When public relations (PR) comes to mind, most people associate the industry with large corporations or industries. Some might even be completely unfamiliar with the term. While there are several definitions, according to PRSA public relations is “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” In other words, public relations professionals are concentrated on generating publicity and maintaining a positive relationship between businesses and the general public.
Every business should be invested in its public reputation, no matter its size. On a limited budget, most small businesses can’t hire an agency or an in-house public relations department. But maintaining a positive image is an endeavor any business can achieve every day. And by utilizing a combination of media platforms, your small business can increase brand awareness and better its reputation with simple public relations tips. Here are eight public relations tips for small businesses to maintain good publicity.
- Understand your audience
- Set communication goals
- Maintain a consistent brand image
- Pitch to journalists
- Harness social media
- Obtain earned media
- Participate in community events
- Always be honest
Understand your audience
As with any discipline of mass communication, understanding your audience is essential to public relations. In PR, audiences are more often referred to as publics. A public is a group of people with a shared interest or a shared stake in an issue. Each public deserves their own forms of messaging depending on their type of connection to your business.
PR professionals also conduct research into what publics are relevant to a particular business and how their attitudes and opinions are formed. This knowledge provides insight into how to influence a certain public for them to have a positive opinion of a business.
Set communication goals
During the early stages of a PR promotion, it’s essential to set a clear objective. PR goals go hand and hand with the goals of businesses at large. Ask yourself what it is you would like to communicate to the public meant to be influenced. Are you trying to generate increased brand awareness? Are you trying to inform the public of your products or services? Or are you trying to generate sales by persuading the public to purchase from your business? Finally, objectives are set for PR professionals or business people to measure the success of their promotions.
Maintain a consistent brand image
When communicating to the public, consistency is key. Use all forms of communication and promotion to reinforce your brand, mission, and values. Establishing consistency will build trust between your small business and the general public. Consistent messaging also makes your brand stand out amongst any competition. So let your business’s communications and actions work together for your benefit, not work against each other.
Pitch to journalists
Two of the most fundamental and traditional functions of PR professionals are maintaining relationships with journalists and pitching stories. Indeed, local media professionals play an important role as gatekeepers of information to the people around them. Reporters with reach to potential customers are also a valuable asset. They will be more inclined to create publicity for your business if you remain in contact with them and persuade them that your story is important to their readers.
The most common method of contacting journalists to publish a publicity-generating story is through a press release or news release. PR professionals write press releases via email to journalists to make newsworthy announcements. These could range from a product launch, new leadership or locations, to a successful quarter. Keep press releases to the point and relevant to a targeted audience. PR professionals can provide you with many public relations tips on how to write the perfect press release.
Harness social media
Several public relations tips revolve around small businesses’ uses of social media. Social media is a powerful tool that allows local businesses and media professionals to be their own gatekeepers and generate their own publicity. When it comes to social media marketing, producing quality content is the surest way to boost engagement and conversions.
Social media allows for two-way communication between customers and businesses. Businesses need to be consistent and conscious of how they respond to feedback and handle criticism. Or else it could create a damaging crisis situation. If social media is well-harnessed, the benefits of social media include increased brand awareness and brand loyalty.
Obtain earned media
There are three types of media exposure that businesses should strive to achieve in their PR strategy. First is owned media, like social media pages and websites. Secondly is paid media which is primarily advertising. But the third and sometimes most reputable is earned media produced and driven by consumers.
As consumers, we have all been swayed by earned media for a product or business. Think about the last time you made a purchase or completed a project because you saw it done by someone else on social media who was not sponsored.
The public is more trusting of those with similar interests to them who generate publicity without anything in return. But because a business is not creating the content themselves, there is no way to guarantee to receive earned media. However, there are some strategies to prompt earned media.
Participate in community events
Community is presumably a core value of your city. So one way to strengthen the bond between your small business and your local customers is to participate in community events. You can even decide to throw your own publicity event and invite the media to promote the event. Planning and holding your own event can be effective, but also expensive and time-consuming. Instead, it’s simpler to research and work with what is around you.
The public expects local businesses to have pride in their community. So learn how employees can represent your business at fairs, charity events, and other local events. Financially supporting charities relevant to your business’s customers not only creates a positive image but gives back to the community. Collaborations like these bring awareness to good causes and generate profit for all parties.
Always be honest
Above all, one of the most fundamental public relations tips is to always be honest. The public expects fair and honest communication from businesses. The PR industry is known for “spinning” stories in a way that makes the company look more favorable. But distorting the truth or lying is never acceptable. Lie to the public and you will risk your business’s reputation never recovering or being trusted as an employee or media professional. Finally, honesty establishes trust and credibility between your small business and the public.
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