Newspapers. Photo via NS Newsflash

Your small business needs advertising if it wants to survive and grow. But because you don’t have a huge budget you have to find ways to get “free advertising.” One of your best bets is to get “free press.”

Free press is a game changer, and fortunately the social media revolution has really made connecting with journalists a whole lot easier than it was in the past. There are so many tools and tips out there and ways to connect with them. Influential bloggers are even right at your fingertips.

So, let me show you some ways I’ve used these new rules to get press for my businesses and my clients.

Take advantage of the low-cost of social media

Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest. They are all pretty hot social media platforms right now, and I suggest you use anyone of them to get press for your business.

But there are other platforms that you shouldn’t ignore. For instance, have you ever thought of posting a press release online? There are three really good options to choose from.

  • Free Press Release –  Unlike PRWeb, this service will give you a free option. But, as you see, it’s severely limited. Still, if you don’t have a budget, doing something is better than doing nothing. A press release can include such perks as Technorati tags, statistics reporting and their social bookmarking feature. It’s a service that has been around since 2001, so it’s got credibility.

  • PRLog – PRLog is strictly a free service that provides good traction with both online and traditional press release services. Sign up for a free account and you could have your release out the door in less than ten minutes. There are even options for journalists.

In addition, join one of the many services that allow you to answer questions from reporters looking for experts and authorities. With NewsBasis shutting down, you really have two good choices to choose from:

  • Pitch Rate – Sign up for this free service and you will receive a daily email with queries from print and TV journalists looking for experts to interview. If you see an idea you like, you pitch the journalists, and if it’s a match, you get interviewed. An additional feature is that you can upload your articles for media to grab and use.
  • HARO – Help a Reporter Out is Pitch Rate on steroids. The idea is the same…you get a daily email with journalist queries you can pitch. The thing is, you get a lot of entries. You can upgrade to isolate industries you are only interested in.

Think partnerships

Neil Patel

Teaming up with established businesses is a sure-fire way of leveraging their reputation and connections. When looking at forming these types of relationships, remember that you are the one gaining, and the other business is actually taking you on as a liability.

In other words, they may not be able to benefit as much as you from the partnership. That means you need to go out of your way to make them feel good.

  • If there is some kind of financial gain in the partnership, offer to take less.
  • Express that it’s a privilege, and not a right, to work alongside the company.
  • Seek ways to enhance their reputation and their side of the value proposition.

When you are looking for these types of relationships to form, do this:

  • Talk to as many people as you can in the company – You want to get a bead on how the company works and if it will be a pleasure or a pain to work with.
  • Talk to former partners with the company – These people should be able to tell you all kinds of things about the company, and because they are no longer working with them, they have nothing to lose.
  • Research who they know – Because you are trying to get press, you need to know what sort of media connections the company has. Do they have any? Are they high-quality media connections? Or low quality? Always shoot for quality.
  • Start following them on social media – Your first introduction to this potential partner could occur on Twitter, their blog comment section or Facebook. Interact with them for some time to feel out if the partnership might work…then go in for the score.

The good thing is that the right partnership can easily land you the right press, which can launch you into the medias’ eyes overnight.

And while we are talking about it, don’t forget about partnering with charitable organizations. Often even large organizations like Red Cross, World Wildlife Fund or Amnesty International will join with smaller businesses because they, too, benefit from the free exposure they get from your partnership.

Tap influential bloggers

Like journalists, lots of influential bloggers want to write about new businesses, products, services, trends and research because it gives their audience new content, and keeps them looking like they are on the cutting edge.

You should leverage that desire, and approach them with a pitch.

Some bloggers will flat out state on their blog that they do not review new products. They find the products they want to blog about themselves. Robert Scoble is a good example of this.

Yet, there are many who welcome it. Here’s how to find those bloggers.

  • Do your homework – Never, ever spam a hundred blogs with a pitch. Instead, carefully hand-select ten blogs with good reputations. Make sure their publication matches your product. Then, approach them in a simple, personal email.
  • Recognize their hard work – Let the blogger know why you are choosing them to pitch a review of your product. Is it because of their expertise? Position in the market? Connections they have? Tell them why you respect them and wish they would review your product.
  • Demonstrate you know their audience – One thing that will tick off any influential blogger quickly is a lack of understanding of their audience. If you approach an influential auto blogger about a stock picking product, then you probably won’t even hear from them.
  • Never attach strings – Bloggers like to hear that they can review your product whether they like it or not. When you request that the blogger only do a positive review or no review, he or she will probably decline. Take the press, no matter if it’s pretty or ugly.
  • Get private feedback – Sometimes bloggers will withhold information about the review because of their audience. They might not have a techn-savvy audience, but noticed some serious technical flaws they’d like to share with you. Respect them by asking for this information.
  • Give a gift – You can always incentivize the review request, but you can never bribe them. Promise to send them a t-shirt or access to your online metrics tool for free. Whatever it is, make it a simple “thank you.”
  • Provide everything – If they accept the pitch, give them access to everything. They should have every upgrade or attachment. Do not hold anything back. Make it easy on them.
  • Follow up – Send an email a few days later after the review thanking them. In addition, send proof positive that the review helped you. This could be a testimonial or some data showing a bump in traffic or sales. Bloggers love to see that their work is actually making an impact.
  • Be upfront – When bloggers write negative reviews, don’t retaliate. That will sink your reputation quickly. Instead, thank them sincerely for their input, and look to see if there is anything to what they say about your product.

