Using Public Relations to Increase Your Business – Six Tips for Success
By Betty Uribe, Ed.D.
Many business owners assume that public relations (PR) is limited to working closely with the media and making occasional public announcements, however, there is often more that a company can do to increase its public awareness. Smart businesses spend time on their public relations efforts, especially since the cost of a well-executed PR campaign can be significantly less than the cost of traditional advertising.
The term Public Relations refers to ongoing activities and strategies that promote your company and create long-term, positive awareness. The key to creating your own PR campaign is to start with a plan. For starters, you should ask yourself, “What differentiating/unique story does my company have and what can I accomplish by telling it?” If your answer involves promoting a new client’s relationship, promoting new products or services, announcing a new employee, celebrating a business anniversary or building positive awareness in general, then you’re off to a good start. Here are six steps to consider when building a public relations campaign for your business:
Step 1: Determine your goals
The first step to creating a successful PR campaign is to outline your company’s communication goals. Whether your company would like to generate greater public awareness or publicize a new product, service or location, it is important to be clear on what you want to accomplish, then you can determine next steps.
Step 2: Create your message
Deciding what you want to communicate is the foundation of a PR campaign. If your company has news to share regarding new products, services or locations, then you can issue a press release or host an event. If your company is aiming to create “greater brand awareness,” then highlighting company personnel announcements, customer testimonials or leveraging an expert source to submit an informational article with industry suggestions and tips is another alternative.
Step 3: Define your audience
Do you hope to reach current customers, a new audience or influential opinion leaders with the messages from your PR campaign? First determine which audience you would like to reach and then you can decide the most effective tactic for reaching them.
Step 4: Determine your methods
Defining the best communication method that matches your goals and targeted audience is a critical step in a successful PR camaign. If you are interested in raising general awareness, target your efforts by creating a newsworthy press release to pitch to traditional media, online sites and blogger contacts. If your goal is to reach a specific audience, you should research seminars and speaking engagements, or plan events, promotions or contests specifically targetted to reaching your desired audience. Using a combination of efforts is also a good idea, since everyone uses different communication styles.
Step 5: Coordinate your efforts
Public relations, marketing and advertising should go hand-in-hand to complement one another. Administering a major initiative in conjunction with an effective public relations campaign could help drive a lot of business or awareness to your company. For example, print advertisements that appear in the same newspaper as a feature article could multiply your exposure and increase brand awareness significantly.
Step 6: Track and promote your results
If you run a print advertisement you probably evaluate its effectiveness in terms of sales or leads. Public relations campaigns should be tracked using different measurements, such as the increase in visitors to your website or blog, the number of mentions your company gets in local or national media, or the quantity of promotional literature distributed at a recent event. The final step involved in a great PR campaign is to promote your business and showcase your results. If your company was able to secure great articles in print or online media, then you should create a press room and highlight those articles on your website. Another easy way to share your company’s results is to post articles on your social media channels.
By its very nature, public relations allows less "message control" than traditional advertising. With an ad you can say exactly what you want. Public relations are different since you cannot control exactly how the local media delivers your message. Make sure you carefully think through what you want to say, how you want to say it, and the tools and strategies you use to get that message across.
Betty Uribe, Ed.D., is an Executive Vice President of California Bank & Trust, which has launched a financing initiative aimed at minority and women-owned businesses in California called TEAM (Tools, Education, Access and Mentoring). For more information, please visit http://www.calbanktrust.com/team. You can also follow CB&T on Twitter: @calbanktrust or ‘like’ them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/calbanktrust.