There’s no substitute for good PR when it comes to small business marketing. A solid event, an exciting announcement, or even just existing can turn into an opportunity to get your brand published, more visible and more respected by thousands of people in your area.
There are many conventional strategies for generating PR already; for example, you could get involved in a local event, volunteer some time to a charitable endeavor, or collaborate with another business or organization to contribute to the city’s economy. Almost anything you do that’s “newsworthy” can easily be packaged up as a press release and distributed to your own benefit.
These conventional routes are all well and good, but there’s something to be said for defying traditions.
Why Breaking Convention Can Be Good
There are good reasons for seeking “alternative” or unconventional means of generating positive PR.
First, you’ll often gain access to a complementary audience segment, which is especially valuable if you’re already pursuing conventional routes. Second, you’ll gain a competitive advantage, since your competitors will be less likely to pursue such opportunities. Finally, you’ll learn to start looking for PR opportunities everywhere you go — which can be tremendously advantageous in the long term.
How to Do It
These are just a few ideas for how small businesses can break out of that mold:
1. Nearby construction or additions. If your business is centrally located in a busy area (and if you rely on foot traffic, it almost certainly is), consider making your presence known when there’s a new construction or addition in your general vicinity. For example, let’s say there’s a building being torn down next door, and a new office building is going in its place; you can capitalize on this opportunity by submitting your own commentary on the subject, or by participating in the renovations. For example, you might start your own renovations to extend the changes being made to the area.
2. Do something controversial. You could also take a risk by doing something controversial. You’ll want to be careful here, because there’s a fine line between positive PR and negative PR. An example of negative PR is when a shopkeeper denies service to a marginalized group (such as a certain religion or sexuality); the brand’s visibility is escalated, but not in a way that’s going to benefit your business. An example of positive PR here is Dumb Starbucks, a café that opened as a gutsy gimmick and skyrocketed to success because of its flabbergasting nature. You’ll have to work your creative muscles here, but the bolder and more outgoing you are with your idea, the better.
3. Jump on a trend. You can also try to generate attention by jumping on an existing trend. Again, you’ll need to be careful here, but this time you’ll need to be careful of your timing. If you jump on a trend too soon, you might not be able to generate the level of attention you want for your brand. If you jump on a trend too late, you could miss out entirely, or worse, be seen as behind the times. For example, shared workspaces are a currently growing trend, as they aren’t exactly popular, but an increasing number of freelancers and independent contractors are relying on them for work. Co-opting a space like this could give you huge positive press.
4. Go guerrilla. You could get some extra PR from one of your marketing campaigns — if you go the guerrilla marketing approach. Subtly placing your advertisements all around the city, or pulling a major stunt could get people talking — and if the people start talking, the media will want to cover the situation as quickly and as extensively as possible. Again, this demands a lot of creativity upfront, and you’ll need to be careful to avoid a situation like the Mooninite scare in Boston back in 2007.
5. Blowout customer service. This one’s risky, because it demands a lot of investment for an opportunity that may or may not ever pay off. The idea here is to give blowout customer service — over-the-top, exceptional service to one or a handful of your current customers. For example, you might hand-deliver a grand gift to them if you know they’re going through a rough time. If enough people know about it and talk about it, one of your local news outlets will probably be thrilled to cover the story.
6. Ride coattails. Finally, consider riding the coattails of a story that’s already developing. The first entry, about new construction in your area, is a shade of this concept. Keep an eye out for local events, situations, or even other businesses and organizations that are experiencing newsworthy changes, then find a way for your brand to get involved. It’s a bit sneaky, and it’s certainly not as valuable as making your own news, but it’s cheap, and can be crazy effective.
Now that you’ve reviewed these alternative means of gaining more visibility for your brand, I do offer you one word of caution. If you hunt down PR opportunities relentlessly, or if you appear to be capitalizing on events and sensationalizing your brand purely to get a taste of the spotlight, your users may begin to doubt your intentions.
However you choose to attract or seek PR, make sure you do so in moderation; your goal should be to bring valuable content to your community, not to steal PR just because you can. For more insights on getting PR, see 5 Ways to Get Media Coverage as a Startup.