Kyle T. Webster

People love stories, and public relations is all about storytelling. When Michael Sauri, owner of TriVista USA, in Arlington, Va., scored some face time with HGTV, he wanted people to know about it, but he didn’t want to buy advertising.

“I helped him focus his message,” says Polly Elmore, owner of PR Works, in Clifton, Va.

It turns out that Elmore was able to draw a good story out of Sauri: A former guitar player, he began remodeling to earn extra money to buy an engagement ring for his then girlfriend, now wife, Deborah. Elmore pitched that story and it was picked up by the Washington Post Magazine in March 2010. “That was our first placement,” Elmore says.

Tools of the Trade

With PR, you don’t pay for media space. Elmore identifies a story and what makes the company unique. “I’m the outside perspective,” she says, “and the remodeler might not even be able to see the story.”

Through HARO (Help A Reporter Out), which sends her three e-mail messages a day with details about various media opportunities, Elmore got a response from a freelancer writing for the Bob Villa website. “We sent him information about a porch Michael had done,” she says. “They eventually featured it as one of six [projects] on Villa’s website for several months.”

43% of baby boomers aged 55 to 64 use social media as of Dec. 2010, an increase from 9% in Dec. 2008 -

Elmore also got Sauri coverage in Lowe’s for Pros, an online resource for contractors, and on local TV, and she posts releases to PR Web, to which media outlets and writers subscribe. “I could never make those connections on my own,” Sauri says.

Every mention includes a backlink, which generates hits to TriVista USA’s website. These mentions live forever in cyberspace, they cost Sauri less money than advertising, and they reach a wider audience.

Making Connections

Using “Google alerts,” Elmore can find out when a release has been picked up and when information about Sauri’s competitors makes the media. Sauri pays Elmore a $300 retainer each month.

“PR is a relationship and a process of building and making connections,” Elmore says. “You get one media hit and another and another. They build on each other.”

—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.