Stacked pennies and other coins.

I consistently find myself trying to educate clients on the necessity of public relations. Many don’t find it is necessary or feel it’s superfluous and a lot of small business owners find it difficult justifying public relations in their already slim marketing budgets. My response is this — you can’t afford NOT to have a public relations strategy.

Why public relations is important

Very simply, public relations is building trust. Public relations is the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with the public (customers, groups, businesses, etc…) that you depend on for your success; and like any mutually beneficial relationship, you need to nurture it. One of the challenges of small business marketing is that the CEO/owner wears many hats. Of all the responsibilities weighing on them, public relations tends to be the one that gets ignored. This is where having a public relations agency is valuable.

Right size your public relations budget

I have yet to say to a client, “I’m sorry but that budget is too small for us.” The truth is public relations is very scalable. The important thing is that your PR objectives are realistic with what you are comfortable spending, and that they align with your business goals. You don’t have to break the bank to make an impact. In fact, I will outline three strategies that can have big impact with minimal investment.

Community involvement

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is one of those overused terms, but when you truly embrace the spirit of charitable giving, CSR is a strong public relations strategy. So with that in mind, reach out within your local community and engage a nonprofit or charitable organization. With this type of PR strategy, it is important that the partnership be authentic, so do your homework and choose an organization that aligns with your business values and principles.

As an example, SA recently celebrated our 35th anniversary. To commemorate the event, the entire agency spent the day packaging 35,000 meals for Meals from the Heartland. Even though the purpose was not to gain media attention, we sent out a release with photos to local and trade media and were featured on Great Day on KCWI 23.

Social media and storytelling

News flash – social media is free. Mostly. What it does take is time. If you are going to spend the time, make sure you have a defined strategy with measurable goals and realistic expectations. With that strategy, develop content for at least six months starting out. You should be posting content to Facebook and microsites daily. Blogs should have a new post each week. Then you need to watch the engagement and authentically talk to those who post on your wall. Engagement drives shares, which extends your reach. As I said, it takes time, but the payoff is huge.

Employee engagement

Your employees are your best advocates. Word of mouth is still the most credible advertising there is. So let them be your brand voice. Make sure you involve them in your marketing and PR initiatives, and listen to their ideas. Think Win-Win.

Whether you’re just launching your small business or you want to expand into new markets, public relations is a purposeful strategy in your business plan that should not be left out of the budget.