How to Develop a Public Relations Campaign for A Small Business

A St. Louis Public Relations professional, I am often asked if public relations can work for a small business.

The answer is “yes”.

Even on a lesser scale, the basics of creating a PR campaign for a small business are virtually the same as creating one for a large corporation.

It involves analyzing your business goals and determining what type of objective you would like to achieve.

Is your goal to increase hits on your web site, build greater trust with your customers and prospects, develop community awareness, or to simply let the marketplace know what products and services you are selling?

Once your goal is established then identify which audiences you need to reach. These should be in line with your objective.

Are your trying to reach other small business owners, presidents of larger corporations, a very select business to business audience, selected consumers, or the public at large?

After you identify these target markets the next step is to develop a strategy and the tactics necessary to reach them.

This is accomplished by creating a mini-campaign for each audience within the overall PR plan.

For example, let’s say your overall PR goal is to influence 30 new prospective customers to engage with you and your sales staff with the hope of turning them into clients.

One of your target audiences could be widget makers. Your objective with widget makers is to create 10 of those 30 prospective engagements.

Your tactics would then include developing a myriad of activities to build relationships with 10 widget makers.

Those activities could include hosting seminars for widget makers, manning a booth at widget trade shows, speaking at widget conferences, securing articles about your firm in widget publications, emailing newsletters to widget makers, developing a blog about widgets, connecting with widget makers through LinkedIn, etc.

Once the campaign is launched it needs to be analyzed and adjusted.

Focus on those tactics that work the best and provide the greatest return on investment. This is especially important for small companies who are usually on a limited budget.

Remember to keep it measurable. This is where a number of small business PR campaigns run out of steam.

If you plan to hit the 10 widget maker mark in six months, you will need to create 5 engagements within the first 90 days. Should you hit or exceed the 5 mark after 90 days you will feel confident that your campaign is on track.

Connect only with one or two widget makers in the first three months and you might have to adjust your strategy.

Whether your PR budget is $5,000 or $5 million the basic strategies of a public relations campaign remain the same.

It works for small companies as well as large ones. The first step is to create a goal and get started.

Reputation Leverage Using Widgets

The use of widgets as a marketing tool has been around for many years. Widgets deliver value for the provider, the publisher, the end-user and in some models, even more levels, so marketers have used this value chain for brand leverage. These widgets have tended to be of limited business value; little more than gimmicks as a vehicle for the brand. But what if widgets could deliver more than just weather predictions, a world clock or news feeds that can easily be found elsewhere?

Widgets can be very powerful for the simple reason that they have the potential to reach a very large audience. Say 15,000 Facebook users have embedded the widgets sponsored by Brand A. Brand A captures a year-round exposure to 1.5 million people assuming that each FB user has a network of 100 friends. This marketing leverage becomes exponential as a certain percentage of each FB user’s friends will also embed the widget.

Reputation Leverage

Political economists Klein and Leffler in their Reputation Model observed that reputable brands can charge a premium based on the strength of their reputation but lost reputation due to poor quality erodes long-term profit streams. Additionally, reputation can extend into other products via umbrella branding notes Eric Rasmusen, business professor at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. Basically, a good reputation has value and this reputation can be extended.

B2B Reputation Leverage (RL) Widgets

Systems integrators and software developers typically mention that they are IBM, Microsoft or Cisco “Business Partners”. They place the logos or trademarks of these IT giants along with their online content. This way, they can charge a premium or close a deal more easily versus competitors that are non-business partners.

On the other hand, a potential client has no readily available way to validate if such claims are true. With a reputation leverage widget however, such claims can be verified. A Microsoft partner logo for instance, can invite the user to “Click to Verify Business Partner Certification”. When clicked, the widget directs the prospect to a new window where a widget clearing house has the Extended Validation SSL Green Address Bar potentially avoiding phishing scams. As another layer of trust assurance, the clearing house can periodically check Microsoft’s partner database to ensure the certified business partner is a member in good standing.

Another useful application is for professional certifications such as the Microsoft Professional or Cisco series. RL widgets can serve as the online certificate of any professional that can be verified, validated, authenticated and checked. MBAs, professional association membership, PADI licenses; just about any certification that might be useful to have on display.

