Essential guide to PR for small businesses

Blogs 17 Nov 2021

Ready to get the word out about your products and services? Find out how you can grow your business by making the most of PR with JournoLink’s guide.

Why is PR valuable for small businesses? 

19 out of 20 of us now make our buying decisions based on independent reviews and recommendations. But what does a business need to do to stack up the reviews? 

Journalists are seen as independent and businesses winning positive media coverage are most likely to see their sales grow. Being included in online news articles will often improve a business search ranking and drive more traffic to its website

What is PR? 

All businesses need marketing to grow. Most will have a website and will market to new and existing customers in various ways, including local advertising, email campaigns and social media such as Facebook.  A key part of the marketing mix, which is often missing, though, is making use of the UK’s 70,000 journalists to add valuable independent endorsement to the business. 

Good examples of successful PR are: 

  • Being included in seasonal product lists, such as ‘Top Christmas Gifts’, ‘Best Days Out Locations’ etc. Journalists across all sectors look for good products and solutions to promote in their articles. 
  • Being cited as a good case study, such as ‘Environmentally friendly’, ‘Supporting a community’, ‘Creating employment’, or ‘Winning an Award’. Local journalists in particular are always keen to promote local ‘hero’ businesses. 
  • Being used as a ‘subject expert’, in contributing to a news article. Journalists always need business examples and case studies to give weight to their stories, and a good image is an extra bonus. 

How does a business go about ‘doing’ PR? 

The two recognised ways of catching the eye of the journalist are through press releases and by responding to journalists’ requests. 

Press releases should have a ‘news’ angle and should be 300/400 words long. They can be sent direct to individual journalists or can be distributed widely through one of the distribution services. 

When journalists are writing their articles, they frequently reach out for case studies and quotes from relevant businesses. These are referred to as journalists’ requests, and can be found through social media, such as Twitter, and through dedicated services the journalists use to find businesses that may be of interest to them. Businesses can subscribe to these services to register their availability to contribute, and then wait to be contacted. 

Planning and distributing a press release 

Pick the news story 

The key word here is news.  Whilst PR is largely free, it has to be earned and journalists will not simply be a route for free advertising. So, the subject of the press release has to have an angle that makes it genuinely different and of real interest to a public readership. Choose one that best suits you but don’t simply comment on how good your business is and ask the journalist to give a free advert. 

How to write a press release 

There are six main parts of a press release: 

  • The headline has to hook the journalists straight away. The headline should be no more than a few words and should try and capture what the release is about. 
  • The opening paragraph gets straight to the point of summarising the news story so that the journalists know immediately whether it is for them. 
  • The details provide the journalists with the information needed to make the story interesting. 
  • The quote for the journalists to use in their articles, bringing them to life with real people. Quotes are frequently used by journalists. 
  • The image adds colour to the story and profile to the business. Releases with good images are more likely to be used. 
  • The contact details make sure that the journalists know who to call for further information. 
Getting the timing right 

 There are three times that are relevant for looking to contact journalists: 

  • To suit the actual news release timing of the business. Where you have news to release but must work especially hard to hook the journalists with the headline and story as it will be completely new to them. 
  • To suit the timing of the journalists writing their own stories. The easiest time to engage with journalists is as they need the business input to make their article really work.  
  • To coincide with news that’s trending already. Journalists will be half watching for input already as they will always be keen to piggyback on stories that are already running. 

One of the best ways of winning PR coverage in the media is by using news hooks. Issuing a press release covering news about your business to coincide with when it’s likely that there will be news already trending on your news topic, or your business sector, is the best time to catch the eye of journalists.  

Each week JournoLink pick out the next week’s stories. JournoLink also runs a calendar of forthcoming news hooks, government data releases, national days and award programmes.  
  • Employ a PR Agency or Freelancer to manage the whole process for them. This can be expensive, and many agencies will look for a retainer before they will undertake any work.  But for businesses with a budget to spend it’s a solution that will save them time and will guide them through the process. 
  • DIY PR, with the business doing everything from writing a press release to contacting the journalists directly. For a business with no budget at all this is the cheapest way to manage PR but is often ineffective and very time consuming. It requires the business to have some experience of PR already, and the contact details as well as a relationship with the target journalists. 
  • Using an online platform, which can be very affordable, and do most of the heavy lifting in the process. All it requires the business to do is to write the release, but some services will also do that for the business. 

Being contacted directly by journalists 

Through the journalist’s contact book

There is no substitute for building a relationship with a journalist for them then to treat you as their ‘go-to’ business when they need a case study.  But it does take time to build the relationship and will probably involve issuing several press releases as the relationship starts to build. 

Through social media channels 

Journalists frequently use social channels such as Twitter to ask for businesses case studies and comments. It can be time consuming watching the Twitter feed all the time, and it’s worth just picking the journalists and hashtags that are relevant to be set up as prompts. 

Through an online media request service 

These both filter out the requests from social media that may be relevant and receive requests direct from journalists. The online service will generally send the requests straight to the appropriate business email addresses. 

Some media request services are stand alone, whilst others are included as part of a full online PR service, which includes distribution and other useful features. 

Using a press room 

Issuing a press release shouldn’t be seen as a single day exercise, but rather part of a picture that the business builds up over time as its external profile. 

By maintaining a press room, or media room on the business website containing all distributed news, social media handles and comment, marketing collateral and media contact details, means that journalists and potential customers have easy access the full, live background to the business. 

You can maintain your own press room or use a hosted press room service. Those with limited time and technical skills will opt for a hosted service, some of which are stand alone, and others included as part of a full online PR service

What should PR cost and how is it valued? 

Using the media is an important part of the marketing mix, but at the same time, there can never be any guarantees that a journalist will write about and print news from a particular press release. 

As a rule of thumb, a business should spend no more than 20%, but no less than 10% of its overall marketing budget on PR. Online PR services range from about £50 per month up to several hundreds of pounds a month. 

It’s always tempting to try and measure the value based on the coverage that a press release achieves, but the fact is that it’s the increase in web traffic and the sales that it generates that is the real value. 


This content was written for FSB by Journolink 

JournoLink is an online PR platform built by small business owners for small business owners. It provides all the tools a business needs to manage its PR strategy, but without the need for a big budget. 

Find out more about how JournoLink can help FSB members.

Marketing your business

Learn how to market your small business successfully and attract new customers with resources, videos and guides from marketing and PR experts.

Visit the hub