Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Public Relations Tips for Small Businesses

A full-blown public relations campaign can be costly. The average cost of a retainer from an agency averages about $3,000 a month. For a mid-size to large company, that amount is not a big deal ... it's lunch money. For small businesses or individual authors, that amount is a very big deal. If you don't have a lot of money to spend on a public relations campaign, you can do the following:

Help a Reporter Out aka HARO -- Three times a day HARO releases queries from top media outlet reporters who are in search of sources for their material. You can submit queries too if you need content or you can answer queries. HARO is free. It costs you time and ability to answer the queries in the correct manner (now that part is a skill). So, here is a tip: always answer the query exactly and don't stray from the question.

Hire a Smaller Boutique or Contractor -- Individual public relations practitioners working on their own often cost much less than a full-size agency. Don't get too excited that this route is the cost cutting method you seek, though. A PR contractor with a lower hourly rate may not be worth it. He/she may not be using or can afford powerful tools like Vocus, which enables him/her to reach the right target media. If you only intend to do a small regional campaign then do hire a contractor. Most of the time, the contractor probably has regional information and knows the players. Larger reach in national media requires tools and knowledge that might be beyond your smaller practitioner's range.

Watch Out for Over-billing -- Here are some things to watch out for to avoid being ripped off. PR can be very hard to measure. If you get a bill for 10 hours and you don't know what it was spent on, make sure your PR person gives you an itemized list of activities and tasks completed and assigned hours. Now I'm not suggesting you micro-manage your PR representative. But accountability on something where results are difficult to measure will at least help you understand where the time was spent. I knew a practitioner who routinely billed 10 hours for a wire drop. A wire drop isn't a 10-hour task, but clients don't often know that. Did that 10 hours include writing the press release? Did it include follow-up time with individual media outlets? Had this person itemized her report this way, no questions would have been raised; but an invoice with wire drop associated with 10 hours is too vague and raises suspicion. Look for itemized tasks associated with an activity so you understand how that time was actually spent.

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