Public Relations is defined as the practice of managing the spread of information about an individual or organization to the public. But when you are a small business owner, PR is more than just sending press releases to the media. PR encompasses your every move.
“PR begins when you walk out the door. The way you carry yourself speaks volumes,” says Vannessa Wade, CEO of Connect The Dots PR. “PR is a lifeline and creates positive awareness of your business. PR helps you expand your business outside of your city and educates others in the process. It shows you have a plan of action and allows you to focus on the brand while your PR team focuses on sharing the message.”
You can tackle some PR duties yourself, but tackle some unique ways to get your name and your company out into the public’s eye. “In terms of DIY PR, look for ways to plug your business. Speak at an event or offer your expertise at Lunch and Learns. Learn how to craft your story so others listen to you. Most importantly, take it slow. You can’t master all these skills overnight, but you can start looking for ways to promote your service,” notes Wade.
Don’t take social media for granted. “Blogging and even websites are great PR tools. It allows you to gain influence and share your given knowledge and keeps people coming back,” says Wade. And even going out and networking is a great PR tool. “Many business owners tend to overlook genuine networking. Networking allows you to brand your business and align yourself with other start-ups and business owners. They typically forget the value they bring to others. It does not have to appear in the New York Times first to be a story; it can literally catch fire on the local level. Find what works for you and stick to it,” says Wade.
If you decide to hire an outside person to handle your publicity, look for a person or firm that jives with your own company philosophy. Interview the potential PR rep. “Ask how many clients they have, so you won’t get lost in the shuffle. Does their expertise match your business? If they are use to working with soap and your product is paint, it may not be the best fit,” explains Wade. “Ask if they provide media coaching and who would be assigned to you. Ask what they need from you to make it a blooming relationship and ask how they measure success. Do they track client emails or track how many times you have been mentioned in a story?”
Don’t have unrealistic expectations. Not every business can be featured on CNN. Building PR takes time and you will start with small media outlets. “The best way to get the best PR bang for your buck is to be honest and realistic about results,” says Wade. “PR is a mighty tool, but it does not always yield the desired results.” To get better results, have an honest relationship with your PR rep. “Tell your PR rep what you are looking for and the type of budget you have. Allow them to do their job by presenting any materials they need,” says Wade. “Also be available. The PR world is fast and if they have a story placement you have to be ready for action… Don’t be afraid to invest in PR. The payoff can be tremendous for both parties involved.”