You’ve moved to a new town and are looking for a family dentist. Would you rather take the recommendation of a trusted friend, or a splashy TV commercial?

Likely, you’d listen to your friend, which is why your business should value PR. PR is built on the notion that positive publicity, whether by word of mouth or by a front-page story in the local newspaper, carries a greater weight with customers than paid advertising.

One reason consumers trust public relations more than advertisements is because a PR message is not paid for, which also makes it a cost-effective way for business owners to communicate with customers.

Here are five tips any business owner could use to get the ball rolling on their own public relations efforts.


Start building relationships now

Reporters receive hundreds of emails a day. You don’t want the first time they see your name to be when you’re asking them for coverage. Make yourself visible by connecting with reporters on their professional Twitter and Facebook accounts and engage with them regularly, even when you’re not actively pitching a story. The “contact us” section of a TV station or newspaper website is a good place to start looking for reporters to follow.


Offer great content

Whether it’s a new product announcement, community involvement or trend piece, we know that you think your story is awesome. But is it newsworthy? To make it interesting to reporters, you have to think about what their customers — readers, listeners or viewers — value.

Reporters want content that is unique, unusual, timely and significant. Most of all, they are looking for stories about people. A press release about your company’s new widget is boring. Make it compelling by explaining how your company’s new widget is impacting children/parents/seniors/athletes/people with hazel eyes to make it more interesting.


Be available and respond promptly

A reporter’s invitation for an interview almost always comes with an expiration date, which could range from a few hours to a few days. Journalists value responsiveness because they work on tight deadlines. We tell clients that reporters don’t always interview the best source for their stories; they interview the source that is available. Respond to phone calls and emails promptly to show reporters that they’re a priority and you value their time.

This advice is especially important when it comes to reactive public relations, or when a reporter you didn’t pitch contacts you about a story they’re working on. For example, with the weather starting to cool down, reporters might be looking to speak with a HVAC company about ways homeowners can ensure their furnaces are running efficiently. If the reporter’s first call goes unreturned, he or she may simply move on to the next name in the phonebook.


Think beyond the 6 p.m. news

Traditional print and broadcast media still command a huge audience. But your customers also get information from a host of other sources. Join the conversation on social media and reach out to community/industry bloggers.

Don’t forget about your industry’s trade media. Virtually every profession — from accounting to zoo keeping — has a handful of dedicated trade publications that cater to a specific, specialized audience. Trade publication placement is a great way to reach decision-makers in your industry. For example, Gavin’s PR team recently secured coverage for Trespa, an international building supply manufacturer, in American Builders Quarterly, a publication that caters specifically to Trespa’s target customers.


Be personal

An email that begins “Dear sir or madam” is destined for the trash. The most important thing to remember about public relations is that “relations” is right in the name. Always keep in mind that the reporter or editor reading your email is a real person. A simple note after the story airs to say “thank you for the opportunity” can make a journalist’s day and keep you top of mind for future opportunities.

The PR pros at Gavin work hard every day to secure positive news stories for our clients in York, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Baltimore and beyond. By working with an agency like Gavin, businesses benefit from our close relationships with the media, our knowledge of media outlets and markets, and our efforts to follow up on a consistent basis.


For more information on how Gavin does PR, check out our case studies here.