Too often, small business owners focus so much on growth via sales, traditional marketing, and advertising that they ignore — or don’t pay enough attention to — their brand story. There is real value in that story and it shouldn’t be ignored. People do business with companies they trust. The bigger the purchase, the greater the trust requirement.
This is where public relations comes into play. PR is about telling your story, which can be a very effective selling tool. Think of things like your company’s mission statement, your core values, challenges that were overcome to launch the business, how the business was conceived or the unique problem your business and its products solve.
PR can help you leverage these stories to help build trust with potential buyers. If your small business doesn’t have the budget to hire a full-time PR person or contract an agency, don’t worry.
Here are five simple public relations tactics any small business can use:
#1 Engage Your Influencers
Media mentions are good for both getting your story in front of a focused audience and for a search engine boost. Research your market to understand what journalists, bloggers, and other influencers would be interested in your story. Do your research well and it will pay off long into the future as your story evolves.
Targeting influencers that aren’t likely to be interested in your story is a waste of both your time and theirs.
Building relationships should be your next step. Leverage Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social or industry networks. Follow potential influencers and get to know their interests and their content. Read their work and comment on it. Participate in conversations they start or chats they are participating in. Find the right fit for your story.
- Pro-tip: While getting mentioned by a major media organization is a nice-to-have, you shouldn’t focus solely on that result. Mentions by blogs or influencers that have a smaller following, but still maintain a significant reach in your market can be very advantageous.
Never discount the potential influence of any pickup of your story. No outlet is too small to make a difference.
#2 Humanize Your Brand
People trust people, hence, it’s important to make sure you show who your business is and not just what your products are.
Quotes, photos, and videos can be very helpful in achieving this. Remember to include these in your press releases. Whether you’re telling the story of when a business was founded or your next product launch, include the people behind it. Use a quote from your product designer or perhaps the head of your company. Include a headshot or photo of your spokesperson using your product.
Tell the story of your company’s involvement in the community and include multimedia. If you don’t currently have any initiatives that involve helping others in your community, start one. Your employees will enjoy it, the community will benefit and so will your brand image. It’s a win all around.
#3 Keep the Story Alive
PR is not something you can just do once or on occasion. Public relations has to be part of the business. You have to keep your story alive. You have to keep people thinking about you, and that takes a steady stream of content. That does not mean an excessive amount of press releases that will make people’s eyes glaze over, but a steady stream of messages shared or stories told so that you’re not forgotten.
Share your business’ mile-markers and contributions to the community. Update your clients and the industry when you have significant updates to your product or perhaps a new product line. Have you done research or a survey to help inform your business that might be useful to your customers? Share that!
#4 Leverage Press Releases for Discoverability and Traffic
Remember to think beyond earned media when distributing a press release. Traditionally press releases were used just to get media mentions, but now a press release living on the web has the power to drive buyers.
Distribution provides traffic via links back to your website and greater discoverability. When people search for key terms in pursuit of a product or service they are looking for, distribution of your press release can help ensure that you will come up in the search results.
#5 Monitor and Measure Your Success
Your business can’t improve without knowing what has worked and what hasn’t. The same goes for public relations. Be sure you set up goals for your PR activities and monitor/measure your results. You’ll need to adjust your tactics along the way and this will help you determine what direction you need to take for continued success.
With press releases, you should test writing styles, image inclusion, placement of links, headline/subhead strategy and the day/time of the week that works best for you.
When thinking about creating a public relations plan, it can seem like an expense without a clear ROI to a small business owner, and sometimes that may be true (the ‘not clear’ part). You have to think of PR’s long-term effect. It may not be an immediate boost to the bottom line, but rather consistent, positive growth over time.
By Victoria Harres, Vice President Strategic Communications & Content at PR Newswire
[Author Victoria Harres, is vice president of strategic communications and content at PR Newswire. She regularly contributes to the Beyond PR blog on topics related to public relations and marketing.]