If you’re starting a new business, you might be thinking that PR is something that you shouldn’t even think about because you can’t afford an expensive PR firm.  However, don’t think that way just yet because Maggie Patterson, a Communication Strategist and Copywriter with MaggiePatterson.com is here to help us navigate the PR world and find ways (and great ways) to do it yourself.

What exactly is PR?  Is it marketing? PR is really a subset of marketing.  It encompasses everything from employee communications to media relations.  However, people strictly think of publicity.

Do you need to have a press release and how do you determine that?  According to Maggie, people really don’t need to use a press release.  It’s all about telling your story, and there are so many ways you can tell your story.  Press releases are great for people who may need to show earnings or winning a new customer.  Instead you can do things like guest blogging or pitching your story in other areas.

How can you get it to your audience in another effective way?  When you think of publicity, figure out how you’re going to put yourself out there, and what’s the best way you can do that.

Are there general rules of where you should concentrate your PR efforts?   Maggie recommends really working to go into guest blog posting.  It allows you to do it at your own pace, and it helps drive people on your list and drive people to your site.

How do you pitch certain blogs?  The absolute best thing you can do is to do a lot of research.  Google a certain topic along with ‘guest posts’, and then see where others within your industry are guest posting.  What kind of places within the business groups are people getting covered.   Look at where you are in your business, if you’re small, start with smaller niche sites, and then move up the ladder as needed.

However, Maggie also recommends to be careful with Google and duplicate content with guest posting.  If you have a specific topic that you like, don’t try to just recycle the content.  It’s okay to take the same theme and spin it. 

Is it as simple as just sending an email and providing an idea for a post? Find out who they take for guest posts, and what they’re looking to put on their site.  Tell them about your guest post idea, and make it super simple for them to say ‘yes’.  Also provide a short bio, along with some writing samples.    As you move up the chain you can include the better sites you’ve submitted.

Other areas to concentrate on for PR? If you’re locally based, look at your local media like morning shows, newspapers, etc.  Provide an idea for a segment and story that you can do for them.  It also starts to put you in that expert space.  You end up getting a lot of practice, so when the big media outlets contact you, you’re ready to go with your four-minute pitch, along with your media presence.

Where do you begin trying to find a spot on the news?  Look for the assignment editor.  Tell them who you are, and give them 3 ideas, all a little different, so they can see the variety you can offer, and the different directions they could go.  You can also send out a note and say you’re a new company, and you’re not sure how they look for guests, but you would like to be considered.  It might pay off right away, but they may think you when they’re in a pinch.

HARO is another great tool where reporters and bloggers are looking for stories.  You do need to respond very quickly (within a few hours). They literally get hundred of responses, so it’s better to be near the beginning.  Also respond directly to what they’re asking for.  Don’t try to be philosophic.  List out your solution, and why you’re qualified for it.

Are there any other resources like HARO?  There are a lot of websites that have lists of people to guest post.  Make sure that you take the time that they’re still up to date, and they’re still accepting guest posts.  Maggie also recommends going to Alltop.com, where they have a ton of sites that you can pitch.

Another area Maggie encourages is speaking.  You can do something small at a local business or organization.  If you think it’s something that you can do in a way that will make them shine.   Maggie encourages you to make your own luck and put yourself out there.  Don’t wait for others to come to you, pitch your ideas and put yourself out there.  Offer your story to others.

What are your thoughts about speaking for free vs requiring a payment?  Maggie’s advice that if you’re starting out, that you shouldn’t charge fees around it, especially if you’re putting yourself out there.  

One thing about publicity, when you start putting yourself out there, you will have haters (but this really can be a good thing!)

Where can I bring in a PR person to help me?  Use someone like Maggie to help form and write the pitch.  As far as connection to bloggers, editors, and show organizers, Maggie encourages her customers to do that part themselves.  Don’t create a situation where you’re completely dependent on someone.  If you’re working with someone, see their strategy, and what they’re doing to determine where you can do it yourself.  It’s better to do something like this instead of a long-term contract.  

Maggie recommends that if you really want to start doing your own PR, start watching the bigger PR firms out there.  You can find what’s trendy, and see what larger companies are doing to change their PR.  It will give you some great ideas around where you can focus your efforts.

More about Maggie:   Maggie Patterson is a copywriter and communications strategist. She works hands-on with entrepreneurs to help them market their businesses and meet business goals.

With 15 years of hands-on experience she has worked with companies of all sizes – from big brands to solopreneurs. After cutting her teeth during the dot-com bubble and bust in Canada’s leading PR agency, Maggie started her own highly successful marketing and communications consultancy.  She is the host of the Marketing Moxie podcast and her work has been published on leading websites including The Huffington Post, LKR Social Media, Duct Tape Marketing, Content Marketing Institute, Yahoo Small Business and more.

You can find Maggie at MaggiePatterson.com