When most people think of public relations, they either imagine parties, Samantha Jones and celebrities or they think it’s only for the rich big businesses who can afford hiring a professional agency. What they may not realize is that there’s more to PR than parties and that PR is an essential tool for small businesses. Since small businesses have smaller budgets they need a big awareness boost, established reputations and online followings – all of which can be achieved through wise PR.
Unfortunately, many small business owners scratch their heads at the thought of a PR program, but it’s really not as confusing everyone thinks. PR is all about building your brand and getting your company’s name out to your core audience. Unlike advertising, PR results are earned rather than paid, so it doesn’t have to be extravagant or costly.
Incorporating some easy PR tactics into your small business marketing plan is a no brainer, so let’s get the ball rolling with these 5 actionable steps…
Build an awesome website. A website is key to a business’s success. Few things are more off-putting for potential customers than searching for a business online and finding nothing. No technical skills? Doesn’t matter. There are plenty of free and low-cost tools to get your website up and running, even with no knowledge of web design. Be sure your site is mobile-friendly too by choosing an HTML5 web publishing platform. Getting the word out about your business is easy when you have a professional web presence because your customers, like everyone else these days, spend most of their time online.
Create a company blog. An exciting company blog will keep your customers coming back to your website for more. It’s a great way to highlight a company’s culture without being too self-promotional. By positioning your business as an industry-thought leader, you will help build a reputation and retain customers. Next time they have a question or are looking for ideas, they’ll come to you.
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Get social. No matter your industry, social media is probably the number one go-to online destination for your customers today. It’s where everyone – from your grandma to your mailman – shares opinions and experiences, recommends services and stays up-to-date on breaking news and trends. Through social networks, it’s easy to achieve a huge reach at a low-cost by reaching influencers and potential clients. If you pay attention to what your audience is saying on Twitter, Facebook, etc., you can be part of their conversation, learn what they like and dislike, and use the channel as a customer service tool.
Utilize events calendars. If you are a new business or even a local hotspot, getting your business event mentioned in the press is hard. Luckily, most newspapers, local publications and websites (i.e. Patch) have calendars that allow you to post events for free. Whether it’s a grand opening or a shopping event, it’s a fool-proof way to get publicity.
And last but not least…
Throw a cool party. You didn’t think I’d mention Samantha Jones without mentioning a party! Yes, some of the rumors about PR are true – sometimes the easiest way to gain a following is to throw an awesome party. If you are looking for new customers or trying to get your name out there, all you need is some food, drinks, music and an open house. You’ll quickly become the most popular business in town. If you’re worried about retaining the guests as customers, offer them an incentive for coming back, like a coupon. Also, be sure to leave an address book near the front so people interested in your business can willingly provide you with their email address. These are great for follow-ups and future announcements or sales.
PR is not nearly as confusing (or glamorous!) as everyone makes it out to be. It is, however, vital to a small business’s success and reputation. Getting your name out there is the first step to gaining and retaining customers – and that’s what PR is all about.