Going beyond sales – why PR is important for small businesses
Now and then a business owner or director will say they don’t need PR – that it’s not relevant to their business. They couldn’t be more wrong and here’s why.
PR is all around. It’s woven into the very fabric of our daily lives. It’s just that you or that dismissive business owner doesn’t view it as PR.
From the look of your brand, the tone of your receptionist’s voice or your media presence; call it what you want. But it is PR and it’s s a necessity if your business has ambitions to go beyond merely selling.
It’s for smart SME’s that think long-term and understand how positioning is as important as profiting. PR works to secure you influence and authority across the media landscape and in the public conscience.
Even if you aren’t paying for a PR service, your business is almost certainly engaging in recognisable PR tactics. Do you have a social media account? Populate a company blog? Do you attend networking events to meet other business owners? PR is the art of promoting the image of your business that you wish others to see.
Take recruitment, for example. Does your recruitment activity reflect the culture of the company? Do you claim to be excellent at customer service but fail to acknowledge job applicants? Maybe you claim to be a first-class communicator but leave anxious interviewees dangling for weeks whilst you decide who to appoint.
Your approach to recruitment speaks volumes. And if you’re a consumer-facing company, it could even affect sales. After a poor recruitment experience with Virgin Media, 500 of the candidates (who happened to be customers) cancelled their subscriptions. This reportedly cost the company £4.4m in lost revenue – almost as much as Virgin Media’s entire HR budget at the time.
Even if you’re not customer facing, it’s likely that disgruntled candidates will speak ill of you to their nearest and dearest. If they’re disgruntled because you’ve treated them disrespectfully then this is a huge PR red flag. The PR game is all about reputation, and this can be destroyed much quicker than it can be rebuilt.
Reputation-building PR is the key to becoming an authority in your field. This is the type of long-term positioning that will put you above your competitors who may currently own the market. It’s probably not because they’re better than you, they probably just shout louder.
There is however one key thing you can do to start to raise your voice – engage with customers. Take any of the following examples of where your business could benefit from PR:
You have a great story to tell, but no one to listen
Your business can’t be a cloned copy of what’s already out there. Customers buy into your story as much as your product or service and it’s the personal touches that stick.
You have a launch coming up, but no one knows
Got a great product and a launch date set but scared no one will show up to the party? Lay the groundwork by crafting content, building media relationships and planning your outreach. As long as there’s ample time to plan, PR can set things in motion for a successful launch.
You have things to say, but can’t get your voice heard
As founder or director of your business you’ve got stacks of knowledge, insightful comments on current events and plenty to blog about but you don’t have the time or the resources to get your voice heard. By building media relationships, and keeping a keen eye out for media opportunities, PR can give you a platform to say what’s on your mind, while getting your brand noticed along the way.
Your competitors are stealing all the column inches
You see your competitors splashed all over the news, snagging headline after headline. Their product might not necessarily be as good as yours, or their service as top notch, but their voice is louder; they’ve harnessed the power of PR.
It’s only when you find your voice, that you can share it with the wider community. Live your brand – share your message. The more you do, the more visual you become and the better chance there is of someone finding you and placing you as an expert in your field.
Take a strong stance on issues your customers care about – ask for their opinion and to participate in the conversation.
But, crucially, do not produce content that exclusively promotes your products. Jeff Bullas wrote: “progressive brands need to become publishers and not just advertisers. Advanced content marketing is a human and creative art form…it is multi-media content at scale.”
Don’t view content as advertising, and don’t consider it only in relation to how much revenue you can directly attribute back to it.
Remember, PR is brand building, it is building and protecting reputation, it’s opinion forming, it’s creating rewarding relationships. Most importantly, PR is about projecting the image of your business that you wish to see – authoritative, influential and successful.
Written by Jane Whitham, Director at Cream Consultancy