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Small Business Publicity — Executing PR Strategy and Deciding When to Hire Help

Public relations is a crucial part of your overall marketing plan. In the previous posts in this series, we already discussed how to capture attention, and why you need PR, so now the next question is how to execute a PR strategy, and whether to hire help. Let’s dive in!

Realizing a PR strategy well isn’t always an easy task — nor is it a simple one. It requires a specific set of skills that, as a small business owner, might not be within your wheelhouse and even if they are, you likely don’t have the time to do it well.

PR people have writing skills, including the ability to think like journalists while writing attention-getting copy like marketers. They have people skills, such as the ability to schmooze the media without being blatant about it. They have the persistence to deal with rejection and to approach the press multiple times through multiple channels, including phone calls, emails and social media. Finally — and many would argue most importantly — they have access to connections developed through their years of experience.

How do you know when you need professional PR assistance and when to go it alone? As with anything else in business, it’s a matter of assessing your goals, resources and budget.

[gdlr_process min_height=”300px” type=”vertical” ] [gdlr_tab icon=”icon-flag” title=”Goals” ] Objectives of PR typically include some or all of the following:

  • Creating, promoting and maintaining a favorable reputation and image for your business.
  • Educating prospective customers about your business, products and/or services, particularly if what you sell is innovative or unusual.
  • Attracting new customers to your business.
  • Supporting and enhancing the rest of your marketing and advertising activities.

Suppose you have a new Italian restaurant. Your primary PR strategy goal is to attract new customers from the local area and to support your existing marketing and advertising activities. You decide you want to get mentioned in five to 10 local publications and/or blogs, including the ones where you’ve already placed advertisements. You can probably handle this yourself by researching your local media and reaching out to the journalists and bloggers personally.

On the other hand, if you’re launching a new wearable fitness technology that will be sold globally online, your goals will likely also include establishing a reputation and educating customers about what your product does. In the crowded technology field, doing this right could mean pitching hundreds of tech and fitness bloggers, journalists, websites and print publications. You’ll almost definitely need professional help to build those relationships and secure quality coverage. [/gdlr_tab] [gdlr_tab icon=”icon-time” title=”Resources” ]Don’t underestimate how much time a PR campaign can take. Assess the time and staff you have available to devote to public relations. This involves:

  • writing press releases,
  • making media lists of which media outlets you want,
  • researching the right folks at those outlets and obtaining their contact information,
  • sending them out,
  • following up by email and/or phone,
  • keeping track of responses (or lack thereof) and following up again,
  • rapidly responding when a member of the media “bites” to provide them whatever they need — a product demo, interview or even TV appearance.

Is this something your regular employees have the bandwidth for without other parts of the business suffering? [/gdlr_tab] [gdlr_tab icon=”icon-money” title=”Budget” ]Ideally, your budget will fit your goals and resources, but what do you do if it doesn’t? If you want worldwide publicity but you’ve got a small-town budget, you need to make some compromises.

You might need to do it yourself at first, focusing your efforts on specific messaging or only the most important outlets, slowly expanding your reach until your business gains enough traction that you can afford to hire PR help. On the other hand, if you feel confident that you can produce results, then perhaps it makes sense to look at other areas of your budget that can be scaled back.[/gdlr_tab] [/gdlr_process] Want to find out more about what’s involved in doing it yourself? PR Newswire is a good resource for learning PR basics and distributing releases. Their PR Toolkit offers press release templates and other tools to help small business owners. [gdlr_toggle_box ]


[gdlr_tab title=”BONUS: When You Can’t Afford Not To Call in the Experts” active=”yes”]One area where you definitely need a pro on your side is crisis management. Every small business needs a plan it can put into effect immediately if something happens. Gini Dietrich, the founder and CEO of integrated marketing communications firm Arment Dietrich, which produces the Spin Sucks blog, and author of the book Spin Sucks, says your plan should include the five Ps:

  1. Predict what might go wrong,
  2. Position your brand in response.
  3. Prevent a crisis by proactively listening to what people are saying about your brand.
  4. Plan how you’ll respond immediately.
  5. Persevere until your reputation is remedied.

Even if you can’t afford to keep a PR firm or consultant on retainer, it’s a smart idea to have one help you create a crisis management plan, then develop relationships with several so you have a “shortlist” of firms or consultants you can call to spring into action in an emergency. (You need several for backup, because at the time you have an emergency, one company may not have the manpower to help you right away if you’re not a regular client on retainer.) [/gdlr_tab] [/gdlr_toggle_box]

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Contributor at Fundera
Rieva Lesonsky is a small business contributor for Fundera and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company. She has spent 30+ years covering, consulting and speaking to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.
Rieva Lesonsky