Writer and communications strategist Claire Propsting gives advice on small business communications strategy in Part 3 of our four-part blog series.

Social media and content marketing can get your message pretty far, but there will come a point when you’ll need the press to take your brand, product or ideas to the masses. If you think that means hiring a traditional PR agency for a pricey retainer, my advice is simple: skip it.

As a former journalist who has also worked in PR, I can tell you first-hand that hiring a fancy agency isn’t worth it when you’re just starting out. Reporters are hungry for fresh content to fill the void created by the 24/7 news cycle. And since you started your company from scratch, who could possibly tell your story better than you?

That’s not to say that you should forego all help with writing and strategy, but if you can talk about your company and your products in an authentic, passionate way, you’ll naturally be the best media rep your company could have. Luckily, there are a number of low-cost or free tools that you can use to get your company in the headlines.

Your Media Savvy

This one is free but invaluable. Having a knack for knowing what a reporter would find interesting, and telling the story in a concise, compelling way, is what PR is all about. Before you call every reporter in town, consider if you’re sharing actual news or a story that people will want to read. A new product launch, charity event, a partnership with another organization, or even a human interest story can all fall under the banner of news if you pitch it right; a sales pitch about your company is not going to fly. You can also put yourself forward as an expert and source.

Media savvy also covers who you’re pitching. You may have a business worthy of the likes of the New York Times or Vogue, but chances are, you’ll be a lot better off focusing on the target publications that will get you more customers. For small businesses, that’s often the local paper, community magazines, local business journals and local radio and TV. Don’t discount trade magazines either; even if your customers don’t read the magazines cover to cover, you can post the articles to your website and social media accounts to shake up your typical content and promote your company without paying for ads.


HARO, or Help a Reporter Out, is a great resource for anyone trying to get some press. When you sign up for this free tool, you get three emails a day with a list of requests from reporters around the country. If you see a request that matches your business or expertise, follow the contact link and get connected directly to the reporter writing the article.

PR Web

Do you have a story that is truly worthy of a press release? I mean a genuinely BIG story? Consider putting out a press release on PR Web. They have different price tiers that send your release to different audiences (not surprisingly, the more you pay, the more elite the audience). If you only reserve this option for major company news, it can easily be part of a typical marketing budget.

Social Media

I know it’s hard to believe, but reporters are people, just like you and me. And like us, they spend time on social media. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are all great places to not only post your content but to connect with reporters. You should set up Google Alerts to notify you when you or your company are mentioned online, allowing you to forego the digital clipping services offered by most PR juggernauts.

Finally, I’ll leave you with one more reason to be your own media relations firm. When you hire a PR professional, you’re paying for their connections to reporters. If you stop paying, those connections go away. If you rep yourself, you’re the one with the relationships. And building relationships is what running a small business is all about.

In my last post in the series, get tips on incorporating SEO into your digital presence.

Following stints in London, Edinburgh and Dubai, Claire Propsting now lives in Washington, D.C. and has been working as a writer, editor and communications strategist for the last seven years. Her work has appeared in The Times, Retail & Leisure International magazine and The Buzz magazine. Visit www.clairepropsting.com for more information.