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Ten PR Tips for Small Businesses

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I have been swotting up on some of PR recently, and I stumbled across a very old article produced by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations here in the UK called ’10 Golden Rules for Public Relations for Small Business’.  Despite the fact that the article was produced about 10 years ago (the article was published by the IPR…and the Institute has since gained ‘Chartered’ status!), the tips are still as relevant today, so I thought I would summarise and share here

1.  Define all your publics

These are your main customers, occassional customers, people who you think you can turn into new customers, suppliers, local press etc.  You should find out what they think of your company, and what their buying habits are – i.e. what they do / where they go.  You can gather this information via questionnaire for example, or phone a few key customers, or collect newspaper clippings about your company

2.  Decide what you would like them to think of you

For example – do you wish to be known as the most reliable?  The most modern?  The fastest service?  When you have it, write it down in just a few sentences.

3.  Make sure your staff know what you’re trying to communicate

Keep them informed and motivated.  They can only help you if they know what you are trying to achieve

4.  Think of an appropriate, relevant, interesting ways to communicate your key messages

For example, you may organise a launch event around one of your products and invite the local press, or local people. 

5.  Make friends with trade and local journalists

Read the stories they cover in your business sector to see what they find interesting.  Do you have an employee with an interesting story or are you taking on more staff or perhaps winning a prize?  Make sure your stories are the right ones for the local papers first by reading them carefully!

6.  Know your publics.  What do they want?

Good PR is about good management.  Good relationships with your publics will only follow if you are providing a genuine service.  The easiest way to build business is to improve business you already do with existing customers.  Are there additional services you can offer?  Most customers will apprecate you talking to them to find out how you can help them.  Why not take some to time go on company visits or hold a customer evening? 

TIP:  Like spouses, don’t expect your publics to change – you need to fit in with their patterns of behaviour.  If they buy from trade exhibitions, don’t try to buck the trend – be there!

7.  Remember, editorial coverage is considered by readers to be more objective than advertising and they give it more credibility

Getting your company’s name in the papers where your customers and potential customers may see it (not just where you will see it!) can be very important.  If you run a gardening centre, why not try to be the ‘gardening expert’ for the local radio station’s questions and answers?

8.  Sometimes you have to look beyond direct sales

Unless you work from a market stall, you’re in business the long-term.  You have to create an environment in which you will flourish e.g. you could write a leaflet which gives customers ideas to use and buy new products.  This is what Sainsbury did with their celebrity recipe campaign – they sold out of fromage frais within a couple of days!  Don’t be afraid to borrow ideas and don’t measure them in terms of sales.  Your reputation with your customers will be much enhanced through ideas like this

9.  Set targets and measure your PR

In the first year, if your company has never been convered in the local press, perhaps you should set out for two or three positive items.  Send an annual questionnaire to your customer base asking them to evaluate you and work towards improving their rating of you by the same time next year.  Measure how much they spend with you and aim to increase it by say 15% year on year.  By talking to customers about their budgets and needs, you will be able to estmate reasonable targets

10.  Every company has an image or reputation

You can’t avoid it.  The question is just whether it’s management by you, or whether it just ‘happens’.  The latter means you don’t control it, may not even know what it is, and you can’t USE it.  Stay in control

More info on the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)

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