A Small Business Guide

What is PR?

Public relations is all about your business image and reputation. Everything you do (both personally and in business) must be scrutinised to consider how it may look on you, by using PR channels you can get more people talking about you, what you’re doing and how you are changing.

Which of course throws up the discussion that good PR can elevate a business faster than anything else but if you get it wrong…well, bad PR has destroyed more than a few businesses before now and as a start up, you are even more vulnerable.

There are plenty of PR companies and agencies who know the routine inside out and can really boost your reputation, and therefore your customer base, but the bills can rack up fast and sometimes it can take a while for news to spread naturally by word of mouth so it sometimes take a while to find that your business is really being affected by it. But there are several methods that you can boost your rep without having to fork out for external bodies.

And most of them are easy!

Look after your own

I’ve put this one first as it is (I believe anyway) one of the most effective and easiest things to do!

Treat your staff well!

It’s essential, there’s a massive opportunity here and it costs you nothing! I won’t go into the details of the Theory Y vs Theory X business model (if you want you can read about it here) but the general gist is that there are two ways to treat your staff: 1) Like they don’t want to work and you have to whip them into shape; and, 2) Like they enjoy work and you should reward them to encourage them to love it even more!.

It’s easy to wrapped up in a debate about which one is more effective, it all depends on many different factors but generally speaking I think that treating your staff well will benefit any business.

Your staff are a crucial part of your enterprise! There is also a wide market that they can connect you to if they are motivated to do so. Treat your staff well, be empathetic and most of all try to transfer some of your excitement for your venture into them. If they are comfortable around you it is easier to talk to them, to get them interested in new things around your business and for them to take that knowledge to all their friends and family.

Basically, if your staff enjoy work you will find that they will advocate your business and spread news of what you are doing into the community. And word of mouth is the best form of marketing no matter what anybody says!

Don’t forget what you’ve already got!

This is linked to another blog I wrote regarding Good Marketing Practices for start-ups on my Portfolio Website. Putting up interesting, fresh and regular content is beneficial in many ways but it is also a good way to keep your prospective customers “in the know”.

It’s not always necessary to rely on external companies when you are first starting out. Keep people coming back to your website with daily, or weekly, news stories or start an online newsletter. Alternatively, if you don’t trade online, invest in having a monthly magazine available in your store. You could sell space for advertising if you want to make some money back or just consider it a larger investment by keeping it completely ad free and professional.

Don’t sell products…

There is a well-known marketing proverb that most Marketing students will often find themselves muttering to themselves as they sleep: “Don’t sell products…sell solutions!”

When you are talking to your customers, arranging marketing materials or writing PR packs never refer to yourself as selling physical goods or services. Emphasise the point that you are selling a solution to a problem that exists. And try to relate that problem to your target market.

For example, I set up a Marketing Consultancy and Web Design / Development business called Project D.E.I.A (link). I didn’t emphasise that I just offered these services but that I was a solution to give unsigned UK talent an easier way into the industry. For businesses I highlighted the problem that with many websites built for companies is that they are static (i.e. there is no way for them to log on and change/update the website themselves!). Try to put a similar spin on your PR efforts.

Don’t mess with the media

A major faux par that most businesses are guilty of is releasing Press Releases and sending them to media websites and local news stations.

Remember, they are looking for news, they aren’t interested in if you have a new fragrance shampoo on your shelves. Get involved in the community and do something that they want to tell everyone about!

A second point I should mention about Press Releases is that they should be informative and not drag but have everything included that the reporter needs because they will fill in the gaps if there are any. It’s obvious, they need a story so they will add bits in if they aren’t highlighted and this could end up with customers getting the wrong idea about your business. And that’s not good…

Put yourself around town

This is also something I glanced over in another blog. Join forums and comment on topics that your business is related to. Yahoo Answers is a great website for this.

By sharing expertise, you are showing that you are open, friendly and knowledgeable in your chosen field. People will come to trust your judgement but you will quickly become portrayed as a spammer if all you do it talk about your business.

Take an unbiased view and offer a genuine answer. Then at the end add a link to your business or just add a line saying that you run a business in this area and offer the chance to talk about it more through your website.

Social Media

Most people are getting sick of hearing Marketers talk about Social Media all the time but there are two sites that can really help you out here.

1) Amazon
OK, so not strictly speaking a social networking website per se but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used like one! read up on your market with popular books and then write a review on them to show that you know what you are talking about. Then, just like in Yahoo Answers, add your link at the bottom encouraging people to talk to you more about it through there.

2) YouTube
Make a short video (just use Windows Movie Maker) and post it up on YouTube. Use some of the keywords you chose for your business to target the video and encourage your customers to view it from your website, newsletters, magazines or whatever you may be using. Keep an eye on the comments and be sure to post back quickly and with detail, encourage them to view your website (again, no spamming!) and contact you through there for more details.

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