Savvy small business owners know the importance of saving money. There are definitely times when going cheap spells disaster (you’ve seen those Hefty commercials, haven’t you?); but this isn’t one of them. Welcome to the wonderful world of PR - public relations; or, as we like to call it, free advertising – an essential part of any effective marketing strategy.
Are you making effective use of this important strategy for reaching your target market, or do you shy away from PR because you feel it is:
Yep. I said that one, twice. Truth is; the issue of price holds most small business owners back from using this very powerful and successful means for getting attention for their business. Don’t fret. PR doesn’t have to be that hard. Here are some ways that you can take baby steps toward a full-on PR campaign.
Write a press release. What is a press release? Technically, it is an announcement that an organization or group issues to the news media, and other specific publications or outlets, with the goal of informing the public about developments within, or important to that organization or group. Maybe you still think that only big wigs in ivory towers, or 50-story glass ones, have the power to issue such an important document. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Important news stories can come from a variety of sources these days: cell-phone-carrying tipsters, whistle-blowers, activists, letter-writing school children, or small business owners whose new product or service can help members of the community in some significant way, or who have a story that is just right for the end-of-the-news “chuckle" piece. You know, something that will help us rebound from all of the talk of war, gas prices and uncontrollable weather. Besides, how do you think people get those “ask-the-expert" spots on the local and national news? Usually through the strategic use of press releases and other PR methods.
Write articles. Everyone is an expert on something. If you’ve got the gift – you’ve got to use it. Are you an IT whiz? Then write an article on the best ways to keep your PC bug-free. Are you a chef? Help those who aren’t culinarily inclined learn to make a simple dish that will impress their friends with very little effort. Do you own a nursery? Tell people with black-thumb about plants that not even they can’t kill. You get the idea. If your article gets published in a targeted newspaper or periodical, the benefits are obvious. But, even if you submit them for free to a content distributor like www.ezinearticles.com; there is still a great opportunity for a payoff. Use the handy-dandy resource box provision to include a few snappy sentences about you, and your expertise, with a link back to your website. Who knows how long those articles will circulate, giving you additional exposure to people with an interest in your products or services.
Produce an informative newsletter or blog. Here’s an opportunity for you to, again, share helpful information with your readers while building a relationship. Even if the reader never buys from you, they are likely to refer others to you, who are in the market for your goods or services.
Speaking engagements. Do you know a lot about your industry, or target market? Do you enjoy talking with people, face-to-face? Then get in front of your target market through the use of speaking engagements. Start with groups within your comfort level, like your local chamber of commerce, then widen out. Before long, you might discover that you are a highly sought after, well-paid speaker with oodles of leads and more business than you can handle.
If any of the above methods seem to risqué for you, at this stage of the game, think of investing in the services of a virtual professional who can help you make use of public relations as a way to increase your visibility, credibility and profitability.
Remember, being a small business owner can be equally as tough as it is gratifying. It certainly isn’t for the squeamish. The fact that you’ve decided to step up to the challenge of being an entrepreneur means you were obviously willing to take a risk. So, if you’ve got the talent, bite the bullet and delve into public relations; or hire a capable professional who can help you through it.
You don’t have to go for an expensive PR firm; there are hundreds of qualified virtual professionals who specialize in this area. One of the areas you might consider enlisting help with is in putting together your Media Kit. This is simply a physical, or electronic, information packet that will provide the media with much of the basic information they’d like to know about your organization, when deciding whether your story is newsworthy or not.
Whether you discover that you have a previously hidden aptitude for public relations, or you recognize your need for help in this area, public relations may very well be some of the best money that you never spent.
Roxanne Ravenel is the President/Owner of SOHO Support Solutions LLC, a full-service Copywriting & Virtual Assistance Firm. Her firm produces business articles and a variety of marketing collateral for small to medium business organizations and independent professionals. Visit http://www.SOHOSupportSolutions.com/ to learn more about her firm’s services. She is currently conducting online seminars teaching small business owners how to use low-cost and no-cost technology tools and virtual collaboration to Take It Virtual (http://www.TakeItVirtual.com ).
Copyright © 2006 Roxanne Ravenel