Small Business PR: How to Sabotage Your PR Campaign Results

You're thinking of going big with a PR campaign. Publicity is exactly what your small business needs, right?

In my article "Small Business PR: Should You Hire a Publicist or Can You Do It Yourself?" I explained exactly how to evaluate whether it's time to hire an external PR firm or publicity expert. Do not pass go without reading it.

PR is a major investment: not only will you spend thousands of dollars hiring someone who really knows what they're doing when it comes to strategic communications, you will have to invest time interfacing with them and maximizing the results they generate by optimizing your marketing and sales.

Plus, these days PR isn't just your media coverage. It's every single touchpoint your audience has with your brand, including social media, written communications, customer service, and online reviews.

This is why I always start with a Game Plan, my overnight marketing diagnostic, before giving entrepreneurs a green light to purchase PR services, potentially saving them tons of money, not to mention the headaches generated from banging their heads against a wall wondering why the press hits aren't pouring in.

As a marketing strategist who gets people, projects, and businesses ready for attention - a "pre-PR firm," if you will - here are the most common ways people sabotage their own PR campaign before it even starts:

PR isn't what you actually need.
The first order of business when I begin a Game Plan session is finding out what you really want. 90% of people who come to me for press coverage actually want something else, such as an increase in sales, a better reputation, a stronger business model, or recognition in their industry.

Fortunately, I'm a marketing strategist and an advocate for entrepreneurs, so I'm not interested in selling you PR you don't need. I'll tell you exactly what you need to do in order to truly be attention-ready, when to do it, and what your priorities should be to put your business in the best possible shape.

Your marketing isn't complete.
PR is the icing on the marketing cake. You must have your image air-tight before you start bringing more attention to it. Is your branding up to date? Is your marketing copy telling your story? Are your social media accounts being maintained? Do you have a clear value proposition for why people should choose you over your competitors?

Only after you have perfected your marketing is the time to grow your audience and raise your profile. In our oversaturated communications world, you often get just one shot: don't blow it!

You don't know how to hold people's attention once you get it.
A PR strategy without an ongoing audience communications strategy is worthless. Let's say you get that perfect press hit and it sends a slew of new people to your website. Do you have systems in place to make sure they don't bounce right off your homepage, never to return? A comprehensive communication strategy that builds a dynamic relationship with your audience is a must before you seek press coverage.

You don't have a sales process.
Once you generate leads, how do you close the sale? The job of a great media story is not to sell, it's to bring awareness to what is newsworthy about your business. Awareness, not sales.

So how do you turn that awareness into sales? Great question, let's solve it before you send out that press release!

You're in emergency mode.
Unless you're looking for crisis communications (a whole other beast), a small business PR campaign is a long-term strategy. Don't throw money at a marketing problem in a last-ditch effort to sell product, fill an event, or catch up with competitors.

In emergency mode, you are far more likely to select a marketer based on whoever's available and cheapest for the job - not a good indicator of who will really be the best PR rep for your business!

Above all, it's rude to journalists to demand they cover you immediately with zero background on who you are or why it should matter to them.

You don't know how to measure PR results.
Many PR firms I partner with require a six-month minimum commitment. This is completely fair because it takes time to do it right: to build media relationships and generate real results. Don't suggest "just trying it out for a month" and expect to have a realistic picture of what can be achieved.

I'll follow up with more about measuring your PR campaign results, but for now, realize that it's not just about quantity, it's about quality: one strong press story can be worth 10 quick mentions, or even 100 pickups of your press release on a PR wire.

Your product isn't ready to sell.
Please stop doing PR around your crowdfunding campaign. In most cases it's unwarranted and definitely not news. Chances are, you're not going to get another story once your product is actually launched, so save the attention for when you actually have something to offer.

Anytime you're considering building your business through marketing or PR help, be sure you do your research, comparison shop, and make an informed decision. Only then can you make the best choices for your business success.

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