Public relations (PR) is an effective way for businesses to gain publicity, create a particular image for your business and attract new clients.
Effective public relations can:
- make your target market aware of your unique selling proposition
- increase the number of people who are aware of your business
- educate the public about your business
- increase consumer interest in your products or services
- help you gain client loyalty.
PR can take many forms, from a story in a local newspaper about your business to the handing out of pens with the company logo at a local event. In fact, there are seven main categories of public relations that all small business owners should be familiar with:
- press coverage
- special events
- product placement
Let’s take a look at these methods of PR in greater detail.
Press coverage often relates to a story about your business in a newspaper or magazine or on radio or TV. The key to generating press coverage is to find interesting stories regarding your business, something the public would want to know about and the media would want to report. Such stories might include:
- an exciting story about how the business started-e.g. a quirky accident? An escape from the rat race? A fourth generation family business?
- press reviews-e.g. a local publication might review restaurants or coffee shops regularly
- a description of novel and interesting products or services that your business offers-just one novel product can attract media attention to your entire business. Some examples might be on-call corporate massage, Egyptian mummies, new age crystal therapy or free financial advice to the unemployed
- an interesting event such as a new store opening, a competition, a give away or an open day. The more creative your event, the more likely it is to win attention from the media. If the story you’re offering is truly interesting and newsworthy, the media will usually pick it up and see it to publication or broadcast.
The key benefit of press coverage is that it is usually more credible and believable than advertising which makes claims that have been paid for.
Special events are one-off projects like competitions, contests, in-store celebrity appearances, sales and open days.
Competitions in particular can be excellent opportunities to convert contestants into future clients. Special events such as these are designed to lift the profile of a business and provide greater access to members of your intended target market segments.
The key benefit of special events is that as well as attracting the media, successful events also draw interest from potential and existing clients.
Sponsorship involves donating funds to a specific organisation or event like a concert, sports team, festival or parade in exchange for having your name publicised in some way-e.g. a boatbuilder may sponsor the local fishing club. Often this can involve your company logo appearing on brochures, banners or posters associated with the event.
The key benefit of sponsorship is that it can be an excellent form of direct or targeted marketing as different events are often of interest to different and specific social groups. For example, if you want to market to readers, you could sponsor a book club or a literary festival.
Product placement is similar to sponsorship, but instead of donating cash, you provide a product that may be relevant to the event. For instance, a music store might lend drums (with clearly displayed company logo) to a concert. Often this can be cheaper than sponsorship while achieving similar levels of publicity.
The key benefit of product placement is that it can help inform the public that you are a supportive and generous member of the business and local community.
Merchandising involves the distribution of various items such as pens, coasters and t-shirts which display your business’s name, slogan or logo. These can be handed out in-store, perhaps as a thank-you gesture for purchases above a certain amount, or at sponsored events. For example, a motel might place pens bearing the company logo in its rooms.
The key benefit of merchandising is that unlike traditional advertising, merchandising offers a less pushy, fun way to keep your brand name in the public eye. And you’re giving people something they can use, so that whenever they use it they’ll think of your business.
Advertorials use PR techniques while still falling under the banner of advertising. They are usually television advertisements that are presented more like news stories. They are often 5-30 minutes in length and involve demonstrations, interviews, expert commentary and role-playing. Morning TV shows often offer this service and can help with the preparation of your script.
The key benefit of an advertorial is that it can convey a lot of detailed and specific information that’s interesting and user friendly. However, it’s a very expensive form of PR.
Incentives are rewards offered to particularly loyal or lucrative clients. For example, cafés sometimes offer club membership to regular clients who then receive discounts and other special privileges. Most airlines offer frequent flyer discounts. Another common option is to hold a prize draw, in which paying clients can enter their name over a set period in the hope of winning a lucrative prize.
The key benefit of incentives is that, like club membership, incentives are an excellent way to make clients feel special and valued. The more value they feel being part of your privileged club, the less likely they are to shop elsewhere and start afresh.
How to focus your PR campaign to reach your intended market
No matter what products or services you’re marketing through your PR campaign, you want to make sure your message reaches your intended target market.
Here are some examples of how PR techniques can be used to target various markets:
To reach teenagers you could:
- sponsor a youth concert
- release a story in a teen magazine
- hold an in-store competition and publicise it on a local youth radio station and youth websites.
To reach retirees you could:
- sponsor a bingo night
- release a story in a local senior citizens magazine
- offer senior citizens discounts.
To reach parents you could:
- sponsor a kids soccer team
- donate merchandise to a local school
- sponsor an academic prize at a school.
To reach office workers you could:
- hand out free company stationery (merchandising) to selected local companies
- release a story in a local business magazine
- offer a business persons special (be it a lunch or a particular service).