Small businesses need to connect with their audience to increase their base of loyal customers. Therefore, PR is a tool to interact and engage potential customers to build a brand reputation. However, old-fashioned ways of public relations are not going to work these days. Hence, Designhill conducted the online panel discussion with industry experts showing small businesses the way to make their PR strategies and use some hacks for overall growth.
A solid and dependable customer base is crucial for the steady growth of a small business. But as competition in any business sphere is increasing, there is a need for a different approach to maintaining a relationship with a target audience. Also, many small businesses believe that public relations is not for them. It is something reserved for larger firms due to the big budgets involved. But that is not true.
Small companies also can use mediums like newspapers, TV, podcasts, radio, etc. easy methods for reaching out. They can implement PR strategies as well. To understand this issue, Designhill organized a panel discussion on 18th June on – PR Strategies And Hacks For Small Businesses with the experts of the field.
- How to define your PR goals & approaches towards networking?
- Strategies & hacks for identifying the right media influencer/platform for your specific news, awards, and announcements.
- Tactics: How to position yourself as a market leader & add credibility to your story/news?
- How to turn your media placement into a sales funnel that runs on autopilot?
- How to attract the attention of hard to reach an audience with the right messaging strategy?
- What stories can you share that will rally people to support & share your cause?
- Key industry trends for 2021 & much more
Know Your Panelists:
Deirdre Breakenridge carries a rich experience of over 30 years in PR, marketing, and branding, and worked with senior leaders at Fortune 500 companies. She is an author, entrepreneur, and CEO at Pure Performance Communications.
Also, she has been blogging at PR Strategies for over 10 years, and also hosting the podcasts, Women Worldwide, which in its 7th year and has nearly 2 million downloads.
As a career-long storyteller and strategist, she has been helping brands and professionals to ignite the energy and engagement around their communications.
Pam Moore is a global keynote speaker and strategist who helps business leaders grow their ROI. She is the CEO & co-founder of Marketing Nutz, a social media consulting agency that helps small and large businesses leverage social and digital technologies to increase brand awareness and achieve defined business goals.
The New York Times has called Peter Shankman “a rockstar who knows everything about social media and then some.” He is a corporate keynote speaker and Founder, The Geek Factory, Inc. With three startup launches and exits under his belt, Peter is recognized worldwide for radically new ways of thinking about the customer experience, social media, PR, marketing, advertising, and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and the new Neurodiverse and Remote economies.
Sally Falkow is an Award-winning social Media Strategist and Coach. She is the CEO of Meritus Media, a public relations agency that helps companies with the digital transformation of their communications. She has trained more than 2500 executives at major companies (like Time Warner Cable, Proctor & Gamble, Hilton Hotels) and PR agencies in the US, UK, and Asia to create a digital PR and social media strategy on how to develop effective content that meets the needs of your audiences at every stage of the stakeholder or customer journey.
Shonali Burke is amongst the early adopters of social media. She is the President & CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting. She has worked with, among others, the ASPCA, where she spearheaded crisis communications around the 2007 pet food recall and Michael Vick case, Cirque du leil, Oxfam America, the United Nations Foundation, Baptist Memorial Health Care, and USA for UNHCR, for whom she designed its now-textbook digital “Blue Key” campaign.
She is an award-winning marketing communications strategist who helps purpose-driven organizations tell data-driven stories to bring their big ideas to life. Also, she was the first Indian American woman to be named to PR Week’s “Top 40 Under 40” list of U.S.-based PR pros.
In this blog, we’ve shared the video of the session and transcript in the form Q/A where you’ll be learning everything about PR strategies and hacks for small businesses.
Transcript (Q/A): So, Here Are The PR Strategies And Hacks That You Can Use To Promote Your Small Business
Designhill: If you have not been into PR, and you have seen the entire market, business, and everything, what is exactly the right time to start in this field?
Deirdre Breakenridge: It is always the right time because PR is about building relationships. That is what your business relies on. It is about relationships, trust, and getting out there. It is the goodwill in the public that matters. When you start your PR effort, you highlight a lot of what you are doing to your content and your thought leaders.
First, take a look at your brand
But, I would take note of how your brand looks out there first. Yes, PR exercises are done all the time. But, make sure that anything that is being said about you is in a positive light. You should be cleaning it up so that your brand looks good. You should be consistent with your messaging because PR will just shed more light on you.
PR is the foundation
Sally Falkow: Yes, it is always the time for PR. There is a book that explains that PR, advertising, and marketing are not done like in a stack. They ought to be done in a linear progression. It is always PR first because PR lights the fire. Marketing and advertising will fan the flames, but it is PR that will light the fire. It has to be there.
