Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

Be Your Own Publicist

A good PR campaign can be a cost-effective way to drum up interest in your inventions.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you're a regular reader, you might have noticed my recent focus on sales. In today's economy, nothing is as important as sales. And for solopreneur product companies, this is doubly true.

Generating sales in the most cost-effective way possible is imperative. The best way is to create buzz through PR or , which adds credibility to your story. Compared to advertising, the value of successful PR can be profound. It is especially cost-effective if you do it yourself. As an inventor, you have a special advantage because the public loves stories about new inventors, their brilliant ideas and how they created something from nothing.

Hiring a professional to generate your PR for you can be well worth the cost, but it's not essential. Here are some basics anyone can use to land press. One thing I've found to mean the difference between a successful PR campaign and one that flops is "the hook."

The first challenge is to try thinking like a reporter, magazine editor or--in the case of television--a producer. Who is their specific audience? Do they target the business press? Women? Seniors? Youth? Is their format serious or lighthearted? Do they present hard or an entertaining morning show? The answers to these questions will provide what you need to develop "the hook."

As an inventor, you have a built-in story about being the next that's ideal for many publications. When this fits, go for it. But this isn't the only--or necessarily the best way--to position your story with a reporter. In order to expand your success across a wider range of media, you need to come up with unique, compelling hooks where appropriate.

Perhaps it's your personal story that's the best hook: What you've overcome, what you've left behind and why you've launched a business. Maybe you're a new mom or a stay-at -home dad who has eschewed corporate life. Perhaps you're a military veteran who has just come home to a different economy, or a grandmother who has always wanted to follow her dream.

Maybe your product addresses a particular social issue or event. For example, is it a "green" product that solves a particular problem? If your hook isn't obvious, create one. Donate your product to a charity or hold a contest.

Once you have your hooks, you'll want to plan your campaign carefully to avoid common PR mistakes. Ann Noder is CEO of Pitch Public Relations , a firm that specializes in working with inventors and startup entrepreneurs. She cautions against these common do-it-yourself mistakes:

  1. The boy who cried wolf: If you create and distribute a for every happening at your company, it all becomes "noise" to the media. Press releases should be reserved for true announcements of value and major milestones. Instead of sending a generic release, try engaging a specific reporter, producer or editor with your story idea using a more informal pitch.
  2. Understand different media outlets: Not every media outlet is the same, and they won't all respond to the identical angle. A business publication is more likely to be interested in your entrepreneurial story and recent retail success. A features reporter is more likely to respond to the merits of the product. Television outlets want visual elements. You have to play up different aspects of your business depending on the target. Do your research on the person you're pitching.
  3. No rush: If your story doesn't have a timely element to it, it's not really news. By attaching a well-timed angle to the pitch, you increase your chances for coverage. Is it more appropriate now because of the season? Does it relate to a trend or another news story? Is there an urgency to the information? By making the story more relevant, you not only engage the reporter but make it more likely that he or she will jump on it sooner rather than file it away for later.

By using PR effectively you can accelerate your sales and quickly build your brand. And as an inventor, your personal story is a great, built-in hook--so use it. If done well, there's no more cost-efficient way to build your product awareness, credibility and brand.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks