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Cost-effective PR for SMEs

4 Jul 2017

PR isn’t just for big, global firms; it’s for everyone, from micro-companies to international organisations: though, of course, budgets won’t be quite the same.

That doesn’t mean smaller firms should sit back and wait for the money to be rolling in before undertaking PR – there are simple, effective measures you can take right now which can help to promote your brand and get your business in front of relevant audiences.

Bill Gates of Microsoft once famously said “if I was down to my last dollar I'd spend it on public relations,” which shows how important the strong narrative which PR can provide is.

Find the right angle

Does your company have a special service or product that might be interesting to the public? Have you recently taken on an order from a surprising client? Do you operate in a unique way? All of these aspects of your business could provide a journalist with an interesting story.

The secret is spotting the unusual in your own company, which can be difficult to do when you live and breathe your business each and every day. Journalists are contacted all the time about ‘exciting company news’ which can be anything, so try to find something to genuinely set you apart from everyone else. After spotting a potential story in your business, simplify it into a few key messages and avoid using jargon. Try it out on a few friends and family to make sure it is easily understood and identify any gaps.

Traditional print media

Research your local media, buy the papers and see what kind of stories they are interested in and then make contact with a journalist to discuss your story. Check first to make sure they are not on a deadline or on their way out to a story then firstly explain who you are, give them some background on your company, then tell them why you are contacting them and listen to their advice. Remember, the journalist probably has a number of pages to fill each week so a good news story from the local area is very welcome. If appropriate, it can also be helpful to send a sample of your product to the journalist or invite them to try your service free of charge.

Eye-catching photography

As much as snappy headlines grab attention, creative pictures have the same power. Papers may not have the resources to send out their own photographer and the onus could be on you to provide a picture but you can discuss this with the journalist. While many people might be tempted to take the photo themselves, getting a good picture that is media-friendly is much harder than you think. There are many professional, cost-effective photographers across Northern Ireland who can give a price in advance and will advise you on what shot may work best and any props you may need. As many photographers charge by the hour, think about what other photos you need for other materials like leaflets or your website and get these taken at the same time to maximise the value for money.

Online PR

Of course, social media provides a great, cost-effective opportunity to highlight your company but carefully think about what forum might work best for you. Who is your target audience? Not every business is suited to Facebook. If you want to reach the business or corporate community, then LinkedIn and Twitter may be more appropriate. Similarly, Pinterest or Instagram could be preferable options for businesses with more visual products or services.

For PR, engagement is key to success. Talk to your customers, directly where possible, and should a problem ever occur, respond quickly and take it offline where possible. Bear in mind that even if you think you are private messaging a customer, your messages can be made public at the touch of a few buttons. The personal touch is often more beneficial as misunderstandings can easily creep in with short messages flying back and forth, so phone your client where possible to get a solution you are both happy with.

The value of PR

Word of mouth is invaluable. PR is an excellent way to build your reputation in the marketplace and get people talking about what you do.

And of course, the reputation a company has is not only important to potential customers but also when looking for investors. A good reputation can really add value to your business. So think carefully about how, why and when you communicate. Understand that what you choose not to say can be every bit important as what you do say.

PR doesn’t have to be daunting. Having read this blog you may already be thinking that you do a lot of PR already in some shape or form. In saying that, there is no doubt that more can be done and taking time to map out an outline PR plan for the next year and what methods you will use to communicate your messages can help you focus on how PR can bring your business to the next level.

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