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Today, I launched MakePR. It’s an online, DIY PR course with a simple mission: teach small business owners and employees how to generate earned media coverage without the help of (often expensive) PR pros.

The course stems from a basic realization that good PR help is not cheap and, due to its cost, is beyond the reach of many small businesses.

It took me 4 months to create MakePR. Sometimes it felt as though my efforts were all for naught. That this was a stupid idea that was taking time away from developing other business. That remains to be seen. I am optimistic however, extraordinarily grateful to those who were involved, and damn proud of the work that’s been done.

There have been a whole lotta lessons along the way. Below, are 4:

  1. Creating content takes (and zaps) energy. Maybe this is just me. However, the MakePR experience drove home how creating content requires serious energy. You already know this, but I mention it because, like you, I sometimes get paid to help people with content marketing. Too often, I flippantly recommend tactics without remembering how much energy it takes most people to create content. From here on, I’m going to try harder to remind clients about the all-important balance between creating content and consuming it, and the symbiotic relationship that exists between the two.
  2. PR, marketing and media people are generous with their time. “I’m crazy busy” is the favourite refrain of people in our biz and the media. While that may be true, PR and marketing pros, journalists and bloggers, are incredibly generous about making time to share their knowledge. MakePR has experts interviews with a number of hyper-hectic folks, including, among others, Jason Falls from Social Media Explorer, Arik Hanson of ACH Communications, Caroline Alphonso of the Globe and Mail, K.D. Paine of K.D. Paine and Partners, Janna Zittrer of Flare, Heather Whaling of Geben Communications, Amanda Aitken of The Girl’s Guide to Web Design, and Frank Strong of Vocus. The peripatetic Julien Smith, of The Impact Equation and Trust Agents also made time for the project. The lesson is, if you ask people in our game nicely they usually respond nicely. The caricatures about media, marketing and PR people exist for a reason, but my experience has been that our industry is full of generous people, who love sharing what they know with others.
  3. Good vendors are gold. I had a poor experience with my initial web and graphic designer. We were a terrible fit (the fault was mine as much as this person’s) and it cost me time and money. My second web design team, Montreal’s Design Shopp, has been superb. Same goes for the video and post production company I’ve worked with, Rev 13 films. A good vendor provides a first-rate product or service, takes constructive criticism and fills in knowledge gaps. We’ve all worked with suppliers who do one of these three things, or even two of the three, but if you can find people who do all three, you’re in a good place.
  4. Even good vendors need direction. Just because a supplier is capable, doesn’t mean they’ll understand what you want without you explaining things clearly and many times. Communication, even with smart people, needs to be repeated.

That’s it for now. If you’re a small business I’d be honoured if you gave the course a look. If you’re a PR pro and know of businesses that cannot afford you, I’d be grateful if you could refer them to MakePR.

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