Around two months ago, Paridhi Jain’s business landed some fortuitous media coverage, finding itself at the centre of a short segment on Channel Seven’s nightly news.
After the positive segment aired, Jain was keen to keep the momentum going for her barely nine-month-old business, and decided she’d take public relations into her own hands, gathering contact details and preparing pitches for journalists across the media spectrum.
“I thought it would be easy, but I got about 50% of the way there and realised I had no idea what I was doing,” Jain tells SmartCompany.
Her business is SkilledSmart, a ‘money school for adults’ that teaches young Australians how to be money smart and financially sound, offering six-week-long courses for a few hundred dollars, rather than the thousands charged by typical financial advisors.
This was Jain’s first challenge: landing media coverage for a business that didn’t create a flashy product or groundbreaking new service, just one with the solid aim of helping Aussies save money.
“I was sending out pitch emails, and I didn’t understand the journalist mindset enough to put together a compelling story. Business owners tend to focus only on their own business, and find it hard to step outside of that,” she says.
“I had to create a story that wasn’t just concentrated all on the business, and was interesting enough a journalist would pick it up.”
Jain went back to the drawing board, and emerged with a case study about one of SkilledSmart’s students, who had saved over $6,000 and financially turned her life around after undertaking Jain’s course.
Having only provided the surface-level pitch before, Jain went deep and pulled together statistics, quotes, and pictures — “all the elements to make the story interesting enough for a journalist to cover”.
It paid off, with SkilledSmart landing a story in the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this week, which focused on her student’s success and discussed the advantages of attending financial literacy courses.
“Getting in Fairfax on the first try is a huge win for us, and has led to positive results in terms of better exposure, traffic, and more lead generation,” says Jain.
A helping hand
Jain’s success wasn’t all on her own volition, however, with the business owner employing the service of online PR course ‘I Do My Own PR’, which, unsurprisingly, teaches businesses how to manage their own publicity.
The founder says she stumbled across the service after looking for PR agencies online, all of which were too expensive for Jain’s small outfit and “less personalised” than what she wanted.
“They’ve made me realise PR is something we can bring in-house so we’re not forever reliant on an agency to deliver us results. It’s going to be an indefinite cost-saving for us,” she says.
“I knew we were playing in a bit of a unique space, even though there’s not a lot of direct competition. I always thought that PR was not going to work for SkilledSmart like it does for some other businesses, but we found it does deliver great results.”
Jocelyne Simpson is the founder of I Do My Own PR, which is a spin-off business of sorts from her main venture, a PR and design company called Good Citizens. She says small businesses and startups were always reaching out to her for advice, but were often unable to afford the services of Good Citizens.
This lead Simpson to start up I Do My Own PR, which she stresses is not a PR agency nor a coaching course. Instead, businesses can run through an online process that leads them through all the do’s and don’ts of PR, with Simpson calling the business the “IKEA of PR”.
“I’m a big believer in businesses doing their own PR as no one knows the ins and outs of your business like you do; no one understands what you’ve been through to get to where you are and that’s what people want to hear about, that’s where the gold lies,” Simpson tells SmartCompany.
“It also means you’re building relationships with the media that are important to the growth of your business and those relationships are ongoing, and they don’t stop when the PR budget runs out.”
How to do it
Jain is now looking to continue her run of PR in wake of the Fairfax article, and is also aiming to break into the content marketing game for her business, something she thinks is a powerful but under-utilised marketing channel by SMEs and startups.
“Creating engaging content as a business can create amazing user response and engagement,” she says.
For other businesses looking to follow in her footsteps, she believes it doesn’t matter what type of business you run or the sort of customers you’re after, as long as you have a firm understanding of your target market and what stage your business is at.
“I think the reason a lot of businesses fall down is when they run PR that doesn’t target either the right channels or the right people,” she says.
“Work out what are the online channels your audience are consuming, and aim your PR at those.”
Simpson agrees, saying SMEs and startups should strive to know the media they’re targeting and to make sure they’re getting their story right so it’s relevant to each individual media outlet.
She says business owners should consider flipping their story angle to “come at it from your customer’s point of view”, rather than focusing on the new whiz-bang features of your product or service.
“A ‘spray and pray approach’ (which is when you send out the same email to a raft of media and hope for the best) won’t work. Find a way to connect with each journalist personally,” she advises.
“That might be by mentioning a story they wrote recently that you enjoyed or was similar to the one you’re pitching — make the link to your story and the conversation will flow more easily.”
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