Public relations is an indispensable tool for big businesses in a fiercely competitive environment. That’s because these companies understand the need for publicity to keep them relevant and visible in the marketplace. And they are prepared to pay for it.
Smaller companies, on the other hand, don’t always create a budget – yet PR can give them the exposure they need to grow their presence, build and improve sales and bottom line performance.
So why isn’t PR higher up on the agenda for small to medium businesses when its value is so readily accepted in the corporate space?
PR is routinely under-rated or over-looked when it comes to strategy in small to medium enterprises. That often comes down to reasons which include insufficient budget, a perception of poor value-add (it is difficult to measure results) and the tendency to lump PR into marketing, where it is seen as secondary to other activities rather than being a key driver in building a competitive edge and adding value.
Seeing is believing
But what is the major challenge facing most ambitious small businesses? For many, it is visibility. With an established line of business and a proven method of adding value, the SME that seeks to grow needs to find more customers. That means visibility; the more prospective clients know about who you are and what you do, the more likely they are to engage with you for your products and services.
Today, the internet is the first place to which a great many people turn when they need something. A website is considered essential for all but a very few specific businesses. But your online presence doesn’t end there; in addition to a website, smart small businesses are increasingly turning to their PR company to assist with content marketing.
What is content marketing?
That’s a marketing format in which the creation and sharing of content demonstrates your company’s insights, ability and awareness of issues. It demonstrates your competence and helps new customers to find you.
Content marketing isn’t new, of course. But the internet, in combination with traditional media, makes it accessible to almost any business. Remember that people like to trade with those they know and when your market has an easy opportunity to find out about you, a gap is bridged.
Weighing up the odds
There are a number of areas which compete for funding as you seek the competitive edge. One of the more obvious and popular ones is training; while certainly necessary, this isn’t always the best option for two reasons.
The first is that most SMEs will look to hire mid-level employees who bring with them the right mix of qualifications and experience to get started and add value from day one – whether this be more qualifications than experience, or more experience than qualifications. This is important for the SME, as many are often thinly- or even under-capitalised and can’t carry employees who aren’t yet bringing in income for the company.
The second is closely related: most SMEs can’t afford to invest in training, only to see workers change jobs before the investment in skills is realised.
That compares to training in a large enterprises, which gives a very different result. Qualifications are needed if there are plans to move to management – so, and this is perhaps tongue in cheek – the small business owner needs to beware of training up staff for possible management roles in large corporations.
Related: PR is Pretty Dam Powerful
Where to find your game changer
Arguably, visibility provides a better competitive edge. Not only does it bring your business to the attention of new customers, but it also has the added effect of drawing in talent. That visibility can be achieved as the result of the tools used by a PR practitioner to market your organisation to the target audience. The right PR professional helps you provide the market with relevant business opinion, showcasing what makes you different; giving your company and brand a voice and speaking to the market.
Low- or no-visibility is a common problem for many highly capable SMEs: they are simply an unknown in the very markets they wish to target. How common is it? It is something even my own company faces, focused as we are on client delivery rather than marketing our own skills and abilities through the very services we offer our clients.
The lesson is that if you do make PR your focus, your business can stand above those which don’t – and earn the competitive edge you seek.
5 Reasons Your Start-up Isn’t Getting The PR You Need
Understanding and working with the requirements of journalists covering your industry will go a long way toward increasing your company’s visibility.
Getting press coverage for your start-up has become increasingly difficult. With an average of 550 000 new businesses starting each month, you’re facing some serious competition to gain traction with your audience. If you don’t take the right approach to PR, you’ll see your competition pass you by.
Exposure doesn’t happen by chance. Behind every great brand story you see in the media, there is a great PR strategy.
Let’s look at some of the most common mistakes that prevent startups from getting the press coverage they desire.
