Public Relations for Small Businesses

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Public Relations for small businesses

Due to the increasing number of books, courses and practitioners in the Public Relations industry, public relations is now as accessible to small businesses as it is to larger corporations with multi-million pound turnovers. Small businesses engage in public relations whether they are aware of it or not, because simply put, public relations is all about reputation. Just as the success of a business depends on its reputation and good name in the community, the bottom line of its public relations profile relates to what it does, what it says and what others say about it. So a wise business, club or organisation will be actively aware of its public relations plan, which could be as simple as a one line motto. The benefits can include an increase in understanding and support for the business measured in sales, market share, goodwill or positive public perception.

In the nineties, public relations in businesses can no longer be considered as an afterthought or left to chance. There are too many risks from competitors out to take a bigger slice of the cake or do damage to a reputation. Because of greater accessibility to the media, small businesses need more that ever to keep up the effort to establish and maintain a good reputation between itself and its public.

‘Publics’ is the public relations term used to describe all the various groups of people a business or organisation needs to get its message across to and includes customers, suppliers, shareholders, members, politicians, local councillors and the media. The message and how it is delivered forms the core of all public relations strategies. For example, customers can have leaflets delivered to their homes; suppliers can be treated to an annual golf outing; shareholders need a comprehensive annual report, a monthly or quarterly newsletter can be compiled for members; and a strategy for lobbying politicians and county councillors can be drawn up.

Gaining access to the media is not as difficult as it sounds. The idea is to know what style or type of news a publication or programme is looking for and how to send them a properly presented tailor-made story. For example, local news stories work best in local papers or local radio stations. A national paper will carry stories that will interest a wider readership and places a lot of emphasis on the news value of the paper. Papers vary in this also. The Star runs stories of a salacious nature while The Irish Times focuses on more serious current affairs.

If a small business wants to develop a PR strategy, it has a few choices. PR can easily be carried out on a D.I.Y. basis, providing there is no great crisis or long running battle with any of the publics. All a business needs to do is work out what message it wants to get across, to whom and what methods to employ. Management, employees (or members in the case of an organisation) can buy a good book on the subject or take a short course which would teach them the basics. Books like this should cover PR essentials such as accessing the media, radio interviews, effective writing, exhibitions, advertising, internal PR and publications. All PR should be accurate, brief and clear.

Another choice is to hire a PR professional. This can be done to cover the needs of a specific project such as an exhibition, a new product lunch, a sales promotion or an annual general meeting.

Other companies need on-going PR assistance and will need PR work done on a monthly or weekly basis. When public relations work starts to take over a large chunk of time of an in-house manager, then it is time to look for the services of a skilled operator to do the job. Certainly, it will cost you money, but if you put your job out to tender, knowing exactly what you need to achieve and how much you have to spend, you should get value for money. Although there are no certainties, a sustained effort generates results.

Businesses and organisations with a good PR profile will agree that it takes constant effort to keep their good reputation before the eyes of the public. They will also agree that the effort is worth it. Too many companies base the strength and success of PR on one project. If it doesn’t work, they lose faith.

Jean Paul Getty (1892-1976) the U.S. oil executive, millionaire and art collector once received a request from a magazine for a short article explaining his success. A cheque for $200 was enclosed. The multi-millionaire obligingly wrote ‘Some people find oil. Others don’t’. Telling isn’t it? Success, whether in oil or public relations is under our feet. It takes hard work to get a result that will place a business at the top of the pile.

Whether you do it yourself or use a professional, a successful public relations strategy which creates goodwill and an excellent reputation is with in the reach of every small business and organisation today.

Ethna Archer, from Athenry, holds a degree in Communication Studies and has ten years experience in the media and public relations. She now operates Archer Communications in Galway.

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About this record

Written by Ethna Archer

Published here 01 Nov 2022 and originally published 1995

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