If you have tried to sell a brand new product, or start a new company and nobody knows who you are. You do not have any visibility out there. It is hard. PR creates that favorable environment around your brand. That makes it possible for you to have those allies for people to know and understand, and trust you. But you have to start today and you have to do it tomorrow and the day after and then after that. It is not that I have done PR. I did it this weekend. I am all done.
PR is not about media relations
Shonali Burke: I think what’s important to remember is that PR is so often conflated with media relations. That is what people tend to think of. And I think small businesses, especially entrepreneurs, need to incorporate the essence of what public relations is.
Public relations is about understanding your brand. It is understanding what kind of relationship you want to build for your brand with its audiences? How does that translate into messaging? How does that translate into all of the building blocks of the communications around your brand, and that starts way before any kind of significant earned media push.
But PR is so much more than publicity. And we engage your PR strategists, whether it is somebody in the house, or a consultant, or a larger firm. At that time it is important to do it at the beginning of your efforts so that you set a strong foundation for what is to come.
Peter Shankman: When I ran my agency, I explained public relations to our clients. This is back in the .com days. I explained that no one believes how great you are if you have to tell them. Here, PR solves that problem.
For example, if I am sitting there on my own, at the edge of the bar playing Pokemon, whatever and someone looks over. Then that person sees me and says, oh, that is Peter Shankman. You guys have a lot in common. You both love dogs, and you both live close to the city. I should introduce him to you and love him. At the very least I am getting an introduction because it comes from a trusted source.
Create and tell a story
The concept of public relations is creating a story and telling a story, and doing so in such a way that the media was going to share that story, believe it and lend their credibility to that story. It is about lending the media’s credibility.
Pam Moore: I think it is the balance of perfection that is the enemy of the good. In our agency and consulting, we see so many companies big and small, that wait until everything is perfect. I truly believe that the level of the type of PR you are doing becomes more comprehensive and sophisticated over time. I remember when I left corporate after 15 years, our first big event that we did was to start PR out and just giving back to the community.
I remember we cut our business cards, we had made them in Photoshop. We closed a nice training gig that day, right from giving training and telling stories and how it is resonating with people. The sooner you get out there. If you are only working in the design world and the messaging world in a vacuum, you need to get that early and continuous feedback. You can build your brand identity in the way that other people are perceiving it. I think it is so important.
Designhill: How to network, give us tips for networking?
Networking is about helping people
Shonali Burke: I think, first of all, you have to remember that networking is not about how many business cards you collect. It is also not about how many names you add to your Rolodex or the contacts on your smartphone.
Networking is about trying to understand what drives someone else and how you can help someone. You heard us chatting up a storm before we went live and we kind of kept joking about how far back all of us go. But, like I was sharing, Peter and I connected when I worked for the ASPCA in 2005-2006. He made the time, and that is a big deal, to sit and chat for 1520 minutes over coffee.
I remember giving him some schwag for his cats. And there was nothing that would ever say we, we, engage in a business deal or anything like that. It was just getting to know someone and seeing I knew that he was into cats, and I worked for the ASPCA. I could and I was happy to do that.
The same with Deirdre with Sally, Pam and I have been connected for years speaking now. But it is anytime I say, well, let’s network and can you help me find a job? I mean, that is just not how it works. it is about how you can be of service to someone? And that is it. And it sounds kind of self, is it not self-defeating? But it kind of sounds like some people might go, well, then how will I get anywhere. Will you get somewhere by showing someone that you can head up that you care?
Deirdre Breakenridge: I have, through the pandemic, a keynote in Tokyo that used to take me four days, right to get to Tokyo to speak and come home. Now a 45-minute keynote in Tokyo takes about 45 minutes on my computer, which leaves me with a lot of free time. When you have ADHD, unscheduled, free time, it can be the death of you. it is either like, oh, let’s start another company.
There is no middle ground. A lot of what I have been doing over the past year is inviting people to talk to me. If you are in New York, meet me, and we’ll go for a walk, and you can pick my brain. If you are in another city, let’s have a Zoom, let’s do whatever. I have been doing these nonstops. I have learned some fascinating things. The first thing is that we need to kill the concept of networking.
Networking is not a format
What people think of as networking is in a very specific format. It is at a certain time, at a certain place, and doing a certain thing. And none of that is true. Networking happens as does life. The best networkers in the world are the people who do not say, what can you do for me, but rather, how can I help you? The five most underutilized words in the English language are How can I help you?
No one wants the email that I get that says, hey, I have not spoken in eight years, but I am looking for a job. But, hey, I was going through my network, I realized we have not talked in a while. How’s everything going? What are you working on? We have the ability more than ever before to monitor people in our network and to monitor people interested in it. You can create Google Alerts and their names. They get a promotion, get written up, send them a note.
Tell them, congratulations, there’s a pizza place in New York City that delivers pizza around the country, rocking dry ice, FedEx. I have them on speed dial. And I have been known as the pizza guy, because when something great happens to someone, I send them a pizza. What does that do? Well, it is pizza. they’re happy number one, but more importantly than that, it keeps me top of mind.
