Have you ever opened up the paper or turned on the TV only to see your competitor being quoted as an expert?   Are there times when they are up there speaking to your target audience, when you think, “I know more than this person.  I should be up on that stage!”

Well you’re right.  If you are in fact exceptional at what you do, have a ton of experience or are sitting on a leading edge breakthrough it’s time to start adding some PR to the mix.

What exactly is Public Relations?

According to Wikipedia, it is “The practice of managing communication between an organization and its publics.  PR provides an organization or individual exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that provide a third-party endorsement and do not involve a direct payment.”

That’s right, public relations is when a third party endorses your public interest and news stories for FREE!  It differs from a referral which refers your products and services and differs from advertising because you don’t pay for it.  But it can be one of your strongest tactics for attracting and closing business.

Who are your Publics?

Typically a small business owner is trying to position themselves as an industry leader to:

  • Customers
  • Prospects
  • Circles of Influence (Peers, Media, Strategic Partners, Industry leaders)
  • The general public, and possibly
  • Investors and/or employees

There are 4 key activities you can leverage to reach these publics.  Some or all of these may apply depending on your personality, speaking skills and level of expertise. They are:

  1. Speaking online (webinars, videos) and offline (conferences, associations)
  2. Writing online (blogs, online publications) and offline(magazines, newspapers, newsletters)
  3. Working with the media
  4. Social media engagement

Let’s have a look at each of these.

Speaking

Unless you are looking to become a professional speaker, speaking should be a way for you to capture leads (see Speak for Leads). Speaking allows an audience to not only get to know you, but to determine if they like what you have to say and if they think you really know your stuff. If you are worried about your speaking skills, look into public speaking courses through associations like Toastmasters. Chances are there are plenty of industry and special interest groups that can benefit from your wisdom and a lot of stressed out events people who will be relieved to have a great speaker for their audiences. Speaking can take many forms. It’s not only about being invited to speak to a group live.  It can also include recording yourself with a webcam or smartphone and posting it on YouTube, your site and other company’s sites. You can be a guest on a webinar, or blog radio show. The possibilities are endless and the other great bonus is, it provides you with new content you can use for our next section…..

Writing

You’re hearing it everywhere now, and I know I keep saying it over and over. Content is king. For service based companies this is how you SHOW your expertise. Even product based firms can benefit in sharing product specs, testing and demos. Start by creating your own articles for your own newsletters and posting those articles:

On your site
Via your social networks
On your blog
On article submission sites, and
Via strategic alliance channels (newsletters, sites)

Don’t shy away from approaching free magazines and publications (online and offline), to see if they might like to make you a regular contributor.

Working with the media

The first key step to working with the media is to identify exactly who you should be talking to. This means you need to start collecting the names of Newspaper reporters for relevant sections, TV and Radio Producers and editors of magazines and publications. Don’t forget those important thought leaders online as well!

Secondly start to listen and follow these media sources.  Set up RSS feeds for their name in Google News Alerts, follow their blogs, connect with them on social media sites and lastly subscribe to HARO.

The third step is to start communicating with them via their blogs, social media, online press releases and through pitching them your ideas. Share new trends, an interesting angle to a topical, major event, awards or recognitions or new innovations.

Once you get coverage, you can post this on your site and share it with your networks for even more credibility power. Don’t forget to also follow up and thank them for the coverage and measure your results.

Social Media and Online

While I’ve touched on this throughout the article, you should be looking for ways to increase your own star power via Social Media. A great place to measure where you are and where you need to go is through a site called KLOUT. Find influencers in your industry and look for ways to get more engaged online.  Many of today’s top experts are products of a strong online presence. It shouldn’t be an area you overlook.

Upping your PR may be adding some major to-do’s to your list or to the list of an already overworked employee, but these are important and effective actions every company should take. Assuming you are passionate about what your company does for a living, doesn’t it only seem right that you should be educating the public on the benefits you can offer to others and the problems your products or services can solve? Find a way to get it done!

Take the Brand Genie quiz now!

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Cidnee Stephen
Cidnee Stephen

Cidnee Stephen is the owner of Strategies for Success, a marketing company that focuses on the needs of budget minded small businesses and professional services. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.