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Old 12-13-2009, 10:07 AM
bholus10 bholus10 is offline
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Default The Importance of Public Relations for Small Business Owners


Many small business owners with whom I talk simply don’t see the need for public relations – much less the need to hire an agency to represent them.

I often hear small business owners say "I don’t need you, I write my own press releases!" That’s great, but if you consider "public relations" to just be writing

a press release then you are probably missing 90% of the value.

The fact is, almost any small business can receive a positive return on investment if they manage their expectations and budget accordingly. Unlike advertising, you can’t dictate where, when, what and how often your message will be delivered. Public Relations is many things, but it is NOT "Free Ads." Instead, one should view it as the ultimate “word of mouth.” Instead of one happy customer telling 10 of her friends, today's Internet media can reach MILLIONS of people in a single day!

This is a great thing if you have confidence in your brand and patience with reporters who may have never heard of you, your company, products or even your new business concept.

Ultimately, if you can sell the idea to an individual reporter he will talk about it – to his readers, co-workers and his friends at the TV station on the other side of town.

The long term benefits of public relations are what really create value. Unlike advertising, public relations campaigns aren’t always powerful immediately, nor do its effects fade once the campaign is over. Good press will last for months and years.

It will also help defend your company from negative things that may come up. Additionally, positive press and public image can also generate increased awareness, leading to even more coverage … without you even lifting a finger!

For example, if you put a banner advertisement on a site that features a review of your competitor’s product, your message is delivered and that’s great. But what about two weeks or six months later when that advertising campaign is over? Your competitor’s review is still there … building value for their brand.

In fact, with today’s search engines, that review may actually become more powerful as people begin to link to it and treat it as an authority!

Last fall I created a campaign suggesting that as people upgraded their Xbox game consoles to the Xbox 360 that they might find a new home for their old console inside an arcade cabinet kit from Dream Arcades (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2005/11/prweb310903.php). The results from this campaign are a perfect example of the power of public relations.

The news that their controls would work with Xbox was old – everyone in the enthusiast community already knew that – but people that read Maxim, Stuff, New York Times, NBC … even ESPN didn’t!

They all loved this pitch. It was timely, well crafted and most importantly, it stood-out from the thousands of "Coming soon, an even better Xbox!" articles that everyone was obliged to write.

As a result, traffic to www.DreamArcades.com exploded – and so did their orders!

You are probably thinking that sounds like the end, but in reality this was the beginning. The wonderful thing about public relations campaigns vs. advertising campaigns is that the impact just keeps growing … if you are able to keep feeding it.

A few weeks later I got a call from PlayBoy. They had heard about Dream Arcades and now wanted to feature it in their April 2006 feature "PlayBoy’s Ultimate Gameroom." With nearly 2 million paid subscribers and who knows how many total readers, this is a MASSIVE achievement. If I had simply called them and pitched cold I would never have made it past the call screener. Instead, I had an editor CALL ME!

That article – and the media preceding it allowed Dream Arcades to increase the price of their products, while at the same time increasing their sales volume. The PlayBoy feature alone resulted in a sales increase of more than 250% and remains at a much higher level than it was prior to that.

The lesson that is important to draw from this is that sometimes PR takes months to generate dividends but when it does, it pays off dramatically. For the example above, the story began in Sept. 2005 and the feature came out in Feb. 2006 – five months later.

So what can a business owner do and, if she should hire someone, what should they help her with?

Anyone with time to spend, the ability to write clearly and speak English well can:

1. Write a press release
2. Write a letter to the editor of their local papers and trade media
3. Answer the phone when a reporter calls
4. Quickly and concisely provide the information the reporter needs.

Additionally, with access to the internet, most people can also research the contact info for national and regional media. Or they can use a service like PR Web to quickly, cheaply and easily send out a press release.

So why do you need a public relations agency if you can write a press release and talk to the media all by yourself?

The answer is simple; because a professional can usually do it better – generating more positive results quicker, with less mistakes.

A public relations agent can:
1.Provide access to pre-existing contacts, PR tools and media databases
2.Provide an outside perspective – and the ability to suggest new ways of promoting the company, products, and services. I once had an article in the Financial Times and my boss called me in and demanded to know why I was "wasting my time" with, "some paper he had never heard of!"


3.Work with the business owner to maximize opportunities such as holidays, pop-culture news, or even political events.
4.Construct and polish pitches that are tailored to individual media and reporters.
5.Provide the experience of knowing what will and what won’t work – so that you make less mistakes. Good PR agents have already made and (hopefully) learned from their mistakes!

6.Help when the business owner simply doesn’t have the time to do it herself.

Should a business owner decide to brave the PR world all by herself, there are some quick and easy ways to make reach the public and the media – without spending a lot of money.

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Old 12-13-2009, 10:07 AM
bholus10 bholus10 is offline
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Default

Make Friends with Trade Press!

If you are in an industry such as plastics, vending, gaming, dentistry, or even video games, find out who your trade media is. Almost every industry has trade media – websites, magazines, and newsletters.

These guys are your friends. Your suppliers and your distributors probably read these. The best part is that if you send updates and news once per month you can build good awareness and even better – experience working with the press … a friendly press.

Make your Website Press Friendly!

You should have a website. Your website should be easy to navigate. Reporters should be able to quickly find a section labeled as "press" or "media." This section should contain all the information that a reporter would need to cover your company and products.

This at a minimum should include: contacts (phone and email), product brochures, product and company logo images for print and online use, brief company history and accomplishments, press releases and a list of upcoming events.

Let People Know about Your Website!

All of your marketing materials should include a link to your website. This includes emails, business cards, and brochures. Today you can even buy personalized stamps to make your mail stand out even before it’s opened.

Learn from your Mistakes!

You will make mistakes. Don’t let that bother you. Most media people are very forgiving. Often, they want the story as much as you want to give it to them. Just remember, they are human too.

Last edited by bholus10; 12-13-2009 at 10:08 AM.
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