What is PR and does your small business need it?
Updated: Mar 24, 2019
Good communication will let people know that your company, your brand and your products or services exist. Strong messaging helps turn your one-time customer into a loyal and returning fan.
When you have a small business, you are always going to be limited on time and most likely resources, so ensuring your PR activity is timely and consistent is not always going to be top of your list.
So how can a PR freelancer help? I run Blue Lizard Marketing as a freelancer working solely with clients as their PR resource, or on occasion I link with other experienced PR freelancers to create a larger team. Together, we help clients get into their target media, be that national, local, trade or consumer, print or online. We build stories and respond to journalist needs so we have a balance of reactive and proactive PR activity to help clients build their reputation and credibility. We pull together award entries which win and we produce events that work! However, this is just the end part of the story. Firstly you need to be aware of the benefits of PR for your business.
What is PR?
According to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), “Public Relations is about reputation - the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.” “Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its public.”
They go on to say: “Every organisation, no matter how large or small, ultimately depends on its reputation for survival and success.
Customers, suppliers, employees, investors, journalists and regulators can have a powerful impact. They all have an opinion about the organisations they come into contact with - whether good or bad, right or wrong. These perceptions will drive their decisions about whether they want to work with, shop with and support these organisations.
In today's competitive market, reputation can be a company's biggest asset – the thing that makes you stand out from the crowd and gives you a competitive edge. Effective PR can help manage reputation by communicating and building good relationships with all organisation stakeholders.”
We believe PR comprises a broad range of disciplines which focus on building trust, reputation and stronger relationships with the public. This is where it differs from marketing. Marketing is all about promotion, PR is all about credibility.
Digital media has really shaken up the old and traditional ideas of press coverage and altered the way in which all PR professionals work. Digital has provided more opportunities than ever before to help businesses, small and large, to achieve their goals. Small and growing SMEs have far greater opportunities to connect with the media than ever before, which is exactly why PR should be important for your business.
What should you focus on?
Getting your stories into the media will be top of your list regardless of whether your customer base is local, national or international. Depending on your resources, you will probably look at the basics initially, which include pushing stories out to targeted journalists and contacts, building your online presence and reputation, attending or setting up your own events, looking to retain speaker slots at relevant events, entering relevant awards, considering media training so you can effectively face the media and, of course, developing your social media presence.
How do you measure results?
To start with, you need to set your objectives! You may want sales, increased social engagement, product placement via bloggers, vloggers or influencers, increased awareness and coverage of your content, press coverage, website traffic or perhaps research results from surveys. It is really important to be clear at the beginning of your project and relay exactly what you want to achieve to your PR professionals. If you do not, you are not only setting yourself for a losing battle, you are setting your agency up to fail.
Here’s why I think freelancers work well for small businesses and growing SMEs.
- flexibility – we offer on-tap or on-going support. Your project can be as long or as short as you need it to be.
- cost – our overheads are lower than a larger PR agency so we can pass on those savings to clients. Our rates are charged on an ad hoc, fixed daily or project basis.
- expertise - the opportunity to connect with experts in specific areas of PR, particularly with digital needs or very specific media needs is always available. I am not tied to in-house staff expertise as an agency might be. I can mix and match freelancers so we can ring the changes and make sure your stories connect with the audiences you have in mind.
- project management – we know how much we can take on and success is our end goal – after all, we are all responsible for our own business success as well. If we cannot meet your timelines, we will say so! If we can exceed your expectations, we will say so!
Agencies will always have their place and many will be employing the services of freelancers to meet their client needs, but using an individual freelancer or group of freelancer’s offers the opportunity needed to tap into exceptional talent at a reasonable cost.
With every small business and SME dependent on its reputation, strong PR support can make a real impact. Getting the right people on board as early as you can and working towards a defined goal sets a business or project off on the right foot, and may even drive the decisions that dictate whether a business succeeds or fails.
If you are considering PR for your business, get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org and we can chat through the opportunities open to you.