1. Not taking blogging seriously
Blogging on a regular basis is one of the best ways to impact mainstream discourse. A growing number of journalists and reporters are constantly looking for new and interesting story ideas in the blogosphere. You can make your blog a fresh source of news stories by writing about your story and your industry, and by commenting on different aspects of your business.
To get the right press coverage by blogging, ask yourself why your company exists and what problem your product or service solves. Present your story as human and relatable and make sure it is compelling enough to grab the attention of the media.
2. Not networking with relevant journalists
Networking allows you to build a quality relationship with relevant journalists whom you might not have encountered otherwise.
To get quality press coverage, you need to focus on networking with journalists who cover your niche, and to learn what they write about and what their audience likes to share.
Once you have built a connection, you can pitch them the story of your business.
But before you jump in, keep in mind that journalists hear pitches all the time. If you’re sending generic pitches that focus on only yourself, most likely they’ll ignore your proposal. To make your pitch stand out, tailor your story to fit with their beat.
3. Not making your story exclusive to each journalist
Exclusivity is a strong enticement for a news outlet. Not only will it make them more invested in the story, but it will also entice them to get the jump on their competitors.
Assuming you have exclusive-worthy news, the next thing you must decide is what outlet to offer it to so that it has the best chance of reaching your target audience. The goal is to not always reach the broadest audience but to get your news in front of existing and potential customers.
4. Not using the right tools
To build and maintain a great PR presence, you need to use the right tools; ones that help you amplify and monitor your business’s public appeal.
Some of them are:
- Help a Reporter Out: HARO is one of the easiest free tools when it comes to pitching the media. It lets you gain access to daily emails from journalists seeking interviews.
- Google Keyword Planner: This free tool helps you plan out your blog posts with relevant keywords that people are searching for. Careful word selection will help your blog show up higher in search engines returns.
- BlogAbout Title Generator: My favourite free tool to help me brainstorm catchy titles for reporters.
- Google Alerts: This is a free tool that sends you alerts when your company or competitor is being featured in various media outlets.
5. Not being authentic
Reporters are consistently getting pitched stories from entrepreneurs that want press. To make your pitch stand out, be authentic. The reporters covering news in your industry want to hear your story.
Keep in mind that they need you as much as you need them, and they are actively looking to build relationships with entrepreneurs. So, don’t be afraid to reach out to them. To get your story covered, you need to find the right reporter and the right publication at the right time and to be authentic.
No matter how good your product is, it may fail if it doesn’t make its way into the public eye. To get the right press coverage, you need to build a strong network of journalists and bloggers writing about your industry.
When you send a pitch, ensure that it stands out and tailor it to fit it with the reporter’s beat. From this list of errors, you can avoid the mistakes preventing you from getting the PR you desire. Fix it and you can increase the visibility of your start-up.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How To Use Mistaken Inquiries To Drive Awareness Of Your Business
Whether this is a walk-in, telephonic or e-mail client, be sure not to regret your interaction with them, have a plan in place, how you will deal with such situation.
At times, we receive inquiries or communication from people seeking products/services that aren’t in our line of work. It can also be someone who has mistaken you for a certain company that you’re not. It’s easy to dismiss such inquiries, by simply saying you’re unable to assist the person.
Don’t miss an opportunity to publicise your company, treat the enquirer as one of your clients. Take a proactive approach, use this as an opportunity to inform them about your company and the services/products that you offer.
In doing this you are building a reputation for your brand, and introducing your corporation to someone who might have never known about. It might happen in future, that the said person needs your products/services when they remember how you professionally assisted them, then they will come to you.
Another possibility is that at that moment they are connected to someone who needs your services and they don’t know anyone in your field. Should you play your cards correctly, you might gain a client for the future or the present.
Whether this is a walk-in, telephonic or e-mail client, be sure not to regret your interaction with them, have a plan in place, how you will deal with such situation.
