PR for small business: myth or reality?
Alexander Storozhuk, Internet Entrepreneur, founder of content marketing platform PRNEWS.IO
Time and technology move ahead inexorably. Jeff Bezos has already managed to fly into space and come back, remote work has become a commonplace thing, and the next iPhone is conquering our digitalized world. Many small business owners are still convinced that only celebrities and international corporations can afford PR.
In fact, things are different. PR is necessary for absolutely all companies, regardless of their scale, field of operation, number of employees, and main competitors.
Let's find out when small companies need PR. And we shall dwell on the most widespread misconceptions, which often prevent small business owners from promoting their services.
Misconception No. 1. Only for big businesses!
Most often, it is owners of small businesses (coffee shops, cafes, beauty shops, barbershops, etc.) that suffer from impostor syndrome. They are the ones who have the smallest budget for promotion, and it is they who are often convinced that PR is expensive. In addition, it requires huge budgets and is completely unclear in terms of measuring effectiveness...
I also often encounter another common and detrimental myth that only public people and large corporations can afford PR. In fact, to successfully promote a brand or a specific person with the help of PR tools, you do not need million-dollar estimates. It's enough to know your audience and work with the channels that are in demand, without wasting time on unnecessary things. Then, even the smallest budget will yield results, and new clients will come.
By the way, you do not need to hire expensive PR specialists or contact an agency. For a small business, it is an unaffordable and unjustified financial burden. To understand your target audience and effective communication channels, it is enough to have one or two consultations with a freelancer and study in detail the performance of your competitors in the market.
Content marketing is also an excellent way to promote your brand and your company's services: regularly post photos of your beauty shop, photos taken by masters, videos of masterclasses, etc. Publications on third-party resources will also be relevant: in the media, in thematic groups on social networks, or at microbloggers.
The information that posting an article about your company in the industry or local online media costs a fortune is also not true. Of course, unless you plan to post an interview in The New York Times or Rolling Stone magazine in the near future.
Actually, the price for posting in the media varies. For example, there are media on our platform where publications cost from 8-10 USD to several thousand USD. Therefore, even with a minimal budget, it is possible to find the most suitable platform and content format for the company in terms of the "price-quality" ratio.
Misconception No. 2. A newly created company does not need PR
Another common and detrimental misconception is the idea that a newly established company or beauty salon does not need PR.
Let me start with the fact that PR is not a magic pill, not a method of solving existing problems, and not a tool for diverting public attention from an unpleasant precedent. First of all, Public Relations is a process of a relationship of a certain person or business with people.
Unfortunately, like any relationship, it can be active or passive. It is better to take an active position and be involved in creating the company's image yourself from the very first day of its operation. Or you can do nothing and wait for someone (for example, competitors or dissatisfied customers) to form an image and reputation for you. However, you will hardly be satisfied with the result.
In fact, the way your services will be perceived by market players and customers is affected by the basic components: the right name, the legality of the company, easy and quick access to publicly available information about the business, etc.
Begin with the simplest things: create official accounts of the company on social media, add it to Google Maps, sign up with Google My Business (add product cards there). Regularly publish posts on social media, reply to comments, and constantly be involved in the process: after all, Internet users will search for information about you on the Internet, read news about services, new products, promotions, and reviews. These simple and absolutely free steps are basic building blocks for creating a positive image of a company.
Misconception No. 3. We have no budget and nothing to write about
Small businesses operating in a highly competitive environment (independent beauty salons, barbershops, cosmetology clinics, etc.) usually have a strong SEO, targeting, and advertising. They often lack the resource to work with PR. Nevertheless, even with a minimal budget, you can acquire new clients.
Absolutely all media outlets make money in two ways. They either add advertisements to articles published by their platforms or make a profit from the articles you send them. But if the budget is limited, relationships with editorial offices and journalists can be based on a different principle, which is not known to everyone.
Create and offer unexpected, high-quality newsbreaks. Then, your material can be posted for free, and you will get the desired publication mentioning your company or specialists.
It makes no sense to write about the opening of yet another boulevard coffee shop or barbershop: such material is posted only on commercial terms. Use a more unconventional approach: tell about the opening of the first Men's Beard Museum, not about the opening of a barbershop.
Remember, audiences love stories, and they love beautiful stories even more. It's not just an exhibit that will grab their attention but a fascinating story with an unconventional design. A gallery of posters on the evolution of men's hairstyles or beards over the past 300 years, a collection of vintage shaving supplies, mirrors, etc. can be captivating.
A museum as a news-making tool works effectively even if money is only enough for the first few exhibits. Such content is perfect for a video blog and posts for social media at no extra cost. By developing this idea, investing effort and little money in it, you can regularly attract the attention of the media and the audience.
There is another popular and budget-friendly way to create news perfect for a small business - a "look behind the curtain" or backstage. You can use it to vividly and interestingly tell about the work of a beauty salon, barbershop, cosmetology center, team, experts, tools, and innovations that you use in the business.
How? Easy, just be creative! For example, unobtrusively tell that the masters of the salon regularly learn, improve, learn the tricks of the profession. Show "before" and "after" photos, tell about little-known novelties, the most popular haircuts, etc.
Also, relevant for small businesses will be a method of Data-Driven PR. It is based on the collection and analysis of any data from your field of operation. For example, while doing magic on the hair of customers, you can come up with some interesting statistics and data and create articles on such topics as "A record number of blondes lives in the N City," "How winter weather affected the hair of citizens," or "What hair problems do Ukrainian women suffer from most often?" Add to them infographics or photos, comments by a professional trichologist to make them great content for both the media and social networks.
Misconception No. 4. If there are negative reviews, they should be deleted
If negative substantiated reviews are posted, you'll have to improve your company's service and product quality. Investigate the case and post a polite, detailed comment if there was an oversight on the company's part.
If the review is fake, provide a substantiated, logical rebuttal (brief, to the point, factual and understandable).
Negative news spreads much faster than good news — this is an axiom; so, it's better for the company to be proactive and not wait for the situation when the thunder (or online scandal) hits. If you have a properly structured online brand promotion scheme and protection of its online reputation, negative reviews, even fake ones, will not affect you.
However, it doesn't happen as quickly as you wish. You need to regularly fill the information field around your company's name with positive or neutral news. Write and post press releases, author columns, articles, comments, and surveys on relevant topics. In a short time, when googling information about the brand using "your company" or "your company reviews" queries, people will find positive materials.
Remember: Google's main task is to provide information about each company and give a maximum variety of results (links to social networks, YouTube, Youcontrol, presentations, website, ads, etc.) The more diverse the content is, the harder it is to find negative information about you at the top of search results.
Misconception No. 5. It's better to save money on content
You can't save on content! Many companies often pay a lot for posting articles on our platform, but they fail to understand that the creation of high-quality content also costs a lot.
First, the material must be properly structured to be read to the end. Secondly, this is important for search engines, which, in fact, act as intermediaries in a dialogue between the company and the audience.
That is, a search engine should analyze the page with information, understand how interesting this material is by its volume, structure, availability of video and photo materials, reviews, etc. If it is relevant to key queries, which will be used to find the company on the Internet, it can be ranked high in SERPs. That is, the higher the quality of the publication, the higher its rankings.
Therefore, for people to read or see interesting, useful material, it is necessary to invest in content. It should not be something written for crawlers or a set of standard phrases containing no useful information.