For many small businesses, the painfully slow recovery of the national economy has been difficult to navigate. The Christian Science Monitor reported earlier this year the recession that ended more than three years ago has been followed by the feeblest economic recovery since the Great Depression.
The story also found that “since World War II, 10 U.S. recessions have been followed by a recovery that lasted at least three years. An Associated Press analysis shows that by just about any measure, the one that began in June 2009 is the weakest.”
Given this dire finding, small business owners are ready to see the light (or economic bliss) at the end of the tunnel. And all the while, competition for goods and services is increasing and the marketplace is evolving at a break-neck speed (think electronic commerce and social media). Many small business owners are asking, “How do I stay ahead of the curve? How do I differentiate my company from the competition while successfully handling daily operations?”
As a public relations practitioner that has counseled many small businesses across a wide range of industries (finance, professional services, technology, telecommunications and more), I have found that a strategic public relations program is one solution. Implementing an effective, highly-targeted PR campaign can not only help increase sales, but help build and strengthen your brand. If maximized, PR can also help with recruiting highly-skilled employees.
Now, I realize some small business owners might say, “I do not have the money or time for a public relations agency or PR staff.” That might be true for some companies.
However, if you are a company that is looking to take its business to the next level, you may already be implementing a number of tactics to raise awareness. You are hustling to develop and maintain social media platforms to increase visibility and interaction among customers. You are being quoted in the media to raise public awareness and recognition of your company’s differentiators. You are securing speaking opportunities at community and professional associations/groups, submitting information for specific awards and rankings, and constantly updating the company website for better functionality and search engine optimization.
If not, you can bet that the competition is merchandising favorable media coverage to prospective customers, leveraging social media channels, and is active in various trade organizations. That is why it is imperative for small business owners to never underestimate the marketplace.
Further, it is critical for public relations programs to constantly move forward. Without constant and consistent effort and engagement, not only will you lose hard-earned momentum with target audiences, but marketing collateral becomes dated, media contacts change, social media features lose effectiveness, etc. – all leading to substantial cost and time to restart the process.
It is also important to remember that public relations initiatives need to be tailored to specific audiences. In public relations, there is no “one size fits all” approach. For example, some existing and potential customers – depending on the industry – might be good targets for an expansive, highly-integrated social media campaign. Others might rely upon trade publications as a valuable source for information, meaning favorable news coverage in those magazines could help generate new business.
Public Relations is all about the bottom line and a company’s brand. If executed successfully, a clearly defined public relations program offers small businesses a way to constantly reach customers and prospects with clear, concise messaging – messaging that accentuates differentiators and expertise. Without continuous outreach and visibility, your small business might be just another name in a crowded marketplace.