There are a variety of definitions given to PR by various scholars, publications, and organizations, but they generally agree that it encompasses the creation and management of a business’s image in the minds of its target customers and the general public.
As a small business, your PR is going to be a defining factor of your journey to success. If done right, it can attract quality investors, partners, and customers, enabling you to grow and scale speedily. On the other hand, poor PR can have disastrous consequences for businesses of any size, with small ones being especially vulnerable. Here are a few actionable strategies you can implement to leverage PR for your business growth:
1. Tell A Story When you think of the biggest and most influential companies in the world such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Tesla, etc., you’ll realize that what comes to mind is often not the technical details such as their financial figures, but rather their brand stories, what many people often refer to as their “why.”
When you craft your brand story, and infuse it into your PR and general marketing, it will help to strengthen customer loyalty by tapping into the inherent desire to be part of something greater than ourselves. As Syed Balkhi notes in Entrepreneur: “The best approach to take is to humanize your brand and company… Step into your customers’ shoes, and understand their daily struggles, and the pain points of their lives. Then you can incorporate those pain points into your brand story to show why you’re different, and to connect with your audience on a much deeper level.”
There’s a reason why many brand stories revolve around overcoming challenges to thrive– it may seem trite, but it’s very relatable and appeals to the aspirational mindsets of most people.
2. Content Marketing Content marketing has been a small business buzzword for a couple of years now. Unfortunately, many business owners have signed up and invested money into content marketing, without getting significant returns on it. Most times, that’s as a result of faulty strategy and implementation. The upside of that is that if you handle your content marketing correctly, it’ll be easy to stand out, and reap all the benefits that those with poor strategy and implementation are leaving behind.
The first thing to do is identify exactly whom your target audience is, and build a buyer persona that you’ll use to target them accurately. Secondly, produce quality, unique content that can gain traction via social media, and lastly, be consistent with your efforts.
Another crucial consideration; according to Vincent Müller, founder of advertising platform HYGH, is how fresh your content is: “The uniqueness of your content is a crucial feature– it must be something that adds value, and which does so in a way that intrigues your audience, encouraging them to explore more of your publications, form a relationship with your brand, and to share the content.”
3. User-Generated Content (UGC) When it is done in an authentic manner, UGC can build positive PR and drive sales at a rate that no other marketing channel can match. People attach more credibility to peer reviews, which, as a side note, is why review websites get so much traffic. Aligning your campaigns with your customers’ interests is the best way to ensure maximal participation. The bar for participation has to be kept as convenient as possible, so the content produced can look natural and authentic, as opposed to tasks that require enough setup as to make them lose their spontaneity.
To make your UGC campaign effective, set clear goals, and make it easy for your customers to participate. Ensure that the focus is on the customers, and highlight their experiences– giving them the spotlight and letting your brand take the backstage is the best way to maintain the authenticity, and encourage others to interact with and share the content on social media. If you have some funds to spare, you can turbo charge the campaign by integrating a giveaway to incentivize even more people to participate.
4. Damage Control Inevitably, there will be incidents that lead to negative PR, as you grow your business and interact with customers in more diverse situations. PR disasters can ruin a company’s reputation and business, and in some cases, lead to years-long public clashes such as that of Peter Thiel funding Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker to bring the company down. If handled correctly though, you can get out ahead of a crisis, and even turn it into an advantage.
The way to do that is to set up a constant monitoring of your brand on social media and the internet generally, so you can respond to any incidents before they blow up. Secondly, it’s crucial to drop the legalese, and address the issues with evident human empathy. Saying you’re “looking into the matter” doesn’t help anyone. Instead, get in touch directly with persons involved, post a clear release that takes responsibility, and addresses what concrete steps you’ll be taking to solve the issue.
5. Engage Influencers Influencer marketing bears marked similarities to user generated content, with the main difference being that influencers have pre-built audiences and credibility. More people are getting wary of paid influencer marketing though, so if you’ll be going this route, be sure to cross-check that everything is above board– disclose whatever’s necessary, and make sure everything that’s claimed is accurate. A mishandled influencer campaign can bring massive backlash for the influencer and your brand.
One important thing to keep in mind is that it’s often more effective to work with localized micro-influencers (10,000–100,000 followers) than trying to partner with the biggest ones with millions of followers. The micro-influencers usually have more engagement with their audience, and you can find those who are deeply connected with your niche, so your message will be reaching an audience that’s already receptive. In addition, you’ll be able to get them on board for much less, so it’s a win-win situation.
This article was originally published in Entrepreneur.