How public relations can grow your SME

public relations
PR concept spelled by game elements and office stationary

Public Relations (PR) has formed part of the wider marketing mix with large businesses for some time. However, it is also perfectly positioned to achieve excellent results as a stand-alone activity – and can be more cost-effective than advertising to boot!

Advertising is paid one-way communication to increase business. It can be costly and only works so long as you pay for it. You have total control of the message, but it is not as believable as PR.

Think about the last ad you saw. You knew it was saying, “We are the best”, and you knew it was not necessarily true.

PR, on the other hand, is about building a positive brand image and trust by showcasing your products or services as positive news stories or articles in print, online or broadcast media. Good PR stories will run in multiple media at no extra cost.

Remember the last time you read a great review in the paper or online? Because someone else endorsed the business, you were far more likely to believe that news story over an ad?

Many companies don’t have the budget for both PR and advertising. PR is a more cost-effective way to get exposure. And every company has a story worth telling. Yes – even yours.

Here are 10 ideas for newsworthy stories should work for most businesses:

  1. Awards and accolades – While not all awards will make national news, local media and industry media may be interested. It’s also something you can share on social media.
  2. New funding or successful capital raising – For start-ups, this kind of story is especially interesting, and more so if your investors are well-known or have invested alot. It shows confidence in your business and can attract further investment or customers.
  3. Surveys and listicles – Commission surveys to showcase a problem or need in your industry. Think of stories that start: “Almost half of all Australians do or don’t do something, according to a survey released today.” Listicles are a bit like this article (only shorter) – a numbered or bullet point list of useful tidbits readers can use.
  4. New staff, products or services – News to share on your social networks, in your local newspaper or trade publication.
  5. Newsjacking – Create relevant news around something that is already in the news. For example, you might sell home security systems and more business following a spate of highly publicised burglaries in your area. The headline might go something like this: “SALES OF ALARM SYSTEMS SOAR IN THE WAKE OF LOCAL BURGLARIES”. Keep an eye out for a news story relevant to your business and find a way to get involved.
  6. Case studies – Happy customers make for good stories, and can be targeted to local media or within your niche market. Case studies are also great for social media and your website.
  7. Celebrity endorsement – maybe someone well-known has purchased your product or service, and (with their permission) you could share that in the media or your social networks.
  8. Launch a white paper – A white paper works best for businesses offering services rather than consumer products. It is a short research report. They are often used as a free download to get people on mailing lists. White papers are good to share with media if you uncover something new. Think of important issues in your industry and think about how to add to the discussion.
  9. Sales results – If your company is growing at an extraordinary rate and your results are fantastic, you may want to issue a press release about it.
  10. Become an expert in your industry – Journalists often put a call out for experts for stories – everything from business professionals to retailers to dog walkers. By letting media know your expertise and availability, you might find yourself on TV talking about issues in your industry.

PR works better as an ongoing strategy for sustained media exposure but can be used for one-off announcements. A good PR consultant can identify what sorts of opportunities there are for your business, and manage the process for you.

Fiona Hamann, Principal, Hamann Communication