PR for SMEs can be something of a catch-22 situation. You need marketing to draw in new clients and boost the coffers. But you don’t have the coffers to pay for the marketing. Budgets are really tight when you first start out. And they can remain that way for many of the early years, especially when you have a disruptive influence such as the Covid-19 pandemic to deal with. But a carefully planned PR strategy has the potential to significantly and positively impact upon your bottom line.
So, what can you do to fill the gap between starting up and the time when you can bring a professional PR firm onboard?
Successful PR is much more about having a plan than it is about ground-breaking ideas. You know your business better than anyone else, so you’re the best person to know what it can offer and why it’s important. So, think about the messages you want to send. Identify your targets. Work out how you can reach your intended audience create a schedule to get it done. This doesn’t have to be massively labour intensive – five social media posts a week, two blog posts a month, a couple of networking sessions and an outreach target is an easy starting point.
Networking has become something of a business cliché. But there’s often a truth at the heart of clichés, and networking can bring meaningful value to a business. Whether you do it virtually or physically (post-pandemic), networking has as much PR potential as any other benefit it may bring. Largely, because it gets your business seen. While you can join expensive online gatherings, your best option is simply to connect with people. Talk to your followers on social media, reach out to potential partners and join discussions. Platforms like LinkedIn offer endless industry-based groups to join and provide an easy way to make new contacts. It’s free, it’s easy and it can really help your status.
Use social media
The potential for social media in PR is well documented. It’s a great way to connect with clients and to build a brand image. But it does need a strategy to work well. Too many businesses take a slap-dash approach to social media, hoping that something sticks. To succeed you need consistency. Post regularly and provide value, with commentary, industry insights or any other form of content that will merit people’s attention. That way, you can get your business seen for the right reasons, while helping to form a positive brand identity.
In the age of the internet content remains King. It’s another truism for you, but it’s undeniably correct. And strong content is one of your most effective tools when it comes to DIY PR. Of course, you need to keep your own content fresh, original, authentic and valuable. But you can also use other people’s platforms as part of your PR plan. You know your industry. You have your own unique insights. So, share them. Showcase your expertise by blogging, guest posting, tweeting. Thought leadership posts can be big business these days, local newspapers and online publications are always looking for content. Content creation is a great way to subtly promote your brand and shape company image.
If at first you don’t succeed…
PR is never a one-shot process. Of course, you can strike it lucky, and there are always stories of brands that hit the bigtime after a single genius PR ploy. But they’re the exception to the rule. And if you’re looking for longevity, perseverance is key. It takes time and imagination to build momentum. So, if you’re not seeing instant results, don’t give it up as a bad job. Use an analytics programme to track your results. If something is received positively, build on it. If it’s not, try a different tack. Over time, you will start to see success, your social media following will build, customer engagement will grow, and this will have a knock-on effect on your company profile and your sales.
Many companies are struggling right now. Covid-19 has completely changed the face of British business and a massive number of SMEs are attempting to regain their equilibrium in unchartered waters. PR can play an important part in that. And you don’t need an enormous budget to do it.