Our clients come to us for a wide range of support, but help with marketing is the second most popular request we get – perhaps because it is often overlooked. As experienced business consultants, we see public relations (PR) as a critical component of a well-developed marketing strategy. Set your business apart by incorporating PR into your marketing strategy.
This post introduces the value of PR for small businesses and highlights the importance of a PR investment for entrepreneurs. We’ll give you some ideas for how to approach it, as well as general guidelines for when you’ll want to call in a pro.
PR at its most basic is the art of creating and maintaining a favorable public image for your brand. PR is distinct from other brand-generated broad marketing tactics (e.g. social media profiles, ads, blogging). PR is getting your brand in the news so that potential clients and customers are forming a positive image of your company through “earned media,” outside the constructs of “paid media,” e.g. advertising. PR builds trust with your target customer because they are learning about you when they aren’t being asked to buy something.
“Brands are built on what people are saying about you, not what you’re saying about yourself. People say good things about you when (a) you have a great product and (b) you get people to spread the word about it.” -Guy Kawasaki
Comprehensive PR involves brainstorming story angles, digging for interesting tidbits, crafting events so they are more appealing to media outlets, then doing all the work of pitching, following up, and preparing for interviews so you can share your brand’s story smoothly and clearly.
Just like marketing, operations, and payroll, think of PR as on ongoing component of a successful brand. Imagine throwing a party but forgetting to send out invitations! Owning a business is like throwing a party every day–and you need to be constantly inviting people. Did you have great buzz around your grand opening and excitement about your products, then watch your traffic and growth flatline? Adding PR to your integrated strategy will bring fresh life and new customers to your door (and your website).
PR begets PR
One reason many small business owners struggle to invest in good PR is that it can be hard to quickly see results. However, while even excellent PR is unlikely to show instant results, the results you do see will be long-lasting. Good PR is timeless, and continues giving results long after your ad budget has been spent. A solid earned media piece in a prominent publication lives on online – preferably with links back to your site for a sweet SEO boost. Customers will still be able to read about your event or story long into the future when they search for your business.
Take the example of a local Newport restaurant who received regular earned media coverage through successful PR and pitching. Through features in local newspapers and weeklies, the story of their long history in the city and a beloved 50-year-old customer favorite recipe reached the folks at the national cooking show, Chopped. Bigwigs at the popular network television show kept hearing about the restaurant, and invited the chef to apply as a contestant. PR begets PR.
PR doesn’t have to be scary, or crazy expensive! There are many PR best practices that you, as an entrepreneur and a small business owner, can execute yourself with just an investment of time and diligence. You’re the best candidate to tell your story with a little guidance on knowing how and when to send a press release. With regular attention to PR, steady exposure will create a slow burn that keeps your brand fresh in customers’ minds.
When to Hire a Pro
However, it’s also good to know when to hire a PR pro. Public relations professionals have inside knowledge of and connections to reporters, editors, assignment desk editors, and other contacts who are looking for the right story for their media outlet. Good PR professionals understand how media outlets work, what their deadlines are, what kind of stories interest them, what they cover, how they cover it, and how to pitch stories involving their clients. Utilizing their expertise is a solid investment when:
- You have a major event coming up, like a business launch, 1-, 5-, or 10-year anniversary (or other big number)
- You’ve got a big piece of news – such as a very successful round of fundraising, a big expansion, a rebrand, a big prize you took home, a major new product
- You’re hit with bad news that you need to control and stay ahead of
- You have a big interview coming up and find yourself anxious about talking to reporters (media coaching will help you tell your story)
- You’re looking for a big boost to SEO by garnering a number of earned media mentions that will show up in online searches
At business launch, Velofix Southcoast RI-MA owner Mike Lee hired a pro to perform a targeted PR campaign that hit dozens of local publications. A tight press release, curated photography and media coaching helped Lee compellingly tell his story and sell the concept. By launch time, 24 earned media mentions brought customers streaming through the doors. Said Lee, “I’ve had so many people tell me they read about me in so many different papers I can’t keep track.” That’s the kind of exposure ad money just can’t buy.
Whether you jump in yourself or hire a professional for your integrated marketing strategy, good public relations is the communications gift that keeps on giving.
Need help getting started? Contact us today for no-cost, one-on-one business counseling to begin making PR a priority and working on an integrated strategy for keeping your business fresh in customers’ minds.