The distribution of RL widgets need to be controlled, monitored, well-managed and exclusive. If good reputations create value then so does scarcity. Therefore while brand leverage widgets need to have a viral quality, reputation leverage widgets are earned like trust, skill and status.

Are You an Online Business Opportunity Junkie?

Imagine for a minute that you have some expertise with certain widgets. You have already decided that there is a market for your widgets based on your research. So you go into business by opening up a small manufacturing enterprise to make and sell these widgets. Good so far.

You go out and buy all the necessary equipment to make your widgets. You store them in your warehouse. Some you unpack and have set up, some you just have lying around unpacked and waiting for you to take a look at the contents to make sure you bought the right stuff. But without even doing this, you feel you need some more equipment.

So you do not stop there and get along with the business of manufacturing your widgets. Instead you develop this urge to get into other widgets. You invite all kind of widget guys to come in and give you their best pitch every day, whether or not you have the machinery and systems in place to capitalize on what they are telling you. It does not matter that you have unopened machinery sitting in your warehouse to manufacture the widgets you have already decided on. You want to know about every hot widget before it gets cold. So you fall in love with some other widget and buy some more widget machinery.

It matters not that you have no idea how much you will have to spend to get your fist widget into profit. You just have to have more widget machinery. And more. Very soon you have moved from a widget guy to a widget machinery guy. You have acquired a bunch of different widget machinery with little or no prospect of getting your first widget to market.

Sounds crazy? Of course it is. It is mind-bending crazy. Worse, you have become a widget machinery guy pretending to be a widget guy. Now your whole focus has changed. You want to be successful making and selling widgets, when your whole mindset is about acquiring widget machinery. There is a huge disconnect, and it is at the root of many failings online. Before you know it, you have become a business opportunity junkie.

This scenario repeats itself across the Internet in the millions every day. People with the best of intentions at some enterprise allowing themselves to get thrown off track by the next hottest money-making idea, acquiring tools after tools – e-books, scripts, reports, software. Most of these ending up sitting on their computer hard drive without ever being put to use correctly. This is how too many online ventures get run. And sadly, this is how too many dreams get run in. This is part of what the Internet has spawned – millions of widget machinery junkies who just cannot wait to get their hands on the next hot widget machine. In short, business opportunity junkies who believe they are otherwise.

So are you a business opportunity junkie or are you an online entrepreneur? It is not hard to tell which you are. If you constantly chase after the next great money making opportunity, if you buy e-book after e-book, software programs after software programs, special reports after special reports, and you still do not have a viable online venture, you are a business opportunity junkie. And you need to find a way to pull yourself out of this mindset.

Your first step is in understanding the damage you are doing to your mindset. Every time you fail to execute completely only because you believe that there is some other better opportunity out there, you undermine your own confidence. Over time your focus gets damaged, and without focus your chances of succeeding in the online environment are extremely slim.

Once you begin to understand at a core level that this approach is self-destructive, you will change your approach. And it is not difficult to do if you follow three easy steps. First put some value on your time relative to your dreams and objectives. The bigger your dreams, the more valuable your time. Every minute wasted on chasing the next great opportunity diminishes your dreams two-fold. In your mind, see your dreams being diminished for every minute you waste chasing another opportunity.

Second, realize that if you change focus only at the behest of some marketing whiz you are telling yourself what you are supposed to be focusing on is not worth the effort. Once you do that, you not only change focus, you diminish the energy needed to stay with your current project. In your mind, see the energy being depleted as a result of you changing focus unnecessarily.

Third develop a system to evaluate online business opportunities. By doing this, you are forced to become systematic in your approach, slowing down the urge to jump to the next hot opportunity. By adopting these three approaches, over a short time you will notice your urge to chase that other opportunity becoming less and less, and you will maintain focus enabling you to execute more effectively.

Do not destroy your dreams or undermine your efforts and skills by chasing the next hot online business opportunity. The most likely outcome of this approach is you becoming an online business opportunity junkie with the urge to acquire and acquire, and we know how you will end up satisfying those urges – most likely the acquisition of another e-book, another special report, another script, another piece of software, only for each to end up useless on your computer hard drive.