Each week as @Smallbizlady, I conduct interviews with small business experts on my weekly Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. This post is excerpted from my #SmallBizChat interview with @ElenaVerlee Heralded as “The Passionate Publicist,” Elena Verlee can help even the most ordinary business become well-known and sought after through the power of publicity. Elena delivers high-impact, low or no-cost publicity strategies for entrepreneurs serious about claiming leadership in their market and growing their business to profitability and beyond. Elena’s blog is www.PRinYourPajamas.com and she is a serial entrepreneur who has built a 7-figure business from home, and has sold two businesses for 6-figures.
Smallbizlady: What is PR?
Elena Verlee: Public Relations builds goodwill, awareness and credibility for your company, product or service — which is really critical for small businesses. There are many aspects of PR but most people think of it as “getting publicity” or getting media coverage in a magazine, newspaper, TV, radio or online sites like blogs. The best thing about PR is that it is free publicity.
Smallbizlady: How is PR different from advertising?
Elena Verlee: Control, Cost and Credibility. You can control exactly what your ad will say and when it will appear, but it is costly as you pay every time. A reporter will write their article their way and usually it appears only once unless it gets syndicated. However, getting publicity can be free if you do it yourself, it’s rare to get a negative story and there is way more credibility than an ad because a third party is writing about you.
Smallbizlady: Why bother getting publicity?
Elena Verlee: It’s a way to establish leadership in the market, reach markets who would otherwise never know about you, and many lucrative opportunities can come as a result of getting media exposure. I’ve even sold my own start-up company in less than a year using just one marketing tactic — getting free publicity. It was an unexpected but welcome benefit from publicity! Here are 50 reasons to go out there and get some:
Smallbizlady: What type of small business can benefit from publicity?
Elena Verlee: I’m biased of course but I’ve worked with make-up and moms to authors, experts, service providers and technology companies. Everyone needs their business to be as visible as possible if they want to succeed. The author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Mark Victor Hansen said “90% of the success of any product or service is its promotion and marketing.” I agree.
Smallbizlady: When should a small business start using publicity in their marketing efforts?
Elena Verlee: If you’re an expert at something (and we all are), you can get start getting publicity now. Media are looking for an interesting story 24/7 and that is a lot of time to fill — not just offline papers and magazines but think of all the online TV shows, web radio, blogs and so on. Authors should be building their visibility and platform way before their book even gets published. As soon as you start a company you should be announcing what big problem you are solving by opening your doors.
Smallbizlady: How much does a typical publicity campaign cost?
Elena Verlee: PR agencies typically start around the $3000 — 5000 per month retainer. Consultants maybe half of that. Like any marketing effort, you need to have a marathon mindset and not a sprint. It should be something sustained over a period of 6 months or more, which can be very expensive for a small business. That’s why I think small business owners should learn to do it themselves.
Smallbizlady: Can someone without experience really do their own PR campaign?
Elena Verlee: Absolutely. No PR experience required! I’ve taught hundreds of small business owners how to do it themselves and some of them have landed in papers and national magazines right away. There IS a system to getting publicity — once you understand the steps you’ll realize there are a ton of opportunities you’ve been stepping over all these years.
Smallbizlady: Do I need to write a press release to get publicity?
Elena Verlee: Nope! I hope that brings a sigh of relief! That’s probably one of the biggest obstacles do-it-yourselfers face — not many people can write a press release well so it’s intimidating. And if you’re intimidated — you won’t do it! However, if you can write an email, you can pitch a story to the media. Just tell them who you are, why their readers should care and how to contact you. Three paragraphs is all you need.
Smallbizlady: What do you need to get publicity?
Elena Verlee: You need 4 things: A story to pitch which as I mentioned can be a three paragraph email. A reporter or blogger to pitch it to (think of where you would like to appear) A compelling photo can help sell your story. A client testimonial shows proof that whatever you are selling works. I bet you can put this together in 30 minutes since you should already have a story, photo and testimonial in your other marketing materials. Just leverage them.
Smallbizlady: Why aren’t more business owners using publicity to grow their business?
Elena Verlee: There’s always been an aura of mystery around PR, what it is and what it can do for your business. People get stuck on what type of story to pitch. What is unique about your business and why should a reporter care? If you’re stuck on what types of stories the media love, you can listen to a free class here: http://www.createfreepublicity.com
Smallbizlady: What about using social media channels to get publicity?
Elena Verlee: I think of social media and social networks as online publicity channels. You can meet almost any journalist on Twitter these days and it’s much easier to build a relationship by commenting on reporters blogs or engaging with them on social networks before pitching a story. Bloggers can be very influential in their niche so a mix of offline and online publicity is a must for any business.
Smallbizlady: Can a company increase sales using publicity?
Elena Verlee: I have used publicity in the past to sell a lot of product, but for most people it may not necessarily be direct sales. It may be someone reading about you that then approaches you for a partnership or consulting project or to invest in your company. Publicity is a strong tactic that should be integrated into your overall sales and marketing efforts.
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 business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog at www.succeedasyourownboss.com