Public Relations Tips for Small Businesses (Homepreneur Website Makeover: Part 3)

ferraris-with-maxToday we welcomed our Homepreneur of the Year runner-ups, Mike and Mary Ferrari of UnusualThreads.com to our CityMax.com office. They stopped over in Vancouver on the way home from one of their vacation cruises (not a bad life eh?), so we thought it would be nice to meet them and get started on their website makeover.

Through UnusualThreads.com, Mike and Mary sell celebrity fashions and have experienced some real online success – generating over $25,000 per month in revenue and 1500+ monthly unique visitors! It’s a great start, but we found that the Ferraris could still improve their search engine optimization, PPC, and overall public relations/social media efforts.

Public relations are essentially the game of selling stories through the media to a large group of potential customers. The payoffs can be huge, with the implied endorsement and additional credibility from the media spotlight – be it TV, radio, print, or blog. Here are a few basic PR tips I gave them that you can apply to your own business:

1. Know your audience.
Any good campaign starts with research. Before you pick up the phone or send out an email pitch, ask yourself:

  • What does this publication or journalist cover?
  • What were their last three stories like?
  • Who is their readership?

2. Only pitch brands and businesses appropriate for that publication’s news.
You probably don’t want to waste your time pitching Forbes Magazine if you are doing three sales a month from your home. However, there might be plenty of small business publications that are a perfect fit your story.

3. Seek only media exposure that is relative to your brand AND your customer.
The end goal of public relations for most small businesses is to increase sales. Consider the following:

  • Do your customers read this publication?
  • Would your story convince readers to buy?

4. Sell your story, but prepare backup pitches.
No editor is always going to go for your first story idea. Create a few alternate storylines that you can quickly slide over to if the editor/reporter is not loving your initial brilliant pitch. For example, a couple of story angles for UnusualThreads.com could be:

  • How to dress while on a budget
  • How certain clothing can you make look skinnier
  • How to shop for certain niche brands

5. Create an event calendar.
Timeliness is everything in the world of news. You don’t want to miss out on an event that might be a cornerstone of your industry (e.g. Oscar Night for the Ferraris, or National Small Business Week for CityMax.com) as this creates many opportunities for pitching and dialogue. Take the time to plan out the next year, and mark down the “can’t miss” events – you can often piggyback off their momentum for your next pitch.

6. Foster relationships.
As with most aspects of life, relationships can help you grow exponentially. Don’t be discouraged if an editor doesn’t reply, or hangs up on you. Continue to pitch appropriately and become a valued resource for information in your field. Once you have demonstrated your industry credibility, your likelihood of landing a story becomes all the greater.

Many people underestimate the power of effective public relations and overestimate its cost. You don’t need to hire a specialist, and there is no secret – you just need a bit of research, creativity and courage to pitch your business. Media coverage is invaluable no matter what industry you’re in, and everyone has a story to tell. So get out there and start pitching!

Written by Patrick Lok, Town Crier at CityMax.com.

Presenting Your Homepreneur of the Year: Marco Barberini, the 24-Year Old Gas Jockey turned Pet Tag Mogul

The judges made their final tallies and have declared Marco Barberini of OvernightPetTags.com our Homepreneur of the Year!2010-02-01-marcoandheatherbarberini21

Marco’s vision, story, and growing success stood out from an impressive group of finalists. The 24-year old former gas station employee from a tiny Michigan town began his CityMax.com site in 2006 with no HTML experience. In 2007, he ended up quitting his job to focus on his business and has now tagged over 32,000 pets!

In an interview, Marco said: “A few years ago, my wife Heather and I realized we were tired of working paycheck to paycheck and started focusing on Overnight Pet Tags. We built out our site with CityMax.com and eventually started ranking in the search engines. Our online sales have increased by 100% each year and our dream is to tag every pet in the United States.”

OvernightPetTags.com is currently generating $6,000 – $8,000 in monthly online revenue and, according to Marco, requires only 7 to 10 hours of his time each week.

As Homepreneur of the Year, Marco is the winner of a $10,000 prize package, including a round-trip flight to Vancouver, Canada, three days in a beautiful luxury hotel, the Red Carpet treatment, a day of 1-on-1 expert consultation at CityMax.com HQ, and a complete redesign of his website. He’ll also receive a life-time subscription to CityMax.com for himself and five small businesses of his choosing.

Our two runner-up winners are:
2010-02-01-meredithpattersonnewMeredith Patterson (MeredithPatterson.com), an enterprising musical theatre and TV actress who has appeared on All My Children.

2010-02-01-unusual-threads-michael-maryMichael and Mary Ferrari (UnusualThreads.com), a retired couple who are generating millions of dollars annually with their online celebrity fashions business.

Our runner-ups will each receive a custom redesign and website makeover ($1,000 value), plus a lifetime subscription to CityMax.com for themselves and three small businesses of their choosing.

Congratulations again to all of our inspiring winners!

If you know someone you’d like to nominate for Homepreneur of the Year (online home-based business, please email homepreneur@citymax.com.