When it comes to marketing your small business, you’re probably already using some of the more common tools—such as advertising—to raise your profile and engage with audiences. But public relations is also an essential part of the marketing mix for any small business looking to achieve its business objectives and be a success.
PR can help grow your presence and connect with the right audiences, spreading the good word about your products and business. Whether you’d like to do the PR yourself or you are looking to engage a PR professional, there are some simple considerations for any small business.
Clearly identify your business objectives and connect these with your PR objectives. Perhaps you want to grow your brand recognition in a niche audience such as pet store owners or people who are into craft. PR activities can identify the people you need to reach and the best ways to reach them.
Before you contact the media, think about who you need to target and why they might be interested in doing a story on your business. Why are you relevant to them and their readers?
Many publications publish annual lists of the features they are planning. Keep a look out for these on the websites of the magazines you are looking to contact, as there might be a planned feature that fits your business perfectly. Perhaps they are running a feature on sustainability and you have just launched a new eco product—look at the timing of the feature and shape your approach with this in mind.
Also, take the time to study the magazine, newspaper or website you’d like to approach. Often magazines have regular sections where you could fit in: profiles on specific businesses, what’s on calendars and new product pages highlighting what’s new in that sector. If you can approach the editor with a pitch that shows you understand their publication and why your business is relevant, you will instantly have a rapport with them—it pays to do your homework.
Sit down and draw up a schedule around the PR you’d like to do. Think about the timelines of the media you are targeting and when they need information from you. If you want a story to appear in November, you need to speak to them as early as July to be considered for the issue.
Be patient. You may be sending out pitches to editors, distributing media releases and calling targets, but often it takes a while for results to come back. Also, the more you do, the more effective it will be. If people see your business appearing in a number of places then it will help build your brand profile.
Be prepared. It is better to delay announcing news around your business or launching new products by a few weeks than to go out as soon as possible if you’re not prepared. Media will be expecting you to have some materials ready so get these sorted before you announce anything.
A concise media release on your business or products is much better than a long-winded ramble. Keep materials short, sweet and relevant. Also, think about crafting a media backgrounder document on your business. This is great to have on hand for sending to any media contacts or other audiences and can also be hosted on your website and given out at any events you attend.
Photography is another essential element—particularly if your business is product based. Media outlets look for professional product photos and it also helps to get some of your team and premises to tell the story of who you are. Professional photos don’t have to be expensive—shop around for different quotes and ask friends and colleagues for recommendations. Quality photos are an important resource. They can be used for media, marketing materials and your company website.
Events are a fun and interactive way of showcasing your business and products to customers firsthand. If you are a supplier trade events such as the annual Home & Giving Fairs are an important way to get your business noticed by buyers and the industry. Even if your first showing doesn’t produce many sales you’ll still network with contacts who can be valuable to you down the track.
Local fairs and street festivals can be a good way of connecting with the local community and giving them a chance to sample your wares. Also look into any events in the industry you work in, such as food festivals if you are selling kitchenwares or food gifts. Use your presence at events to generate excitement about your business. Be ready with materials and product samples and have your most personable team on the stand to ensure everyone who comes into contact with your business has the best possible experience.
If you are a retailer you can also explore holding events in store for your customers. Get them to add their details to your database so you can invite them to special in store events and give them a heads-up about new products and sales. Think about what suits your business: if you sell homewares then you could organise a cooking demonstration or wine tasting. Look at holding workshops or talks to appeal to your clientele.
If you are planning on attending an event or exhibition, it is a good idea to time product launches to coincide with this to give you something new to showcase while you’re there.
Send media contacts at target publications samples of the product along with product information—including pricing and imagery—to make their job as easy as possible when it comes to including you in their product pages. Speak to magazines and websites about running a giveaway of your product in return for coverage in the magazine.
Make a list of influential people in your sector and send them each a sample of your product—they can be great advocates for your business and may be inspired to showcase your product through their own communication channels.
Raise your profile
Research awards your business may be eligible to enter—new product awards or small business awards or local business awards could all be good opportunities to raise your profile and showcase the work you are doing.
Put yourself forward to speak at industry events and position yourself as an expert in your field. Attend industry events and network—the more people you meet, the more chances of making connections that can help promote your business.
The more you put into the PR for your business, the more you’ll get out of it. Communicate—the world won’t notice your business unless you are out there telling your story, so make it happen!
Erin Huckle is an account director for Avviso Public Relations, a boutique agency in Sydney specialising in PR for small businesses, associations and events. This article originally appeared in Giftrap magazine, the Australian Gift and Homeware Association’s member magazine.