Small businesses face numerous challenges, including securing financing from skeptical investors, getting the market to adopt a new product, and cultivating brand awareness. Public relations (PR) can help solve many of these problems, but the most important reason small businesses should invest in PR is to establish and maintain brand awareness.
While PR is different from sales, marketing, and business development, the credibility it generates serves as an effective tool for building all three. The goal of PR is to create and maintain a positive image for a brand, which it achieves by building and nurturing relationships among stakeholders, including the press and the public at large.
PR professionals cultivate relationships with the media and work to get your business into the news cycle. They do this not only by telling your story to reporters in compelling ways but also by landing you opportunities to showcase your expertise in non-promotional guest spots. Unlike salespeople who tend to focus on the short term, PR professionals take the long view, establishing the brand’s good character and nurturing people’s trust in it.
PR tactics tend to be successful because many people dislike advertisements and sales-y messages. Consumers do not trust advertising, and one can’t blame them. Gallup conducted a survey asking people just how they would rate the honesty and ethical standards of workers in 21 different professions. Nurses were rated tops, with 85%, while advertising practitioners were fourth from the bottom at 10% approval rating, slightly ahead of car salesmen, telemarketers, and politicians.
PR enables you to get your brand in front of potential customers in a positive way that is likely to appeal to them more, which can create increased demand for your product or service. One of the author’s clients received so many sales leads after starting a PR campaign that he was forced to stop answering the phone. While that is not a good thing, it shows how powerful PR can be.
Small businesses can also leverage PR as a marketing tool by posting their coverage on social media platforms, creating an “In the News” page on their website, and sending news to their regular contacts through newsletters and email. Sharing media successes increases credibility and authority, while sharing more personal details about the business or the people behind it helps the audience connect on a more human level.
PR can also be leveraged as a business development tool. Other businesses and potential partners want to do business with credible companies that have an established reputation and brand. When reporters cover a business, it demonstrates that they are doing important, timely, and relevant work, and that they are competitive in the marketplace. A solid track record of positive media coverage makes a business look better to prospective partners than any advertising campaign.
Getting started with PR is easier than many small business owners fear. A simple Google search can turn up the names of agencies that specialize in their industry, and initial consultations are typically offered for free. Small businesses that fail to invest in PR can miss opportunities for positive media exposure and struggle to get to the next level. Neglecting PR can also make companies vulnerable to negative reviews and media coverage, which can damage their reputations. Don’t make this mistake. Invest in PR to establish and maintain your brand awareness and credibility, and help your business grow.
Photo by Austin Distel