Help them as they need it
I am not doing anything to get something from them. But I guarantee you when they need something I can help. It may be a keynote or talk. We live in a society where karma is very real. And it is the simple act of offering help when you do not need it. I try to go into the logic that I try to put out 10 times the amount of help into the universe that I asked for.
Every time I ask someone for help, I try to put out 10 times as much. And that tends to work. But yeah, we have to stop thinking that networking is something you do in an event from six to eight because I cannot tell you the last time I went to a networking event, it was like 2014. At that time I just stopped going to parties and everything. I thought oh, I am going to lose all these. I found that you could potentially be useful to them, which is the real key. Figure out what they need and how you can provide
Networking is understanding people
Deirdre Breakenridge: There is something about networking, understanding different levels and people and energy. Because what you put into it certainly is what you get out of it. What Peter said about how I can help you is so important. You do go into a conversation, thinking that there might be some specific outcome. Do not go into the conversation like that because you never know how that agenda is going to change. This was a tough road with COVID. And there’s so much going on in our world.
There were times when I would show up to a meeting. And I am glad that I have some kind of preconceived networking notion. That is because somebody was having a hard time. They just needed to share and talk. And they found a similarity with something that I had gone through in my past. That was maybe very sad or heartbreaking, and they just wanted to share how they were feeling. I say that networking has always been about relationships. But let’s tune into the energy of feeling and put our emotional intelligence hats on. And we are all going to go a lot further with that.
Start networking with your inner circle
Pam Moore: I am a huge believer in what we call the OPC, which is other people’s community and other people’s content. But it is not about just getting right. It is also about giving, and it doesn’t have to be the tier. We look at a tiered structure for the op, right for the media. I always tell our clients to start with the people that are in their inner circle. It doesn’t always have to be the highest title person like you, you look at even a local level. It may be a chamber of commerce person.
That is how we started our business many years ago. I am involved with a chamber here that is still rocking. Some of them are doing it. I am here in Lake Nona, Florida. In an administrative assistant inside of a chamber, they’re one of the most connected people and have that entire network.
The president or CEO is super busy. Do you want to know them? Look at who are the most connected people. They are the ones who do not always need to have the most followers on social media. Also, they do not need vanity metrics like who can you go build an authentic relationship with that you can help each other. And so when you do then tap into events, you help one another. For instance, one of the first events that we did with zero budget was I got everybody within our network to contribute to a giveaway. I mean, the giveaway was worth like $5,000, all those companies promoted it.
Get creative while networking
So, get creative and approach people and say, once you have the relationship, how can we do some co-marketing together? How can we help one another? Who can I introduce you to and leverage the platform that you have? If you have a platform online? And they do not invite them on? Find immediate ways when you start that conversation of what’s in it for them.
You should have that already in your head of like three ways how you are going to be able to help them. So, it is not about can you get me a job or can you connect me with this client. It is coming to them with proactive ideas of what you can do better together than you can do on your own? And very rarely will you get a no, honestly, if you approach it that way. And so I think that the key is partnerships.
Be different while networking
Peter Shankman: You should be a little committed and different. I feel that it is important to give back and I am happy to put it on my terms. So, if you want to pick my brain, we are not going to sit at a board meeting or a coffee shop. That is because I just do not let my ADHD don’t let me do that. What are we going to do? We are going to exercise and run together. If you do not want to run, we will go for a walk.
I have had people telling me that they do not want to spend two hours getting ready to go out for coffee with someone. They could be doing something useful, especially as a single dad with a kid. I have had more meetings at the playground than I could ever count and it has been great.
People help you meet the right person
The second point I will add is about the people you meet at networking events. 99% chances are that those people can introduce you to the person who in turn can introduce you ultimately the person who might be able to get you what you need. Or, you go to sleep early, get to the gym, and wait for the door to open at 5:30. You find the CEO of the company at the door that you are trying to access. That is because they do not have time to go to networking events either like you. So, find where these people are and I guarantee you it is not where you think they are.
Sally Falkow: Do not always be fixated on that one person and the thing that you want. Someone told me a story about how she chose to go to these networking meetings regularly. And one time it was in Orange County in California, and it was a bit of a drive. So, she got there a bit late. And when she came in, there was only one chair available in the whole room. And she was like, oh, now I am not going to get to eat.
Just show up there
I wanted to meet this person and that person, and I am probably not going to. She said, next to this other lady. And she started talking to her, and she got even more like, roll my eyes because this woman wasn’t even in business. She thought, well, this is a complete waste of time, I have driven an hour to Orange County, I am wasting an hour and a half sitting here.
When, as Peter said, I could be doing all these other things. but she was gracious about it. And she told them, You know what she does, and she spoke to the woman and so on. A week later, she gets a call from a very big company. This woman was married to the CEO of that company.
