Everyone has expertise in something, and as someone who runs a small business you probably have expertise in more areas than you might think. You certainly know quite a bit about the market you serve or the product niche you fill. You probably also have valuable experience with business operations ranging from recruiting the best employees to stretching a marketing budget. And, one of the best ways to get people to hear about your business is to share this expertise.
“Doing well by doing good” may be a hackneyed phrase, but it is not a bad ideal upon which to base your PR efforts. Very simply, if you can find media people who need the type of expertise you have, and you can get them useful information in a timely manner, then they’ll be happy to include information about your company in the content they produce—for free.
While you might spend big money to hire a PR firm to ferret out these opportunities, it is definitely not necessary. An easy, free way to do it yourself is to subscribe to the Help a Reporter Out (HARO) list. You simply provide basic contact information and your email address, and they send you an email each day with a list of requests from writers and editors working on articles, online content, TV content, books, and more. If you have something pertinent to contribute, use the email address listed to reply. If the writer uses your contribution, you may be quoted directly, your business may become part of the story, or at the very least you’ll get your contact and company information listed.
You can sign up for the free HARO list here (make sure you select the free option). You can opt to receive the full email that contains all requests, or subject-specific emails such as health care, business or high-tech. (Note that HARO is owned by Vocus, a for-profit PR service, and they may give you a sales call if you sign up but there is no need to use the service to continue with the HARO list.)
Before responding to a request, be sure that you read it carefully and that your answer is pertinent to the story. Remember—the idea is to help, not to shamelessly push your product or service where it doesn’t make sense. And, remember that a good contribution doesn’t have to directly relate to what you sell. For example, you might have valuable experience to offer regarding how you solved a sticky HR issue, or about the challenges of setting up a new business in your city. Check out the Five Simple Rules of HARO to help you get started, use proper etiquette, and make a meaningful use of your HARO time.