Effective PR for a Small Business on a Budget: Get Local and Get Online!

If yours is like most small businesses, you can’t afford the luxury of
a PR department, much less a dedicated PR agency or even one employee
responsible for external communications and PR. However, this business
function is critical as the world of communications continues to expand
with new applications, demands and opportunities like social media
networks. The thought of a concerted PR strategy and execution can be
overwhelming for a small business owner, but it doesn’t have to be.
There are two primary elements of PR for a small business to engage
upon – leveraging online and local offline outlets. The old world of
face-to-face will continue to be critical in building your PR strategy
and overall business, but let’s face it – the environment has changed,
and you simply can’t ignore the power of the Web, particularly social
networks. Proactively getting your business out in the community while
leveraging the Web will ensure the success of your PR strategy. And,
these tactics are not expensive; in fact, many present opportunities
for free PR for your small business.

These PR strategy tips are designed for those small businesses that
simply don’t have budget allocated toward hiring and retaining a
communications expert. If you are a smaller company, hopefully you can
take a few tips below to integrate PR into your small business to help
build a brand and generate leads. Utilizing informative, valuable PR
about your small business gives you the opportunity to influence people
and lead them to your destination – your website, your store, your
offering. Take advantage of what’s out there! Get online and get local
– it’s that simple.

Growing Your PR Strategy

Grow Online

If you don’t have a website, you need to get one immediately. Today,
you can get a starter site for free or within your communications
packages from your voice and data provider. If it’s in the package,
then it’s a no-brainer. If you have a website, then make sure it’s
dynamic (video, blogs, and communities) to ensure your target audience
comes back and builds a relationship with you and your brand. It’s a
requirement in today’s online world; the days of stagnant sites are
over. Then, once you have your interactive site, make sure you optimize
your website and everything you say about your business online to
ensure your potential customers are finding you online when they
search. This is a key part of your online PR strategy. Don’t you search
Google or Bing to find what you need a pinch? It’s called Search Engine
Optimization (SEO) and it can be an affordable way to create additional
PR for your small business — and it’s often found in your
communications and IT packages. At the very least, getting a URL allows
you to be FOUND online and that’s key. Google now provides maps when
visitors are looking for a specific service in a specific area. By
simply having an Internet address – you can be found online looking
professional with a map to your location and link to your business, which is pretty cool.

The Wild World of Social Media

You have probably heard about “social media” and you may already be
taking part. For many, however, the world of Twitter, Facebook, Linked
In, blogs, vlogs and status updates may be a bit unsettling. Suffice it
to say – these are powerful tools to help you carry out your PR
strategy, especially when used properly to connect, communicate and
yes, to sell.

As a small business, you can’t afford NOT to take part. It’s easy and
affordable, so don’t waste anymore time. Of course, you do need to
understand how best to engage before you jump in. Here are a few quick
ways to start creating more PR for your small business:

1 – Create a Twitter profile (www.Twitter.com)
and gain followers by “Tweeting” about your business, surrounding
businesses and community topics that map back to your business. Build
buzz about what you provide – can you Tweet special coupons? Can you
give advice? Can you share relevant information to your community? Do
you have an event you want to invite local prospects to? Twitter, an
emerging PR strategy with an increasing audience, is a great way to
quickly (140 characters or less) get a message out and position
yourself as a leader. Remember, it’s not all about you; you must talk
about the world around you to make an impact. Start off Tweeting about
your business, but quickly begin integrating Tweets about your
customers, your community, and your industry – and the most important
part is to provide some kind of value or benefit in your tweets. Be
respectable as well. And if you see someone comment about your business
online (good or bad) – respond online for all to see. It’s a great way
to show you are committed to your customers. The cost to you? It’s
essentially free PR for your small business.

