The key to being your own PR person is to proactively own your product, to talk about it with anyone who will listen, to leverage the social web for tricks and tools, and to make sure you know your audience. It's easy to make missteps when you're doing it on your own, but with a little know-how and the right tools, your do-it-yourself one person PR shop will save you money and get you publicity.
1. Be Social
How do you get people to find out about you? There's always paid advertising and marketing, but that doesn't always work and you're probably missing an opportunity to add context to your message.
Thankfully social media sites like Twitter, FriendFeed, and Facebook are great places to be your own PR person. Of the three, Twitter should be priority number one. Create an account for your business; use the bio to add your real name, role, and link to your website. Follow people you know, people who have similar interests or needs related to your product, and try Mr. Tweet for following recommendations.
When you start updating in 140 characters or less don't think of Twitter as a marketing channel, but rather an opportunity to exchange ideas with people of interest, provide stellar customer service, and talk about what you do day in and day out. You should talk about your business or product, but focus on making that a small part of a larger dialogue. Once you find a comfort zone and a small following, consider offering Twitter-only discounts and ask your followers to retweet (adding "please RT" to the end of a tweet works really well). Experiment, but be conscious of your tweets and avoid turning into a boring and repetitive product pusher - nobody wants to talk to that guy.
At the end of the day the main idea should be to get everyone else to spread the word for you, so your goal should be to make it easy for people to do that. Creating content for your website? Figure out how to make it shareable. Creating how-to or tutorial videos? Don't be afraid to use
YouTube or Vimeo. If the content is useful, chances are a customer will share it or embed the video in a blog post, which is great for you because your business can continue to amass buzz with little extra work on your end.
Being social also constitutes offline social activities. Make it a point to be involved in offline communities, attend events, go to conferences, and meet as many people as you can. Put yourself and your company out there.
Events are great, because most often the first question you'll get is, "What do you do?" That's an invitation to talk about your business, and while 9 out of 10 people might not care, that 10th person could be a reporter, blogger, or potential customer evangelist.
2. Take Advantage of the Right Tools
Being social is one part of the solution, but if you want to really take advantage of the social web check out a few of these handy tools to help make the PR process a little more do-it-yourself friendly.
PitchEngine is perfect for going the PR route solo. You can build branded social media releases (the new press release) that include social sharing options and video and image assets. Since it's a network of journalists and PR professionals, it's an inexpensive (there's a free plan) vehicle for more exposure with less work.
Part of PR professionals’ job is to keep one ear to the street. There are a number of tools available to help you do that, but to find your brand's influential voices you should check out BuzzGain. You'll get a comprehensive do-it-yourself dashboard to monitor and measure buzz across the Web.
If your pitch needs some work, you can submit your draft to public relations experts for review via YourPitchSucks.
And to start finding media types on Twitter check out Media People Using Twitter or Twellow and search for "journalist."
3. Do Your Homework
As your own PR person, it's important to know your audience when promoting your product or service. This is especially necessary when you're doing blog or media outreach and trying to connect with journalists and bloggers to get press. Sure you could email every contact with the same press release and marketingese, but chances are you won't make a great first impression.
Your goal when reaching out to media types is to motivate them to do something, whether that be contact you back or try out your product. Even if the reply is a simple, "thanks for the news," you've got an opportunity to start a professional relationship with someone who may need your news 6 months from now.
So how do you get a response? You need to reach the right people with the right message.
First determine where you think your news fits best. Everyone wants a piece about their company in the New York Times, and you're certainly welcome to email any of their editors, but if you want your news to have the most impact on an audience, then you should be searching for verticals that match what your business does best. Mashable, for example, focuses primarily on social media so we welcome news on new startups using social media in creative ways. If you submit a news item to us, you need to make it clear that your news is a good fit for our audience. The same holds true for other media outlets.
The right message is much easier when you know a few basics about the contact. Definitely make sure to spell their name and their company name right, and if you use social media to do a little research on the individual that can help too, just try to avoid coming off as a stalker in your email.
Of course your product, service, or offering should do the work for you, but your emails should include words a real human (as opposed to a marketer) would say, and be tailored to each contact. You should also be aware of the fact that you don't need a press release for most blogs, especially the smaller ones, but traditional media outlets will probably expect one. The right message is also direct, brief, and to the point.