At the beginning of any new public relations campaign, it is important to outline the success metrics against which the campaign will be evaluated. While the key performance indicators that define success vary among campaigns and clients, we are often asked by small businesses how engaging with a public relations agency will support business growth. Keeping in mind that no two small businesses look exactly alike – and that public relations is most effective when it is part of an integrated marketing and business development strategy – the following are five key areas where public relations can support small business growth strategies:
1. Heightening brand visibility
Working with a public relations agency helps small businesses to ensure company news and thought leadership pieces are reaching target media on a consistent basis. By building and implementing a public relations strategy that focuses on reaching target audiences through the media they most often consume, small businesses can get their name in front of the right people. And getting more folks buzzing about the “who they are” leads us to the “what they do.”
2. Enhancing expert positioning
Public Relations agencies often help small businesses to further their expert positioning by brainstorming topics for expert articles that can be placed in trade and mainstream media. These articles are an opportunity for small businesses to help consumers move beyond simply recognizing the company’s name and begin to develop an understanding of what the company does. This means more than knowing that ABC Mechanical manufactures widgets – it’s about knowing that ABC Mechanical helps clients use widgets to increase efficiency, reduce operating expenses, and so forth. By demonstrating a solid understanding of prospective clients’ business needs and showcasing thought leadership, a small business can leverage public relations to help cultivate leads.
3. Providing support materials for the sales team
In addition to enhancing expert positioning, expert articles rank among the top PR tools for supporting sales teams. Let’s say a technology company’s salesperson is prospecting a company in the insurance industry. They’ve had some good phone conversations and the sales rep is actively working to schedule a face-to-face meeting. Instead of just touching base to ask “are you ready to meet?” the salesperson can send along the expert article and say, “I thought you might find this article interesting…”
To a prospect, this article demonstrates that the vendor they are considering understands their business. It’s a tool for selling through and a solid proof point to support the sales process.
4. Expanding networks
The beauty of social media – and the web in general – is the ease with which content can be shared. With just a couple of clicks, a news story or expert article can move beyond the website on which it’s hosted into the inboxes of prospective customers. This may happen through the distribution of a media outlet’s daily e-communication or when a reader sees something that may be of interest to a colleague, friend, or strategic partner. The sharing of online news allows companies to receive added ROI from their public relations program as their news and expertise reaches new audiences.
The beauty of an ongoing public relations program (if you’re curious what this looks like, check out our blog post on public relations retainers) is that there is consistently new content available with which to update the company’s website. If you recently had an expert article published in a trade publication, post the article to your online newsroom. If you spoke at an industry tradeshow, share top takeaways from your presentation on the company’s blog (don’t have one? Here’s why you need one) and consider sharing the presentation on your website or through a tool such as SlideShare.
Google looks favorably upon websites that are consistently updated with authentic, relevant, and high-quality content. A public relations program provides small businesses with a wealth of ready-to-use content that falls within these parameters. Further, an up-to-date and comprehensive website shows web-surfing prospective clients that the company is engaged, active, and ready to meet new and existing clients’ needs.
While maintaining an effective public relations program requires collaboration between the PR agency and the client, it can play an important role in supporting small businesses as they work to attract new and promote existing clients.