16/03/2015 08:33 GMT | Updated 16/05/2015 06:59 BST

What the Heck Is PR, Anyway?

You've heard people talking about PR, 'oooh you MUST use PR in your marketing' or 'I'm going to outsource my PR' but what does it even mean?

PR is public relations. Which still doesn't really mean anything. What it ACTUALLY means is you, getting featured in the media without having to pay for an advert. It's an article ABOUT you or featuring you.

And the media can be local newspapers, regional or national newspapers, local, regional or national magazines, trade magazines, radio, TV or other websites.

Why Bother?

Well, the good things about PR are:

1. You get in front of new people. I can guarantee that not all the readers/viewers/listeners of that particular media channel will already know about you, so it's a great chance to get in front of fresh eyes.

2. It's impartial. It's not you paying for an advert, it's the media channel talking about you and your business, which means it's more believable to the average punter.

3. You can start small and build up - a small article in a local paper has been known, on occasion, to get interest from bigger publications

4. You can do it yourself

But How?

Well, first of all, get really clear on who you're targeting. Who do you want to get in front of? What do they watch/read/listen to? There's no point getting in the media if you're not getting in front of potential customers - that's just daft. Make a shortlist of the different things your ideal customers watch, read, browse and listen to and make that your starting point for a PR hit list.

Once you've got your top 10 magazines, papers, etc start researching

Pop over onto Twitter because almost every journalist is on Twitter - it's great for them as they can instantly gauge opinion, find quotables and keep their finger on the pulse of breaking news stories. If you check out the publications or websites you're targeting, there's often either a contact page with Twitter handles or, usually, often each article has the author and their twitter handle at the top.

Now, what you DON'T do is start stalking the journalists until they block you. What you DO need to do is start to build a relationship with them, in a non-stalky way. By this I mean, follow their Twitter account. Figure out what sort of stuff they post. Do they ask for opinions? Do they often need experts to quote on certain topics? Do they ask people to spread the word? And then you HELP them. Retweet them. Answer their questions. Offer opinions. Consistently.

Before too long they will get to know you as a reliable, helpful person. They will recognise your name. And they will probably also follow you back. Then they'll get to know more about your business and then, when they are looking for someone to feature or for an expert to quote in one of their articles, there's a good chance you'll spring to mind - but you'll be able to put yourself forward anyway, because you'll know you're a good fit.

What About Press Releases?

Well you can still write them, of course. But only if you have a story worth writing about - something that's worthy of being a news story. And it may well get published. But you'll stand a far better chance of getting featured if you know the journalist, understand them, know the publication and what they cover and hang out online where the journalist hangs out - it's all about being in the right place at the right time with the right information.

No Excuses

Start figuring out your PR shortlist today. Do a bit of research. Work out where you need to be seen. And go for it!