When running a small business running on a limited budget, it always makes sense to prioritise marketing channels and actions with highest and most immediate return on your investment. But what do you do if you’re not able to fulfil customer orders – either through necessity or because your customers just aren’t able to buy right now?
At the time of writing, we’re a few weeks deep into the COVID-19 pandemic, and the protective measures in place worldwide to minimise the spread. Many independent brands can’t open premises or sell their products, and customers’ purse strings are tightened as lock down forces us all to re-evaluate purchasing priorities.
But, us small business owners still need to grow and maintain our customer bases, build our communities and nurture our leads to give us the best chance of not only surviving, but thriving when our normality returns.
That is why this is an amazing time to invest in longterm and slower pay off business growth strategies, such as blogging (read the post – why now is the right time to start blogging for your small business) and PR, which is the subject of this post right here.
In basic terms, PR (Public Relations) is reaching out to people who can talk about your brand – this could be the press, newspapers & magazines (in print and/or online), influencers, etc. PR is getting people to feature your products and big up your brand.
We spoke to our friends at PR Dispatch to get a little expert knowledge on the best way of tackling this worthwhile task.
Mainstream media loves small independent businesses
Mainstream media is absolutely not only focused on big brands. Magazines, newspapers and influencers really revel in being able to discover new and exciting products for their readers, so featuring indie brands is great for both the publication and the reader.
The media world would get so dull if they all featured the same big companies all the time. The media wants to find those off-the-beaten-track indie businesses that no one else is talking about yet, and feature their butt off.
It’s worth noting that some online media outlets do make a commission from big brands, which means they might feature them over you, giving you a smaller slot.
The cost of PR in the UK
It’s down to your own discretion what you pay for PR, however you should never have to pay for the coverage.
PR is the action – the outreach, contacting press. You can pay for someone to do the PR for you – they can create lists of relevant publications and contacts, craft the perfect email pitch, reply to and chase up replies.
Or you can pay to become a member of a platform like PR Dispatch, which will guide you through the processes above, give you access to a database of press contacts so you can build your own press relationships, and give you any knowledge and support you may need.
If you already feel confident that you know how to approach PR, have the time to and the press contacts, you can of course do it yourself.
Coverage is the outcome – your product being featured in a magazine, or your brand being written about on a major blog or news outlet. You should not have to pay for this!
PR during the coronavirus crisis
There’s never been so much support from the press for small businesses than in the last few weeks.
There have been so many shopping features, for example: indies to support through closure, how you can support your local small businesses, products you can buy during this time, stories about small businesses raising money for charity, or giving certain products to NHS & key workers, creating new products and donating them to help front line workers, such as scrubs etc.
The general public really want to read positive stories like this right now, and many of them have more time to do so.
Writers who work for the press would usually be running all over town, making them hard to get hold of, but they are now at their desks at home looking for great stories and brands – so this is the perfect time to contact them.
A lot of print content (especially smaller publications) may be paused for the time being, so they will be turning their efforts online. Loads of online content is being written and consumed – which is a big difference to 6 weeks ago. Online media also often has a quicker turnover, meaning your small business may be able to be featured sooner.
Across the country, there’s a heightened awareness of the part that small businesses play in our lives and we all really want to see them survive through this and thrive after.
When to expect a PR payoff
The results you get out of PR depend on your brand, number of & relevance of products, and if you’re updating regularly. There’s a chance that you could get featured within the first month, or it could take up to a year.
Generally, by month 3 you should at least start getting replies, and hopefully being included in magazine product picks, articles and other features.
Getting started with small business PR
We’d recommend heading over to PR Dispatch and checking out the Free PR calendar. Have a good old look at that, and think about the angles you could use to pitch your product in the next 2 months. Think about key times of year, notable days coming up, current issues – though please bear in mind to pitch sensitively at this time, making sure you don’t appear as though you are trying to profit from the crisis. We’ve got some great advice for this here – how to communicate as a small business during the coronavirus pandemic.
Make a list of 5 magazines (both online and print) that you could see your product in, read them and make sure you’re familiar with their style, and think about how your product/brand would fit in.
Then start contacting editors and feature writers for the publications on your list! Don’t be afraid – they want to hear from you.
A little bit about the lovely PR Dispatch
PR Dispatch is the UK’s first PR membership platform dedicated to the success of independent, product-based businesses by teaching them how to DIY their own PR.
Through PR Dispatch brands are given agency fed contacts, templates, support, advice, and workshops that give them the confidence and skills to do their own PR and get great results from just £53 per month. With the community at the forefront, they support some of the best product based businesses in the UK, who have gone on to gain coverage in the likes of Stylist, Metro, Evening Standard and many more.
If you would like to know more about becoming a PR Dispatch member you can book a platform tour with their New Members Manager, Kate.