Getting the press and attention your company deserves comes down to building relationships with writers and presenting your product or service in a way that serves a purpose other than self-promotion. Below, I've detailed three main methods for generating traction without breaking the bank.
1. Speak at industry events both online and offline.
Most businesses can enhance their online and offline reputations through thought-leadership work. What does that mean? In essence, it’s speaking at a conference, conducting a webinar or even publishing written work. Whether you know it or not, you’re likely an expert in your profession even if you’re not a doctor, lawyer or accountant, and you can certainly differentiate yourself from the crowd by joining and leading the conversation. The return on investment for thought leadership may not be measurable at first, but over time it will be, if done effectively. In addition, you can leverage your thought leadership work during conversations with key members of the press.
2. Engage in competitor analysis.
You mentioned that one of your competitors, OpenTable, seems to always get press. Who is writing those articles, and do you have an existing relationship with those writers? If not, start to build a relationship with those writers and only email them with an introduction when you have something interesting to say. Writers can't stand pitches that are completely self-promotional.
3. Invest in free public relations.
Many companies are familiar with compensating a PR firm thousands of dollars a month and not necessarily being able to measure the return, which is frustrating and expensive. I imagine this may be your problem. Have you subscribed to one of the email distribution lists that connect writers and publishers to experts and companies for sources to use in their articles? The best in class of these new free distribution lists is Help a Reporter Out (HARO), launched by the PR guru Peter Shankman. It’s very easy to use and it works; I know from experience. A successful pitch will take some trial and error, but it's certainly cheaper than hiring a PR firm.
If you try any of these strategies in 2012, let me know how it goes.