Public relations is a section of your business where you may have to ‘do it yourself’ even when the company has grown quite large.
When you start your own business with that flash of inspiration that gives you the self employment idea that kick starts your life, you will have chosen something you love. Whether it is a craft idea leading from a hobby, a catering idea from a signature dish that you can share with the world or a new slant on a professional skill, you will love what you do. The trick is to make everyone else think the same and to harness the passion that gave birth to the business to do so.
This can involve everything from networking at events to sending out targeted press releases to specialist press in the sector you specialise in. You will first need to draw up a PR strategy and ensure you know what messages you want to put across to the media. Consistency is key.
You will need to research what the best media opportunities are for your business, find out who the best person at a particular publication or broadcast organisation is and think laterally. For instance, in the absence of any specific news, such as a product or service launch, what about using your own personal story to sell the business?
There is an art to writing a press release. Remember you need to catch the attention of the media and make them want to read on so put extra effort into the headline and first line. Don’t waffle. Make sure all the details they need to know are clearly stated and there is a follow-up contact for more details, plus include your website address if you have one. Study press releases sent out by other similar businesses in your sector.
Public relations departments are sometimes the fire fighters of the business too. Even the best regulated companies sometimes get bad press and it is the job of the PR department to employ damage limitation strategies. There is a whole branch of PR which covers crisis management and in extremis, you would probably be better off calling in the professionals.
Hopefully, though, your job will be the happy task of sharing the good news of the company’s growth and development with the outside world. Networking is all part of the PR department’s job, making sure that the name of the business is never out of sight for long. While you are a one woman band, you will be in charge of everything, from the marketing plan to making the tea and at this stage of development it may seem a waste of your valuable time to go to openings, trade fairs and similar events both locally and nationally. However, when the business is bigger, you will be glad that you made your links early because it will be much easier to keep up with contacts already made.
One side of the work of the PR team is to liaise with customers. This customer base may be made up of members of the public or of just a few people for whom you do contract work. Making sure that you have an open door policy is a shrewd move, but this can become too much to take on later when the business grows. Even so, you should try your best to have a personal approach for as long as possible, because small business marketing is all about knowing your customers. This makes it much easier to deal with them if things do unfortunately – and hopefully temporarily – go wrong.
Once your business has grown sufficiently you may be able to take on a PR expert on an ad hoc basis if you can’t afford a regular part-time or full-time position, to give your business a more professional image and to handle publicity campaigns.