Thursday, March 10, 2011

Your Company’s Public Relationship

TGA Premier Junior Golf has gotten some decent press recently – first in the LA Business Journal and then in Entrepreneur Magazine (article here and 2011 franchise rankings here).  These articles have been picked-up by many other media outlets.  This led to our best 1st Quarter in history (with 3 weeks left) and allowed us to reallocate a large percentage of our budgeted advertising dollars. 

All of this cost TGA solely what we pay our PR firm, which is less than what a monthly 1/3 page advertisement in Entrepreneur Magazine runs for.

As a result, I’m a big believer in the power of PR.  We’ve been effectively leveraging it at TGA since the beginning.  We’ve also been blessed with a heart-warming story to tell – youth development through golf.

In my entrepreneurial endeavors, I’ve found it challenging and daunting to figure out how to grow beyond the initial early-adopter customer base.  You can hire sales people to hit the pavement.  You can try to navigate the dizzying waters of the advertising world.  You can look for strategic partners who will promote you.

Every company has different sales channels so there is no “right” or “wrong” promotional method.  However, if you’re in start-up land, my encouragement is that you consider investing in PR because it can be a cost-effective way to acquire new customers.

When I started at TGA, I knew nothing about PR.  I’ve learned some tidbits along the way, so this is my version of PR 101 for new/aspiring entrepreneurs:

Step 1 – Is PR a Good Fit?
PR is all about telling interesting stories.  Some companies have them and others don’t.  A good barometer for whether PR is a good fit for your venture is whether you have stories to tell that you’d be interested in reading if you weren’t the CEO.

Step 2 – Find a PR Person
Find someone in your network who is in the PR business with a robust distribution list in your industry.  Get them to work on a cheap monthly retainer and commit a few hours a week to your business.  Negotiate the rate by touting the potential future upside and pointing out the value your company can bring to their resume.  I've found people for as little as $500/month

Step 3 – Create Compelling Stories
Develop press releases that discuss meaningful and interesting things.  Think about your topic as an article in the paper – will people want to read it?  A good PR person will guide you through this.

Step 4 – Shop Your Story
Once you have the press release, your PR person should send it to your industry’s press wires (you’ll need to subscribe), any applicable media outlets, all relevant parties on their distribution list and anyone else who may be interested.  Make follow-up phone calls to strategically important outlets.  In the beginning, focus on the local media to get traction - tell them about the new, hot start-up in their community that just (insert newsworthy item here).  Avoid pay-for-play offers – they’re expensive and the easy way out.

Step 5 – Take it to the Next Level
Put every PR piece, whether it’s a press release or an article, onto your website and social media graph.  Ask your PR person to merchandise the media and provide a value for everything they have given you.  Get reprints from them for future distribution at conferences, etc.

Step 6 – Be Persistent
You’re an entrepreneur … persistence is in your blood! 

With that said, good luck building your relationship with the public.  I hope it provides a cost-effective shortcut on your path to happy entrepreneuring.

1 comment:

  1. Very good insights. Diplomacy is sometimes described as lying for your country. A lot of people associate PR with lying for your company. But you make a solid case that this is not so. What you are saying is: build a good product: buiid a good company. Very good advice. Thank you.