create a professional website & active blog that talk about those topics. Build a platform, be a resource for your customers and it just might attract reporters and bloggers too. With those things in place, you have a good foundation to connect with reporters and bloggers to consider writing about your product or service.
SmallBizLady: How will an active blog help get PR for a business?
Cathy Larkin: Websites with active blogs not only get 55% more page views, but blogs help tell your business or product’s story. Reporters like a business with a story. If you want to get quoted in publications, a blog helps showcase your expertise and knowledge. A blog that’s useful to your customers, also builds name recognition and credibility, both are important to PR.
SmallBizLady: Does a small business or product need to have a story in order to get publicity?
Cathy Larkin: Having a story helps. Who is your business helping, what is unique about it, why did you start your business or make your product? A business or product story helps get the blogger or reporter to say “yes I’ll write about you.”
SmallBizLady: How do I find people who could write about my business, product or service?
Cathy Larkin: Read blogs and publications in your area of expertise, get to know the reporters & bloggers. Connect with reporters and review-bloggers on social media sites. Many reporters and bloggers have social links on their websites; use them. Retweet & share selected stories from bloggers and reporters, comment on their blog posts, but don’t be spammy. When you have the right story for that publication, send a targeted pitch. To learn what not to do, check out the bad pitch blog (they sometimes highlight successful pitches as well).
SmallBizLady: Are there any free tools to help small business owners connect with reporters & bloggers?
Cathy Larkin: The best site for reporters & social accounts and info is muckrack.com, or check this page: http://muckrack.com/media-outlets. You can also try @FollowerWonk, use the “search Twitter bios” tab, search for “reporters,” or “product review blogs.” You can sign up for free tools like Blogger Link Up or HARO www.helpareporter.com to hear about reporters & bloggers wanting interviews or products to review.
SmallBizLady: Are there other tools business owners can use to research reporters and bloggers?
Cathy Larkin: Most of the great tools are expensive. Cision, Vocus, My Media Info & Group High are great, but cost $1000-$5000 per year. The lowest priced good tool is Blog Dash at around $45 per month, base price. It shows you blogs on various topics and gives you lots of details. @BlogDash shows social media stats follower/friend numbers, page rank, if they use guest posts or sponsored posts, and if they do reviews or contests.
SmallBizLady: How do I get my product or service reviewed by a blogger or an online publication?
Cathy Larkin: Research! Google “[your product] + reviews (or review blogs),” i.e. “small appliance review blogs” or “mom product review blogs” if your product is targeted to moms or kids. Make a blogger list with PageRank 3 or better, blogs that have frequent posts & active comments. Contests can be great too! For a client who made fans and heaters, we targeted home product review bloggers, especially mom bloggers. We sent out 20 pitches, got 10 yeses, sent out 10 free products to bloggers; three included the product in a contest giveaway. Results: 10 product reviews & three contests with over 200 comments from each & 350 + visits to the client’s site.
SmallBizLady: Can #socialmedia help me get my product on TV?
Cathy Larkin: A focused pitch to a TV producer or the assignment desk is more likely to work than a social media pitch, but…it never hurts to connect with reporters via social media, they are often scouting for story ideas. For TV, think visual. Also, if you are the story, having a video where you are interesting and articulate on your site can help convince a TV producer or assignment desk editor that you are worth booking.
SmallBizLady: How Can a Creative Social Media Campaign Help a Small Business Get Publicity?
Cathy Larkin: After a creative & successful social media campaign, pitch the results & what you did to the media. Social media itself is still news on its own, especially a unique & successful campaign.
SmallBizLady: What is the biggest “no no” that will turn off reporters and bloggers?
Cathy Larkin: Do Your Research. Do NOT grab a list of reporters/bloggers & send them all the same story idea. Make sure you target your pitch to the reporter and publication’s readers. I hear too many stories from mom bloggers like – I have teenagers & I get pitches for baby toys over and over.
SmallBizLady: What is the biggest social media “no no” that will turn off reporters and bloggers.
Cathy Larkin: Don’t buy fake Twitter followers or Facebook friends. 400 tweets & 128,000 followers = something fishy. I had a potential client contact me, I knew there was something off; sure enough – she was getting 273 followers every 2 days. Fake ones. I saw another person with over 300,000 followers and I couldn’t see why, her Tweets were not very useful, and she wasn’t a celebrity – she had 75% fake followers and was losing 10,000 followers every day. I guess she’d stopped paying for followers! Tools like @TwitterCounter & @StatusPeople make it easy for a reporter to check you out. Fake = no PR, or bad PR.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.