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The importance of PR for small businesses

PR, or public relations, is an important part of the marketing process for any business. At its heart, public relations can be defined as using varying methods of communication to build a relationship between an organisation and the public.

In many cases PR can be far more cost effective than traditional advertising, which is great news for new or small businesses trying to make the most of every dollar.

When you’re not a massive multinational company with a six figure marketing budget, every penny counts. Yet still, many companies focus their marketing efforts on paid advertising while neglecting PR opportunities that are right in front of their face (and sometimes free)!

PR is different from advertising because it focuses on third-party credibility. With traditional advertising, consumers know that companies are trying to put their best foot forward, and are rightfully suspect of any claims made. However, when a journalist, influencer, blogger or customer says something about a product or a brand, consumers are more likely to believe what they are seeing or hearing, and ultimately walk away with a positive view of that brand.

So how can you add PR into your business plan? First, you’ll want to understand the different types of PR.

  • Media relations – building a relationship with local journalists, broadcasters, bloggers and influencers and using connections to send out “press releases” and comments to the media
  • Community relations – your reputation within your local community
  • Crisis communications – what you do/say when sh*t hits the fan
  • Public affairs/Lobbying – involving yourself/your company in local politics through networking with local officials
  • Social media communications – often considered separate from PR, it is important to foster positive relationships with your social media followers
  • Employee communications – remember that your employees are your biggest brand ambassadors! Look after them and they will spread positivity surrounding your brand
  • Strategic communications – ensuring all messaging coming from your company is coordinated and seeks to achieve a predetermined objective

When you are first incorporating PR into your marketing efforts, you may choose to focus on only a few of the above.

Media relations, or the use of newspapers, online publications, radio and other traditional media for third-party coverage, is one of the most well-known types of PR. However, writing press releases and contacting journalists can be daunting for those who have not dealt in PR in the past.

Small businesses often assume that media outlets won’t be interested in mentioning their products or services when other brands are bigger and better known, however this is not the case! The general public is tired of hearing about Jeff Bezos making another zillion dollars, they’d much rather hear a success story from the business up the street. Remember, people like people like them!

If you have an idea that you think could gain traction with the media, write up a brief summary of your story. Be sure to include answers to the six “W questions” (who, what, where, when, why and how) and your information to be contacted for further questions/comments.

You’ll want to send your story to journalists who have written stories similar in content or topic to yours. Generally, you can find their contact information on the publication’s website or with a little creative digging on Twitter and LinkedIn.

If you have some budget to put behind your story, you can look to hire a freelance journalist to help flesh out your idea and ensure that it is publication ready. Often these journalists will have connections with media outlets and can help to get your story published. If you have a little more budget, you can look into employing a PR agency. Some PR companies can do daily or short term contracts that are scale-able depending on the coverage you’re looking for.

London-based PR agency, Rhizome Media, have recently launched a new service aimed at helping small and micro businesses “bounce back” from COVID-19. It’s called “The Great British Bounce Back” and has set out to give companies like you the media exposure of the biggest blue chips for just a fiver a month.

Once you’ve signed up, your company logo and a bit of blurb about what you do is added to their Member Directory, which is regularly searched by prominent regional and national journalists looking for grass-roots business stories and new voices to speak to. They also send you regular ‘News Alerts’ to stories breaking in the media that you could contribute to, but often wouldn’t know about because you’re not shelling out loads of money a month on a traditional PR firm.

Since launching, they’ve scored media coverage for micro businesses on the BBC and ITV News, in the Daily Mail, The Times, Daily Telegraph and countless regionals. Check them out!

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