How to Save Money on Marketing by Implementing a PR Strategy for Your Small Business

When small businesses draw up their business plan they almost always include a marketing strategy. However most of them fail to implement a Public Relations strategy. The reason for this is because many small businesses fail to recognize PR strategies even though they‘re around us all of the time.

What’s The Difference Between Public Relations and Marketing?

Marketing is advertising your company to promote sales. While Public Relations is establishing credibility. Having a PR strategy can be more effective than a marketing one since most people don’t trust promotional tactics and can “see right through” them. Essentially, PR is building trust and establishing a positive reputation.

Historically, PR relies on a third party or authority figures to endorse your company in a positive way. Nothing screams credibility more than someone else talking about how great your company is, instead of you shouting it to the world. It comes across unbiased, therefore, more trustworthy.

Public Relations is considered “earned media” since it cannot be bought. Therefore there’s no valid excuse for you to not be implementing a PR strategy - especially since it shouldn’t cost you anything (unless you pay a PR agency). Utilizing this will save you more money that you would typically be spending on marketing.

While PR is more difficult to measure it’s outcomes compared to marketing (because there’s no direct call to action), there’s no doubt about the long-term benefits of developing a plan. Essentially, you’re crafting an image or reputation to insert your business into your targeted market. Ideally, you should be integrating both a PR and marketing plan into your company's goals.

Outlining Your Objectives & Reputation: Developing Your Public Relations Mission

PR activities must be used in coordination with solid business objectives. Before creating a plan, you need to take a step back and outline your objectives, company culture, core values and your target audience. Essentially, what do you want your reputation to be and who do you want it to appeal to?

A great way to “get your head in the game” is to look at your outline through the eyes of a journalist. What is the key message that would be delivered about you in a news related platform, speech, blog, etc?

Next, look over your Business Plan and identify potential media opportunities in it’s timeline. These could be your business/product launch, expansion activities or new services that you offer. Schedule these in your calendar or write them down so that you can reference them throughout the year. This will give you the initial structure for your planning your PR activities.

Crafting a List of Potential PR Platforms: Reporters, Blogs, Websites & Organizations

As we mentioned earlier, PR is about getting a third party or credible source talking about you instead of you talking about you. This is where a little bit of networking will need to come into play. But before you can start reaching out to people or organizations, you need to research who exactly to network with.

Start by researching organizations that are related to your industry. For example, there are many associations related to the vape and marijuana industries. Make a list of these. Add websites and blogs applicable to your industry as well. And finally, research local reporters that have covered similar topics in your area.

Scheduling Media Outreach and Networking to Push Your PR Strategy Forward

At this point in the timeline, your individual expertise should come into play. Remember, PR isn’t about directly pushing sales. It’s about providing a story and useful information that appears unbiased. This is what you have to offer these channels. So once you’re ready to make contact, keep this frame of mind.

Now you should be ready for media outreach. Call or email theses contacts individually and schedule informal meetings with them where you can discuss your outlook on your company and the industry or how it relates to your community. Your opinions should be informational and useful industry data in a journalist's eyes.

At the first point of contact you shouldn’t necessarily push your own agenda. You are starting the relationship building process. Their job isn’t to promote your business - they’re not in marketing. The street goes both ways. The key point here is that you’re making yourself a resource to these professionals. If they ever have a story related to your industry or local regulations, they may want to contact you for input from a local business owner or industry leader in the area (YOU!). These relationships will pay off in the long run.

Executing Different Types of Public Relations Strategies

Now that you have a strong sense of how you want to present your company, and now that you’re dialed into the industry and community, it’s time to start executing PR campaigns. The following are some excellent ideas to get yourself started.

Contributing Articles

Look over your media list and find websites that accept guests posts. Contact the editor to pitch your idea. Your purpose of the article will be to provide useful information to the readers. But you do want it to be laced with your key message and objectives. Though no direct call to action should be provided, your contact information and approved bio can potentially drive traffic to your business - but most importantly, it’ll establish your credibility.

Speaking Opportunities

Research conferences, webinars or trade shows and nominate yourself as a keynote speaker. You will need to be proactive about your timing since these events are planned months in advance. This speech will have the same effect as the contributing articles as listed above.

Blogs & Social Media

Bloggers and social media gurus are always looking for more content. It’s what drives them. This is probably the hardest part of their job. So reaching out to them for a guest post or interview with them will give them great satisfaction.

Charity & Community Events

Staying active in your community makes you an integral part of it. Participate in local charity events and make yourself known to the community. You should be updating your social media and website to let others know of these endeavours. This builds trust and displays that you’re not a self-serving company ready to make a dime off of anyone. It shows that you have something valuable to offer to others and it will strengthen your customer’s loyalty.

Case Studies

Putting case studies out to the media does require customer/relationship participation but it’ll benefit your business immensely. A great example of this would be a story about someone who quit smoking and turned to vaping, specifically your vape shop. Or how your coffee shop supplies fair trade coffee and donates a percentage of profits to a charity that promotes the rights of workers.

Crisis Planning

And finally, there is crisis planning. Crisis planning a series of set responses you have to negative scenarios - whether it be about your business or the industry in general. Run through all possible points of conflicts and craft your own responses to them. Safeguard these responses by running through these scenarios with your staff so they know how to handle these situations in an operational way. This way you can continue to control your reputation and credibility. Afterall, you don’t want all of your hard work to go to waste.

