After getting your startup or small business off the ground, hiring a hardworking, dedicated team, getting a decent amount of customers or clients, it may be time to do a little PR for yourself. Though you may not have the capability or the budget to maintain an active PR program, there are a few things you should do to have a public relations foundation.
I’m not an expert in small business PR, but I’ve worked in, and with, a number of small companies and have picked up some things along the way from an internal perspective.
Here’s a list of the PR musts to get you started on your publicity and image-building efforts:
1. Develop PR guidelines. To avoid last-minute scrambling, you should create rules for communicating to outside resources. Here are two questions you should know the answer to:
The guidelines are to assure that what you’re saying is consistent and streamlined. It doesn’t have to be a formal document but should be a resource for your employees to know who to direct media inquiries or information requests to. It will save you a lot of time when dealing with deadlines you have to meet.
2. Listen. One of the best ways to find out what consumers are saying and what future trends may be is on social media. That’s where the conversation is happening! Even if you don’t participate (always listen first), you still have access to the online community. What are people saying about you? What are people saying about your competitors? Where can you add value with your products/services? Who is looking for products/services like yours?
3. Pick one social medium, and do it well. Too many times, companies want to be on EVERYTHING. Do some research to see where your consumers are, the type of information you’d want to share and which medium is best for you. If you have a lot of cool-looking products, maybe Instagram is for you. If you’re focused on information, then a blog and Twitter may be the best combination for you. If you can explain complex mathematical formulas in six seconds, then take a stab at Vine. But choose one or two, and own them!
4. Make your media coverage count. When you’re a small company, having something written about you is a big deal. It’s exposure, no matter where. But don’t forget about the bigger picture. Instead of asking yourself “Which publication do I want to be in?” Ask yourself, “Who do I want to find out about me?” Then work backwards and pick an outlet. If you’re asked for an interview by a blogger whose posts are shared with the cat-lovers community and you provide outsourced IT services…maybe you should decline. Consider who will see the post, not just that it will just be online.
5. Refine and edit. Make sure you have a strong writer on your team, or at least someone with an eye for grammatical and spelling mistakes. I have found errors on websites, marketing materials, client presentations…everywhere. Have two or three people on the team review anything that’s public-facing for errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling and formatting (my personal pet peeve). All of this represents you, sometimes before you can represent you.
6. Engage your employees. We all know engaged and happy employees are more productive. So engage them in PR efforts! Items with the company’s name and logo on them, worn or carried by employees, are walking billboards. If the company is reviewed in a publication or on a blog, make sure to share it with them. Occasional all-staff meetings (even the interns!) with company updates and initiatives also help keep everyone updated with all the things they can be proud of while working at the company.
7. Know when to bring a PR pro on board. PR can do great things for your business. Once you reach a point when you’re ready to hire a professional, either in-house or at an agency, do it! Having a well-executed PR program can take your business to the next level.
Julia Sahin is a Public Relations and Corporate Communications graduate student at NYU graduating in May. She is a communications freelancer and a monthly contributor to Muck Rack. She plans on doing big things.
Photo: Startup touchscreen via Shutterstock