Your response should be structured in a manner that will make the enquirer feel respected and not embarrassed about the mistake they’ve made. When responding to emails ensure that you do so quickly. Sympathise that you cannot assist them because your company only specialises in different services/products. State clearly what is it that you provide and how you do it.
2Show how you solve problems
In the process of explaining your services/products, demonstrate how you can solve people’s problems or meet their needs. This means that you describe your products/services in detail. However, your description should be a comprehensive summary, consider that the enquirer has a life to live.
3Make your brand visible
When responding to emails, remember to include your logo, motto and other things that your brand is identified by. Your offices should be designed keeping this in mind when someone walks in, they should immediately see your identity.
If you have samples to give, kindly offer them to the enquirer. Should you have demonstrations/presentations that you do, politely inform the enquirer about them. Let them know how they can get hold of this.
Related: How To Impress The Press
5Provide them with an opportunity to come back to you
You can share your business card with someone you meet, this should have all your contact detail, i.e. telephone, fax, e-mail and social media details. In an email, these should be nicely positioned at the end of your email, as part of your final greeting.
6Refer them to a relevant business
Should you know of any company that offers the services/products they need, refer them to it without hesitation. If possible, provide them with contact details and a contact person to assist them.
How You Can Avoid The ‘Facebook Effect’
Don’t let perceived realities – of your business or those of your competitors – derail your strategies.
As a young entrepreneur, I received my first bit of publicity from a daily in Durban. It was massively exciting and stroked my ego tremendously because after all, what I had achieved was considered newsworthy enough to be published in a newspaper.
There was a big photo of me on page four, with my interview where I talked about the success of a promotion I had conceived and implemented. My friends saw the article and called to congratulate me, and in my distant social circles people discussed my story and congratulated me too.
Perception versus reality
What they didn’t know was that my business was barely breaking even at the time. The perception of my success was very different to my reality. I proudly showed the article to my mentor (naively expecting a pat on the back) and instead he asked: “Do you believe what they say?” “What do you mean?” I said. “Do you believe all the things the journalist has written about you in the article?” he asked again.
I didn’t answer him because I knew deep down that they weren’t all true. I wasn’t the hugely successful businessman that I was portrayed as in the article.
“If you believe all the good things the press write about you, you’ll also believe all the bad things they say. Be grateful for the press, but do not let it govern your emotions.”
Beware curated reality
In today’s era of social media, fake news, memes, and overly filtered photos, it’s very easy to become envious of the perceived lives that others showcase.
Much like the envy we experience when scrolling through our friends’ posts of their expensive destination holidays — where they can be seen showing off their tanned, ripped bodies while sipping expensive champagne — the same type of envy occurs between business owners when they scroll through competitor’s company timelines and witness their competitors winning great awards, attending glitzy launches and receiving kudos from the press.
In my experience, the perception created by these often-boastful social media posts is seldom close to reality. Like the article on my Durban business, what my friends perceived was nowhere near my financial reality.
Be cognisant and sceptical of this curated reality, so that you as a business do not react in one of two ways to a competitor’s posts:
- Don’t try to emulate their strategy based on what seems to be working
- Don’t end up feeling depressed based on your jealousy of this curated reality.
Instead, your reaction to witnessing these posts should be to:
- Frame your competitors’ posts simply as marketing. They have carefully curated these posts to only show followers the great things about their businesses, products and services. The ‘make-up’ hides the imperfections.
- Use your emotions to make a change. Use the energy their posts ignite inside of you — not the content they project — and pump that energy into YOUR strategy to reinforce it.
- Drive your differentiator harder. Make sure your business stands out as being unique and a thought leader in its industry and not one attempting to copy others. Your differentiator should not be influenced by what you are seeing either positively or negatively.
Always remember, your competitors’ posts represent selective truth-telling because they curate what they want you to see online.
They will never post when times are tough and they are losing clients and not making a profit at the end of the month. Don’t believe everything you see, and most importantly, don’t let these ‘perceived realities’ affect you or your business strategy in any way.
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