Advice Beyond Public Relations: Committing to the Success of Your Small Business

We hope that this article has been of benefit for you. We‘ve been helping small businesses succeed since 2004 and provide them a variety of resources. To check out more helpful tools and tricks, check out our industry page for your business to see how you can continue to grow your business and reach your optimal potential.

Over 5 ways on How to Use Twitter for Your Small to Medium Business

Twitter is a great resource to establish your brand, increase visibility and inspire loyalty. Not only does it give you a platform to connect with your customers while they're away from your business, but it also allows your customers to talk about you or share you with their following. After all, even when people are out and about they’re constantly updating their social media with what they’re doing. All you’ve got to do is “put your business out there”. Here’s how...

Brand Building on Twitter: Creating an Account & Establishing Your Niche

When creating your account use your business name as your Twitter handle. You always want to stay recognizable. If your business name is long, shorten in. Be sure to include your location in the appropriate field and link your website as well. This is key point where you can drive followers to your website to learn more about what you have to offer.

Your picture should be a well-placed logo and your cover photo should coordinate with it in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Depending on the image sizes, your photos may be stretched or cut off. If so, find an alternate image or adjust it so that when it’s uploaded it looks presentable. Nothing says ammature like a lazy setup. It also gives the impression that you don’t care for the details. You may also change your background color to match your photos - of course, the classic blue is just fine as well.

Never skip over your Bio. You only have 160 characters to say who you are and encourage people to follow you. Your Bio is searchable in the twittersphere, so choose your keywords wisely. Rather than use hashtags, make a statement and include your niche - a little humor is never a bad idea.

Remember, your company’s Twitter profile is for your business, not your personal life. Every action you take on your Twitter should be expressing your niche and representing your company. If people want to hear about your kids first day of school, they will follow your personal account. Otherwise, it’s best not to mix things up since it may deter followers.

Producing Your Own Content On Twitter: Providing Status Updates

Twitter is a massive platform for sharing and engaging in conversation. While it’s great to retweet and converse with other users, be sure to include your own content as well. This shows that you have something to offer to your followers.

Tweet your about businesses upcoming events, new stories and specials. Let’s say you have happy hour or live music every Wednesday, be sure to tweet about it every Wednesday. Though it may seem repetitive, it’s effective and it will keep your new followers or semi-active followers in the loop. Additionally, including a picture in your tweet will make it more likely to stand out.

Hashtags and Trends on Twitter: Yes, There’s a Right Way to Use Them

Twitter newbies don’t always understand that function of a hashtag. A hashtag is used to join a conversation or tag your tweet under a specific topic. Tweeting a hashtag like #drinkingcoffeeeveryday or #wemakethebestcoffee is utterly useless as it's not something that people would necessarily search for. Something like #coffeeaddict or #morningbrew would be more searchable. Many websites have created lists for the top used hashtags per topic. Discovering these top hashtags will only take you a few min to find and implement in the future.

Implementing your own unique hashtag is a great idea to get people talking about you. Using the coffee shop example, create a hashtag unique to your coffee shop and write in on your menu board or display at your shop. When people come in for their cup of joe they’ll be encouraged to include it in their status update on twitter. Now you won’t be the only one spreading the word about your business!

Getting Social on Twitter: Finding & Connecting with Your Audience

The whole purpose for your Twitter is to connect to your customer base and have them keep you in mind. Be sure to follow your followers, including everyone that has talked about your business. Retweet or respond to people who have mentioned you and thank them for stop by. Like your followers tweets.

Though Twitter is large, you can easily find your targeted audience using the Twitter Advanced Search: You can search a keyword and input your city to see what locals are already tweeting about that relates to your industry. Like these people's post and make some friends.

Where there is internet, there is always trolls - especially on Twitter. There shouldn’t be any major concern so long as your don’t “feed” the trolls or get fired up by their controversy. Always respond in a polite manner and don’t let them drag your professionalism down with them.

Being Consistent with Twitter: Creating a Schedule for Your Tweets

There’s a common theme when it comes to losing followers: being inactive on Twitter. If people follow you, then they want to hear from you. Otherwise they feel that they’ve wasted a follow. This doesn’t mean you need to be posting every single day. However you should be posting consistently.

Live-tweeting isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. And sometimes you have some really good tweets that you’d like to save for later. If this is the case, you can save some preconceived tweets in your drafts and post them at a later time. Some people will set a period of time aside and write all of their tweets out for the next week or month. Then it only takes them less than a minute to go back and tweet it at the desired time. This way you don’t have to feel the chore of creating content in the back of your mind.

Promote Your Twitter at Your Business or on Other Online Platforms

List your Twitter handle on your website, business cards and display somewhere at your physical locations. Always make yourself available for customers to find. If you are active on other social media platforms (like Facebook or Instagram) you can easily link your posts to your twitter. Your Facebook post can be automatically tweeted. This saves you time on managing multiple accounts.

Beyond Twitter: Further Advice Personalized for Your Small Business

We hope that this article has been of benefit for you. We‘ve been helping small businesses succeed since 2004 and provide them a variety of resources. To check out more helpful tools and tricks, check out our industry page for your business to see how you can continue to grow your business and reach your optimal potential.