Small business owners understand the importance of promoting their products or services. They have to connect with potential customers in some way, right? But many owners fall short when it comes to public relations – often because they don’t understand it.
PR refers to communications between an organization and its public. The practice utilizes a third party or platform to tell a company’s story, often through media, events, social media, content marketing initiatives and more. Unlike traditional advertising, PR campaigns primarily focus on “earned” opportunities rather than “paid,” which can result in more awareness, authenticity and credibility.
When it comes to improving brand awareness and moving potential customers through the sales funnel, PR is essential. Demand Gen reports that 96% of B2B buyers want content with more input from industry thought leaders. Further, a 2017 Chief Marketer report found that articles and blogs (two common PR tools) were rated as most effective for moving B2B prospects through the sales funnel. So why aren’t small businesses going all-in on PR? Here, we outline what small businesses tend to do wrong, and right.
What Small Businesses Get Wrong
They Operate Without a Plan
A 2019 study from OutboundEngine found that 50% of small businesses operate without a formal marketing plan. Without a strategic plan, your chances of generating the widespread results you desire plummet. A greater marketing plan integrates all strategies and tactics – including PR – to ensure they are collectively supporting pre-defined goals. An occasional media pitch or event appearance probably won’t yield long-term results. Consistent, integrated strategies are most effective.
They Expect Instant Results
A single feature story or keynote speaking engagement are not the sole silver bullets for lasting awareness. Effective PR success takes time and consistency. Building trusted relationships with reporters and other community or industry leaders doesn’t happen overnight. However, a steady and thoughtful effort will undoubtedly solidify your position in the marketplace and bring people to your door. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
They Don’t Understand “Newsworthiness”
Media relations is a cornerstone of PR. While small business owners understand the power of the press, they often don’t understand how to leverage it. There is a tendency to distribute press releases for every company announcement. Those achievements feel important to the internal team, but they aren’t newsworthy from a journalist’s standpoint. Think first: Would the journalist’s audience care about this (really)? How does it affect them? Just because you care about it doesn’t mean everyone else will. Inundating journalists with too much information isn’t effective, and it can actually deter the media from engaging with your company.
A PR team can conduct media training with your executives and spokespeople to help them understand the needs and wants of targeted media outlets, and how to interact with reporters to achieve mutual goals.
They Don’t Target Appropriately
Many small businesses have a grand vision of getting featured in a major national news outlet. However, pitching a story to The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal is often fruitless and untargeted. While there certainly is a time and place to shoot for the moon, it’s most likely your outreach strategy would reap more benefits from smaller, targeted media outlets that your potential customers consume daily.
A skilled PR team can help small businesses identify the right publications – including trade publications, podcasts and community news organizations – that will allow them to directly connect with their audiences. It’s better to reach 100 legit prospects consuming niche media than 100,000 people via mass media who don’t need your product or service.
They Ignore Content Marketing
Content marketing, which can include blogs, case studies, whitepapers, videos and more, builds thought leadership and can generate leads. The tactic provides a platform to answer customer questions, address pain points and boost search engine rankings. Content marketing takes time and strategic thought, and many small businesses don’t allocate resources or budget to do it right.
They Don’t Leverage Social Media Effectively
According to Statista (2018), social media is a top tactic for small business marketing strategy. It’s a cost-effective tool to reach your audience or build thought leadership. Despite social media’s ease of use and benefits, many small businesses don’t use it as well as they could. And some don’t use it at all!
Social media is also a key tool in word-of-mouth marketing these days. According to Talk Triggers’ 2018 Chatter Matters Word of Mouth Report, the most valued source of information for consumers is personal experience. Small businesses can leverage word-of-mouth marketing on social media by asking customers to leave reviews on Facebook, Yelp, Google and other relevant review sites, in addition to encouraging followers to share their experience on their own profiles.
Beyond reviews, small businesses that don’t take advantage of social media are missing out on essential customer feedback and opportunities to share company updates, media coverage, blog content, case studies and insight on industry news. Social media provides a direct line of communication with customers, allowing businesses to get real-time feedback, conduct customer service activities and better connect with their audiences.
They Put Off Website Updates
A website is your 24/7 digital storefront. Its look, feel, messaging and ease of use enhances (or derails) your credibility among potential customers and journalists who are researching stories. When you start PR outreach, including media relations and content marketing, a site that isn’t user-friendly or doesn’t have functionality to capture leads will cause your strategy to fall flat.
What Small Businesses are Doing Right
They’re Quick & Nimble
Small businesses can make decisions more quickly than large, layered corporations that require buy-in from multiple departments in order to move forward with an idea or switch gears. With less bureaucracy, small businesses can quickly adjust campaign concepts and strategies as priorities shift. Additionally, the approval process for PR communications is often much shorter due to smaller staff, meaning your PR team will be able to get your strategy moving quickly.
They’re Willing to Experiment
Since small businesses can make decisions more quickly, it’s easier for them to experiment with new tactics or approaches. Want to test out new messaging on social media? Try it out for a few weeks and benchmark. If something isn’t working, it’s easy to pivot to something else.
They Value Creativity
Small businesses have to be creative to maximize their budgets, and they appreciate PR teams who understand this and can work within their constraints to build great strategies. In our experience, it’s not always the brands with the biggest budget that perform the best PR-wise. Sometimes a creative, cost-effective campaign can have a bigger impact than one with a large price tag.
Small businesses that invest in a PR strategy won’t regret it, especially if they have a team of PR pros who understand how to integrate and maximize various PR, advertising and marketing tactics to create campaigns that drive ROI and achieve business goals. Contact our team today to learn more about our PR and marketing services!