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businessman talking through megaphone, low angle view (George Doyle/(c) George Doyle)
businessman talking through megaphone, low angle view (George Doyle/(c) George Doyle)

The Top Tens

Ten PR tips for small businesses on a budget Add to ...

Want to create a buzz about your small business without spending a fortune? Alison Burke, president of Impressions Public Relations , works with start-ups and small businesses to help engage the media and tell their stories.

Here are 10 tips for entrepreneurs looking to make a splash:

1. What's your story? Take time to map out what your company offers to your community. What do you bring to the table? What makes you stand out from competitors? What do you offer that is new? Answering these basic questions will help create your story.

2. It's not all about you. PR is not an ad or a commercial. You need to offer something to your audience - teach a new trick, share a range of new products, offer advice on a subject matter of interest, etc. This will give you credibility and make them feel the need to learn more about you.

3. Find the emotion. People like to connect to the product or service. What's yours? Does it help someone? Is it good for the environment? Is there a charitable component? Be honest in what you are saying, but create a need that only you can fill.

4. Know your target audience. Spend time researching the needs and motivations your target audience. There's no point in creating a campaign that does not speak to the people who would purchase your product or use your service.

5. Press release versus pitch. You don't always need to write a press release to get media coverage, especially if you're a small business and cash flow is an issue. A press release follows a specific format and has a journalistic tone. It is newsy and can be published as is. A pitch is used to catch a journalist's attention and can be used for a new product, an interview or a call to action.

6. Write concisely. Media releases and pitches should not be long. Journalists are busy and want to read clear and accurate information. Choose your language wisely. Make it interesting and easy to skim quickly.

7. Know your target media. Take the time to research the media and find the outlet that best suit your product or service. Clearly state why your story is right for their audience.

8. Personalize. Spend time identifying the proper editorial contact. Spell their name correctly. Read or watch their pieces. Over time, develop a relationship. Twitter and other social media tools are great for this!

9. Adhere to deadlines. Find out the cut-off dates or times for an outlet to receive your information. There's no point in sending timely information if you've missed their deadline. If they ask for further information by a certain date, make sure they get it.

10. Timeliness. Is your information being released at the right time? Certain media work months in advance while others only a few days. Your information should reflect their deadlines and their needs.

Tips like these will be presented to small business owners and entrepreneurs at the Women in Biz Conference in Toronto on May 30, 2011.

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