Why SME's should think about PR from the offset

For a small business, PR can sound quite intimidating. Essentially, PR stands for public relations and can involve writing and sending press releases on news and announcements, meeting journalists, putting on media events, creating campaigns to promote certain products or services, writing opinion-led or thought leadership articles and commenting on relevant stories in the press.

Many businesses wait until they are established or reach a fast growth period and then realise they need PR quickly to support their business. I would argue that it’s never too early to start thinking about doing PR and a good approach can underpin and support all other marketing activities. A long-term strategy means that your authority and reputation develops organically.

A small company can certainly start off doing their own PR and begin to gain some good publicity. A good starting point is to think about the messages you want to communicate with your audience. You can also start by reading the publications in which you’d like to appear in to figure out what kind of articles they write.

Here are five reasons why you need to think about PR from the outset:

 1.    Online reputation

Every consumer has multitudes of information at their fingertips these days and most people research a product or a service before they buy it. Once they have a brand or company in mind, people also research the specific company as well. If you are a new company, you need to establish yourselves as being an authority in your field and a trustworthy business.

PR – or appearing in the press – gives you credibility that you can’t buy elsewhere. Advertising – whether traditional, online or PPC – does not have this gravitas, simply because the consumer knows you paid for the placement.

By a journalist choosing to pick up on a story or agreeing to publish an opinion piece you’ve written, you get the kudos of that third-party accreditation.

Reputation is everything to a new business and is something that can only be earned, not bought. Reputation breeds success so it’s worth investing in ensuring your company has the best reputation possible.

2. Communicating your messages

Your business might have the most amazing life-changing product ever, but if you don’t communicate those key messages to potential customers they will never know it exists or what it does for them.

PR is perfect for getting across why people should buy your product or service because there are so many ways to communicate. You can write a customer case study, release an announcement on important business news, associate your business with a charity so people know you have good ethics, comment on recent legislation which affects your industry – the list really is endless.

3. New business leads

While PR is more difficult to attribute directly to new business leads, than PPC, for example, over the long-term it builds your brand, credibility and exposure, which inevitably leads to new business.

Paid-for adverts stop the second you stop paying for them, whereas a well-written online article is there permanently so continues to build brand awareness over time. A well-thought out PR strategy works to cohesively strengthen and promote your brand constantly and provides the trust and authority to underpin your other marketing methods.

You can measure the success of media coverage by looking at your website statistics and finding out which publications caused the largest traffic spikes or resulted in more phone calls, for example.

 4.    Search benefits

Any company with a website (and let’s face it, who doesn’t have a website?) needs it to be found by potential customers. Search engine optimisation is the process of ensuring your website ranks well in search engines for certain key words and phrases, driving traffic to your website.

A large part of SEO today means publishing relevant content and gaining inbound links from high authority websites, which include online publications. By making sure you do PR for your start-up or new business, you can contribute directly to your company’s SEO as well as its online reputation and brand awareness.

Giving search engines regular and new content to crawl means you have more to contribute to your overall SEO efforts, as well as more for your potential customers to read.

5.    Influence new recruits, stakeholders and investors

It’s not just potential customers that PR can influence. It’s important to remember that good public relations also has its role in relaying your key messages to potential new staff, any stakeholders and future investors too.

As your company grows, you will need to find skilled individuals you can trust to do their job well. Eventually, if your business succeeds you will need to find highly competent recruits as you move into a leadership role.

If you are going to apply for investor funding, they will also look at the reputation of your business and will be influenced by articles and any positive mentions of the business in the press.

Making sure you have a good online reputation ensures your company will attract and influence the right people in all parts of its business.

You can follow Carolyn Hughes on Twitter and Google+.

The author

Lizzie is an Associate Director in the Manchester team

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