The Ins and Outs of Small Business Public Relations

The biggest misconception about public relations is that it’s primarily for large firms, huge corporations or Hollywood celebrities. Nothing could be further than the truth. From my perspective, it’s small businesses that benefit most from an effective PR campaign. Why? Small businesses have to find an effective form of marketing, but they also have to be more budget focused and need to get the most bang for their buck.

Think about it. What small business could launch an advertising, or direct marketing campaign that could match that of a corporation with extremely deep pockets? And, even though online marketing and social media offers small companies a real advantage over most traditional forms of marketing, it’s still often difficult to compete with companies who have the economic wherewithal to hire a firm to work exclusively on their websites, blogs, social media, analytics, AdWords campaigns etc. But, when it comes to PR, if a small business or entrepreneur gets creative, develops some good stories, and takes time to really study the media’s needs, that company or expert can end up on the evening news, Time, Oprah, People, CNN, or other major media outlets.. By doing so, that company can leap-frog over the competition and literally go head-to-head with company’s ten to twenty times its size.

There would be no way a small business could compete using other forms of marketing. Granted, as I mentioned before, the net and social media is a huge leveler. Small companies can compete as never before via the internet. But traditional PR still remains the true giant killer when it comes to marketing for small businesses. One or two well-placed media hits can help launch a company. If that company then takes that media coverage and amplifies it on the net, those media hits become even more powerful.

So, whereas it’s true that large companies, feature films and celebrities need to launch powerful PR campaigns, it’s the small businesses of the world that benefit the most from effective public relations.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2009

How Are Marketing, Advertising And Public Relations Related To Each Other?

Public relations is a form of communication. It relates to every sort of organization, commercial or non-commercial, in the public or private sector along with communicating with all the people with whom the organization has contact.

Marketing emphases on products (or services), their price, promotion and place (distribution.) These collectively are known as the marketing mix or “the four p’s”. If another P, for perception is added to this mix, PR would come in influentially since; public relations can be applied to every part of the marketing mix, of which advertising, the one the public are most familiar with, is just an ingredient.

Of many definitions of advertising, one is as follows “Advertising puts forward the most convincingly possible selling message to the accurate prospects for the product or service at the lowest possible price.” It presents the message through various creative skills of copywriting, illustration, layout, typography, scriptwriting and video making based on a theme. The focus is on selling, which varies very much from that of public relations’ role of informing, educating and creating understanding through knowledge.’

There is however a major relationship between advertising and pr. Advertising is more likely to be successful when preceding pr activity has generated knowledge and understanding of the product or service being promoted. This can sometimes be referred to as market education and is an applied example of how pr can help the marketing strategy. It is wise business practice for public relations to work along with advertising, instead of relying exclusively on advertising to break into a new market or to introduce a new and unknown product or service. Many new products have failed to sell merely, because there is no build up or market education and hence the advertising expenditure was a waste of money.

It can virtually be considered as a bigger activity than advertising, because it relates to all the communications of the entire organization, whereas advertising, although it may cost more than pr, is primarily limited to the marketing function. Public relations is definitely not free advertising, if done well, it is time consuming and time costs money. While the cost of an advertisement is always known, the cost of fortifying editorial space or radio/TV air time is tough to quantify but its benefit is often of great value.

Organizations may not use advertising, but every organization is involved in public relation.

Another variance lies in the finances of the two – advertising agencies usually receive their income from a commission based fee structure, with monies received being spent on media and production costs. Public relation companies however develop income from time and quality of work implemented, with monies received being spent on staff salaries.

It embraces everyone and everything, whereas advertising is limited to selling and buying tasks such as endorsing goods and services, purchasing supplies and recruiting staff. Public Relations has to do with the entire communications of an organization; it is, therefore, more wide and comprehensive than advertising. On occasions public relation possibly will use advertising, which is why it is neither a form of advertising nor a part of advertising, but a misunderstood, crucial tool that cuts right across the marketing mix.

Public Relations is a Discipline of Depth

Most of us prefer to place our trusted business affairs, such as strategic outreach through public and media relations, in the hands of experienced practitioners. Whether with our attorney or IT vendor, our airline pilot or our accountant, we value experience when the job is complex and the outcome critical to our success.

This same principle applies to the selection of a public relations and marketing adviser. Effective public relations does not happen by gravitational pull; rather, it is the outcome of incisive strategy skillfully executed, managed and measured. It can be taught in school – but it is learned only through experience.

Public relations is commonly mistaken as the domain of generalists. At many firms, “paint by number” strategy drives “fill in the blank” planning to create “cookie cutter” campaigns. Although cookie cutters can rapidly create dozens of identical cookies, they rarely leave a distinct impression. They certainly cannot convey a firm’s unique value proposition.

Contrary to popular misconception, public relations with an impact is the discipline of depth. In today’s business world, successful practitioners are those who can step outside the box of traditional agency practice, and embrace the communications trends that are working today. Communication is no longer an arena in which businesses dictate their messages to consumers. Consumers, with multiple communications channels available to them, now have the power and the desire to form their own opinions based on a survey of the information available to them.

Indeed, media consumers now have the power to create their own messaging and counteract corporate messaging that they feel is inaccurate. This is a Web 2.0 world, which is being increasingly and consistently defined by consumers. Businesses who are not agile and able to modify their messaging and tactics to utilize and work with this trend will quickly become irrelevant to their markets and unable to expand their reach by targeting new market sectors available through emerging communications channels.

As such, effective public relations practitioners must be knowledgeable not only of their clients’ business models and areas of expertise, but also in target market behaviors with regards to media consumption. Practitioners must be able to utilize innovative, multi channel strategies to deliver messages to consumers with messages they will understand and through their media of choice.
Public relations professionals must develop the ability to integrate and consolidate all communications channels to reach target audiences, and understand the synergies that exist between all communication media. They must combine traditional marketing and communication experience with new technology and market research to create outreach strategies that are effective, relevant and cutting-edge.

This principle is demonstrably true in specialized, niche industry practices, including technology public relations, financial public relations and mortgage technology public relations, to name a few. Although clients in these industries retain a deep understanding of current technologies as means to solve specific problems, they often do not have the knowledge to utilize technology in a way that produces effective marketing and clear communications with their target audiences. In realms such as these, savvy communications experts who are independent of traditional agency “cookie-cutter” approaches and organizational restrictions can make a significant impact on behalf of their clients.

The Internet is truly the realm of small businesses and innovative solutions. Big box providers depend on their existing brand recognition and market penetration to do their marketing for them, leaving a huge vacuum of potential for smaller business seeking a competitive advantage. Smart public relations practitioners who understand how to utilize the Internet to support an overall integrated communications and marketing strategy will be poised for rapid success by connecting their clients to relevant messages through emerging media channels.

Public relations is a discipline of depth. All a savvy practitioner needs to succeed is an innovative approach and a depth of mind.

For more information on technology public relations, financial public relations and mortgage technology public relations, visit depthpr.com.