Marketing for Small Businesses

Five Public Relation Mistakes Small Businesses Make

Is there anything worse than seeing one of your competitors featured or quoted in the newspaper or on the local news?

Why didn’t they speak to me? I have just as much to say as they do!

But when it comes down to it, sometimes it is really you and not them that is the heart of the problem. To help you escape this rut, following are five mistakes small businesses make when it comes to their public relations efforts.

  1. You have no true strategy

What do you hope to achieve with your public relations efforts?

  • Basic awareness of your products or services?
  • Promotion of an upcoming event or charitable campaign?
  • Demonstration of your company’s expertise that satisfies a specific need in the industry?
  • Introduce a new product being launched that will revolutionize the industry?

Be as specific as possible and customize your plan to fulfill that need. Too often, companies try to be everything to everyone and their strategies end up being inefficient and ineffective.

  1. Your press releases aren’t news

The days of “if you build it, they will come” are over. Every day, newsrooms are shrinking and the staffs remaining are inundated with corporate press releases from all over. So, as an old co-worker of mine used to say, distributing a release about the new red hat your CEO bought isn’t going to cut it.

So what is news? Sometimes, it is as small as naming a new high-level company executive. Those types of releases, however, are getting harder to place and rarely generate more than just one to three lines in the business section.

What will make an impact is telling the media how your company stands out from its competitors. Are you opening a new building that will revitalize the local downtown area? Has your firm developed a revolutionary drug that can improve quality of life for someone who is sick? Before writing and distributing a press release, ask yourself why should my audience care?

If nothing newsworthy is going on at your business, consider starting a blog aimed at sharing industry insight that can help prospective clients. Comment on key issues or trending stories that impact your or your clients’ industry. Perhaps there is a quarterly poll on the state of the marketplace. The key to any blog is to make each informative and avoid the sales pitch.

The great thing about blogs, particularly ones that are consistently distributed, is that they provide you with an additional avenue to keep your company top of mind with your target audience.

You also can use this blog to demonstrate your expertise and position yourself as a resource with the media for future industry-related stories.

  1. You are talking to the wrong people in the media

The good news is that you have a release, blog or timely comment on a breaking news story that you wish to share. The bad news is you have no idea to whom to send it.

While not many companies will have access to media databases like Cision or Muck Rack, you are not without your own resources. Most newspaper websites include a link to their staff directories.

Before reaching out, monitor the news outlet(s) where you wish to appear. Who is writing the stories on your industry? If it is the same person, then the search generally ends there, by finding that person’s contact information. However, as I mentioned earlier, newsrooms are shrinking and the days of only one reporter covering the same beat are ending as well. In these cases, find the department editor or a general newsroom phone number.

For your initial contact, call ahead (rather than e-mail) to make sure the person you selected is the appropriate contact. If he or she is not, that reporter generally will direct you to the correct writer.

  1. Not preparing for the interview

So the big day has come; you’ve landed the interview. Are you prepared?

The Benjamin Franklin quote, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” is one of my favorite quotes. Believe it or not, an unprepared interviewee happens more often than you think. Result No. 1: Your comments are left on the cutting room floor. Result No. 2: The reporter never calls you again for an interview.

You may think you know everything there is on the subject (even if it’s a feature on your own company), but not being prepared can lead to your message being buried because you:

  • Was not able to provide complete details to the questions being asked
  • Spoke about too many other topics
  • Got so caught up in the excitement of the interview that you forgot to discuss your main message

When preparing for an interview, gather 2-3 bullet or talking points you want to discuss with the reporter. It also is helpful to develop several potential questions that might be asked so that you can be ready to give clear and concise responses.

  1. Be flexible

Early in my career, I interned for the Cleveland Browns. On the first day, the organization gathered all of the interns for a meeting with Head Coach Bill Belichick. All eyes were on him as he walked back and forth several times across the room. Then he stopped. Stared up at us and said, “We had over 1,000 people apply for your jobs, so believe me it won’t be hard to replace you.”

Well, the same can be said of sources for a story. I realize you are busy, but if you want to get your company’s name in the media, you need to accommodate reporters’ schedules as much as they work to accommodate yours.


Once you land your company in the news, though, your job is far from over. While many small businesses treat public relations, marketing and sales as separate entities, the truth is these departments are most effective when they work together.

Always send thank you letter(s) to reporters for including you in their story once it is published or aired. Like it was when you were searching for a job, reporters receive very few of this type of correspondence, and letters like this help put you ahead of the pack when the next story unfolds.

The marketing team should then be ready to post links promoting this coverage on your website and social media pages. They also should include this information in future marketing materials. Nothing looks better than a graphics stating, “As quoted by ABC TV or The Main St. Gazette.”

Finally, be sure to have your sales staff take the new brochures and leave them behind following their meetings with your prospective clients.

Sometimes in life, and particularly when it comes to getting yourself in the media, you really have only one shot to make an impression. When it happens, make it count.

If you need help from a veteran public relations consultant, please contact us at! 

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