She happened to know that her husband needed something. Out of this conversation, she went home and said, you know that thing that you were talking about that you had a problem with? Well, I just met somebody today. She got this enormous contract. You never know who that person is. Peter says it could be the person and the person and the person and the person, but you have to just be there. Show up, be there, be gracious, and help.
You should feel good about it
Shonali Burke: Yes, you should be there to show up. But it needs to feel right for you because of just showing up at random, then you are dispersing your energy. It is completely unproductive. Because like Peter said, and as everyone has stressed, you’ve got to do what works for you. We are grateful to talk, we are happy to share and we look at the prolific authors on this panel, like Judas on her ninth book, or 10th. So, I think by nature, we have internalized this over the years, and we try to get back as much as we can.
Know what works for you
But there is also some respect that we ask for. What works for us? What helps us, help you the most? What are those parameters that Peter was referring to? What are the parameters around which we can be most of the most valuable to each other? So, that I think is important to identify, and it is going to sound a little New Agey, touchy-feely, and if it does, it does, whatever.
That means you should not be functioning from a place of fear or anxiety. Instead, you should be functioning from the place that is in your best interest. That is the place for you to go. That is the event for you to attend the club for you to join, LinkedIn or whatever. So, use that inner compass of yours, to help guide your direction. It will lead to things you probably can’t even imagine.
Designhill: How to keep that partnership and network alive within the PR?
Pam Moore: I think it goes back to the same thing as offering help. When COVID first started, everybody was in a freakout zone, it was like, oh, my gosh, what am I going to do? That is the first thing we did. And so we reached out to some of our past clients, to local businesses, and local chambers. I asked them how I could help.
Just keep your help alive
In the first few weeks, we were on lockdown. I had a packed schedule of doing online training and helping. I put together a deck overnight and I just took it on the virtual road. I gave it for free just like I did back in the day when we first started our business. It is keeping it alive when you do not need something, and I think too many people keep it alive. But they only mean, my Facebook inbox is filled with people that are just keeping it alive. They want me to share a link or they want something, right, tweet my Twitter inbox to LinkedIn. keep it alive.
So, keep it alive when you do not need anything. Keep it alive just for fun, and just to say that, hey, you popped in my feed today. I have not seen you in a while. And it doesn’t have to be some big huge conversation. You could just say, hey, I was thinking of you today. And give purpose or go online.
Say that I am a huge believer in LinkedIn, and I have a good network there. I spend time there. And I will just go back to some of my corporate contacts often, hey, and I will purposely search to go back to one of my old companies to see my contacts there. And I will just go communicate with them. And it is what I am feeling. Like, Peter, I have time that day. I feel like communicating when you are in a good mood. And you feel like chatting, it is worth that 10 minutes of your time.
Deirdre Breakenridge: What Pam said is so spot on that Pam, you said how you immediately reached out when COVID hit? How can we help? That is what we did for my women worldwide network, which is my podcast show. We used to have interesting guests come on, always inspiring, and sharing stories.
Know how you can help
But we immediately switch to we know a lot is going on in your world. Where can we help? What are your challenges? What do you need to talk about or hear about? Then people started talking more to us so that we could wind up the guests specifically to give them advice. And it just worked so well.
That helped to bond the network more and we served more conversations, whether it was on Facebook or Twitter. And we also provided it almost like a mastermind or a private group, where we brought some people in just to help one another. There was no membership. But, it was because you were having a challenge and you were stuck. And there were 20 other people there to give you advice. I think I was keeping that.
Do an act of kindness
Peter Shankman: One of the things that you have to realize is that you meet and talk to everyone in your world, they’re on your network. They all are dealing with issues, the problems that you do not see. You do not realize that the tiniest bit of kindness can go so far, especially over the past 13 months. When this whole thing exploded. I took a course a couple of years ago on how to get more press right and how to master the media.
I was selling the course. And when this whole thing blew up, I saw all these people who had their courses increase their prices. People do not want to do the opposite. They dropped 99 bucks, it is still 99 bucks. I will put the link and give it to you guys at 99 bucks. Because my premise was, if I can help people during this time, any benefit, if someone gets from that, is going to be given back to the rest of the world tenfold.
Just help people in dire times
Over the past 13 months, the thing we have been missing the most is kindness. So to be able to give that out, in some way, for me was tremendously beneficial. Because a ton of people get value and use the course and email these. I am not doing much else anyway. Let me see how else I can help. You want to be able to give that back. And that is where the benefit comes from. Too many people are out there just trying to try to sell trying to sell again, you are trying to help.
Shonali Burke: I think it doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can be, hey, I was thinking of you. And not every interaction has to lead to a life-changing conversation. If there’s something very specific you need help with then reach out respectfully. But with a very clear ask in as succinct a way as possible, helps a ton.
