In working with the Five O’Clock Club on public relations issues during the past few months, I’ve learned many members are associated with smaller businesses–either as owners, consultants or freelancers. As a small business owner myself with a background in corporate public relations, I’m always interested in helping such individuals learn to become their own best self-promoters, both for themselves and their businesses. I believe it’s a good idea to learn good p.r. techniques whatever your career goals or job search level may be.
It’s a good idea to learn good p.r. techniques
whatever your career goals or job search level may be.
Why Public Relations for Small Businesses?
What comes to mind when you hear “public relations?” Most likely, your reaction is the same one I usually get from both large and small business clients. I have been a p.r. consultant for years, yet I’m always surprised that most clients think of public relations in the same outmoded way: merely old-fashioned publicity–“ink”–or worse, contrived sham productions–“stunts.” I also hear the term misused as a fuzzy catch-all, meaning anything from marketing and advertising to surveys and free samples. And nearly everyone presumes a p.r. effort requires a big expensive agency.
None of these perceptions are remotely accurate anymore. Certainly, p.r. will always focus heavily on publicity, but today it includes community participation, bylined articles, public speaking, media commentary, relationships with local area reporters and development of good professional citizenship.
These elements of p.r. can be particularly effective at local and regional levels and therefore, especially useful to people in small business. Shopowners, freelancers, contractors, entrepreneurs, writers, consultants, homeworkers and others making a living at a more “grassroots” level actually have opportunities and forums beyond the usual advertising and networking options–and they can learn to be their own best promoters. However, good p.r. is still an art of sorts and requires some research, thought and planning (but not necessarily expense!) at any level.
Surprisingly, even large corporations often fail to
realize who their audiences actually are.
A Modern Definition
It’s always good to start with a good, clear definition: “public relations” is simply accurate, consistent and timely communications that convey the right message to the right audience. This is true across-the-board for businesses of any size.
Creating a P.R. Plan
So how can you apply this definition to your small business? To get started on a p.r. effort, there are three relatively simple steps you can take:
I. Think through your audiences
Surprisingly, even large corporations often fail to realize who their audiences actually are. I define “audience” as an individual or group who has any interest or stake in the activities of the business. This can reach far beyond just your customers. It’s likely that your audiences include the local media, your neighbors and surrounding community, current/ former employees and their families, vendors/suppliers, government regulators/agencies at several levels and your competitors. And remember, audiences–friendly or not–have the power to communicate information about you.
“Public relations” is simply
accurate, consistent and timely communications
that convey the right message to the right audience.
by Steve Bolerjack