When small business owners create a business plan, they often include marketing and advertising, but neglect to think about public relations (PR). However, when it comes to getting your business noticed, PR is one of the most powerful tools you can use.
Why PR is Important for Small Businesses
PR is a cost-effective way of spreading the word and building credibility for your small business. It is less expensive than a big advertising buy, and speaking opportunities, media interviews, authoring a column in a print or online publication, or simply getting your company mentioned in the news are all effective ways to gain exposure and generate leads for your business.
Having other people talk about your business can carry even more weight with potential customers. A positive article, review, or blog post by a third party or media influencer provides an endorsement for your products or services that is crucial to building trust with current and future purchasers.
Small businesses require the same amount of marketing support, if not more, as big businesses do in order to grow and to become successful. If your small business resources are limited, it’s important to have a strategic, targeted, and manageable marketing plan to maximize your budget and your time. Whether you choose to do it yourself or hire a firm or freelance specialist, PR’s value and affordability make it an essential platform for promoting your business.
PR Helps Build Brand Awareness
Statistics show that 75% of consumers says brand awareness has a major influence on their buying decisions, and 45% of a brand’s image can be attributed to what it says and how it says it. How you create and deliver your company’s message matters to consumers looking for reliable brands, and PR provides the legitimacy that is vital for small businesses, especially those that are new or growing.
Impatient business owners often take issue with the fact that PR is a slow process that does not necessarily deliver immediate results, even in today’s fast-paced digital marketing landscape. Although building brand awareness takes time, a solid PR strategy will establish the name recognition that can serve as a solid foundation for your business to build on.
Maximizing the Impact of Your PR Effort
Choosing whether to handle PR in house or outsource it to professionals often depends on a company’s specific needs and the size of their budget (some experts suggest allocating at least 10% of your annual budget for PR). Regardless of who handles your public relations, you need to put certain fundamentals in place in order to maximize the impact of your efforts. For starters, this includes:
- Establishing clear, measurable goals for your PR campaign
- Determining the best strategy to achieve these goals
- Dedicating the resources and focus to follow through on the strategy
- Reviewing results regularly and adjusting as needed
If you are taking a do-it-yourself approach, here are a few quick tips to help you incorporate PR into your marketing mix:
1 – Build a Media List
The most important step in launching a successful PR campaign is to develop a list of relevant contacts at local and national print, broadcast, and online media outlets. This will allow you to connect quickly with journalists who can help you garner media coverage and with whom you can build lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.
One of the best ways to do this is to read what journalists are covering and identify those that are talking about your industry and competitors. Most industries have specific websites, blogs, magazines, podcasts, and other online channels, so be sure to include those that are most likely to be interested in news about your business. You can also search a media outlet’s website contact page or “About” section for the names and emails or social handles of specific editors or journalists.
Do your homework and make sure any news you send is relevant to topics an individual journalist generally covers. Social media has dramatically changed the way businesses approach PR, making it easier to connect directly with media and online influencers. However, building relationships takes time and a dedicated effort to respond quickly to requests, offer timely and targeted information, and be consistent without becoming a nuisance.
2 – Spread the News
Press releases, columns, and blog posts are powerful tools for getting your business noticed. To ensure that you are producing consistent, quality content, hire a freelance writer or have someone on your team who has the skills to position you as leader in your field.
One simple way to get your company news published is to share a press release or statement directly with your list of media contacts. If your search has failed to yield a specific contact for a key publication, look for a general mailbox you can use to send news to editors and producers for consideration. You can also reach out to your local TV news directors to tell them about your product or service, and ask them to keep you in mind for a future news segment.
HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a valuable tool for helping small businesses gain media exposure. HARO is designed to provide journalists with a dynamic database of sources and opportunities for businesses to secure quality media coverage. Simply subscribe to receive daily emails and reply to relevant requests from journalists who are looking for sources for stories they are working on.
3 – Be Socially Active
Having an active social media presence can be an efficient and effective way to generate organic and free PR. Focus on creating content that reinforces your brand message to your target audience and take advantage of relatively low-cost ways to put paid support behind your efforts. For instance, paying a nominal fee to promote key posts on Facebook or Instagram is far less expensive than mailing multiple rounds of postcards. You can consistently reinforce connections with your best customers, and they can spread the word to help you reach a wider audience.
Many journalists use social media to build relationships with reliable news sources. Having quality exchanges with a targeted group of journalists over a period of time will increase the chances that they will reach out to you when they are working on stories about your industry. In addition, social media provides you with accurate, real-time reporting, allowing you to instantly evaluate a variety of metrics to gauge results.
4 – Consider a Specialist
Developing and executing a PR plan is one of the best things you can do for your small business. However, going at it alone may not be the ideal solution. It is important to know when to seek the help of professionals in order to achieve your marketing goals.
Outsourcing PR to a specialist will not only arm you with experience and expertise, but you will be gaining instant access to the media contacts and publications best suited to communicating with your target audience. The right public relations partner will invest the time in getting to know you, your business, and what you want to accomplish and use the appropriate tools to achieve results.
Having access to working capital financing can help you cover the costs of expanding your PR efforts without impacting existing cash flow. Summit Financial Resources offers custom financing solutions that use your accounts receivable and other assets as collateral. Because we are not regulated like a bank, we can structure more flexible deals, take more risks, and make funding decisions more quickly to help you meet short-term expenses and invest in the long-term success of your business.
Working Capital Financing is a few clicks away.
Summit Financial Resources specializes in working capital financing for small to medium-sized businesses that need increased cash flow. We provide working capital financing through invoice factoring, asset-based lending, inventory lending, and equipment financing.