What is PR and why do I need it for my business?

You’re running your own business or freelance career. You know what you’re doing, you just want more clients, or sales. It’s time to starting thinking about PR. But what is it, and how will it help you grow your business?

When I was in my early 20s, I had this boyfriend who worked in PR. Most evenings, he’d come back from work with various men’s products to try. He’d then go into the office and think about how to persuade people to buy this product.

So I thought: ok, PR is about creating stories around products to try and sell them. This boyfriend didn’t like his job, so didn’t really want to talk about it. Therefore, I wasn’t able to glean much more about the world of PR during our time together.

A few years later, I trained as a journalist. I studied for a Masters in print and online journalism and interned at the Independent, the Times, ITN and various local papers. I then moved to Somerset and worked on the Western Gazette.

As an intern, I’d often be asked to check the generic email address and tonnes of press releases would flow in. It was rare that one turned into a news story because 1. I couldn’t find an interesting angle and 2. they were boring.

I later started freelancing for the Guardian, Telegraph, Grazia, Stylist, Red and more. Alongside this, I was editing parenting platform The Early Hour. The journalism gave me insight into how to pitch article ideas to editors, the editing meant I received a lot of press releases.

Again, I was amazed by how boring these press releases were. There would be SUBJECT LINES WRITTEN IN CAPITALS or littered with emojis to try and get my attention. If I didn’t respond, they’d start to hound me. But there was still no story, so I’d press delete – again, and again.

In order to raise the profile of The Early Hour, I started thinking about how I could get editors to commission me to write articles about it. I wanted more readers, click-throughs (good for SEO) and to raise my profile. And so I started looking into doing my own PR.

I discovered various tricks for finding out about the stories editors are looking to commission. I was featured in the Sunday Times, talking about parenting (and The Early Hour). I wrote an article for the Guardian about my journey to setting up a parenting platform. And it went on from there.

Soon, my online profile was growing and people were coming to me asking me to write for them. This led to more readers on my website, which meant I could charge more for sponsored content. Eventually, it led to a book deal.

I started to see that PR wasn’t just about selling a product, it was about developing a story and a profile. It was about getting people talking about and buying into your brand without feeling hounded by crap press releases or ad campaigns.

Of course, when you have a good story and a growing online community, you have a ready-made pool of people to gently sell to. It needs to be that way round: give first, ask second.

And so when I realised that I could teach people everything I’d learned about PR – from a journalist and editor’s perspective – I went to my community. I told them what I was doing and my first online course sold out in two days. The second one was similar.

In just three months, I’ve sold 97 spaces on my courses.

So if you’re looking for more clients or sales (of your service/product), you might want to start thinking about PR. You could pay for an agency – thousands; with no guaranteed results – or you could learn to do it yourself.

It involves:

  • Writing your ‘story’ – working out what it is, refining it.
  • Pitching it out – knowing who to pitch it to, how, when.
  • Developing relationships with journalists and editors.
  • Growing your online profile so that more opportunities come to you.
  • Becoming an expert in your field (in the eyes of the media)

If you’d like to learn all this – and more – you might like my self-paced online PR course. The women who’ve completed this course are being commissioned to write for major magazines and newspapers and being featured on blogs and podcasts. You could be too.

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