The Telegraph recently featured a brilliant article about PR and what small businesses need to get on board with it, read it below:
Getting the right people on board as early as possible to work towards a clearly defined goal can really set a business or project off on the right foot.
A PR strategy can be critical to the success of a small business. At the very least, good communications will let people know that a company (and its products or services) exists. And even after a purchase, sustained, strong messaging can turn one-time shoppers into loyal and happy fans.
But smaller companies, limited on time and resource, don’t always get round to doing it properly.
This is where PR practitioners can help. From getting clients in the press, to building online reputations, they can help distinguish businesses of all sizes from the competition.
What is PR?
According to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), PR is defined as “the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”
It comprises a broad range of disciplines, including corporate and crisis communications, digital media management, and government affairs. Overall, it focuses on building trust, reputation and stronger relationships with the public.
The rise in digital media has shaken up traditional ideas of press coverage. “PR professionals have more opportunities than ever to help businesses achieve their goals,” says Jason MacKenzie, president of CIPR. “The same things are important now as they were decades ago, so SMEs should still include PR at the earliest possible stage. An experienced, professional practitioner will understand every element of the business and its goals.”
Eyes on the media
One such practitioner is Eulogy, an agency that has been supporting SMEs for 20 years.
“We grew up in the old world of print newspapers dominating the media landscape, but today it’s a massive mix of multi-channel platforms, from print to online to audio,” says managing director, Elisabeth Field. It’s her agency’s job to understand how SMEs can navigate this confusing media landscape.
Eulogy’s focus is on media and public relations – getting clients into the media so that members of the public are more aware of them. It uses several approaches, such as training clients to effectively face the media (in interviews or events), pushing out stories to target publications, and making a client’s online presence and reputation as strong as possible.
Making business social
Some agencies, such as MBA in London, are more focused on selling as an end goal. The social media PR agency’s expertise is in digital – particularly social media, bloggers, vloggers and online influencers (people in the public eye who have a sway over the things that consumers buy).
“Our goal is to interrupt a consumer’s – or a business’s – research phase when they’re considering buying a new product or service, most of which happens online or on mobile,” says Megan Hallinan, the agency’s head of PR and social.
Quantity of coverage is important, but quality more so. It’s not just about product placement; the agency wants to see its clients’ products actually being used, or their services being written about, by key influencers.
Regardless of which type of PR you go for, it’s important to set out your goals from day one. “If you’re looking for sales off the back of your PR investments, make this very clear to the PR person or agency at the start,” advises Ms Hallinan. “Otherwise, you may be unhappy with the result and the agency will be fighting a losing battle.”
Adam Bennett, digital marketing manager of identification product specialist Digital ID, was pleased with how a national PR agency, Fourth Day PR, increased his brand’s visibility and trust. But he advises other SMEs to speak to at least two existing clients of a potential agency before signing. “You want to know what they’re like to work with. If they can’t disclose clients, alarm bells should ring.”
Freelancers offer flexibility
Agencies aren’t the only solution on offer. Independent PR practitioners can help too. CIPR board member and independent PR practitioner, Lindsey Collumbell, feels that she and other independents offer more flexibility with budget and time, which suits many smaller companies.
“We can be engaged in a manner that suits each client’s requirements – on retained contracts, ad-hoc projects or an interim basis, with rates generally charged on a daily or fixed price basis,” she says.
Rachel Follett, an independent practitioner who operates under the Reach PR brand name, agrees: “Freelancers can offer real value for money. I don’t have some big office, but I have a desk, printer and phone at home. I’m always connected to the outside world and industry,” she says.
“Agencies have their place, of course, and many employ the services of freelance workers, but working from home has never been so easy or accepted. I think that agencies feel pressure, because they know there’s exceptional talent out there who charge significantly less and possibly know a lot more.”
With every SME dependent on its reputation, strong PR support can make a real impact. Getting the right people on board as early as possible to work towards a defined goal sets a business or project off on the right foot, and may even drive the decisions that dictate whether a business succeeds or fails.