Top 5 tips to elevate your small business PR

 In Columns

Starting and growing a small business isn’t easy, and it isn’t for the faint of heart. As I shared recently in another column, it’s generally understood that 50% of new businesses fail within five years, with 25% failing within year one. You might be thinking those aren’t great odds, but there’s plenty you can do to stack the odds in your favour, particularly when it comes to your public relations.

And, I’m not talking about paying thousands to an ad agency or a PR firm. With a plan, and a bit of discipline there’s plenty you can do on your own.

1. Know who you are – be authentic

If you take one thing from this column, please let it be that authenticity is critically important for your business. Without authenticity you are not credible. It’s that simple. You may have the newest app, coolest advertising campaign, or shiniest new show room – but without authenticity in how you engage customers, you’ve already lost the battle.

In a fairly recent international consumer survey, 86% of people said authenticity is important when deciding what brands they support – this number is over 90% when capturing millennials only. If this isn’t an endorsement for authenticity in your public relations, I don’t know what is.

Authenticity is about living your company’s values as a moral compass. It’s about honesty, transparency and candour in how you communicate. If you start by writing down your business values, you have a better sense of how you want your business represented – online, through business networking, and through each customer interaction.

2. Know your why

In our faster, quicker, must have things now quest for all things immediate, we tend to skip some important steps in basic business PR.

Taking a bit of extra time to focus on what you want to achieve and why will pay dividends. Simon Sinek’s Start with Why? How great leaders inspire action  is a must watch or read for any small business.

As Sinek notes, your business why is less about what you sell or the service you provide. It’s your purpose, your beliefs, your reason for existing. People don’t buy what you sell, but why you do it.

Take innovative brands like Apple or Tesla. They know that the goal isn’t to do business with everybody you need what they have. The goal is to do business with customers who believe what they believe.

3. Know what sets you apart

It’s important to know what sets you apart. What makes your business real, relevant and rare for your customers? By knowing and living these brand attributes you can deliver on your brand promise – the experience that your customers receive every time they interact with your company.

You don’t have to take my word for it. The face of your brand (logo, name, and colours) and the voice (how you communicate and tone) have very real consequences. The stats don’t lie:

  • it takes .05 of a second for users to form an opinion of your website
  • using a signature colour in your logo increases brand recognition by 80%
  • 66% of consumers believe that transparency is one of the most attractive qualities in a brand
  • 81% of consumers need to trust the brand they buy from, and
  • consistent presentation of a brand can increase revenue by 30%.

When your brand values, look and feel and messaging are aligned and consistent, you can expect customers to remember you, and to keep coming back. And, that’s good for your bottom line.

If, like me, you struggle to keep all the pieces (logo, fonts, and colours) of the face of your brand together and consistent across websites, print, social media, etc. the easiest thing to do is keep all of this handy in a single resource called a brand style guide.

4. Know your audiences and how to reach them

Having the coolest product, latest and greatest idea, or killer creative doesn’t mean a whole helluva lot unless you know who wants/needs to hear about it, and how to reach them. This doesn’t have to be fancy. You don’t need algorithms or Gantt charts.

Start by simply listing who you want to reach, inform or engage. But be specific. Using demographic data like age, gender, income, hobbies or interests will help you go from vague to specific in capturing who you’d like to connect with as a customer.

And, this doesn’t have to be expensive. Social media (including great use of video) has become a great equalizer for positioning small businesses with potential customers. Through most social media platforms you have the ability to target audiences by location and to zero in on specific demographics, as outlined above.

But again, being specific is key. With 1 million minutes of video crossing the internet per second, you have to cut through the noise. But you have a captive audience. 54% of 3.5 billion social media users research products, services and businesses on social media channels.

5. Know your story and be consistent

Your story ties directly to your business’ credibility. The more consistent you are, the more credible you’ll be.

Just as having a brand style guide keeps the face of your business brand together, so too does a message map and elevator script for the voice of your brand.

When stats show that the average person sees between 6,000 – 10,000 ads or messages a day, and that we only retain 10% of what we read and 30% of what we see, the odds of standing out and apart aren’t great.

So, this doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be memorable. An elevator pitch is a brief summary or story of your business that you can convey in 20 seconds, or the duration of an elevator ride. The most effective elevator pitches are memorable, vivid and unique – and most importantly live your brand values.

A message map or message box for a small business can be as simple at the top three to four points that you want customers to know about your business and what makes it unique. This can be historical (serving the community for 100 years), a unique feature of a business service (only business to offer proprietary technology in Canada) or something that ties to community (we are proud to donate 20% of all proceeds to local food banks).

Of all the things about managing and building a small business that are hard, managing your public relations shouldn’t be one of them. It’s my hope that with the tools above, a bit of time invested along with a clear plan, you’ve stacked the odds or success in your favour.




















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