You are thinking ahead to 2014 and looking for ways to grow your business that go beyond social media and list building.  Public relations (PR) or publicity is something you may have a cursory knowledge of, but you aren’t really sure how to get started. Or you may feel a bit intimidated by the idea of putting yourself out there at all.

As an entrepreneur, PR should be an integral part of your marketing plan for 2014 as it can help you establish your credibility in your field.  The right PR activities can showcase your knowledge, which then helps you reach new customers and make more sales in the long run.

There truly has never been a better time in history for entrepreneurs to embrace PR. Social networking and the web has made it easy to research opportunities and connect with the media or other stakeholders. Where you would have required a PR pro in the past, you can cut out the middleman and successfully do your own PR.

Journalists Trust Experts, Not PR Pros 

A recent study from the Oriella PR Network showed that academics or experts were the most respected source of information for stories, with 70 percent of respondents indicating they trust them as a source. That stands in sharp contrast to the just over 20 percent who indicated they trust PR people as sources. This is reflective of the fact that journalists are looking for high quality sources that are not being filtered by a third party.

As an entrepreneur this creates a golden opportunity for you to become a trusted expert source for the bloggers, reporters and editors covering your niche.  There are many opportunities for you to get started with doing PR and establishing yourself as an expert including guest posting, speaking and working with your local media.

Before you get started, you need to do some prep work starting with your website. The first place that anyone is going to go when you make contact is your web site. In a matter of a few seconds they will assess your legitimacy as an expert in your field.

Doing PR Prep Work

Prior to the Internet you would have sent a printed press or speaker kit to people you were reaching out to. Now they are coming to your site to find that same information. Your web site is now your press kit so you need to ensure that your web site clearly communicates who you are and what you do, includes a professional bio and if you’ve been active speaking or in the media, includes a press/speaker page.  The idea is to provide them with the tools they need to be able to say yes to your request.

Additionally, if you are going to do your own PR, do not underestimate the necessity of doing your homework. This is where many entrepreneurs fail as they don’t get to know the web site they are sending a pitch to or finding out more about the specific event they want to speak at. Taking the time to gain an intimate understanding of your contact’s needs and how you can best serve their audience will go a long way to ensuring your efforts are successful.   

Ways to Get Started with PR 

If you are relatively new to PR or need to up your game, you want to find ways to quickly establish your expertise without wasting a lot of cycles.  Look for activities that will help you reach your specific audience and tap into your gifts. If you enjoy writing guest posts may be a good place to start or if you are a natural speaker, pursuing opportunities to be on stage will be a fit.  Over time you will be ready to take on opportunities that are a bit more of a stretch, but starting where you can excel will help you build your confidence.

Here are three ways to get started with PR:

1. Guest Posting.

Guest posting offers a lot of benefits including building traffic to your site and establishing your authority.  Start off by researching your targets online using Google search or on social media platforms. Also, look at where similar businesses may be guest posting to additional targets.  

When you visit each site, check if they have writer’s guidelines or information available on “writing for us”. If you think there is a fit you’ll want to dig a bit deeper and figure out an appropriate story to pitch.  From there it’s a matter of writing a short email with your idea and seeing if they are interested. If your pitch is accepted you’ll need to write the article and then wait for it to be published. Then finally, once your work is published be sure to take some time to share and promote it and monitor and respond to comments. 

2. Local Media 

Local media from TV to newspapers are always on the lookout for story ideas and experts in their community. You’ll want to get to know the key players in your market such as producers on morning shows, editors of the relevant sections in your paper and radio hosts. Follow their work and look for ways you may be able to help them.  The idea is that you can be a source for stories and can pitch them ideas related to what they cover. If you are a relationship coach, you can pitch a story on top tips for finding love in 2014 or hot Valentine’s day trends for couples.  The goal should be to build a relationship so they know they can rely on you if they are looking for a story or need a source.

3. Speaking Gigs 

Speaking is an incredibly powerful way to connect and assert your expertise.  If you are just starting out, look for locally based business or trade groups where you can share your knowledge. Track leading shows in your niche and look for their “call for papers” where they are looking for speaking proposals.  Each opportunity will have different requirements so review what they are looking for in detail and create a summary of your proposed session. You will also need a bio that showcases your expertise, accomplishment and any past speaking/media engagements.

PR can be an incredibly powerful tool for entrepreneurs. Simply start by laying the foundation and choosing the right activities for your skills and experience. Over time, you will build more confidence and PR will simply become a routine part of your marketing and business activities.

How are you going to use PR in 2014 to help build your business and showcase your expertise?