PR for small businessGuest article written by Claire Halliday, Copy Queens

So, you've got a great business and you want to get the word out.

For most business owners, the idea of engaging the professional services of a high-profile PR firm could see you billed upwards of $4000 per month – out of the financial reach for many.

But don't give up.

Making the most of the free publicity that comes from media coverage can be a great tool that puts real marketing power in the hands of even the smallest business – and although it's not easy, the good news is that it is possible, by yourself.

The options are many... media publications.

Each option opens you up to a new audience of potential customers and clients and each option also requires a slightly different approach.

Let's talk radio. Talkback radio can be a great platform for business-related publicity. The audience is often huge – some of the highest rating radio stations are talkback-focused.

The official path to gain radio support is to make an approach to the producers of the radio program you are targeting. Bear in mind that different program pitch to a different audience and if you want to take your PR attempts seriously, you need to spend some time actually listening to different radio programs to identify the one that suits you best. Who is your ideal client? If they are mums of school-aged children, chances are they will listen to mid-morning or early afternoon radio – most likely NOT the after-school activity rush around dinnertime from about 4.30pm-6pm. If they are more high-powered corporates, they will most likely be listening to talkback between 6-9am – in the lead-up to their working day.

Each radio station program has its own unique team of producers. These are the people who help the host come up with interesting ideas to feature on the show. Ringing reception at any radio station and asking for the contact details for the producer of a specific radio program will usually unearth a name and email address – and sometimes a phone number too.

Put together a concise, professionally-written media release and brief cover email (no spelling errors, of course!) and send it to the appropriate person.

The best way to get their attention is to help them see the value in what you can share with their listeners. Don't bang on about how great you and your business are – what may get their attention across the line is you convincing them of the benefits you and your business may offer their audience.

Any kind of media loves the idea of linking a 'hook' to a potential story. Is your business connected in some way to publicity around an event or National Day? Has something just happened in the news that makes news of your business more relevant than ever (for example crime stats may have just been released and you run a business installing security grilles)?

When it comes to traditional print media, it's important to remember that magazines have a very long 'lead' time. This is the time between editors commissioning story ideas and the actual running of a published piece. So...if your product is to do with Mother's Day, you can't contact Women's Weekly the month before. It will be a waste of your time and not get you anywhere. The reason is that monthly publications schedule their stories many months in advance. July, in fact, can be a great time to pitch Christmas stories...It's different in the daily newspaper but planning in advance is still helpful – especially in the specialist sections (food, education, real estate, business, lifestyle, etc).

Again, the important thing to have up your sleeve is a well-written media release and a reason that the editor should consider publishing information about your business.

It's not about blowing your own trumpet. It's about what interest and benefits there are for the publication's readers.

Registering your business with online businesses that specialise in linking business owners with media opportunities is a great way to handle your own PR.

Two great local services are:

Another business called Handle Your Own PR offers affordable options to manage PR and has lists of media contacts for sale. Don't be put off by the price. If your business is media-friendly, buying a media list can be a great investment that saves you hours of time trying to track down contact details yourself.

Scratch the surface of successful business owners and there are many positive stories about the difference free media can make to your business.

It's about leveraging off what is happening around you in popular culture, so be sure to read keep abreast of the latest news events to see if there might just be a hook for your own PR opportunity.

Social media offers a world of opportunity, with video marketing and the power of putting the idea of 'going viral' in the hands of anyone with a catch idea and the ability to share it to the right people.

If you really aspire to manage your own successful PR campaign, you must be a sponge for everything that is going on in the world around you. Analyse what PR campaigns connect with you...and the reasons why. Now, try to replicate them in a way that suits your business offering and target market.

Good luck!



Claire Halliday has been a freelance writer for major newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years. Through her business Copy Queens, Claire also offers professional copywriting services to business owners – everything from websites to media releases and sales brochures.




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