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10 ways to get (almost!) free PR…

PR is a valuable way to market your business and it needn’t cost the earth. All it takes is a tiny outlay and a little bit of effort. Here are Oxygen’s ten secrets to getting (almost) free PR.

Free PR tip #1 – Network

Building up your network is one of the first ways you can generate free PR. Every potential contact is also a potential customer so not all your networking needs to be industry specific. Your business may need web, accountancy, financial and consultancy services. You’ll also be looking out for investors. Meeting people at local business events is a great way to source these services and it will also get the word about your business out into the community. A good network is a living thing that needs to be maintained so it’s a good idea to keep in regular contact with the most valuable people it. So don’t just ask them for things. Give them regular updates, and help or introductions when they need them. This helps build rapport for when you do actually need coverage.

Free PR tip #2 − Build a contact list

Work out who your target market is and look at which sections of the media and which publications, websites etc. engage with them. Who are the top ten journalists and bloggers covering your industry? Note the names of journalists and bloggers that your competitors have got coverage with and find a way to contact them. Use all this information to build a crucial PR contacts list. Don’t forget that it’s worthwhile to nurture up-and-coming journalists who may be able to get you bigger stories in the longer term.

Free PR tip #3 – Ask friends to spread news and write reviews

Friends are also potential allies when you’re just starting out. So if you’re quoted in an article or feature post it on Facebook, and tweet it. Your friends will comment, repost, share and retweet, spreading that favourable expert opinion on how great your business is, even further. Especially if you ask them to. So don’t forget to invite them to share or retweet. Reviews posted by friends about your product will also help to get the ball rolling, and all of it is great free PR.

Free PR tip # 4 – Let your employees sell your brand

An astonishing 50% of consumers trust the employees of a brand to give them the truth about that company’s good and services. Quite simply, consumers trust expert advocates for your offering far more than advertising because they know such people to be a source of trustworthy advice. However, it’s not simply a case of getting employees to rave about you online. Instead let your best performers use their social media accounts to answer questions on Facebook, tweet about industry events and blog about what they know. Building their reputation for expertise reflects well on the company. Apart from credible free PR, the unexpected payoff is that doing all this helps to increase those employees investment in your brand and may actually boost productivity as well.

Free PR tip #5 – Send out strong press releases

First of all, it’s a good idea to compile a calendar for press releases for your organisation. A little thought in advance will ensure that you take advantage of all the newsworthy stories that your business generates. Next, make sure your releases contain the right angle for the publication you’re submitting to. This may mean writing several releases for each event – one for local newspapers, one for nationals, one for trade magazines and so on. It sounds laborious but is most definitely worth it because the better tuned your press release is to each outlet, the more likely you are to get an article from it.

The other thing to know is that press releases have to be written a certain way. That’s because editors are often pushed for time and are more likely to publish a press release which they can use ‘as is’. A good press release properly sums up the story in the first sentence, doesn’t use hyperbole, contains some good quotes, and is written in using the ‘funnel’ method. For more details see our guide to good press releases here.

Free PR tip # 6 – Contribute stories

Contributing a story or being part of a magazine feature is a great way to gain free PR as the magazine will often add details of your product, service or website at the foot of the article. However, magazines plan their content some months in advance. The best way to find out if there’s an opportunity for you to contribute a story in the next few months is to get a copy of their editorial calendar. These can be obtained online, from the editor, or it will be included in the publication’s media kit. It will let you know exactly what the magazine will be focusing on throughout the year.

Free PR tip # 7 – Piggyback or newsjack another story

Piggybacking is the art of hijacking another news story that’s generating lots of coverage and debate to get some free PR for yourself. Sinead O’Connor recently did this when she posted her now famous advice for Miley Cyrus following the controversy over the latter’s appearance at the MTV VMAs. Not only was her post re-posted all over the web, but her advice and the subsequent tweet exchange became a news story in itself. Can you react to a news story in a way that adds to the story or the debate? Can you create something around a current trend? Ben & Jerry’s created the ‘Yes Pecan’ ice-cream flavour after Obama adopted the ‘Yes, we can’ slogan for his presidential campaign. Neatly done! We’ve written a more detailed guide to piggybacking here.

Free PR tip #8 – Stage a publicity stunt

Another route to free PR is to become the news. Could you stage an event that captures public imagination? Is there an anniversary or some significant holiday coming up? Could you co-ordinate a flash mob? Fund a stunt that says something about your brand or your industry? The opportunity for publicity stunts to gain coverage has grown exponentially since it became possible to video and upload them to YouTube. There’s always a chance it will go viral and get exposure with many millions more than were actually present at the time.

A milder version of this technique is to commission a survey that tells people something about themselves as they relate to your product or service, and then publish the results. This can be surprisingly effective if they’re unexpected or alarming. Or you could simply be controversial. Say the thing that no-one in your field is saying. Go against current thinking and journalists will want to know why you’re flying in the face of accepted wisdom.

Free PR tip #9 – Become an expert and a guest speaker

If you post original and informative blogs on a subject you can start to build your credibility as an expert on your given subject. Gather your best blog posts into a resource page for a specific topic to gain a higher search engine ranking. Try to interact with other bloggers and journalists online and on Twitter as much as you can, making well informed comments and posting useful information. That way, when they’re looking for someone to quote or to interview, your name will come up first. It’s also a good idea to volunteer to speak at industry events and conferences or even at the local university if your expertise lends itself to that. It gets your name out there, and gives you a chance to interact with potential customers personally as well as building your profile as an expert. You could contribute to or co-write a book on your expert topic and be taken even more seriously. These are all free PR generating activities that, to the public, don’t even look like PR activities at all.

“Sometimes the opportunity is already there. All you need to do is find it…”

Free PR tip # 10 – Exploit media enquiries

Sometimes the free PR opportunity is already there. Someone may be desperate to interview or feature a company with your expertise and all you have to do is find them. Twitter is an excellent way to discover what magazines and bloggers want at the moment. Journalists make requests using the hashtags #journorequest or #prrequest when they need samples, people and businesses to use in a feature. Tweetdeck will let you add a column showing tweets containing these hastags that have been posted in the last seven days so that you can look out for the right opportunity.

If you’re too busy to do your own PR, why not let our PR team do it for you? Call us today on 0845 2606 255. We’ll get you the Oxygen of publicity.


Steve Lodge :Steve trained as a NCTJ journalist and is an experienced copywriter. He has over 15 years in agency, and started Oxygen in 2002.