Several people, whether colleagues or students, former coworkers, come and say, can you help me? I am like, how can I help you? And if there’s no help I can give, then I say I am not hiring. I do not have interviews for you. But if you want, if you are looking at a specific type of position, then I can help. I can give you my opinion because you are asking for it.
Give opinion only when asked to
But the other thing I have learned is I try not to offer my opinion unless I am asked for it. It is kind of the antithesis of what we are taught to do. In PR, we like to tell everybody what to do, and exactly how to run their lives. We are so good at telling it. But when my opinion is on something very specific, then I feel grateful, because then I know how I can help. That is the flip side too, show up and say hi, share information of interests that are going to help someone. But if there’s something very specific that you need help with, that specificity helps.
Sally Falkow: I think it is about consistency. It is not about going to this meeting or meeting the person and then going again next month. Once you build relationships with people, even online or on LinkedIn, or whatever, the idea is that it is about communication.
It is about conversations, which are not one way but two-way. You have to be connected to all those guys. You want to stay connected, and you want them to stay connected with you. Then you have to do the things like oh, I see you were featured in the media, it is your birthday. Where have you been? I have not spoken to you in like two years.
Post good content and give away
Just be there and show up and also post good content that is useful to people. It is all about giving. I knew a guy many years ago, who was brilliant. He used to make the most amazing courses, which were very innovative. And he would just give it away to everybody. And I said, Isn’t that kind of counterintuitive? He said no. Because no one else can deliver it as I can. And the more I give away, the more business I get. Just give it all away. Be generous and be there and be consistent.
Designhill: Which platform is best for small business PR?
Locate your audience
Peter Shankman: Know where is your audience? If you are talking about what platform in terms of, you know how to get media information? I can’t even say no, but I will give a shout-out to the company that bought the health reporter decision. I do not know if they have changed names like 18 times. But in terms of where to reach your audience, you have to know where your audience is.
So, the best piece of advice there, ask them where they are. Ask them where they hang out, where they spend their time, ask them. When you get a new member or a new one, you talk to them. At that time, when you talk to them or they email, you have a space that says, hey, where do you hang out online? How did you hear about us? We have access to so much information about our clients if we simply ask them and no one bothers to do that.
Search for a specific audience
Sally Falkow: From a PR point of view, you should be communicating with all of your stakeholders. Then you have to be very specific. For instance, it should not be just women. It should be specific to, say, women over the age of 35, with two children and three dogs, and one car. Women who like organic food.
Then you can start doing different kinds of research to find out where they are, and what do they read? And where do they hang out? And then you might find the answer. But it is gonna be different for my business. And the next one. Are you in the healthcare industry? Are you at the gym? There is not one answer for everybody. it is going to depend on who you are and who you are trying to reach.
Deirdre Breakenridge: You should start paying attention to the media. And you can certainly find out what reporters they’re covering and what different shows are airing. You can follow hashtags. Just tune in to that because that gives you what the conversations are, and perhaps where you can lend a voice.
Then, there are all kinds of tools that will go and tell you what are the trending topics in your area. You can find the topics no matter what your industry is, and what the media loves to talk about. And then it is up to you to figure out how our experts become a part of the conversation. And that is at least you have the knowledge and you are listening.
Social listening is crucial
Shonali Burke: I think listening is critical because it is what we do. As humans, we take it for granted. And I think it is particularly so when it comes to marketing. But even marketers and certain clients do not understand how critical it is to pay attention and listen. I launched a chord some years ago on what I call social PR. It was a very community-centric approach that I adopted to the layers of PR strategy. It was about how to develop a listening dashboard.
The media landscape has changed in yet another fascinating way. The different types of media like including traditional and social media platforms now play a part in the information you are trying to share. That hopefully is a value to that very specific audience to help them solve a problem. Because if you are not helping somebody solve a problem, why are you doing that? So, that is what good business comes down to. That is at the heart of good, effective PR.
Think of social PR
But I think a lot of organizations and particularly small businesses can take advantage of celebrities in another way. Just listen to the people talking around them. Know who they are. Those people close to you, can be very influential in starting to help tell your story.
That is what I call social PR. Those are your community influences and you should start to seed your story. You should build your group of potential evangelizers. They might not have great name recognition who might not have gazillion followers on Twitter or TikTok or whatever. But they can help share your story with the next person.
So, identify who in your communities you should be reaching out to and build your relationships within the community or the OPCs. It is something we can do very naturally. If we like engaging with people, and I do not think businesses realize how much power there is in that.
Pay attention to storytelling abilities
Peter Shankman: Many people who work in PR do not take the time to improve their storytelling abilities. What are they doing, if not telling stories? I mean, since the days of the cavemen and women, storytelling is all that we have done as a society.
