PR Musts: How to get PR for your small business

Angry Mandy!

How do you convince media and bloggers to write about your business or organization without making them upset?

Last week, a Marketwire webinar answered just that. The webinar, titled “Stop calling journalists: Get them to call you”, was presented by Lisa Elia, founder and CEO of Lisa Elia Public Relations and a 20-year PR veteran.

In the hour-long presentation, Lisa offered tips on how business owners can establish themselves as media experts. She also revealed how to properly build strong relationships with journalists and bloggers and stop alienating them.

Here are Lisa’s 11 PR tips:

1. Do your research.

Lisa emphasized the importance of knowing your industry. Stay up-to-date on current events, and form an opinion on how they will affect your industry, product, service, and the audience you serve.

She said that it is important to research every media outlet you pitch and every writer you pitch. If you’re not quite sure where to find journalists, look into paid services (such as Media Hub and Cision) or free online services (such as Bulldog Reporter and Yahoo! Media Directories).  Most of the media outlets’ websites also now include names and contact info of producers, radio hosts, and editors.

2. Know when to customize and when to systematize.

Customize your pitches to suit individual media outlets. Do not send blanket emails and hope that someone bites. (You can’t really customize if you don’t know the reporter’s outlet or beat — so this tip goes back to the first tip about research.)

Lisa also emphasized the importance of creating systems. Be organized and track things. Systematize your process for reaching out to the media and for tracking every call or email you send to each member of the media. For the most part, a simple Excel sheet with some info (e.g. day, month, year, notes, etc.) will do.  Paid services such as are also available.

3. Get media trained.

Ok, so media finally contacts you — what’s next? Be prepared as much as possible by getting some media training.

You should be prepared to answer obvious questions, but you also need to anticipate tough questions. Think like the media and come up with a list of possible questions they might ask. (Lisa noted that media doesn’t like “no comment” as an answer.) Many online articles and videos offer tips on how to prepare for a media interview, but if you feel that you still need more help, don’t be afraid to call a PR or media professional.

Also, have your own preparation ritual to get “into the zone” before every interview.  Exercises like tongue twisters might help to get the nerves out.

4. Use video in your press releases and pitches.

According to Lisa, members of the press want to see you on camera and they often search YouTube for experts to interview.  So consider including videos in your press releases and pitches.

Lisa recommended including the word ‘expert’ in your bio (e.g. your LinkedIn or Twitter profiles) if you want media to find you for interviews. Also, include links to videos in your press releases, email pitches, online press room, etc.

5. Integrate your publicity, social media, marketing and sales efforts.

Lisa provided a few tidbits on how to use social media to generate PR.

First, make sure you’re following media outlets and reporters on social media. (I recommend creating a Twitter list of journalists and bloggers.) Lisa cautions that media usually don’t like it when you pitch them on social media. Instead, use social media to start a conversation with them. Tools like Twellow are available if you’d like to find media on Twitter.

This seems basic, but Lisa also reminded webinar attendees to share their press placements on social media. In fact, you should be sharing your press placements with anyone who helps in your sales efforts — media hits are a good way of establishing your credibility. Post press reviews about specific products or services on pages of your website where people may be making purchases about them.

Finally, when posting on social media, don’t forget to include a strong call to action.

6. Don’t waste their time.

Bloggers and members of the media are super busy and get tons of email everyday. (I own a very small music blog, but I can attest to this — too many irrelevant emails come through  my inbox everyday.) Respect their time.

Lisa said that the media generally prefer to be pitched by email.  Avoid calling – but in the very rare case that you do, ask them if they have a moment, don’t be chatty, match their tone, and don’t be pushy.

When it comes to media and blogger relations, persistence means coming back to media with NEW ideas. Don’t pester media with the same pitch hoping that they’ll eventually change their mind. If they tell you that you’re not right for their outlet, believe them and move on.

7. Don’t be too casual with your writing style.

Journalists are paid because of their ability to tell stories using words, so they are picky with grammar. Therefore, you should also be picky and avoid getting sloppy with your pitches.

Lisa recommended using the Associated Press Style in your press releases.

8. Don’t be difficult or hard to track down.

Be accommodating and try to make yourself available for an interview. Journalists usually have a deadline, and they might need to set up an interview within a couple of hours or less. Deliver on your promises to provide follow-up info.

Make it easy for bloggers and journalists to contact you. Include your phone number and email address on your website and in your email signature.

When you go to TV stations or visit a media outlet, don’t be a diva (or a divo).

9. Don’t lie to the media.

Journalists are smart, and most info can now easily be researched and verified online. Don’t lie under any circumstance.

If you have a delicate situation, talk to an expert before your interview. Many PR firms specialize in crisis communications — contact them if necessary.

10. Don’t stop evolving.

What interests the media today may not be as compelling in 6 years…. or even in 6 months! Continue to develop new content, new ideas and new ways to promote your products, services, and company. PR is not a six-month project: you need to keep working on it.

Don’t dismiss new forms of communication (e.g. Pinterest or Google+) as passing fads. Watch them and see how you might be able to use them in the future.

11. Use compelling subject lines.

Given the amount of email that journalists and bloggers get, you need to make sure you’re using compelling subject lines.  Lisa suggested looking at the headlines used in newspapers and on newscasts. These may provide some ideas on what words you should be using or how to phase words in your subject line.  Play with alliterations and humour.

Lisa discouraged attendees from tricking the media. A misleading subject line might result to an opened email but it will not result to media interest!

Also, test out different subject lines and see what works best for you and your industry.

Check out the Marketwire Small Business blog

Big thanks to Lisa for sharing these practical tips. I’m currently working in PR, but I still learned some new things in this webinar!

For more, follow Lisa Elia on Twitter or visit her PR firm’s website. Also, if you’re a small business, check out Marketwire’s new blog filled with articles to help you succeed.

What do you think of these tips? Any tips you’d add? If you’re a journalist or a blogger, is there anything here that you agree or disagree with?

Photo: eVo photo (Flickr) 

© 2012 – 2014, KC Claveria. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please link back to

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  • 40deuce

    Glad to see that you got some great take-aways from the webinar last week Kelvin! This is a great write up!

    Sheldon, community manager for Marketwire