By Elizabeth Robinson
As budgets continue to shrink and the economy remains stagnated, it is easy to forget that promoting your own brand and services is a critical component of a successful and well-managed business. In order to boost the profile of your business and obtain new business leads, you do not need to hire a big, bureaucratic public relations (PR) agency and incur massive monthly costs to solidify your reputation in the marketplace, you just need to follow a few key steps.
What is PR? Often, it gets confused with advertising, yet advertising is a very different medium – and can be defined as the antithesis of PR. PR is the art of managing perceptions and building relationships with the people who use your products and services through strategic forms of communications. When editorial coverage occurs with PR it is known as “earned” media, unlike advertising which is “paid” media. Branding specifically refers to the marketing of a specific product or product line to add “value.” PR professionals often act as liaisons between company spokespeople and the media, and work to establish their clients as thought leaders and experts in their respective industries.
Step 1: Create three key messages that define your company.
No one understands your company better than you do. Start by having a quick brainstorm with your colleagues and come up with three messages that demonstrate the core values and the mission of your company. These messages do not have to be long, but they should encapsulate the most important aspects of what you want the world to know. What do you want your share of voice in the industry to be? For example, one message could focus on how your company is differentiated from its competitors: “Company X is the only company in this industry which uses green technology to produce XXX.” A strong messaging document will ensure that all company spokespeople are speaking with one voice. Practice putting these messages into a quick “elevator pitch” you and your employees can use when describing your company to people wholly unfamiliar with your business.
Step 2: Identify a spokesperson to represent your company.
It is important to have one or two people who are the “go to” people for media questions. The spokesperson does not necessarily have to be the CEO or president, but can be the person who is very articulate and passionate about the strategic vision of the company.
Step 3: Update your website.
Unfortunately, it’s an all too common occurrence that visitors to websites encounter outdated material, difficulties with navigation, and poor layout. Make sure your site is not an offender of these faux pas that are sure to turn people off from the get go. Also, regardless of company size, be sure to include a “News and Events” section. This is a place to showcase company press releases or company news and events. If your company just signed a partnership with another company, that needs to be highlighted on the website, even if you choose not to write a formal press release. Make sure your website has updated biographies and photos of company management and a contact email and phone number for media inquiries.
Step 4: Introduce yourself to key media.
In order to be successful in your public relations efforts, you must be familiar with all the reporters, broadcast and print, that would potentially cover your company or brand. Read the business section of your local daily newspaper and your city’s business journal. Read the national and industry specific publications that would cover your kind of business, and familiarize yourself with each reporter that would potentially be interested in what you have to discuss. Before introducing yourself to a reporter, it is essential to be fluent in what they regularly write about, what they have recently said that you could reference, or to offer a counter position that makes your company or products more interesting.
Step 5: Attend industry networking events in your area.
In order to promote your company, you and your employees need to be visible. Research local trade organizations in your city, many organizations have meet-ups every month. Check out the local Chamber of Commerce or industry specific associations and get involved as a business leader in your community. Develop a corporate social responsibility program with a local charity or school in the area and leverage it with the media to garner attention for your business and the cause you’re supporting.
These steps are just the tip of the iceberg for a PR program, but they are a great place to start for a small business at low or no cost. Implementing strategic communications techniques will begin to boost your profile in business and the community and garner bottom line increases.
Elizabeth Edwards, is President, Founder & CEO of VolumePR and leads the strategic management of client campaigns, ensuring they remain infused with expert tactics and innovative strategies that consistently increase the clients’ market share.
Having sat on both sides of the table – with previous career roles as a corporate communications professional as well as an agency manager – Elizabeth is keenly aware that her corporate counterpart’s success is often measured by their ability to achieve marketing, sales and business development goals.
By filtering these client goals through the lens of public relations, Elizabeth and her team consistently develop fully customized programs for their clients that not only support the accomplishment of pre-defined goals, but do so through a combination of bullet-proof PR programs and creative integrated marketing solutions that redefine the term “PR innovation.”
Prior to founding VolumePR in the spring of 2001, Elizabeth was already deeply entrenched in the practice of building technology and consumer brands and positioning executives as industry thought leaders from her tenure with Ogilvy Public Relations and The Boeing Company. A graduate of Pepperdine University with a Bachelor of Arts in organizational communication with an emphasis in business administration, Elizabeth has been twice awarded the International Association of Business Communicators’ (IABC) Bronze Quill award, the League of American Communication Professionals (LACP) Spotlight and Magellan Awards on six occasions, and has grown VolumePR to be named one of the fastest growing private businesses in the state of Colorado by the Denver Business Journal. In 2008, the Denver Business Journal named her to the prestigious “40 Under 40″ list, which highlights the rising stars of Denver’s business community. For more information, please visit VolumePR atwww.volumepr.com or email: Elizabeth@volumepr.com.