So, if you are working in any sort of communications, PR marketing, whatever, and you do not feel that you are the best communicator, take a class. Take an improv class in the improv look, improv is a cult unto itself, I get it. But the value of improv is that it teaches you to answer one basic question. If you are taking improv, you can answer questions without hesitating, wasting time, and without stuttering. Give them the answer for the information they need, then you are going to be incredibly valuable to them.
Take a writing class. Anyone who works for me just takes as many community college classes that they want. I will pay for them. One out of every two corporate homepages in America has a spelling or grammatical error on the homepage. Your content has grammatical errors. Then, how can I trust you? How can I buy something from you? How can I trust you to watch my kids, feed my dog to do whatever if you can’t spell?
Be brilliant at basics
I had a journalism professor who said be brilliant at the basics. And that is up there in one of the top three pieces of advice I have ever gotten in my life. Be brilliant at the basics, especially because the bar is so incredibly low.
I do not need you to be awesome anymore. This is like, here’s what I need you to suffer less than anyone else. Do that. I will take your calls and I will read your emails, I will listen to your pitches. Do not send me a pitch like I got last year. That said, dear Peter, we know that working moms like you are not hard. Come on. a little bit better than that.
Pam Moore: Everything in business and marketing, and PR starts with your audience. If you want them to love you, then you have to know them. I think one of the biggest mistakes that people make is making their audience too broad. Also, they focus on the wrong segments. They’ll focus on their peers, for example, because everybody’s on a certain social network. Or, they’re on a new platform where your customer is.
It is about knowing your objectives and where you are going on each platform. Your customer may not be on that platform and your objective on that platform may not be to get customers. It may be to build authority. You can be partnering with an OPC type of leader to build your brand and to build your network. But you need to make sure that you know that audience.
Know your buyer persona
Build a buyer persona, I will post a link, we have a free buyer persona worksheet that you can grab that walks you through it. I have a five-day little buyer persona boot camp. We did the same thing with COVID. And offered it at $37 for a five-day course. You will have your buyer persona completed at the end of that.
Once you know your buyer persona and dream customer profile, then you can easily create messages for them. You can easily connect with them on whatever platform you are on. So, you wake up in the morning, go to LinkedIn or Twitter, Facebook, or Clubhouse. But you do not know what to talk about. You do not have a messaging problem, you have an audience problem.
That is because once you know your customer wants to know their problems, you should have content coming out of your head. You can’t wait to get on virtual paper to help them right. And so if you are struggling with what to say, What do I do? you are asking the wrong questions, ask what do they need? Who is my customer? What do they need? How can I help them? Then, you will have a content calendar that is more than full.
Listen to customers to know them
Deirdre Breakenridge: It is interesting when you sit within a boardroom of executives, and they say how much they know the customer. But then you ask them when was the last time that you asked something or talked to them? When was the last time you curated all of their conversations and put them into text analytics to find out what their biggest pain points are? And they just shake their heads.
If you do not know your audience, you do not know what’s going on in their heads and where they need help. All you have to do is ask and there’s technology. All of your listening can lead to ways for you to understand so much better and what is going on.
Interact with your audience
Peter Shankman: Can we just make the point that knowing your audience doesn’t mean sending an email going? Tell us how we did and where the email comes from. That is not how you learn about your audience. You learn about your audience by interacting with them.
My favorite story about that is I flew I fly Continental United and for 274 flights in a row. I would get this email to tell us how we did. And the last line, what can we do to make your flight better for 274 emails in a row? I replied, what is my next flight? Please refer to me as Peter Lord of the Skies. And it took them 274 flights to finally call me and said they would never stop. we are never going to stop that, it shouldn’t have taken 274 flights if you are trying to be, isn’t that a little disingenuous?
What if I had three bad flights in a row, you do not think Delta’s following me. If I tweeted something, they’re gonna, that opens the door for United to lose me If they have since redeemed and I am hoping to learn. But it took a long time to do that. Right. If you are good at telling me that you care about me, prove it.
Shonali Burke: There are so many tools and platforms, and podcasts and all that stuff these days. An answer about these tools is that it all depends on what you are trying to do and achieve. What is the best combination for you?
Familiarise yourself with technology
But particularly it is almost criminal with the marketing stack that we have these days. Many do not use it to personalize, customize and segment their audience and influencers, such as big, top, and mid-level communities. Because something like that is not that difficult to do these days. It is important to familiarize yourself with the technology. That is where you need to roll up your hands and get your hands dirty.
When it comes to spending time and outsourcing yourself. It depends on what your resources are. If you have a tiny budget, you are bootstrapping and you have zero resources other than yourself and your time. You have got to think about all of the other things you are doing. Then, what can you afford to allocate timewise in addition to keeping a business running? What are you trying to achieve?