Get personal

I know it’s really easy to get business done, start relationships and schedule events over email, but, at some point, you need to pick up the phone and call.

In an age where so much work gets done without a phone call, this will make a positive impression on a blogger or reporter who is used to getting bombarded by email. (Editor’s note: GeekWire’s editors prefer email over a phone call)

On the same lines, get out of your office and visit people at local places.

  • Have a day-out-of-the-office work day – Grab your laptop and head to some busy places like cafés and bars and try to get some work done. You might think all the noise will distract you, but I’ve found that it actually helps me concentrate. And don’t work the whole time. Chit chat with barista or talk to some of the patrons. You never know what connections you might uncover.
  • Go to meetups – Whether it’s Pinterest, Reddit or Twitter, your favorite social media platform probably has local get-togethers. Attend a few of these every month and you’ll probably meet some great people!
  • Go to networking events – Do a search for these events on Google for your local area and I’m sure you can fill up your calendar fast. What’s important is to think about where reporters for your industry hang out, and go to those events.

I like to live by the philosophy that you are just a few people away from making some seriously good connections. Kind of like Kevin Bacon’s six degrees of separation. But, in most cases, you don’t need to meet that many people to reach someone truly influential.

The lesson is this: Talk to as many people as you can. Get them to like you. And you never know who they might know.

Speak at events

Journalists and influential bloggers often attend conferences, so if you can get speaking engagements, then you are more than likely to catch the attention of a reporter or two.

This also positions you as an authority. If you are not a good speaker, here are some ways to improve your presentation skills:

  • Create rapport – Every member of the audience is doing one thing…sizing you up. He or she wants to know if they can trust you. You must immediately bridge that gap and the best way to do that is not to immediately jump into your presentation. Instead, start with a story. Could be your story or a story you read in the paper, but you have to make sure it relates to your speech.
  • Hit your important points right away – After you’ve warmed up to the audience, hit your most important points as a summary of what you are about to talk about. This is a great way to get people prepared and keep people focused on what you are saying.
  • Be prepared – The worst possible thing you could do is come unprepared. Even if you are a great talker and think you can “wing it,” you won’t be polished or look like an authority. Spend a large amount of time researching, writing and rehearsing your speech. Watch a few TED talk videos to see what I mean.
  • Create a PowerPoint – A PowerPoint is perfect for not only communicating important information, but it is also extremely helpful for keeping you on track.
  • Prepare for answers – In some conferences you will be given the opportunity to answer questions from the audience. Prepare for this, too. When you do your research right, you’ll often have more information than you can actually use. Bring along this information in your notes so you can refer to it. Looking polished after the speech is equally important as looking polished during.

Conclusion

I know so many businesses who owe their success to a story that appeared on TV or in the newspaper. Blue Glass got their break with a New York Times piece. And Richard Branson uses it to his advantage in spite of his enormous success.

It is so much easier to get that break because everyone is connected today. You just have to figure out how to make that connection, and hopefully these tips have given you the methods to do that! What other ways can you use social media to get press?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics, an analytics provider that helps companies make better business decisions. More from Neil Patel on GeekWireSeven signs that you might just be an entrepreneur Eleven things every entrepreneur should know about innovation… 17 things I wish I’d known when starting my first business

[Blog photo via Bigstock]

Comments

  • dbb

    This is just bad advice….starting with the presumption that press adds value when in many cases it is a distraction – both to create it and receive it.

    After that….traditional press releases are all but meaningless today – especially for small business in an increasingly competitive contest to broadcast noise. Most partnership discussions with larger, slower, beaurocratic companies are massive time sinks and result in multiple disappointments – missed milestones, delays, org changes, etc…. Speaking at events? Inform your competition, draw smart people into your space and spend time that could otherwise be spent building your business so that the press seeks you out.

    I work in an industry where one celebrity mention can be invaluable – getting you above the noise, generate millions of downloads and possibly even make your company. So I am not anti-press. Many more companies are made or closed down based on their attention to building a great business and not a collection of press placements.

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