My Small Business PR Checklist

PR (Public Relations) as it relates to small and mid-sized businesses can be a crapshoot. Largely dependent on your industry and motivations, PR can become a serious asset. However, success in this realm is completely dependent on having questions answered ahead of time.

So, you’re trying to drum up some new business. You feel some good PR will do just the trick. Here is the list of questions you really need to be answering before moving forward:

What are my goals?
What is the end game for your PR efforts? The path to a primetime TV appearance and the path to serious social sharing are not one in the same. Get clear on your main goals and skip the chance of miscommunication along the way.

How much do I really have to sell?
It’s important to not bite off more than you can chew when it comes to PR for small businesses. When done right, the responsibilities, follow-up, reach-out, and overall commitment is enough to warrant a full-time position. At this juncture, many involved decide to contact the help of a trusted PR partner. If you’re taking on PR internally, are you selling enough already to justify the move?

Do I know my target audience and which media they consume?
Trying to reach 60-70 year old consumers through Snapchat won’t work. Putting up billboards to grab attention from the 6-12 year olds staring down at their smartphones won’t work. Make sure you really understand your target audience, what they like, how they think, and most importantly: what media do they consume. Otherwise, you might as well be speaking to yourself.

Do I have the time?
If you are going to be managing your PR internally, consistency and organization are both key. Make sure you have enough time set aside to correspond with contacts, create content, and update your database. If you’re products or services are truly great, you may soon find your hands full once your PR efforts start gaining momentum.

Do I have the money?
In the never-ending battle to expand your marketing mix, PR is a great asset to have. However, costs can add up quickly. Plan accordingly! A PR strategy that doesn’t take into account your budget and business size is destined for failure.

What have we done in the past and will our latest effort take outside help?
Maybe this isn’t your first rodeo and you’ve experienced PR before. If you don’t learn from past mistakes or successes, you might as well be back at square one.

Do I know how to interact with the press?
Are you prepared to forge relationships, fully plan out events, and give lead-time to your PR contacts? Can you write a press release and do you know the beat reporters covering your specific business sector? If not, you might want to consider some outside assistance.

Do I know how to write a press release?
Many a press release falls on deaf ears not because there isn’t news involved, but because it isn’t presented properly. The structure, wording, and presentation of a press release makes all the difference.

Is this project truly newsworthy?
It’s time to face facts. In order for you to make the news, what your seeking coverage on needs to, in fact, be news! If your story or angle isn’t timely, novel, compelling, or otherwise deemed newsworthy by the majority of people the outlet reaches, chances are slim it will run or get coverage.

Do I have a current and updated press contact list?
It’s a cutthroat, fast-paced industry in PR. Part of the challenge is being able to keep updates on your contact list. With such high turnover, there’s a good chance your year-old contact list is severely outdated. In this regard, an agency with PR capabilities will have updated lists and strong relationships with news outlet contacts.

At that same time, these strong relationships will have been hard-fought and created over years of collaboration. If you are taking on PR by yourself, are you prepared to be in it for the long haul? This is key for getting credibility.

Am I an excellent, persuasive writer and communicator?
Aside from writing a “We’re Closed” sign and sticking it on the door, have you ever written to persuade or advertise your services? Moreover, has it been effective? Escaping that salesy, stale way of writing and interjecting some skill is what PR agencies know how to do exceptionally well.

Do I have a professional photo and video of my product or service to support my pitch?
Any great piece of news nowadays needs a compelling image or video to accompany it. Bottom line, if you have a greater quality image or video, your content may beat out others with a similar message. Rest assured, you will be competing for coverage with others who do have that high quality image or video to back them up.

Do I know how to leverage online tools like social media to get attention?
Social media is a long-term investment, plain and simple. It’s not going to pay off immediately, but it can be grown to become a powerful pipeline for your PR efforts. The question is, do you know how to get your company’s social media up to par and are you ready to take it on headfirst?

If not, you will have to sift through agencies who can help. Many people claim to be social media “experts” or worse, “gurus.” The mark of true expertise is in the results, and not just the sugar-coated testimonials. If you are looking for an agency that also has PR, ask them about their approach and if social media services will help your particular goals. The right agency will be honest with you. The wrong agency will think you need social regardless.

Do my investors or board expect to see media coverage of this project?
This goes back to the goals of your PR project or undertaking. Is your management team or investors ready to build something big or are they looking for a quick boost. Err on the side of caution here, as a half-attempt will yield little to no true results worth writing home about.