As posted in the Gaston Gazette
Most small businesses and entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for ways to make the most of their budgets. That doesn’t mean PR has to be out of reach. There are a number of innovative (and relatively inexpensive) ways to raise your organization’s public profile that are often overlooked.
Interested in tapping in to these useful PR techniques? Here’s how to get started:
- Snap some photos and pass them along. If you’ve taken photos of an event at your business or pictures of yourself at a charity fundraiser, don’t sit on them. Most people know to share images like that on social media, but it’s also a good idea to send them to your local newspapers and magazines. Visuals are more appealing than words to many audiences, particularly to milliennials. As Emily Silverman of Arnold Street Media notes, visuals can be up to 60,000 times more effective than text with this up-and-coming target group. Media outlets are more likely to share a colorful and engaging photo, especially one filled with people from the community, than they are to drop in a short piece of text about the event. Editors know that a picture will catch their readers’ eyes better than words alone. And if they opt to share your picture, not only will you give potential customers more opportunity to connect a real person to your business, but you’ll also get a caption with specifics about your business tied to that image, which will help that information stick in readers’ minds.
- Make your materials do double duty. Businesses routinely produce materials that they share with the public – advertisements, fliers, brochures and more. But often, those materials are produced for a single event and then get discarded or aren’t used again until the event returns. Instead of scrapping that work, take the information produced and use it again. Add brochures to your customers’ bags. Take a photo of your flier and share it on social media. You can also use the text you’ve written and drop it straight into a newsletter or send it out as an email blast to customers. Whatever it is you’ve crafted or created, repurpose it at least once so that you’re making the most of your valuable time and energy.
- Publicize your promotions. Promoted an employee recently? Then be sure to share that news. But don’t just spread the word on social media or in a newsletter – contact the media. Publications that cater specifically to businesses and entrepreneurs often have a section set aside to share the news of people who are moving up the corporate (or small business) ladder, and your local newspapers also may be interested in printing this information, too. Unlike placing an ad, this kind of publicity illustrates to readers and potential customers that you aren’t just interested in promoting your product or service – you’re interested in promoting the people who work for you in a multitude of ways.
- Seek out bylines. A lot of business owners would love to see their local or regional newspaper publish a story about their history and successes. But unless there’s a specific event associated with your business (an important anniversary, a new service product, or a change of ownership), reporters are unlikely to bite. There are still several ways to get the media’s attention, however. You can, for example, pitch an idea to a reporter and offer to co-write it with them. While there are no guarantees, if you illustrate that you’re willing to do some of the legwork to get the article off the ground, you may be able to get their buy-in. You also can pitch a column idea to the editor of your local paper. If your business has garnered you the reputation as a resident expert in some area, the editor might see real value in having you provide regular advice for readers. Letters to the editor are also a good idea and they have more flexibility: you can pitch a letter or a variation on that letter to multiple newspapers, and they all might choose to run it. Whatever option you select, you’re getting your name in front of the public in a way that illustrates you are not only a local business owner, but also someone deeply invested in your local community.
- Connect your work with influencers. Putting in PR grunt work on your own is always valuable. But if you can tie that effort in to the work that others in the community are doing, particularly the people who are the movers and shakers in your community or industry, then you’ll get added benefit. Spend some time researching to see where those connections might exist. Do you share mutual friends? Connections through your place of worship? Do you serve on boards together? Are you involved in similar charities or nonprofit work? Do you have a project idea that the person might be interested in? Once you find a link, make a point of reaching out to see how you might work together, then circulate information widely about the results. You can gain real traction from circulating articles with your name in them, particularly on sites like LinkedIn.
Public relations can present unique challenges for the small business owner. These simply steps can give you a great way of gaining some confidence and getting your name out there.