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PR: Why small businesses can, and should…

See a TV ad telling you to wear sunscreen during the good weather we’ve been having, and you might. Read a news story in the paper about the latest research into skin cancer caused by exposure to the sun, and the impact on your behaviour will almost certainly be greater.

In essence, that is the difference between PR and advertising. They both have their place and can work highly effectively together, but because PR isn’t about paid for, controlled messages, it has a higher credibility rating when carried out effectively, and can be extremely persuasive.

Do you choose the bank that has a nice ad in the paper telling you how great it is, or do you choose the bank that journalists are writing positively about because of its good rates and great service? Do you buy the car with the glossy magazine ad or the one motor journalists are writing about as the car of the year?

The truth is that you’ll probably choose the bank or the car with both positive press and the great ads. And after reading the press story about skin cancer, you’ll probably buy the sun screen brand whose creative ad you’ve been most impressed by recently.

But, many small businesses don’t have the budget to pay for both PR and advertising – and, in my view, if it’s a choice between one and the other, PR is certainly the more persuasive and cost-effective.

I have seen too many examples of small businesses accelerating growth and opening up new markets through good PR – the small technology company that doubled sales of specialist software through a short, creative PR campaign to create understanding of its benefits; the environmental services business that won a major new contract because of awareness of its new offering created through a series of press articles.

What is PR?

Essentially, PR is about reputation management – it is about ensuring that the good things your organisation is doing are known about and understood by the people who you want to know about them and understand them.

For small businesses, PR is generally about harnessing the news agenda to create awareness of a new product, a new service, an award win, an investment, a contract win or a recruitment exercise.

PR isn’t free – you have to pay someone to manage it and to cover costs such as photography – but in relation to other forms of communication, PR can be extremely cost effective.

How do I go about getting some good PR for my business?

If you are a small business wondering what PR for your company might look like, I suggest you pick up the business section of your local newspaper and take a look at some of the stories and photos within. Most news stories today have had some involvement from a PR professional, and many of them, particularly in business publications, are as a direct result of press releases and photos organised by a PR practitioner.

There are also countless numbers of books published and available about PR – some of which have been written specifically for small business owners. Organisations like the CIPR and PRCA also offer introductory courses on PR that should be of benefit to small firms.

Or why not just pick up the phone to a local PR consultancy to ask them what they might be able to do for your business? You might also consider joining the smallbusinesscan PR and communications group set up recently and join in the conversation.

And, to get the ball rolling on PR for your company, you could put your business forward for profile on smallbusinesscan and in our media partners’ publications. Drop me a note with your story on SBC at chris.harrison@jprni.com.

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