When it comes to public relations, what's the best way to spend your time and money? For cost-conscious startups and small-business owners, the answer to that question is crucial—every penny spent should generate a positive return for your business.
"In terms of strength, PR done right can be infinitely more powerful than advertising," says Jane Boland, founder of GetPublicized, a platform that helps businesses build connections with journalists, bloggers and the media to collaborate on stories. "The right media coverage can be the tipping point for a new company, opening up opportunities with investors as well as building loyalty with customers."
The problem with PR today, however, is that processes are broken, outdated and expensive.
Acknowledge the Pain Points
"Many agencies are still buying very expensive 'media lists' and blasting our press releases and pitches to hundreds of journalists at a time," explains Boland, who has spent several years running her own PR agency for technology firms and startups. "It's amazing how often I hear from the PR industry that it is too hard to track and measure the value of what they do."
These strategies are also missing the mark on reaching target audiences.
"At Lean Startup Machine Weekend, part of my team's exercise was to interview journalists about their experience with PR pitches," Boland said. "They all said that 90 percent of the sometimes hundreds of pitches they get a day are spam; totally irrelevant to what they write about."
Business owners need to look beyond the process to focus on results. Focus on what you want to achieve, not outdated "best practices."
Zero In on Connections That Count
Boland explains that genuine connections are the heart of powerful PR. You need to be relentlessly committed to your goals. The relationship between price and quality can be weak at best.
Considering a press release as a mass marketing approach to distribution? It may not be worth the expensive price tag, according to Boland.
RELATED: 6 Ways to Get Press Without Hiring a PR Firm
"There are tons of articles online arguing about whether or not the press release is dead," Boland says. "I believe it is, or at least for the startup company, there are certainly more productive ways to spend your time and money. The most effective thing a startup can do to work toward getting media coverage is to try to build genuine relationships with journalists, and that means reaching out individually with relevant, useful and interesting stories."
Focus on Efficiency
Find solutions that already exist instead of reinventing the wheel, Boland recommends.
"HARO is a great well-known resource for connecting potential story sources to journalists looking to write a story on a specific topic," Boland says. "When a journalist has a specific need, this is a very effective way to reach out."
Don't just play the waiting game, however. Be active in maintaining your momentum."We can also help journalists by sending story ideas proactively, but there is currently not a widely used, effective platform for doing that," Boland says.
RELATED: 5 PR Pitches You Shouldn't Send
To make strong connections, it's important to understand what journalists need and prioritize. "Journalists are under an incredible amount of time pressure to create stories, which has been increasing as the media landscape has drastically changed," Boland explains.
Prioritize Your Story
If you're conducting outreach, you need a strong story to tell. Otherwise, your experience will be the equivalent of throwing darts in the dark–that approach is far from the right story.
"Create a media kit," Boland says. "Create your authentic story, and tell it often. Get feedback, make sure your story resonates with people. Start building relationships with the media early–before you need media coverage."
A half-hearted approach may seem like low-hanging fruit, but it's in your company's best interest to resist the temptation.
"Prioritizing media outreach is challenging for a small business," Boland says, "but it can make or break your success."
For more insights on how one company turns trending data into actionable pitches, access our exclusive video series, A Data Driven Approach to PR.
Ritika is a San Francisco-based blogger who writes about trends in business, Internet culture and marketing. She's inspired by the intersection between technology, entrepreneurship and sociology. She blogs via Contently.com.
Photo: Getty Images