What is public relations?
“It starts with understanding the purpose of the company and then defining how the company communicates, with customers and with journalists,” said Nile Kirec, a consultant at Florida SBDC at FIU, the small business development center within FIU’s College of Business, who specializes in marketing, PR and branding. “PR is a long process of building a trust and reputation for the company.
“We’re there to tell a story, to create an image and to help the brand awareness grow. The most important thing is to create trust and reputation. Public relations starts with storytelling but also includes damage control,” said Kirec, who started her career in PR, has managed agencies and ran her own PR/Marketing company for years.
It’s not like an advertising campaign, with a defined beginning and end.
“You may visit a journalist five times and seven or eight months later, boom, your story will come up,” Kirec said. “With journalists, continue that relationship, every few months send something small, a company update, a greeting at a holiday. Then you are top of mind when a journalist wants to reach out. You have to be persistent, but not pushy, and the relationship will develop.”
In today’s world, public relations could include media relations, marketing communications, social media, corporate communications, speech writing, event planning, even corporate social responsibility can all be part of your PR strategy. Happy employees become your brand ambassadors.
Here are some more tips from Kirec on ways to work on your public relations:
- If you are a very small company, start to nurture media relationships. You could start with a blogger, comment on their blogs, volunteer to write a guest post.
- Use your data ethically and write good rich content on your social media or blog. If that isn’t your forte, consider hiring a content writer for their blog or social media.
- Start formulating a plan and communications strategy, even if you are a very small company. You want each of your team to say the same thing.
- Become authentically socially responsible with some aspect of your business and add it to your company’s story.
- Once a company is a bit larger and has some employees, begin nurturing your company culture and celebrate wins with your employees. Remember your clients at holidays or with a short note wishing them to “stay safe” when a hurricane is looming. Network in the real world.
- If you are going to outsource PR or social media, contract it out completely so there is consistency. Be on top of it and have weekly meetings to talk about the messages you want to get out.
- Consider personally posting on LinkedIn. It’s about lead generation and brand generation but also about being a thought leader. That may also help get journalists to call you for your point of view. Find speaking activities. Be active in the chamber.
Kirec said B2B companies need to go after an identified audience. That means more account-based marketing, more targeted social media plus trade publications and industry blogs.
With B2B companies, you are still there to tell a story, but the story may be more about the owners’ expertise in their industry. Consider developing blog posts, social media, a white paper, a newsletter, a video or an e-book. You can blog about your industry — for example, a freight forwarder could talk about what is happening with tariffs.
For all small businesses, “do good market research, lots of personal networking, have a messaging and positioning for the company and be consistent – use integrated marketing communications strategy,” Kirec said. “In today’s world there are so many touch points, we don’t know where we will connect with the client. If we use the same message across all platforms, we will reach them where they are.”
Analyze what works and doesn’t work. Practice strong online reputation management. Read and respond to negative reviews. If they aren’t happy with your restaurant, call invite them for a free lunch.
“Be patient and one day without you realizing you will see how far you have come,” Kirec said. “The media is calling you. The clients are calling you.”
STAY TUNED FOR MORE: In coming days, GrowBiz will include more tips for small businesses from PR professionals.