Leveraging public relations to get noticed

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One of the most consistent fundamentals of marketing is to get noticed. That maxim holds for small businesses, both B2B and B2C—even during a pandemic that’s upending the norms and guardrails that define marketing and sales.

Getting noticed is how you separate yourself from competitors. It’s how you give prospects a reason to look more closely at you. It’s how you attract eyeballs, attention and wallets. Yet these days, with whole economies adjusting to new financial normals, few business owners have the resources to redouble their paid advertising.

At the same time, many would argue this is no time to reduce advertising expenditures. It produces results that are predictable and quantifiable; it brings people in the door. If you’ve already scrubbed all possible inefficiency from your ad budget, you’re likely reluctant to risk jeopardizing your existing flow of new business by cutting further right now.

In this scenario, ramping up your public relations (PR) can help. At the 50,000-foot level, PR requires more time and effort than dollars. But a campaign that’s well-planned and executed can work with your ad dollars, as a supplement, to bring in new business. In some cases, notably freelance professional services, strong PR can be your entire marketing effort.

Consider these possibilities for getting noticed:

  • Establish a social media presence. Make sure your business has accounts on Facebook and Twitter. Keep your business accounts totally separate from your personal ones. As with Thanksgiving dinner, avoid politics and religion. Build a following by inviting customers, clients, vendors and others to connect. And make sure to post to your accounts regularly. Use social media to draw attention to your PR tactics; be sure to read the responses often and carefully. Ask for feedback, and encourage discussion and engagement.
  • Be contrarian. If you’re in a competitive business and most are leveraging a particular strategy, do something different. If everyone else offers free estimates, offer some other kind of discount or premium. If everyone is selling low prices, sell high value instead.
  • Be zany. Think of a promotional event that’s unusual enough to raise eyebrows. Something a local news outlet might pick up on. Think hot-dog-eating contest or other challenge that gives you a chance to showcase your business while showcasing your winner. Send advance notice to newspapers and TV stations, who might cover it. The more decent-quality event footage you can provide, the more attractive the story becomes to a news editor.
  • Unusual Signage. If you’re in retail, you probably have signage at your business location. But what about your vehicle? Employees’ vehicles? The sidewalk in front of your business? And while signage should always include your business contact information, it doesn’t have to look like a sign. It could be a trompe l’oeil painting on part of your building. Or on a local attraction. The goal is to get people noticing and talking. Leverage the attention on social media with nothing more than a cellphone camera and some clever, timely wording.
  • Become an SME (subject matter expert). Pitch articles about your industry to local news outlets, magazines, social media interest groups and community websites. Choose a topic of interest to your prospects. One that answers basic questions in a way that invites inquiries. As an example, a financial advisor might want to do a piece about the 10 smartest moves you can make in today’s economy. Focus on a common dilemma or concern, not your business.
  • Cultivate relationships with writers. Reporters and feature writers are underpaid, and publications are understaffed. The more of their work you can do for them, the more value you bring to a relationship. Find out who covers your industry for local news and industry publications (including print and electronic ones). Then put yourself in their shoes and reach out. Become a source for trends the writer might want to report on. Hold yourself out as a go-to source—not just for information and quotes but also as someone who can steer the reporter in the right direction. The more you’re quoted as an expert, the more credibility you’ll amass.
  • Be a news release guru. Develop a skill for creating press materials you can send to media contacts. Use any excuse to create a release: a personnel change. A new location. A new menu item. Positive results you can brag about. A new process. A new client. Always include a boilerplate paragraph at the end about your business. And always list a name and contact info if the reader wants more information. Then send your release to every contact on your list. For the most important contacts, particularly if you’re promoting an upcoming event, follow up with a phone call, text or email.

A robust PR strategy can be a key element in your overall marketing effort. It’s effective, inexpensive and highly flexible for optimizing your business. For strategies that optimize your funding options, get in touch with our small business financial specialists. Call 1-855-WHY-PANGO (1-855-949-7264).