Small Business Marketing Tips

Confessions of a PR Person

The letters “PR” form an acronym for “Public Relations,” a term that’s been around since 1900. PR is often confused with advertising, publicity, propaganda, brainwashing and image. 

A public relations professor defined it best: “PR is the sum of attitudes held by the varied publics of a business or institution.” Companies and organizations small and large seek to favorably impress a host of publics—customers, employees, investors, dealers, media, vendors, government and voters. 

As a business, these guidelines will help you establish favorable relationships with your target audiences or publics. 

  1. Define and rank your “publics.” Most will include all eight publics but will rank them differently. Each requires different communications tools and varying budget levels. Never ignore a segment; e.g., employees learning for the first time in their newspaper of their employer’s massive layoff, or investors’ shock when the SEC seeks earnings restatement of a company whose stock they hold.
  2. Crises strike billion-dollar companies, mom and pop operations and everything in between—churches, nonprofits, hospitals, and government agencies. The first step is to admit it can happen to you, then choose a team, develop a plan and communicate it to all who need to know. The dreadful alternative is to get a call from your local newspaper or TV reporter and you reply, “No comment.” Then you squirm as your company’s image goes down the tubes on the evening news. The larger the company, the more newsworthy. 
  3. Take the mystery out of publicity. Here are three ways to get an editor’s attention. 

• Know the medium’s unique scope and reader demographics. Call for a media kit or download it from a website. 

• Your news releases must be well written with reader benefits, free of superlatives and fluff. They should be emailed to the editor or news director, depending on their preference, and include photos in prescribed formats. A bad news release—poorly written, bereft of benefits and self serving—is doomed to the trash can. 

 • Editors and news directors know their readers’ needs, so they plan and publish an editorial calendar with editorial emphasis in each issue. Write your news releases to fit the needs of the publication. 

Public relations is more of a science than an art. Still, mistakes are made. Stage a press conference only if you have compelling news to announce. If you make an error in a news release, send a corrected news releases promptly, and don’t over-explain; editors will understand.

In a hurry-up, stressful world of constant change, make every effort to develop a trusting relationship with the media whose readers are your customers and prospects. Good editors work overtime to build relationships with their readers. Do likewise with editors.