Why even small businesses need public relations

This month, we were delighted that PR guru Fiona Johnson has agreed to write a guest blog for us. Fiona is a seasoned PR Specialist who has shared below her wisdom with the small business owner in mind:

Think Public Relations is only for large corporates?  Think again. PR controls the public face of your business, it influences your reputation and builds that all important credibility and trust to support your sales & marketing efforts.

Believe it or not, all your communications fall into the remit of public relations. What you say and how you say it will impact on how your customer base thinks and importantly feels about your business.  Public relations incorporates marketing, branding and your social media.  Hence it should be a vital inclusion in your marketing mix.

Public relations for small businesses promotes :

Brand recognition – Your brand is more than a logo, it is what people feel and connect with when they read or hear about your business.  Public relations grows awareness and visibility, whilst communicating the messages you want to be associated with. 

Your business values – Empathy might be a bit of a buzz word at the moment however, customers are more likely to connect and associate with a brand that has values they believe in and support themselves. Public Relations can communicate these values, position your business where you need to be and bridge the gap between strategic marketing and sales.

Partnerships and collaborations – when building your reputation you will make connections with influencers and journalists.  These people of influence will help create favourable conditions to grow your target audience.  Building relationships creates longevity for your business and spreads your name beyond your usual community.

Your brand influence – using creative communications to tell your brand story you can educate, influence and showcase a product or service.  A well-crafted article in the right media will give you 3rd party validation giving more weight than a single advertisement.  We’d much rather read about how a product made a difference to someone’s wellbeing than read an advertisement that simply says ‘buy me’.

Strengthening your customer loyalty – You can use public relations to showcase your work, through case studies, testimonials and reviews.  Building a community of collaborations and associations not only helps with the perception of your business but also the position.  For example, working with charities or fund raising events will have a positive impact on your business and build longer term loyalty and support from your customers.

To get you started I’m sharing my top 5 tips, simple steps you can do yourself to create awareness and build a powerful reputation.

  1. Always start with a plan.  What do you want to achieve, is it awareness around a new product or launch or are you educating your audience?  Do you want greater engagement on your social platforms. Work out what you want to say and to whom.  Always keep your ideal customer in mind, what do they read? Where do they hang out on social?  Work out your key messages and what makes you unique to help you stand out from the crowd.  I know that’s a lot of questions but get your plan nailed and you’re over half way to achieving great public relations.  As the saying goes ‘fail to plan – plan to fail’.
  2. Work out your values and build them into your communications.  If there is something you feel particularly passionate about use your voice or influence to get noticed in the press or on social media.  Jamie Oliver isn’t just known for his chef-ing abilities or his restaurants, but also his passion to improve the quality and nutritional value of school dinners.
  3. Start building up lists of potential collaborators or influencers on social media.  They don’t have to have the biggest following or be the loudest voice in the room.  Check out their values too, and their audience – if it’s aligned with you then start a conversation with them.  Build a connection to work together on.  Think of it as the widest reach of networking for your business.
  4. Have a story to tell.  Do you have something newsworthy or unique that you think the media may be interested in?  Have you overcome adversity to get where you are today?  Did an unusual situation inspire you to design a certain product? Pick out the main points and craft a pitch to sell in to suitable journalists.  Find out what media your customers read or listen to (don’t forget podcasts too).  Do your research on the web to find the right journalist to speak to and send them an email outlining your story.  Don’t forget to follow up*.  
  5. Consider working with a charity, your local community or supporting an event.  It is important that it is relevant to you and your business.  See how you can support each other through sponsorship, mentoring or endorsement.  Who doesn’t love a good news story and this can be a great way to generate your very first news coverage.  A client of mine was launching a new service in an already crowded market place.  We teamed up with a charity that was important to her, broadening their reach too and adding weight to our launch.  The media loved it and the month of her launch the press where all over her, you couldn’t move for coverage.

Above all, be clear in your voice and what you stand for.  Consistency is key to building a strong and recognised brand and a powerful reputation.

Fiona Johnson is a Reputation Builder working on PR-led communications campaigns.  Fiona also runs regular workshops on how to get featured in the press, from finding your story, to crafting press releases and approaching journalists.  To find out more or to register your interest for a media ready workshop please visit the website.

* We all have a story inside us, it’s just knowing where to start to find it.  Fiona has put together a Getting Media Ready crib sheet to help you ask yourself those important questions to get you started.  Really digging beneath the surface of you and your business to find your story hook.  If you’d like a copy please get in touch.

Thank you to Fiona for sharing some great tips as always – right I am off to start planning my next PR campaign.

Fiona Johnsono

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