PR… without a PR agency

Hi there to anyone giving this a read.

I run a small manufacturing workshop in the B2C space and I’m an SEO by trade . We’re doing well and are now looking at PR, primarily to further raise brand awareness, and secondly to build backlinks to our website through features in news sites/articles.

I have had dealing with a couple of PR agencies in the past, spending £10’000s with somewhat underwhelming results. Albeit this was in a different company I worked within and didn’t have direct control over, it’s put me off dealing with PR agencies.

I have only a handful of contacts in the media/publication space. What I want to know is, do businesses have much luck reaching out to publishers directly for features? Or is it expected to be done through PR agencies as they have the knowhow and connections, etc? What’s the best way to approach this.

Any thoughts/advice is appreciated!