Public relations can be an intimidating concept to small business owners. Talking with the media, branding, networking—how and when are these things supposed to happen? The Little Book of Big PR: 100+ Quick Tips to Get Your Small Business Noticed, by Jennefer Witter, is here to help.
For a couple of years, Witter, CEO of The Boreland Group a boutique public relations agency based in New York City, posted a PR tip each week on her social media feeds (you can follow her on Twitter: @JenneferTBG). She received so many requests for more tips that she decided to create one easy-to-digest book. Witter's guide covers everything from speaking engagements to social media, cause-related marketing to networking, and offers small businesses the skinny on a host of public relations strategies and techniques that really work.
Public Relations Tips for Small Business
The very first chapter dives into an element of PR that many entrepreneurs haven't quite embraced—self-branding. Also often referred to as personal branding, self-branding really came into its own in the late 1990s, when CEOs and other high-level executives put significant energy into putting a human face (typically their own) on their companies. "This can be done for small businesses, too," Witter says. Her book offers tips for connecting with customers on this self-branding level. "It really helps to define who you are and what you stand for, what your values are," Witter says. "Those are then translated into the company."
As you might expect, Witter's book covers social media extensively. She says entrepreneurs should engage more fully with social media. "These are free tools for the most part, and you can use them at your discretion in order to raise your visibility and to generate revenue," she says. As a small business owner herself, she attests to the value of social media, saying she has generated tens of thousands of dollars in business revenue through her use of Facebook.
"If you are an entrepreneur who's saying, 'There's no value for me in social media,' shake that from your head, because your competition is out there," Witter says, adding, "And if they're using it, that means they're taking away your own market share."
Witter encourages small business owners to identify which social media channels fit with their business's audience and objectives, and then dedicate their energy to those platforms. She also stresses that social media can't be something that just happens when you have a few spare minutes. "Don't ignore the page once you set it up," she says. "You need to post on a regular basis." Whether it's linking to articles that you think will interest customers, or your own version of a tip-of-the-week, routinely offering posts relevant will help to build those virtual relationships.
The Need for Small Business Networking
Another PR component that can sometimes seem overwhelming to small business owners is networking, but Witter says it should absolutely be part of their business tool kit. "Will your business be a success if you don't network?" she asks. "Yes. Will it thrive? No."
She sees networking on the same level of importance as building client relationships. Making the time for networking is often viewed as an insurmountable challenge, one Witter says you can tackle with some thought and planning. "If you have only four or five hours a month, look for a networking opportunity that will take advantage of those five hours." This could mean a couple of chamber of commerce luncheons or an industry conference, whatever makes sense for your business.
With her book, Witter gives small business owners ideas to overcome what she sees as some of the biggest hurdles. "Public relations is rather nebulous," she says. "You don't get the returns right away." By themselves, the efforts small businesses put into public relations won't generate additional revenue. Instead, they're supporting players in a wider strategy.
"PR must be a part of your overall business plan," Witter says. By using solid public relations tactics to ensure that your business has a presence online, on social media, at industry events and conferences, she says, "The returns will come."
This isn't the kind of book you need to read all at once, or even in order. Witter says entrepreneurs can pull out those chapters that fit their needs. "If you think networking works best for you, you can focus in on networking," she explains. She wants readers to understand how what a powerful tool public relations can be in helping their businesses move forward. "To overlook it means you're overlooking an opportunity to generate revenue," she says.
Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from foodservice to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractor magazine.
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