[guestpost]PR is one of my favourite marketing strategies. That's why I asked PR expert, Charlotte Nichols and her team to write this guest article on when PR is right for your small business. Charlotte is the MD of Hugo & Harvey, a PR agency with offices in London and the North of England. You can find out more about Hugo & Harvey's work here.[/guestpost] PR is about reputation. Brand image. Corporate identity. Whatever name you give to your public relations activities, their ultimate aim is to create understanding between your business and everyone it touches. PR manages and reinforces positive perceptions about your organisation among your stakeholders, whether it’s your customers, business partners, employees or the press. It builds trust between your brand and its communities, and in times like these of change and uncertainty, that trust is a powerful force in retaining the special relationship you have with your stakeholders.

When Is PR Right For Your Small Business

So you see, the right time to get PR involved in your business is yesterday, tomorrow and right now. What follows are just five of the benefits that public relations can bring to your business.

1. Media Relations

You can market and promote your latest venture until you’re blue in the face, but nothing is more believable than what comes from someone else. This is why media coverage is so important to bolstering positive perceptions towards a business.  Whether you’re celebrating an anniversary, introducing a new service or launching your business for the first time, effective media relations can broaden the scale of stakeholder attention, while a supplementary social media campaign can maximise the buzz, turning regular users into brand ambassadors. Even bad news, if delivered with the right message, can inspire positive feelings towards the company. PR agencies are specialists in crafting and distributing meaningful messages to suit any and all circumstances that you and your business could face.

2. Social Media

Social media is one of the fastest growing methods of communication of the 21st Century, and a bandwagon on which every savvy business should jump. The social media landscape is fluid, ever-changing and driven by its users, and is an excellent way for a business to access unfiltered public opinion and understand the needs and desires of its stakeholders; indeed, the social media space allows business and stakeholders to interact freely, easily and inexpensively. Another benefit for business users is that the “social” nature of social media provides a breathing space to communicate your brand ethos or corporate personality – a freedom which is trickier to grasp in other methods of communication. But with that turbulent landscape, often limited word- or character-counts and a sea of noise to contend with, it takes skill and practice to craft social media messages which can both educate stakeholders, inspire their responses and impress them with your corporate personality. If you haven’t the time to devote to social media but understand how important it is to the success of your business, enlisting the help of a specialist PR and social media agency is a definite solution.

[callout]CLICK HERE to start planning your 2017 budget and map out your financial plan for the year ahead.[/callout]

3. Driving Traffic To Your Website

Your website will be the information hub of whatever you do. Especially for technical or specialist industries, it’s important to make sure that stakeholders have the right amount of information to fully understand a new product or service. A well-planned social media campaign before a new launch will inspire the interest of your stakeholders and drive them to your website, where they can educate themselves on your company, its products and services, and the values and commitments it makes towards them. Now your stakeholders are fully informed and eagerly awaiting your new launch, not only because they understand what it is you are providing, but also exactly how it benefits them as a loyal member of your stakeholder community. PR professionals can assess the readability of your website and the clarity of its content, and then drive your stakeholders to the right information at the right time in support of your latest venture.

4. Building Trust and CSR

Given this decade’s numerous unscrupulous incidents involving large corporations – such as the Leveson inquiry or the Ivy Park sweatshop scandal – publics are becoming less trustful of corporate messages and often doubt the intentions of companies. As such it is now more important than ever that companies act responsibly towards the communities with which they interact. Corporate Social Responsibility is a tricky business to master, but when effectively managed it can transform an organisation’s reputation. Elements of CSR include such features as equality and diversity in the workplace, caring for the environment, charity or voluntary work at a local level and mitigating the negative impact of your business on affected stakeholders. There are PR agencies which specialise in managing CSR activities, such as making connections and building relationships with local communities such as schools, councils and pressure groups, organising events and crafting partnerships. All these and more can serve to reinforce your reputation as a socially responsible business and earn you the respect of your stakeholders.

[callout]CLICK HERE to start planning your 2017 budget and map out your financial plan for the year ahead.[/callout]

5. Defence Against Crisis

Unfortunately, crisis is a fact of corporate life – eventually something will happen which may have the potential to drive your company into the ground. These situations require radical management, speedy decision-making and clear, quick communication with stakeholders. PR agencies offering crisis management services can help your business with contingency planning and reputation management – essential to the effective management of a crisis – by identifying key stakeholder groups and developing preliminary frameworks so that, in the event of a crisis, a response can be carried out quickly and efficiently. But that is not to say that public relations is only right for your business in the case of a crisis – regular public relations activity during normal operating procedures can also protect you from the impact of a crisis. As detailed above, PR activities build and strengthen the reputation of an organisation; a strong reputation is more difficult to break down among stakeholders, and therefore can serve to reduce the impact of a crisis on an organisation’s reputation.

In Summary

PR is always right for your business. Outlined above are just a few of the many services offered by PR agencies, and they are by no means a fixed service. Every PR agency will have its own unique portfolio of skills and services, meaning you can shop around and build yourself a package perfectly suited to your business needs. It is a flexible, creative service for a flexible, creative branch of business.

[callout]You can find out more about Hugo & Harvey's portfolio of PR and social media management services here. [/callout]

Join The Conversation

Question: Have you used PR to market your business? How did you get on? I love reading your feedback, so please do let me know your thoughts in the comments box below.

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I’m Denyse Whillier, a London based business coach and consultant. I guide entrepreneurs from across the globe to achieve profitable, scaleable growth and create businesses that are Built To Succeed™. Built To Succeed™ is my proven success system, developed during my 8 years in the trenches as a CEO, 25 years’ experience at senior leadership and managerial level and training at Cranfield School of Management, the UK's leading business school. It's this background that sets me apart and helps my clients to get BIG results.

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