2 – Create free profiles on Linked In and Facebook. All you need for
Linked In is a profile of you, and from there, you can create a group
where you can share stories, news, and other PR about your small
business. People can ping you for questions which positions you as an
expert and, you can join interest groups that will help you track what
other potential buyers in your community do, say and think. For
Facebook, simply select “business” on the homepage to create a business
“fan” page. Local residents, family and friends can then become “fans”
of your company, which is an easy way to highlight the most recent PR
about your small business. All you have to do is commit to posting
news, updates, coupons, photos and other interactive content to get
people engaged. Remember – provide a benefit – a reason for your “fans”
to come back for more.

In addition to these PR strategy tips, there are local meet-up groups
in every community that often originate from the Web, and then meet
offline to have a real interactive discussion. Check out Meetup.com in
your area to find one.

Confused about this new world of social media? Read Groundswell
by two Forrester Research analysts, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. This
book will set you straight and get you excited about the opportunities
out there in terms of online PR for your small business.

Grow Local

Much like how consumers like to buy from locally grown farms, small
businesses tend to buy from their peers – other small businesses. An
effective PR strategy is all about supporting your local communities,
and these days, that’s more important than ever. Keeping this in mind,
focus on your community by generating PR for your small business at
local events. Depending on your business, there are often specialty
groups for different types of businesses such as professional service
specialty groups. Often these groups gather monthly or quarterly to
share best practices and to network. There are certainly general small
business groups in your community such as your local Chamber that meet
regularly as well. Beyond networking events, you can get ink for your
business. Most Chambers have monthly newsletters or emails. Do you have
something to say? Could you contribute twice a year with a special
promotion to drive people to your business? Take advantage of these
opportunities to fuel word-of-mouth marketing through PR for your small
business. Hand out business cards, build relationships and follow-up.
These opportunities are right outside your door.

Think grassroots.

Shake hands with other small businesses owners, refer each other and
grow your business. To improve PR for your small business, think about
what events are taking place this weekend where you could set up space,
hand out collateral, serve up some hotdogs, and generate solid leads.
Is there an art show or “Taste Of” type of event? Don’t take it all on
yourself; partner with other local businesses right in your area to
split costs and cross-sell to each other’s customers. A hand-shake goes
a long way towards an effective PR strategy. Add a coupon and see the
results. Most communities have annual events that bring
hundreds/thousands of people – target those. In terms of PR for a small
business, the best thing you can do is to connect directly to your
audience by showing your personality and your value – get out there!

Leverage Local Media.

Another important element of your PR strategy involves local brand
development, which means building relationships with local media. Yes,
there is still benefit in reaching out to traditional media when it
comes to PR for your small business. Take a moment to find out who your
local reporters are and introduce yourself. Share with your new media
contacts areas of expertise that you would be able to discuss if
requested. If you create a relationship with your local media and have
something compelling or contrarian to say, chances are they will call
you when they need your input. Consider a quick email to your local
reporters with an introduction, a quick reference of your expertise and
what you could comment on. Being timely and relevant is critical to
your PR strategy. Offer a cup of coffee. Those relationships can go a
long way when you really want to make noise in the community. It’s
important to know that if you want coverage and/or additional PR for
your small business – you won’t get it with a cold pitch. You must: 1)
– establish a relationship; 2) – have news to share that’s relevant,
unique or at least different; and 3) – have a product/or service that
is remarkable. These rules ring true for influential bloggers as well.
For more on being remarkable, read Seth Godin’s Purple Cow – a great, quick read that will get you thinking about how to stand out from the rest to grow your business.

Blending Old and New: Building PR for a Small Business

Hopefully these PR strategy tips will help you build a brand for your
small business and generate new and recurring business via PR.
Communicating to customers and enabling them to communicate back to you
is essential in today’s social world of media. However, what remains
important today as it did 100 years ago is the face-to-face
interaction. Nothing will replace itArticle Search, so make sure you show your face
and personality in the community. Coupling the old with the new will
ensure a successful PR strategy for your small business.

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