BY GUEST BLOGGER: Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM is the President & CEO of Rhino Public Relations
In today’s business environment and media landscape, companies are vying with each other for attention from a myriad of audiences: customers, suppliers, consultants, and prospective employees to name a few. It can be especially difficult for small businesses to make a big impact in such a noisy environment. Small businesses have their own particular goals and challenges in the marketplace. Public relations can play a significant – and often cost effective – role in raising the visibility of small businesses.
Why should a small business consider launching a public relations program?
• For small businesses, public relations is an invaluable marketing tool. It creates visibility and brand recognition, builds credibility and third-party validation through editorial placement, and hopefully, generates new business leads. Targeted, strategic public relations can also produce tangible results that raise awareness of a company’s competitive differentiators, promote a niche expertise, or target specific markets.
• Earned PR is validated by the media, a distinction that sets it apart from most other communications vehicles. People who read about a new product or service put more credence in an article than a paid advertisement. Moreover, PR tends to be less expensive than paid marketing, advertising, or direct mail – another plus for small business.
• Just as a small business owner would hire an accountant to do their taxes, the services of a PR consultant or firm should be used to handle communications. Unless there is someone within the company who is dedicated to or tasked with PR, it often falls to the bottom of the ‘to-do’ list. Like any other discipline, there are best practices and nuances in public relations that a small business owner might not know or have the time to learn. Small business owners are focused on running their business: PR professionals have the expertise, contacts and creativity to garner coverage and get the message out.
• Hire wisely. Whether it’s a sole proprietor or small PR firm, ask questions to ascertain a PR professional’s approach. Find out their track record for delivering results, how familiar they are with traditional PR and social media, and whether their media contacts align with your business model or targeted region. Ask for samples of a consultant’s placements and speak with a firm’s other clients before making any decisions. PR consultants should work with your small business as an extension of your marketing department, so culture, personality and fit are important to working as a team.
• Choose a PR professional or firm that understands the unique goals and challenges of small businesses. The first step of every successful PR program is to understand the client’s core business by knowing what sets it apart from its competition. For small businesses owners, that golden nugget includes their expertise and the story behind their business. A good PR professional will convey the message – and teach you how to express it to the media, too.
As a critical piece of any small business’ integrated marketing efforts, public relations can bring measurable results to a company’s bottom line and help it achieve its business development goals.