Set up your realistic goals
I think you have to be realistic about that. What you have, what you might set up as your goals or your desired outcomes. Because we are all very focused, we are all outcome-driven. People here might be very different from what you can scale to in six months, or a year or five years. But trying to go from zero to 1000, in a very short period, particularly if you are bootstrapping is unrealistic.
Then, you set yourself up for failure rather than success. When you are thinking about your strategy, you have to start at the end, what are you trying to achieve. Then work backward from there.
Pay heed to social content
I can’t stress enough the value of owned content and earned content. It is great, but community-driven content, social content helps with search engine visibility. You also want at some point to be found and to have people coming to you. And that is something that I think all of us have learned through trial and error in our careers for our businesses and our clients.
If you are starting from scratch, understand what the outcome is that you are trying to achieve. I honestly do not think you can and I think it would be different. It is possible, of course, for you to completely fall flat on your face. But it would be difficult to not build consistently if you are starting smartly with content.
Your people are your asset
Deirdre Breakenridge: For smaller brands especially, do not forget that your people can be your greatest asset. You should get them to invest in the brand. They’ll shout and share the story. I think sometimes companies do not get their people invested enough and build them as champions. Show them the way and let them know how to be more strategic and share stories.
Also, some companies say why do not we do that. Maybe we are not an interesting company. If you have people in your company, there’s something that they’re doing that could be interesting. So, be human, and let those stories come out as well. It doesn’t always have to be about the brand. It can be the people and the face of the company.
Connect with people
Pam Moore: It is just about focus. I see so many businesses that freeze for lack of money and resources. So, such businesses want to go back to what is comfortable to them. But they should come out of their comfort zone and get out there. There’s nothing more valuable than getting out there and talking to customers. It is going to inspire all your creative work, and get creative, and how you get your PR right.
Those relationships are going to help you and you can do it with zero budget. You can get free PR as you are starting. If you connect with the right people and, and learn the skills that can help you amplify those connections.
So, you go to an in-person meeting, take the photos. Bring your son or your daughter if you have to come to take videos, testimonials, have the first free training that you do. Then, post them all over social, and that is where it is just getting creative and digging in a couple of areas that you focus on for success. That is my best advice
Find stories within
Sally Falkow: It is about finding the story within a company. Very often, people say oh, we are bored with nothing, no one would be interested in what we do. I had a client who did concrete cutting. And that was exactly his answer. I cut holes in the walls. Who would ever want to know about that?
But when they started talking to his customers, I discovered that they came to him because he’s innovative. And he does, he will do amazing things that nobody else will do. One of the things that he did was he did all the earthquake retrofitting at Stanford University. In that original quadrate, Stamford, they have got pillars.
Because it is old sandstone, they had to take all those little things, but spare and take the whole pillar to pieces, then drill a hole down the middle, put all the rebar in the concrete, and then put it all back. If you walk through there. Now, you would never know anything that has been done. It was an absolute work of art, it was a masterpiece. The company that hired him said, but there was nobody else. We would only ever have hired him because nobody else would be able to do that. He is an artist at what he does.
Storytelling helps get media attention
We wrote that story up and took all those pictures and got the story from the people who hired him and showed what had happened at Stanford. Everybody in that environment, in San Francisco, San Jose, and Palo Alto was fascinated and interested. I have got a heap of interest and media attention. All from someone who said, I cut holes in walls, no one would want to know about me.
Designhill: Can you share some stories that would help small businesses build their PR strategies?
Pam Moore: I have so many such stories. But I will tell one story. I have contact right now that I worked with over 10 years ago at Hitachi data systems. We have stayed in touch through the years. She started her business after I started mine. We connected. I helped her a little bit, we helped each other. And she recently reached out to me just because she was feeling down. So, she’s like, hey, I need some inspiration, you inspire me to start my company.
Transparency and Humility
So, my first point here is about transparency, humility, and being humble. She reached out as someone vulnerable, saying, I do not know if I want to do this anymore. And considering going back to corporate is what I am taking out of the message, possibly what she doesn’t know. When I speak with her, I have an opportunity right now that is perfect for her. That pays very well, and it is with a client that I could use her leadership.
So, that is where just by connecting, you do not have to ask for opportunities. When you have trusted resources and friends and relationships, they’re going to bring you in. And I have countless examples of that as of building our network. Both me and my partner, my husband of 20 years, started building our network on LinkedIn when they were first in beta.
Old relationships give leads
It is those relationships of 20 plus years that we get our leads from now. We get all of our leads from referrals from connections. I am launching a new podcast, which is a corporate podcast. I am going back to the CEO of Sun Microsystems, Scott McNealy and Emil Godrej, our CMO, and they are going to be the first people that come back to my podcast to talk about everything.
I can’t get chills thinking and talking about that. But the business that will come out of that for everybody I know is huge. That is because I am connecting people that love doing things together, and have not been together for many years. You have to think big at the same time. I think so many businesses do not dream big. They only think tactically, well, I do not know how to do this design. That is why you use companies like Designhill. Or, I do not know how to do this. I am never going to succeed. Where do I want to go? And that is what drives me.
