What is Public Relations?
Public relations (PR) is a strategic communications process that influences, engages, and builds positive relationships that shape public perception and highlight the best aspects of your business.
Public relations (PR) isn’t just a communications tool for big corporations. PR is a vital part of every company’s integrated marketing strategy.
PR offers benefits that differ from other types of marketing initiatives. For example, paid advertising can generate leads for your products or services but won’t build trust and credibility for your business.
PR can help your small business create trust and credibility, build legitimacy, and grow faster.
The challenge for most small businesses is how to create impactful public relations initiatives without a big PR budget.
Fortunately, there are many ways that small businesses can engage with their public that don’t cost a fortune.
Here are 7 proven small business PR tactics:
1. Tell your story
Every small business has a story to tell.
Why did you start your business? What motivates you to keep going? What is your “why?”
People have been telling stories around fires ever since there were people who could start fires.
People love stories.
So, if you’re looking for an excellent way to relate to people (your audience), a story is a great way to do it. Share your story on your website, in a blog post, in podcast interviews… anywhere you find an opportunity.
But, to share your story, you have to know what it is.
So, take the time to figure out your brand origin story and any other stories worth sharing about your business. Then write your stories out, so they’re ready to share whenever an opportunity arises.
2. Set Google Alerts
Google Alerts is a free service that notifies you anytime keywords of your choice are mentioned online.
Use Google Alerts to notify you anytime your brand name appears online.
Monitoring what’s being said about your company helps you understand how your business is being perceived. It’s a diagnostic tool. And knowledge is power.
Once you set your Google Alerts, they continuously run in the background. There’s nothing more for you to do until you’re notified that your brand has been mentioned.
Then you can make course corrections to counter negative perceptions and/or assess the positive impact of your PR efforts.
3. Engage in grassroots community activities
Your community is a source of support – if you tap into it.
That’s true for both individuals and local businesses.
Connecting with the people in your community is a great PR tactic (even if your business is entirely online). It’s always worth your while to build strong connections with the people who have a vested interest in your success – the other members of your community.
Participating in local events, supporting other businesses in your area, and doing charitable work in your community will help you build positive relationships and make good impressions.
Now, grassroots efforts like these aren’t scalable. But that’s okay. While scalability is important, grassroots efforts don’t need to be scalable to be impactful.
The relationships you build in your community are likely to generate some of your most vocal advocates. And, word-of-mouth promotion is worth its weight in gold.
4. Create a media kit
Every small business should have a media kit.
A media kit is simple to put together and can serve as a PR ambassador for your business 24/7.
So, what goes in a media kit? And what do you do with one once you have it?
A media kit should include some of the following elements that showcase your brand identity:
- A fact sheet about your business
- Bios for the leadership members on your team
- Your company logo (high-resolution transparent PNGs in both color and black and white)
- Headshots of your leadership members (high-resolution)
- Product photos, if you sell products (high-resolution)
- Pictures of your team in action, if you provide a service or run a retail location (high-resolution)
- An introduction to your brand (including your origin story!)
- Any other unique graphic design images or information that will represent and educate about your business.
If your business is tight on funds, you may be concerned about how you’re going to pay for professional photos. But, don’t worry. While professional images are best, well-lit amateur shots will work, too.
The goal of your media kit is to provide journalists, bloggers, and other content creators with resources to present your business accurately and professionally.
So, make your media kit available for download on your website. Create a dedicated media page with a link to download your media kit and an email address press members can use to contact you.
When your media kit is available for download 24/7, it’s working for your business even when you’re not.
5. Write and distribute press releases
Press releases are a quick, direct way to communicate with local media outlets.
A press release is a short news announcement that you (or someone on your team) write and send to local news sources.
News outlets are always looking for stories. By distributing press releases, you’re helping your business and the publications and broadcasters who need fresh content.
So, when is it appropriate to send a press release?
Consider writing a press release when you’re:
- launching your business
- opening a new location or changing locations
- launching a new service or product
- hosting a local event
- sponsoring a charitable endeavor
- revealing a new innovative technology
- or any other big news that people should know about.
Create a list of press contacts at your local newspapers, local news channels, and local radio stations. These contacts should always be included when you distribute a press release.
For more significant news, create a list of social media influencer contacts, industry bloggers, and national trade association publications. If your news impacts more than your local community, send press releases to both your list of local contacts and your list of digital contacts.
For tips on writing press releases, check out this article from HubSpot.
6. Help A Reporter Out
If you’re looking for opportunities to build credibility for your business, HARO is a great tool.
HARO (short for “Help A Reporter Out”) is a free email service that connects people with journalists who need sources to interview or act as subject matter experts.
Let’s say you run a physical therapy practice. Join HARO and quickly scan their daily emails for requests for physical therapy experts.
Now, this technique does require some diligence. HARO sends messages three times a day during the workweek. But, it takes less than a minute to scan a HARO message. And if you make this a habit, it’s almost no effort at all.
So, keep an eye on those HARO requests. And be ready to respond quickly when you see a request for expertise in your field.
Finally, be sure to follow the instruction for the request. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity (and waste your time) by failing to follow the directions.
7. Build social media relationships with influencers
Social media is a free PR tool.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow you to engage with your audience directly. And, your interactions remain as an active historical record that anyone can see.
That means that the hard work you put into creating authentic positive engagement lives on as proof of your brand’s good citizenship.
It also means that any missteps are immortalized in public. So, be sure to think before you post.
But, beyond creating positive engagement with your followers, you can also be proactive in building relationships with influencers in your industry.
Influencers are content producers who generate large groups of followers. They’re generally experts in a niche topic for which they have a strong passion. Their passion inspires their followers.
Spend time investigating the influencers in your field. Reach out and get to know them (in a low-key, non-stalker, non-sales way).
By making your business visible in association with influencers in your field, you’ll naturally build a broader range of awareness within your target audience.
You may even attract the influencer’s attention, prompting them to offer to partner with you.
But, always remember that social media is social. Being a creeper on your audience’s favorite influencers’ profiles will not reflect well on you.
Your goal should be to build relationships and increase awareness in the proper context. Your interactions with influencers should be social – not promotional – unless you establish a paid promotional relationship.
Keep it authentic
Public relations is about shaping and promoting perception. But, it’s not a panacea for covering over poor business practices, shady ethics, or lackluster performance.
Remember that authentic messages are the most powerful messages. People can sense fakeness and virtue-posturing.
When your PR efforts come from a place of honesty, they have the most power to do good.
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