As a small business, you may not think you need to pay much attention to public relations. However, when it comes to branding, marketing and promoting your company, PR is one of the most important tools to help get you the right type of attention.
According to Landor Associates, 45 percent of a brand's image can be attributed to what it says and how it says it. Furthermore, 75 percent of consumers cite brand awareness as a major influencer in making their buying decision, and consistent brands are worth 20 percent more than those who aren't consistent.
How you create and deliver your company's message matters to consumers looking for your brand.
"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," said Amy Bryson, the vice president at Airfoil Group, a marketing and public relations firm.
Bryson notes that if a media influencer or third party validates a company, product or service, it demonstrates credibility, which is great for brand building.
"A positive article, review, blog post or social media endorsement is a great asset to promote across a company's own social channels so that business is searchable and findable," she said.
As with any decision making in business, you need to consider how the task should be planned and executed. CEO and chief publicist at Three Girls Media, a boutique PR firm, Erika Montgomery, offers this insight before making any choices:
"It's important to remember the PR is a slow and steady approach. Don't expect to see results overnight," Montgomery said. "Building brand awareness and name recognition takes time, but it provides a solid base for your business to build upon the future as you have a larger budget for marketing, advertising, etc."
She suggests setting aside 10 percent of your annual budget for public relations. Use your PR resources to:
- Establish clear, measurable goals for your business
- Determine the best strategy to achieve these goals
- Follow through on the strategy
- Review your results and establish new goals/a new strategy
"Create a plan with small, manageable steps so you'll be able to follow through," she said.
Tips for small business owners
To help make the most of your PR efforts, Business News Daily spoke to public relations experts about the best ways to handle your responsibilities.
1. Figure out your "why"
Before doing any strategy work, figure out your 'why' – your ultimate goals for your PR campaigns.
"Choosing whether to handle PR in house, utilize freelancers or contractors, an agency or DIY will depend entirely on your budget, company size and unique set of needs," said Molly Smith, a senior publicist. "If you can't answer the question, 'Why am I doing this?,' implementing any PR strategy or tactic [or business model] is going to be an uphill battle."
Smith notes your "why" is your story, not your product or your service. For example, say you are a launching a new restaurant. Instead of saying check out this new trendy place (your what,) you'll need to answer why does it matter? Why should I eat there? Why did you decide to start this restaurant in the first place?
2. Build your own media list.
Suki Mulberg Altamirano, founder of Lexington Public Relations, suggests doing this by reading what journalists are covering and finding those that are talking about your industry and competitors.
"Before you pitch anything, really make sure that what you're sending is relevant to what they write about, their publication and their interests," she said.
3. Create a strong, customized brand message
When you do reach out to your media contacts, Mulberg Altamirano cautioned against creating a generic press release. Blasting this out is not going to get you coverage and it will simply annoy people. Instead work on highly personalized, short email pitches.
"Research your competitors and take note on how they are positioning their brand and how you can differentiate your own business," added Alison Krawczyk, director of public relations at overit. "Also, look at the kinds of news and stories your competitors are sharing with media."
If you don't hear back right away, don't take it personally, Mulberg Altamirano said. "Journalists are busy and sometimes it will take a few different tries before you get that first bite. If one pitch doesn't work, be patient, wait and try a new angle when you have something truly newsworthy to share again."
4. Build a rapport with journalists.
Building relationships takes time. Mulberg Altamirano notes to be fast to respond to requests from journalists, offer them timely and personalized information and don't over pester them with follow-ups and you'll be on the right track.
5. Bulk up your social presence
"It's important to have an active social media presence, because it's something that can be very efficient in getting PR results," said Jon Gunnells, social and digital media manager at Airfoil Group.
He notes there are opportunities for organic and free reach and impressions, and it's important to have a consistent brand and brand message.
"Make sure your creating the right content catered to your audience. Additionally, there are ways to put paid support behind it as well to reach a wider audience," Gunnells said. "Social media is also a way to amplify content to reach people who may not be following the news."
Another positive of social is you are privy to real-time and exact reporting. There are no estimates.
"You can know within five minutes after you run [a social] ad how your post will have performed and get any number of metrics," he said.
6. Ask for help
Megan Carpenter, CEO and co-founder of FiComm Partners, notes to not go it alone. A consultant or PR firm can help you navigate around potential issues that they know exist because of their own experience and expertise.
"PR is more art than science," Carpenter said. "Find a PR partner that you trust and that believes in you and your business. A great partner will help your voice be heard and then use the right PR tools to help you communicate with your audience."