What is PR? And how can your small business use it effectively? Public Relations is ultimately the relationship between the public and your company…it also encompasses the professional maintenance of a favorable public image. Certainly, PR will always focus on publicity, but today it includes community participation both on-line and off, bylined articles, public speaking, media commentary, relationships with local area reporters and development of a good professional reputation.
These elements of PR can be particularly effective at local and regional levels and therefore, especially useful to your small business….and it’s not as scary as you might think. You know your business best, so who better to craft and tell it’s story!
1. Who is your audience?
Amazingly, even large corporations often fail to realize who their audiences actually are. It’s important to define your “audience” – Think about the individuals or groups who have any interest or stake in the activities of the business. This can reach far beyond just your current customers. It’s totally possible that your audiences includes the local media, your neighbors and surrounding community, current/ former employees and their families, vendors/suppliers, networking organizations, government regulators/agencies at several levels and even your competitors. And remember, audiences–friendly or not–have the power to communicate information about you and your company.
2. Develop a PR plan
Even without a degree in journalism or marketing this is obtainable. It doesn’t need not be complex, in simplest terms, a PR plan consists of a few elements:
- Objectives: identify your goals and what you want to accomplish for your business.
- Positioning: decide how you want to be perceived by the audiences you’ve determined. As the best quality sign maker in town, or the least expensive sign maker?
- Key messages: prioritize the most important facts about your business.
Once you have developed these core concepts, you can create:
- Strategy–how you can accomplish your objectives. For example, you may adopt a strategy of marketing your products services only to those in a high-end demographic group. Or create the impression that your products are more expensive, but worth their quality. Or position your business as an innovator in a technology instead of just a follower. None of these are new, but continue to be good illustrations of simple business strategies.
- Tactics–the tools or means to carry out the plan you’ve established. Speeches, articles, sitting on advisory boards or committees, media outreach and social media outlets are all good tactics for small businesses.
3. Develop a relationship with and use local media
Small business owners should never be intimidated to get their story out to reporters. Especially at local and regional levels, the media are always looking for a new story, a different angle, a fresh approach to business and therefore, potentially interested in you and what your business is all about. These media outlets, charged with covering their communities, do not have the vast resources of celebrities, renowned experts and satellite feeds. They may very well need you and what you have to say about your industry or market segment…and it’s what their readers are interested in.
When your business gets a significant new customer, invests in new equipment, moves to a new location, wins a community award or comes up with a solution to a community problem, don’t hesitate to call an appropriate media outlet. You may not always get coverage, but you have nothing to lose by cultivating and maintaining these valuable relationships. Who knows, you may be asked for comment on a related story, which garners more exposure for your business.
In your small business, what do you know, offer, produce, compile, interpret, provide, market, analyze, understand or do better than anyone else? Whatever it is, someone among those audiences wants to hear more about you…so tell them!
Finally, here are a few things not to do as you become more adept at delivering effective PR for your company…
Don’t rely on spamming the media with your press releases and PR pitches. It won’t work.
Send out press releases without search-engine-optimization keywords. You are missing out on a great opportunity to get more online exposure.
Adhere to deadlines. Find out the cut-off dates or times for an outlet to receive your information. There’s no point in sending timely information if you’ve missed their deadline. If they ask for further information by a certain date, make sure they get it!
- 12 Key Ingredients For Small Business PR In 2012 (understandingmarketing.com)
- 5 Tips to the Perfect PR Pitch for Small Businesses (prnewsonline.com)
- 9 Do-It-Yourself PR Essentials for Small Businesses (prnewsonline.com)