Young Upstarts

All about entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, ideas, innovation, and small business.

Public Relations and the Small Business

During the course of my work, I’ve been regularly approached by small business owners and starting entrepreneurs who are interested in public relations to help grow their business.  Whether it is to grow brand awareness or drive public interest in their goods and services, some of them see public relations as a way to propel their business to a new level.

Unsurprisingly, the first thing they always ask me is, “How much?”.  I always explain that, like legal advice, PR is really a form of consultancy service that is catered for a business’ specific needs – i.e. case-by-case basis.  There is no hard-and-fast rule in charges, and PR agencies charge differently from client and client.

I’ve put together some five points for entrepreneurs considering PR to think about:

Do you even need PR? Don’t jump on the PR bandwagon simply because it sounds hip or that everyone is doing it.  There are some businesses which are not at a stage which needs PR yet.

The best example of this is when there is really no capacity for growth in your one-man operation, for example. It is a waste when a successful PR campaign generates interest in your business, but you have no means to leverage upon.

Know what you want out of public relations. It is crucial to know what you want before you even meet up with any agency.  Is it purely to drive consumer interest – and by extension, sales – in your latest products? Or is it for branding, or to attract new investors to your business? It could be that you’re faced with possible negative legislation or community backlash? Each scenario is different, and therefore require different approaches.

Don’t expect the PR agency to spell it out for you – because they are likely to give you more than you need, and charge you accordingly too.

Look at the broader picture. PR should not be seen as separate from other business functions. Many people I know make the mistake of isolating PR away from their marketing efforts or even front-line operations – i.e. “what has PR gotta do with customer service?”

Like legal advisors, PR experts are there to support your entire business. Be prepared to share every aspect of your business with them. You want, for example, for your marketing campaigns and PR efforts to say the same thing.

Don’t confuse PR as a cheaper alternative to advertising. Many people, even professionals, confuse PR as a cheaper way to reach their markets as opposed to advertising, which they see as expensive and sometimes, ineffective.  This is a fallacy – PR and advertising are merely different marketing tools to reach various audiences. The best marketing campaigns leverage on both tools to communicate different messages to their different publics for different effects.

Advertising – and by extension interruption marketing – is still one of the best ways to reach the masses, especially those who’ve never heard of you or your product.

Shop around. Don’t go for the first agency you meet, and don’t go for the cheapest quote either. Different agencies have their strengths, and you want one with great contacts with the media that cover your industry.

Also, like all consultancies, it’s the people – your account servicing team – who are going to work directly with you that matters. Some agencies send their big guns to win your business, but later relegate the actual work to peons.  Make sure that the account servicing team has the appropriate experience, and that you have synergy with them. So choose wisely.

Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.

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