As a small business, it can be difficult to determine why your business needs public relations (PR). Perhaps you’re not really sure what PR is and you don’t understand what it is a PR agency does or how investing in a strategy will be of benefit to you.
However, PR can be crucial to the growth and success of a small business. First and foremost, you need to at least be implementing some kind of communications strategy so that people know that your company and its products/services actually exist.
So what is PR? It’s a means of building a trusted reputation to create better relationships with your target audience. This is done through a range of methods; brand awareness and reputation, establishing recognisable brand values, gaining trust, authenticity and credibility, supporting marketing and sales strategies and building an extensive media network.
Small businesses can often be reluctant to introduce a PR strategy as it isn’t something that always drives results overnight, however when it is consistently worked upon, the results will come.
Whether you want to get your company in the press or establish a strong online reputation, a good PR strategy can help your business, no matter the size, to stand out amongst the competition.
We list some of the ways that investing in PR can help your small business to grow:
BUILD BRAND VALUES
Before you begin to create awareness of your brand, it’s important to understand and assess your brand value to determine your stance in the market. Your brand values can often be the thing that sets you apart from your competitors. Utilising PR to build upon these values can help to more strongly convey your businesses message and ethos.
Before you can use PR to promote your brand values, you must first establish what they are. The key to creating a good, recognisable reputation is to implement a set of values that your brand remains consistent with.
There are three main areas to consider:
- Brand Proposition
– Having a strong brand proposition that your business strives to deliver consistently is an important part of building your brand values. Your proposition should clearly outline the benefits that a customer or client will receive if they choose to do business with you, and demonstrate why they won’t get these benefits elsewhere.
- Brand experience
– Your brand experience is basically everything that makes your brand unique encompassed, from the services or products you provide, to the innovation your brand instils, to the quality of your branding. Customer/client service also falls under the brand experience bracket, and it goes without saying that this needs to be outstanding.
- Brand ethics
– Establishing and implementing a set of brand ethics is a huge element of what brings together your brand values as a whole. What is your ethos? What is it that’s important for consumers to understand about your business, it’s processes and the way it works? Are you an eco-friendly company? Are you affiliated with a charity? What is it about your brand that your target audience can resonate with the most?
Now that these are in place, you can begin to promote them to ensure that your brand name becomes synonymous with the values you wish to convey. This is where PR comes in and helps you to plant that seed, as the industry begins to talk about what sets you apart from your competitors, your target audience will begin to listen.
Your business needs to attract custom in order to stay afloat. With this in mind, investing in a PR strategy should be a no-brainer as it helps to get your name out there, so long as you’re targeting relevant media that your target customer will be consuming.
You need to shout about your brand in order to gain traction. Adding a PR strategy can help to supplement your digital marketing efforts, gaining wider reach, helping to build a reputation within your industry and getting more visits to your company website.
If the nature of your business is B2B, then it’s likely you will already know the publications that are read by your audience, as they will be business-focused, or industry and sector-related titles. To ease into PR (depending on the strength of the story, news or views you have to share), it’s best to begin by targeting local or smaller, more niche publications and then work your way up to the bigger titles as you begin to gain more exposure.
If you’re a B2C business, research which publications your target audience frequents, their locations and demographics. The more you understand about your key consumers, the better you will be able to cater for them. Track down where they are and then aim to get your content in front of their eyes.
What news sources do they use? Do they read any specialist blogs? Carry out some persona research and ensure the publications you’re targeting are going to return results for your business.
In the initial stages of creating awareness of your brand, PR is a great way to get your business noticed, shout about new product launches or any exciting news and keep in the forefront of your audience’s mind.
ESTABLISH A TRUSTED REPUTATION
Once your values are in place, you can begin to gain trust, authenticity and credibility. If your business is consistently seen as trustworthy in reputable publications and websites, then consumers will begin to trust your brand too.
PR is one of the best ways to build a trusted reputation, especially when compared with most traditional advertising. Consumers understand that advertising is a paid method, with the benefits of the product/service coming straight from the horse’s mouth.
However, PR efforts can be seen as a third-party authentication. If your press release is chosen by a journalist to publish, or you secure coverage off the back of an interview or a product you provide is reviewed in a publication, then consumers that trust that publication will then begin to trust your brand too.
Of course there is the risk that what you want to promote and the messages you wish to convey are taken out of your hands, and you need to trust a publication to write about your business positively. However, if you approach PR smartly with reputable and relevant titles, cooperate well with the journalists needs and help them to understand your business and news, this is an unlikely scenario. The risk can often be worth the endorsement from a well-known, reputable title.
FURTHER SUPPORT MARKETING AND SALES ACTIVITY
Your marketing, sales, PR and advertising strategies should all integrate and support one another. Having a consistent message delivered across a variety of platforms again adds to your reputation.
While further marketing and advertising efforts are being performed, it’s likely interest in your company will increase. If a potential customer/client searches for your business, it will serve you well having a host of content about your business across a variety of publications ready for them to access, and it also gives your business further endorsement.
As a small business, you may initially find it difficult to gain coverage, but if you have a strong story / news angle and prove throughout your marketing and sales activity that you are a thought-leader within your industry, you will begin to gain traction with smaller, more specific publications and be able to begin building your portfolio across the media within your sector and eventually wider business titles.
BUILD UP MEDIA NETWORK AND ONLINE REPUTATION
Once you begin to learn who’s who in the media for your specific industry, you should begin to build a media list. The media list will contain the name of journalists, the publications they write for that are relevant to your industry and their contact details. Make regular contact with journalists and reporters who specialise in your industry/sector and become a trusted source for them to create stories around.
You can draw upon this resource whenever something new and interesting is going on in your business. If something exciting has happened such as a new product launch or a special event, then chances are these publications will be interested in hearing from you.
Once you’ve gotten articles and links to your business in relevant online publications, they will remain there, meaning that whenever the content is accessed your brand is being publicised. It is an everlasting strategy that will drive your target audience towards your business.
Over time, the more articles you secure online that cite the name of your business or link to your website – even if you didn’t particularly see much traffic from them individually – will increase your online visibility and make it more likely that you will be found in searches.
When a potential customer Google’s you, or Google’s your product/services, it’s always a plus-point to have more coverage than just your own company website, as this establishes you as a well-known company that reputable publications want people to know about.
Remember, in most cases massive results won’t be achieved overnight when you begin to implement PR. Make a six-to-12 month plan and be sure that your goals are clear. If you stay consistent with this plan, moving slowly and steadily, building your way up and expanding your network, it will begin to pay off.
At Venture Stream, we have a host of tools and an extensive media network that can help you to get your brand in front of the relevant people. If you need help setting up an online PR strategy, we’d be happy to assist. Get in touch with us today.