Many small businesses believe public relations is the domain of large businesses that have significant budgets and resources at their disposal. While it is true that many large businesses do invest heavily in public relations, there’s no reason why small business can’t get involved too, without breaking the bank.
What is public relations? There are many definitions, however, in general it involves managing the flow of communication between a business and its target audiences. Unlike advertising, public relations is generally free (although it may not be free to manage), you usually have limited control over where and when it appears, and while public relations tries to promote favourable opinion the lack of control can work against you.
Why then wouldn’t you just advertise? As well as price, credibility is the prime reason. For example, which would you more likely believe: an advertisement extolling the virtues of a product or an article in a credible newspaper highlighting your business and its products? Most people would choose the article.
Where to begin with public relations?
So you’ve decided public relations is worth trying; where do you start? Generally, public relations is about story telling. Look for uniqueness in your business, products or services, and also the people who work for you. Look for stories in your business that you think may interest others. Most businesses have stories to tell but sometimes you are too close to the business to see them. Getting a fresh set of eyes into your business for a quick look may be worthwhile.
Once you’ve identified your stories, you then need to look for ways of getting them to your target audiences. Newspapers are the obvious choice, along with magazines, radio and TV. These days it’s also worth looking at opportunities on the Internet. As well as your business website, there are article directories, news sites and of course social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Perhaps less obvious but potentially just as effective are activities such as speaking at seminars and conferences, booking a stand at an expo, providing information to local, state or federal governments or getting involved in a community event.
Whatever you do, always keep in mind your target audiences. Any publicity can be good but if the publicity doesn’t target your audiences it’s unlikely to be effective. It may seem like commonsense, but make sure you target media outlets, Internet sites and activities that you know will help get your messages to the people who are likely to purchase your products and services.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, unless you have the skills and time, employing the services of a business to help you plan, develop and deploy your public relations plan is well worth the expense.
Keep in mind all these things, work hard and smart and you’ll find that public relations can be extremely effective in growing your business.
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