PR Essentials For Your Small Business
A lot of business owners are still unaware of the tremendous impact that public relations could have on their businesses even though there are some remarkable changes in their level of awareness and understanding of the role of public relations and how it can impact on the overall bottom line. Public Relations is the art and science of building relationships between an organization and its key publics. Public Relations engenders purposeful communications between an organization and its publics, it is proactive and future orientated, and has the goal of building and maintaining a positive perception of an organization in the mind of its publics. Every business, small or big has need for public relations and its roles remain the same irrespective of the size of the organization. “Public Relations practice is the act of social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizations leaders and implementing planned programme of action which will serve both the organization and the public interest” - Mexico 1978.
Unlike advertising, one of the most cost-effective methods for raising awareness is through public relations because it is much less expensive and incredibly invaluable to businesses. In today’s business environment, publicity is key and there is fierce competition for a share of voice and market. An effective Public Relations strategy will not only ensure that consumers earn your trust but also help you build a strong brand. A consistent public relations strategy will help build general awareness of your product, service or brand and will supplement any marketing efforts. Oftentimes the perception that PR gives your brand have a habit of making your business appear larger and more established than it may be. This helps a great deal when you need to secure partnerships, customers and also attract funding locally and internationally.
The best way to utilize public relations functions and services is to employ a professional and or set a PR unit or department depending on the size of your organization. In order to benefit from PR services without jeopardizing your budget, small to medium sized companies can hire a PR firm or freelance PR specialist for a limited time and job. Your PR unit or specialist will help to equip you with the following essentials: A good website or a well-planned and printed brochure that will provide information on your expertise, experience, your personal profile, and provide other relevant information about the company and of course its products/service. It will also help in the promotion of the business. In these days of websites, a lot of companies do not have brochures anymore even though they come very handy especially for the media. Design a data base including a stakeholder mapping for strategic networking and relationships.
It is important you know your audience, their needs as well as their lifestyle. It is good for business. A media relations strategy that creates an open line for continuous media engagement. This must include a media list to help define your relationship with Press. It will not be out of place to organize some media training for your staff. This is very useful in crisis management. A Crisis Communication plan is an essential for every organization big or small. Besides attracting public attention and helping establish a good reputation which directly influences the sales, your PR unit or agent plays an important role in the times of crisis. It could be a case of an angry employee, unpleasant rumours about your company, a natural disaster, liquidation, recession of some sort etc., you must be prepared to manage it efficiently and effectively. One of the reasons why most organizations never survive after a crisis is because they were never prepared for it.
Due to poor management, crisis could in a split of seconds damage the reputation an organization has spent years to build. Internal communications is an aspect that is mostly ignored even in large organisations and if in place, it is usually less than ideal, and yet this is the bedrock for innovation, productivity and interaction between coworkers directly.Communication in the workplace can both be comprehensive and inclusive of your internal audience. Your reputation as an organization actually starts form there. A communication policy that serves as a handbook when dealing with the public for all staff including management should be designed and given to every staff or easily accessible.
I would like to conclude by emphasizing the importance of measuring the public relations and publicity efforts of your organization. This helps your goal setting and gives you a true picture of where the organization stands in terms of perception. It helps you to put some control measures and gives you a quick assessment of the overall performance of your brand. Granted that public relations activities are heavy on spend and you may not easily quantify its benefits in terms of Naira and Kobo, however, there is a way to measure its effectiveness and this should always be applied and available when needed.
By: Nkechi Ali-Balogun