31st July 2015
No matter how perfect a product or savvy a service, if the public is unaware of a business, sales will stagnate. A business without sales has the writing on the wall. This is where great PR comes in. It will help businesses to connect with their customers, to shape a brand, establish differentiation from competitors, attract buyers and investors and can position business owners as experts in their field. It is not a luxury reserved for big business but an essential building block when growing a start-up or small business.
PR, which is in part marketing through third-party endorsement, is an extremely effective way to generate business and it compliments the other, more ‘obvious’ forms of marketing. Today’s consumer is savvy. They see through blatant (and expensive) advertising campaigns. PR subtly builds awareness of a company and its products and services by positioning them in the public’s consciousness, not by thrusting it in their faces.
In order for your start-up business to get beneficial press coverage, you first need to make sure you are confident about your brand and its ethos. The public is never going to understand your business if you, yourself, are not clear as to what your business brand is, its values and what it has to give. Your brand needs to be a coherent and have an unambiguous concept. Therefore, when introducing your brand, whether in a press release or when pitching to a journalist, lead with key information and outstanding assets, this positions your business instantly.
Once you are confident in your business value, it is imperative to communicate that personally – nothing is more powerful than authenticity in PR and if you are genuine and passionate about your brand, both journalists and the public will be receptive to this. Humans are social creatures; they buy into people not products. Having a visible figurehead rather than relying on anonymous branding helps customers to understand the ethos and culture behind your business. Ask yourself what the inspiration behind your company was, and your business vision for the future. Give your customers an insight into the entrepreneur behind the brand and make sure your personal and business principles align; audiences can see through branding messages that do not correlate to behaviour. PR, through mediums such as case studies, media coverage and advice columns and blogs, is your tool for illustrating your commitment to your brand values.
So, how do you behave like a figurehead? An easy way is through positioning yourself as thought leader and by marketing your expertise. You, as an individual, can share your valuable perspective, insight and experience. This is not just beneficial in terms of commercial success, but also in terms of investment. By creating a strong visible profile, you make you and your brand distinguishable, differentiating your business from other commercially viable investment opportunities. Profit and turnover speak for themselves, but business commitment and vision do not. A business with a strong figurehead and management team who represent the core business values make for a powerful commodity and are most effectively communicated through a PR campaign.
To secure media coverage it is also of vital importance that you immerse yourself in the media. This involves both being aware of the media sectors your business fits into and staying abreast of current affairs and their relevance to your business. Every story reported in the media represents a PR opportunity depending on your business. Keeping on top of current news means you can be reactive, relevant and forward thinking in your PR strategy, producing press releases that contribute to debates or that offer differing opinions or solutions to contemporary problems.
Yet PR should, at the same time, be a calculated strategy, taking into account any significant dates that may impact customers’ activity. Create a 12-month plan including dates such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Halloween and think about how your brand and commercial activities can ‘piggyback’ these events, increasing your chances of securing media interest. The importance of forward planning cannot be overemphasised – be aware of media lead times so you don’t miss out on a PR opportunity.
Collaborating with like-minded brands, which share your business ethos and target market, is another way reach a wider audience and create interesting PR angles. The first step in brand partnerships is to truly understand your customer. Spend some time thinking about your customer in depth: where do they live, how old are they, what are their hobbies, their occupations and incomes? Once you have a clear image, you can then seek out ideal partners for cross promotion. Partnerships are indispensable when it comes to business growth and, for small businesses, this involves collaborating with larger or more established brands for mutual benefit. The story of the Big Friendly Giant is a popular one and does not fail to attract media attention.
Yet undeniably the most effective tool at your disposal to get press coverage and media interest in your start-up business is a well-written press release, one that grabs attention and leaves a lasting impression. Ensure it is professional, includes all the vital (but relevant) information and use the first paragraph to sum up your news angle and tell the journalist why it’s worth the page space. Statistics that support your angle, any awards or accolades your business has won, celebrity fans or endorsers should all be in those first few lines. Illustrate your confidence in your brand and your story and substantiate the fact that you are great!
If you are serious about raising your personal or business profile, then you should be serious about PR. However it is an investment, in most cases there is no immediate, tangible return on your investment. Remain patient and view it as part of your strategic business journey. You have to nurture this relationship as you would any other; getting your business in the media of your target audience is just the beginning. A customer’s buying journey begins with awareness, followed by familiarity, then to purchase consideration and finally loyalty. If you are consistent in your PR efforts, awareness of your start-up business will grow with each new media platform that endorses you. Your business will become visible, it will enter your customer’s conscience and, most importantly, it will remain there.