Starting a small business can feel like embarking on an epic adventure, a mixture of anticipation, excitement, and yes—a healthy dose of trepidation. Among the myriad of considerations you face as a budding entrepreneur, managing your public relations (PR) often takes a backseat, hidden behind seemingly more pressing matters like budgeting, product development, or sales strategies. However, understanding the ins and outs of PR before launching your business can be a game-changer. Let's take a deep dive into everything you wish you'd known about PR before embarking on your entrepreneurial journey.
First, take a moment to pat yourself on the back just for being brave enough to venture into the world of small business ownership. And don’t sell yourself short. SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) are hugely important to the global economy.
In the United States, the number of small businesses stands at an impressive 33.2 million, which collectively represent 99.9% of all businesses in the nation. From 1995 to 2021, these enterprises were responsible for generating approximately 63% of all new jobs. Furthermore, 2021 marked a record-setting year, with a staggering 5.4 million applications for new businesses being filed across the country.
Across the majority of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a significant role in economic output, contributing over 50% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In some cases, global estimates indicate that this figure may soar as high as 70%. The magnitude of this contribution, however, varies across different sectors. Notably, in the service industry, SMEs are particularly prominent, accounting for 60% or more of the GDP in nearly all OECD countries.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, SMEs are businesses whose personnel numbers or financials fall below certain thresholds. The exact definition of SMEs can vary significantly from one country to another, and even between international organizations. In the European Union, for example, a standard definition is used, based on staff headcount and either turnover or balance sheet total:
A "micro" enterprise has up to 10 employees and an annual turnover (the amount of money taken in a particular period) and/or balance sheet total (a company's total assets) not exceeding €2 million.
A "small" enterprise has up to 50 employees, and an annual turnover and/or balance sheet total not exceeding €10 million.
A "medium-sized" enterprise has up to 250 employees, and an annual turnover not exceeding €50 million or a balance sheet total not exceeding €43 million.
In the United States, the Small Business Administration (SBA) sets the definition of SMEs based on either revenue or number of employees, and this can vary significantly depending on the industry. These businesses are critical to economic health, as they often account for a significant portion of employment and economic activity. They also foster innovation and competition in many economic sectors.
Short answer: yep!
Long answer: SMEs often face unique challenges in the business landscape, which is why they need effective PR strategies even more than big companies. Firstly, SMEs typically operate with limited resources and budgets, making it essential for them to maximize their exposure and reach within their target markets. PR allows SMEs to create awareness, build credibility, and establish a positive reputation without the need for substantial financial investments. Using PR tactics such as media relations, content creation, and social media engagement, SMEs can effectively compete with larger competitors and gain visibility among their key stakeholders.
Secondly, SMEs often lack the established brand recognition and reputation enjoyed by big companies. PR provides an avenue for SMEs to shape their brand story, differentiate themselves from competitors, and build trust with their audience. A well-executed PR strategy can help SMEs establish themselves as thought leaders, industry experts, or trusted local businesses. Through media coverage, speaking engagements, and strategic partnerships, SMEs can position themselves as credible and trustworthy options in the minds of customers and stakeholders.
Additionally, PR allows SMEs to communicate their unique value propositions, innovative solutions, and personalized customer experiences, which can be powerful differentiators in competitive markets. As they convey their brand messages through PR channels, SMEs can connect with their target audience on an emotional level and build lasting relationships that drive customer loyalty and business growth.
When people think of PR, they often imagine glitzy press releases or high-profile interviews. But PR is more than just securing a headline—it's about shaping your brand's reputation and creating meaningful relationships with your audience. PR is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between businesses and their publics. It involves managing your company's image, building brand recognition, and communicating with your stakeholders, from customers to investors.
A robust PR strategy can be an entrepreneur's secret weapon. It can create visibility, credibility, and trust—three crucial components of a successful brand. Your PR strategy will serve as a roadmap for your business communications, guiding you on how to create positive perceptions and strong relationships with your audience.
You might think that PR is something best left to the professionals. While it's true that PR agencies have the expertise and connections to secure high-profile media coverage, don't discount the value of DIY PR, especially in the early stages of your business. With a bit of research and networking, you can achieve significant PR wins on your own. If your budget allows, hiring a PR agency or a freelance PR professional can be a great asset—but it's not the only way to generate positive PR.
Every successful PR campaign is rooted in a compelling brand story. Your brand story isn't just what you sell—it's why you sell it, how your product impacts lives, and the values that guide your business. A strong brand story can connect you with your audience on an emotional level, generate loyalty, and set you apart from competitors.
Media relations is a crucial aspect of PR. It involves fostering relationships with journalists, bloggers, influencers, and any media professionals who can help amplify your message. Remember, journalists are always on the lookout for interesting stories, and your small business might be the next big thing they want to cover.
In today's digital age, social media has become a powerful PR tool. It allows businesses to reach their audience directly, gain insights about their customers, respond to feedback, and build a community around their brand. A well-planned social media strategy can not only boost your PR efforts but also drive engagement and conversions.
While we all hope to avoid PR disasters, it's essential to be prepared. PR crises can cause serious damage to your business reputation, but if handled correctly, they can also be opportunities to demonstrate your brand's values and resilience. Having a crisis communication plan in place can be the difference between a PR nightmare and a reputational rebound.
PR isn't just about making a splash—it's about making a difference. As such, it's crucial to measure the impact of your PR efforts. From media impressions and social media engagement to sentiment analysis and brand awareness surveys, there are several ways to gauge your PR success. (More about that below!)
The PR landscape is ever-evolving, and keeping up with trends and new communication channels is key to staying ahead. PR is not a one-time effort but a continuous process of learning, adapting, and engaging.
When it comes to PR, understanding the return on investment (ROI) is crucial for new businesses. It's important to recognize that ROI for PR can be challenging to measure in a straightforward manner. Unlike some marketing activities that directly generate sales or leads, the impact of PR efforts is often more nuanced. PR ROI can manifest in various forms, such as increased brand visibility, improved reputation, enhanced credibility, and strengthened relationships with stakeholders.
It's essential for new businesses to define their PR objectives clearly and align them with their overall business goals. By establishing specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) objectives, businesses can better track and evaluate the impact of PR activities on their desired outcomes.
Also, while PR ROI may not always translate into immediate revenue, it can have long-term benefits that contribute to business growth. For instance, positive media coverage and thought leadership opportunities can position a new business as an industry expert and attract potential customers over time. The value of PR extends beyond short-term gains and encompasses building brand equity, fostering customer trust and loyalty, and creating a positive brand perception that can influence purchasing decisions.
As new businesses invest in PR efforts, they should focus on measuring indicators that align with their specific objectives, such as media mentions, website traffic, social media engagement, customer feedback, and the overall sentiment surrounding their brand. Monitoring and analyzing these metrics lets new businesses gain valuable insights into the effectiveness and impact of their PR initiatives, helping them refine their strategies and optimize their ROI over time.
To sum up, while embarking on your small business journey may seem daunting, understanding the crucial role of PR in your business strategy can help you steer the ship in the right direction. From crafting your brand story and fostering media relationships to navigating PR crises and measuring success, effective PR management can be your stepping stone to entrepreneurial success. Remember, good PR is about connecting with your audience, creating value, and building trust—and these are the building blocks of any successful business.
Imperium Group is an American public relations and marketing consultancy firm. Founded in 2016, it specializes in guaranteed placements, creating utmost transparency for its clients. Imperium Group generates over 15M impressions a month for its clients. Its team is based out of New York, Dallas, and Los Angeles.
For more information about Imperium Group, please see https://navigator.imperiumgrouppr.com/.