Telling your company’s tale is one of the most important aspects of running a successful business, but it can be a double-edged sword. Just as successfully relating your tale can build brand and attract new business, missteps can harm your company’s reputation and send your customers packing. If you are a small business owner, chances are you don’t have the luxury of hiring an internal communications manager or an external PR agency to develop and execute a strategic communications plan. Luckily, the spectrum of PR needs varies depending on the size and scope of an enterprise — the larger the company, the more complicated it becomes. As a small business with a more intimate customer base, your PR efforts also can be much more targeted — this makes executing a successful PR program a lot more manageable.
But where to begin?
Here are 4 tips on how to launch a successful PR program for your firm:
1. Know thyself — Before you can properly tell your story, you first must figure out what it is. How can you expect others to know who you are, if you don’t? Every superhero has an origin story. What’s yours? Put on your existential thinking cap and ponder why it is you are doing what you are doing. Why did you start your business in the first place? If you are a long-standing family business, how and why did your relatives start the business? As a small businesses, you have the advantage of intimacy — a fundamental human need — which empowers you to make lifelong customers through your personal touch. Often, this most important aspect of a business cannot be quantified. In need of inspiration? Check out this list of companies who have developed sweet personalities.
2. Know your audience — Now that you know who you are, it’s time to determine who you are going after. Is your product or service age-specific? If yes, then you should take some time to understand generational marketing, and how it can make or break your business. If you aren’t quite sure who your audience is, learn from your competitors to see who they are attracting.
When identifying your audience, you should always take into account:
- geography (rural or urban, domestic or international)
- socio-economic group
- family structure (single, family, couple, young children, retired)
- lifestyle (active or passive, social or recluse, work/school or at home)
Maybe you have a diverse clientele that includes some or all of the above groups? As a rule, the more specific your audience the more targeted your messaging should be. Likewise, the more broad your audience the more comprehensive your messaging should be.
3. Make a plan — Nobody ever had a successful PR program without also having a plan. Just as you would with any other facet of your business, determine where it is you want to be and establish a roadmap for how to get there. This is where things can get tricky. PR is not a hard science, but a social one — this means that it can be difficult to measure ROI. But the more you plan, the better you can measure the effects of your efforts. Most importantly, understand that PR is a long-term game. If you expect to be on the front page of The New York Times tomorrow, then you will be disappointed. Whether it is building your social media presence, establishing relationships with reporters or developing a successful company blog, you must be prepared for the long haul.
4. Be Truthful — In the Age of Social Media, anything you say or do will be held against you — for better or worse. If you make false claims, customers can call you out on it via Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, or any number of emerging social media outlets. Rather than feel threatened by transparency, turn it to your advantage by keeping open channels of communication with your customers. Lying also can get you into some hefty legal trouble — so steer clear. Regardless of size, the best businesses “sell themselves” by offering superior products and/or services. If you deliver upon what you promise, your customers will reward you with loyalty and the “free PR” of talking you up both in real life, as well as online.
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