“He who has a thing to sell and goes and whispers in a well is not so apt to get the dollars as he who climbs a tree and hollers,” Anonymous

Public Relations is a powerful marketing tool.

Strategically, publicity helps establish your thought leadership, launch a new business, and gain exposure to a wider audience.

Did you know that getting editorial coverage is perceived as more credible than advertising? And, that editors are always looking for content?

Public Relations is cost-effective and sometimes can be free; all it takes is your time and patience to get your message across to the right editor.

A professional publicist has the media contacts and skills to assist you should you need a more comprehensive public relations plan. In the interim, when the opportunity arises to promote something newsworthy, here’s what you’ll need:

  1. A press release
  2. A media list

That’s it! I promise.

These are the only two things I’ve used for years to get free publicity for myself, my clients, and nonprofits. I got a TV interview on my local cable station for myself, and I’ve had clients’ press releases get picked up and then been interviewed for a feature story in local publications.

Once, on a whim, I contacted the now-defunct Fortune Small Business magazine editor, who liked what I had to say and offered me a contributor spot for her column, Ask the Expert. This allowed me to answer readers’ small business marketing questions and opened up a slew of entirely new opportunities for me.

Especially satisfying is that as the result of a press release, I secured an interview for myself and the founder of the nonprofit arts board I serve on. We were invited to be on a community arts podcast owned by a large media company whose holdings include several top-rated local radio stations and many specialty outlets. Our 12-minute interview was played on that podcast, linked to their website, all their social media, and heard on some of their radio stations.

Here’s an 11-point DIY plan to get started with your own public relations strategy:

1. What is newsworthy? Here are some subjects that editors are looking for:

  • Award/recognition/honorarium/or other achievements
  • Launch of a new business
  • Company anniversary
  • When a book is published
  • Opening or reception for an event
  • Launch of a new product or service
  • Business expansion, including mergers and acquisitions-
  • The hiring of key personnel
  • Charitable giving/sponsorship
  • Any unique or out-of-the-ordinary story to share

2. Create a press release. Keep it to one page. It should be attention-getting and informative but not advertorial, or the newsroom won’t read it.

Ask yourself: Am I answering the 5Ws — who, what, when, where, and why?

Include a quote from a company spokesperson. Press releases end with a standard boilerplate that describes the company in detail and includes its contact information and website address. You may also consider attaching a picture (in JPG format) if relevant to the release. To see how professional press releases are written, visit www.prsa.org.

3. Where should the release be posted? In all of your owned digital channels to get the most mileage from each press release. On your social channels, on your website, blog, an email newsletter, etc.

4. Can I afford mass distribution services: Yes. Many free mass distribution sites are a good way to scale each release. They’re no-frills with limited distribution. These free sites are great for local businesses, and they include dashboards where you can monitor the release, pickups, etc. If you want more services and an extensive or specialized distribution, there are distribution services for that as well.

5. Include all types of media. In addition to sending it out via the wires, why not send it to local TV and radio stations, local newspapers or magazines, and digital platforms? To effectively place your publicity, you need to target the right editor/reporter responsible for deciding whether or not to publish your information and how they want to use it. First, ask yourself what department is most appropriate to receive your content, and then look for the right editor’s name to get their contact information. Some of the typical departments to contact are: Local and community news, Editorials, Business, Arts, Features, Lifestyles, and Sports.

6. Create a PR Calendar. Once you get the format down, it becomes easier to write them. Decide if a schedule is right for you, such as quarterly or monthly. But don’t do a release just for the sake of it. It must be newsworthy, or the effort can backfire. If your business can in some way be tied to stories currently in the news, make the most of it. I’ve done this and was contacted by a reporter looking for quotes for a writing story.

7. Follow up and be flexible. You should follow up with your media contact, but remember, you aren’t paying for the publicity, so you must be patient and work with their schedule. Let them decide whether they want to pursue it as a full story or publish the release as is. It often depends on the availability of reporters and/or photographers. One of the biggest factors is the news calendar and how busy the news is when you pitch your release. You might have to wait a few days if it’s not a breaking story.

8. Avoid calling the media on a TV busy news day. You will know by what you see in the media. Wait until the news has simmered down a day or two so editors can give you their full attention, and you will have time to review it.

9. Treat the media as you would your best client. Be available and flexible should they request to interview you by phone or in-person and respond to their questions as best you can with frankness and honesty. Always return their phone call promptly. Promptness in following up is critical. It could make the difference whether or not your story gets published.

10. Once your story is published, accept it. Remember, the news is not an advertisement, and you don’t have editorial control. If you have written a well-thought-out detailed press release and you have answered all the reporter’s questions in an appropriate way and to the best of your ability, the publicity will most likely be favorable. Then, expect the phones to ring with accolades from colleagues, customers, and even prospects.

11. Make the most of each release and pick up. Create a PDF of the release (don’t depend on links as these do go down over time) and link this to your site as well as your social media. You may even want to frame it and hang it in your office for potential clients to see! If you get a pick up in a newspaper or magazine, be sure to create a professional-looking PDF including the publication’s masthead to give to customers, display in your retail location, put in your sales kit, etc.

Here’s a list of mass distribution Public Relations resources:

  • Free-Press-Release.com
  • PRLog.org
  • prsa.org
  • OpenPR.com
  • Free-Press-Release-Center.info
  • PR.com
  • Express-press-release.com
  • Releasewire.com
  • 24–7pressrelease.com

Here’s how to find local media outlets in your community:

  • Radiolineup.com
  • OnlineNewspapers.com
  • Patch.com
  • DailyVoice.com

Don’t forget to include online Events Calendars:

Many city newspapers offer access to a free online calendar that nonprofits and local businesses can use to list community events, business openings, local celebrations, and more.

In conclusion, with just a little research and writing effort, you’re well-positioned to create a public relations campaign.

Download this DIY Public Relations checklist to get started.

You’ve earned it, and you deserve the right to climb that tree and holler!