Be passionate about it
Then you will find a way to get there. And that it is that vision that will bring people with you. When I first started my company, it was a huge vision that I had. That is what got everybody on board, I shared it with them. I was busting them out of my DNA. I was so excited about this. So, whatever you are doing, be excited, be passionate about it, or do something else. Because your passion will honestly attract organically the people that you need by your side to succeed with you.
Be human in your storytelling
Deirdre Breakenridge: Yeah, I would just say that being vulnerable and human in your storytelling. just personally, for myself, for many years, I was always doing strategic planning, and I am a strategist. But then after my stepdaughter passed, I started sharing a different story. I did a lot of launching of a passion project to know where it was going to go. Cold field, all about facing fears, empathy, ethics, and unleashing love, built a test that now has over 9500 answers in it.
People have been so gracious, taking the test, building a model, and there are courses around. We write children’s books. Now, my husband and I go to charity. And people have just been lifting this story. I have been out on TV. I guess it is just to say, if you give from your heart, and if you are vulnerable, the people who surround you lift you. It is the greatest public relations company in the world. It all comes from a good purpose. And that is the story that I wanted to share. It is okay to be human and vulnerable.
Sally Falkow: I think small businesses should be smart and creative with content in their stories to be successful. One good example was a company that had preschools decided to build one online preschool education available to all children. And they needed to get this awareness for this project.
They were producing good content. They found somebody that they could partner with, that had the audience of people with preschool children. They were rating and reviewing preschools across the country as they were desperate for content. Finally, they had this good partnership giving the content freely to these people. But, in turn, they got huge exposure to the exact audience that they wanted. It helped raise the registration of people on the online preschool just went through the roof.
Be Open and Human
Shonali Burke: I get asked a lot about how close you should be with your marketing or social media. Some people have had personal profiles and business profiles. And for me, I do not have the energy or the time to separate things. I am one person. If I am going to be a split personality online, then how am I going to function in my real life?
We all had the address and have been open about the tragedy she encountered. I have been pretty open about my bereavement with my husband and my mother. We know these things about each other, which allows us to step up and help. That is what is so important. I remember when my husband suddenly passed away, people flew in from around the world to offer their condolences. I mean, people I have not seen in 20 years were present. But we have worked together professionally, stayed in touch. It was just remarkable.
None of that was done from a business building point of view. But it shows and it reminds people of our humanity. That is what we need to bring back to marketing. And that openness and being vulnerable make people connect. Because people could do business with anyone. Why would they do business with you? Why would they come to me?
Just be truly you
Pretty much everything that can be said has been said. But it is because they like the way we do it or the way Designhill does it that they want to do business with us. You do not have to engage in verbal diarrhea all the time. But sharing what you are going through in an authentic way when it is truly you is important. And that is at the crux of authentic storytelling, which is what powers effective PR.
Own your public persona
Peter Shankman: I do not believe there’s any difference between personal and professional brands anymore. If you are going to sort of walk down the street of having any kind of public persona, then you have to own it. You can’t do it when it is convenient for you. While I try not to burden my audience with if I have a bad day. I would rather just go offline and go for a run, and I will say that I am having a crappy day, I will go for a run. I will see you tomorrow and I am not going to waste your time with this, which allows them to enjoy the times.
I have great days. I went for a phenomenal run this morning, set my run felt amazing, shared that. And I got the result that is great because we know that you were hurting after your surgery last year. You have to be honest, and you have to be true and be real. That is so much more beneficial than trying to fake it being authentic.
None of us know what the hell we are doing and making this as we go along every single day. We might have an idea and sure our advice is beneficial. But, we are introduced to brand new stuff every single day. Who would have believed if you told 25 years ago, you’d be sitting in front of a computer all day and handing out something called tweets.
So, as long as we keep doing it, and we learn from our mistakes, enjoy our successes. we are going to do it. Do not take it so seriously. At the end of the day, if you do not like where you are, then move. We are not a tree.
So, consider these tips from the experts when you are planning to use PR as your strategy to promote your small business. But the results will take time to realize. Till then adopt these hacks and go on improving your strategies.
As a small business, you should also pay attention to your visual identities such as logos, business cards, brochures, websites, and many more. These are key identities to make a lasting impression on your potential customers.
You can visit Designhill, the leading creative marketplace, to design your logo, etc identities. Just get started by launching your design contest with a brief for the designers. In a short period, you will have a winning design for your business as its identity.
Small businesses can grow if they can interact and engage their target audience. In their endeavor, PR strategies and hacks are crucial to achieving success. The experts opine that storytelling is the key component of it but you should just be yourself. Old relations and transparency in them matters a lot in the growth of small businesses.