question

My company, Access Now, just launched its first guidebook for wheelchair users and travelers with limited mobility. My question is about marketing. As a small company that can't afford a PR firm, what's the best way to get media coverage for your business?

Paula Bates,

founder of Access Now

answer

First, let's address being able to "afford" a PR firm. If you plant a garden and spend $100 to fertilize your vegetables, there is no guarantee you will have more produce. You still have to weed, water and otherwise maintain things, but by fall, you have twice as much food as the year when you didn't support your plants with added nutrients.

Marketing, and especially PR, returns benefits more abundantly when guided by someone who understands the process. One part of that is realizing that there is much more to PR than generating publicity. You don't have to spend great sums to find excellent advisers in this market, and buying their time as guides rather than implementers might be one way to maximize your investment. Regardless, spending some money to enhance your tending of day-to-day operations will likely return noticeable improvements in the firm's growth.

Second, one thing any good media relations consultant will tell you is you need to provide journalists somewhat different information than customers if you want press coverage. When visiting a website for these columns, I look quickly for a link to information about the owners, corporate structure and access to someone who handles media relations, plus any archive of new releases. Your website doesn't allow me to see any of these things.

Why does it matter? Because in telling your firm's story, it helps to have access to things that other writers may not have used. Plus, with an entrepreneur-driven business (like yours?), I am telling a story about the person behind the offering.

The more engaged the journalist can be in your whole story, the more likely the story about your business will shed positive light on what you deliver.

About the author

Michael Porter, University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business