Large companies often have separate departments that deal with public relations but they are not necessarily the only ones that can take advantage of PR activities. PR has become an important base for building success not only for large players but also for small businesses.
By implementing an efficient PR plan, you can increase profit, grow your consumer base and create a positive atmosphere for your business in the future. You shouldn’t just blindly focus on advertising and thus neglect public relations, but you should rather change your perception of the role PR has for a small business. Your idea of PR shouldn’t be muddled and mixed with advertising in any way.
It is one of the most cost-effective ways of getting bigger return on the investments you undertake and also of raising awareness about your products and your entire business. Through PR you are not only being visible to your target market but you are also being differentiated from your competitors, which can lead to a strong positive image in the eyes of your consumers. A continuous public relations program is required to spread the word about your product to other consumer groups, since marketing is only aiming at reaching people who have already shown interest for what you are selling.
Chances are that people who are thinking of trying your product have already lost faith in ads and commercials, so you can scratch those highly anticipated advertising effects. They will probably go online, use their favorite search engine and type the name of your most popular product. This is where your reputation kicks in and determines the following course of action. If they like what they read, they will create a positive image of your business and lower the inner resistance towards buying your products. Of course, in the long run, if your product has met their needs, they will spread the word about the quality and their personal experience with the product, and thus perceive your business as relying and promising affair. This is the most valuable effect of any marketing tool. Consumers, as advocates of your products, can reach far beyond conventional marketing tools, and they can easily convince more of those skeptical potential consumers you will never be able to reach without the intelligent use of PR. This can have more positive financial effects on your small business than any advertisement could ever achieve. It can also boost both financial and communications effects of other marketing and advertising tools you usually use. The cost of all this is insignificant.
Where to Start?
You have to define a strategic public relations plan in order to avoid possible negative effects in the long run.
1. Take a Closer Look at Your Situation
First, you should analyze your current situation or a problem you have encountered. Think about what is going on, where you are, where you want to be, etc. You should determine your objectives as well. Since PR is part of your overall marketing and business plan, public relations goals should be congruent with your marketing goals and benefit your overall marketing campaign and not conflict with it in any way. You also have to be able to define your business in a couple of sentences and keep the attention of the side you are addressing to.
2. Do Research and Collect Data
Acquire information by asking others about their opinion on your company (business associates, staff, clients, etc). Send out a questionnaire containing simple questions like “What does my business do?” or “What can be improved in your opinion?“. This can be a good time for you to embrace the art of listening rather than just telling your side of the story.
3. Go Online and Analyze
Check online to see what the comments about your products are or the amount of presence your competition has gained in the media, because it is crucial for a further decision-making process.
Turn to social media – check your LinkedIn page, your earned endorsements, followers and likes and the content your followers have shared. Your business Facebook page should also be active, and you should analyze your audience there as well. Is that the audience you want? Now that you have a lot of information to go through, you should be able to continue.
4. Now We Are Back at the Beginning but with Solid Grounds
Now we are talking about your brand. You should know precisely who you really are and what you represent to the public. You can test it again with few of the previously questioned people and present them your brand. You are always looking for that constructive criticism that will help you improve your business.
5. Incorporate Brand Statement into Your Practice
Your staff should be well familiar with it. It should become a part of all your business communications with all stakeholders.
6. Dedicate to Media Relations
Social media is not the only way to raise awareness! Some other forms of media can effectively reach the audience you are aiming at. Get in contact with journalists, share your story, recent events, exclusive news or something truly unique about your company.
7. Turn to Social Media Again
Social media should be taken more seriously, as it is the best way to build attention, outrun the competitors and increase revenue. By this moment, all of your activities should embrace the widespread use of new technology and services.
As far as Facebook is concerned, you should pay attention to the time when you are posting (optimal time is between 7pm – 7am), post minimum 6 posts per week, and post about events, milestones, awards, every piece of news interesting for the public. Engage your audience by sharing little-known, interesting information about the industry. LinkedIn is good for analytics, since you can review your rankings and your page views. Rankings can tell you if your content is interesting for your followers. Post that same content in LinkedIn groups related to the topic. Use Twitter for short announcements and Pinterest for sharing photos of your products. Interconnect your social media posts so that your followers can be easily switched to other sites (redirect them from a Twitter post to the Facebook page for more information, or from Facebook page to your company’s website).
By establishing a blog connected to or embedded into your site you can reach your customers and your investors by presenting information in a more detailed way. Promote your business and become a guest blogger for similar perspective sites. It is a source of free publicity where you can also receive a lot of social media shares and valuable comments.
A critical phase is when you define your goals and see how far you want to go within the social groups. Is it achieving visibility, launching a new product, penetrating a new market? Networking is essential for the growth of your business. Go to industry conferences, expand your contacts, host events, etc. Get in touch with others!
Public relations are not meant to cause financial effects on their own but to act simultaneously with other marketing instruments and to magnify the final results. Harnessing the advantages of PR tools can help you obtain positive reputation and publicity for your brand, which will in the end lead to increasing revenues.