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By: Mallory Bowers
If you own a small business, you might think public relations is something you don't need to be concerned about. Perhaps you think you don't have the time or expertise to run a successful PR operation, or maybe you think that PR is just for big businesses—that could be a costly mistake.
The fact is, an effectively run PR program can be your small business's best friend, a tool which you can leverage to promote your brand, and that's important. According to Business News Daily, for example, 75% of consumers say "brand awareness" is a significant factor in their purchasing decisions, and that brands which are consistent are worth 20 percent more than those which aren't. As Amy Bryson (VP for Airfoil Group) notes:
"Public relations can provide legitimacy for a business, and that's especially important for an SMB that may not have a lot of brand awareness."
How Can a Small Business Compete?
So, PR is important for small businesses, but that doesn't answer the question of how small businesses can effectively compete with larger, established companies. That's a reasonable concern. According to Business 2 Community, for example, journalists on average receive between 50 and 100 press releases every week. Against that congested backdrop, what can a small business do to cut through the noise?
Do Your Homework—And Be Authentic
PR that works doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't happen without some leg work. Above all, however, good PR doesn't happen if you try to be something you're not. When it comes to getting traction with media, authenticity is the most powerful weapon in your arsenal. That said, there are some strategies every business can use to create a strong PR presence, including the following 4:
1. Tell Your Company's Story
Pushing out a vanilla press release about a new product launch (unless that product is demonstrably game-changing) isn't going to get you press—journalists are swamped with them. If, on the other hand, you tell a story that's compelling, and that no one else can tell (because it's your story), you could get some traction.
That's especially true if your story has larger implications for your community—for example, if your new business put a lot of people to work, or your business is helping a local charity. You could tell an interesting story about the way your business got started, or have your employees or customers tell their stories. The point is, storytelling can be powerful, and it's a great way to bring some attention to your business.
2. Follow Industry Trends
You won't know if what your business does is newsworthy without context. That context is what others in your industry are doing, and how that relates to what's happening in the country. For example, consumers are increasingly conscious of "green" initiatives. If you decide to install solar panels at one of your locations, you're tapping into something which is already being discussed. If you find way to deliver outstanding customer service that's better than others in your industry, you're making a real contribution, one that will get noticed.
To stay on top of industry trends, you can set up Google Alerts and Twitter mentions. You can also use sites like IFTTT to find articles which contain keywords relevant to your industry. Finally, you should network with the industry influencers and reporters who push the stories which drive the trends. You're more likely to have their ear if you've already established a relationship with them.
3. Get Your Facts Straight
This is where your homework really begins. If you want to be heard in the conversation, you need to have something to contribute. That means you need to do your research, get your facts straight, and, over time, establish a reputation for being a thought leader and industry expert. You also need to do some research regarding the news outlets you're pitching to: what kinds of stories do they typically warm up to, what kinds of pitches do they like, and what's their preferred method of communication?
4. Offer Value
The people to whom you send your pitches have a job, just like you. They want to write stories that connect with their readers, and that means you need to demonstrate what value you're offering those readers. What they don't care about is a claim that you have a great new product or service. What they do care about is the way your product or service will impact their lives.
Before writing your pitch, ask yourself why readers would be interested in your story. If your story can reach and resonate with your target audience, it's going to help the publication you're pitching to, which means they're more likely to run with it.
A strong public relations operation can help any business, big or small, but given the competition for media presence, it can be challenging. Sometimes, an experienced, results-oriented agency can help you cut through the noise and get the exposure you're looking for. To learn more about identifying opportunities and strategies for growth in 2018, join us at Act!Now – the center for empowering small business growth!