Q: I'd like to get the word out about my company. Should I hire a PR firm or can I do it myself?
A: That depends. In some cases, hiring a public relations company is your smartest option. If you're in a competitive market or you're entering your industry fairly late in the game, a PR firm can likely do a better job than you can of getting the word out. On the other hand, if you're simply in need of some basic PR--and you have the time it takes to do it right--it might be wiser to save money and do it yourself. To start, remember the concept of PR is to let others know your business exists and that you are an expert source of information or advice about your industry. Being regarded as an industry expert can do wonders for your business. But how can you get your expertise known?
Start by making sure you know everything you can about your business, product and industry.
Talk to as many groups as possible. (If public speaking strikes fear in your heart, you'd better get over it. This is one skill you're going to need as an entrepreneur.) Volunteer to talk to key organizations, service clubs, business groups or anyone else who might be interested in what you have to say. Do it free of charge, of course, and keep it fun, interesting and timely.
Contact industry trade publications and volunteer to write articles, columns or opinion pieces. (If writing articles isn't among your skills, write a letter to the editor.)
Offer seminars or demonstrations related to your business (a caterer could explain how to cook Thai food, for instance).
Host--or appear as a regular guest or contributor on--a local radio or TV talk show.
Do all this, and by the time you contact media people and present yourself as an expert, you'll have plenty of credentials.