From “PR Rules: The Playbook — The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Supersizing Your Small Business” Available in January 2014
By Hope Katz Gibbs, with Kathleen McCarthy
PR Rules: The Playbook
When it comes to creating a PR and marketing campaign to tell the world about your business, you have lots of choices.
But be sure to take some time on the front-end to understand the playing field before you charge ahead with your campaign. The PR playing field involves knowing the difference between PR, marketing, advertising, and sales — and how they can, and should, be coordinated to provide you with maximum visibility.
Remember: PR and marketing campaigns shout out why your products and services are the best in the business — and the ones your customers must buy. These campaigns should be creative and strategic — and include press releases, e-newsletters, ads, and your social media efforts.
Plus, your PR and marketing campaigns are a fantastic way to display your in-depth understanding of the icing-and-cake metaphor. Your “cake” may be your financial services, health insurance line, or tasty tacos — but where are the other revenue streams in your business? Make sure your PR and marketing campaigns reflect and show off everything you do — and can do — for customers.
What it’s not:
- PR and marketing is not direct sales. It’s information sharing, story telling, relationship building, and education for consumers and colleagues. It is the carrot that encourages customers to grab the stick so you can make the sale.
- It’s not a sure-fire way to make the phones ring. It is one of the many strategies you should use, though.
- It’s not an afterthought or opportunity to be taken lightly. It is critical to the image you are building, so be sure to set aside a realistic budget that grows as you do.
Why it’s important:
If you don’t have a PR and marketing campaign, how will customers — much less reporters — know to hire you or call you? They won’t. So put some time and effort into crafting a clever strategy, and be realistic about how long it will take to see results.
Being pragmatic about your resources and having realistic expectations will keep you from being disappointed or throwing in the towel when you’re actually right on-track.
For example, here are three important tasks for small businesses:
- Face forward. If you own a small business, you are the face of your firm. Your idea is the reason people walk through the door, so embrace the spotlight.
- Budget your money. Whether you do it yourself, our hire an outside firm to assist, be sure to calculate the time you’ll be spending on marketing, and the return on your investment. As a rule, a company should set aside 10 percent to 15 percent of its annual earnings for PR and marketing. Of that, e-newsletters, ads, and social media campaigns should account for 50 percent of the budget.
- Budget your time. It often takes longer than you think to market your company and turn those efforts into sales. Set aside a minimum of 10 percent to 15 percent of your week to work on the campaign.
Scroll down for our Inkandescent advice for putting out an e-newsletter that will make your company glow.
PLAY WITH IT! Here’s how:
Inkandescent Rule of Thumb: Consistency, clarity, and strategy are mission-critical. Know why you are doing what you are doing, and be able to measure your Return on Investment.
The Power of e-Newsletters.
- Send out your newsletter at regular intervals (monthly for professional service firms; weekly for restaurants and other high-touch customer service companies).
- Create a template that you can use each month. This will help readers to recognize your brand, and if the quality of the content is interesting and inspiring, they’ll become loyal followers.
- Themes are useful. They help tie together common ideas and help distinguish each month’s issue from the next. Pick 12 topics that you want to talk about in the coming year and develop a plan to write three articles (an intro, main feature, and sidebar) for each. More details on specifics are below.
- So does the size. Be judicious about the length of your newsletters. It’s better to write three useful articles that are short and pithy to send out each month, than one long newsletter with 12 separate articles that could confuse readers about your goals and services.
- Special offers are helpful — especially if you are a B2C company trying to draw customers into your shop or bistro, but be sure there is an expiration date and / or an identifier so you can track the effectiveness of each coupon campaign.
- Assign one person, or a small team of employees, to be responsible for the regularity of the content, and for getting it out on a consistent basis.
Strategy Can Save You Time, Money — and Face.
Monthly newsletters are ideal for most B2B companies. Restaurants and other B2C companies can consider doing shorter weekly news blasts. Remember that brevity is your friend; pontificate, or drone on at length and you risk losing your subscribers. Determine what is the best approach for your audience.
Multi-page newsletters: If you are a school district, law firm, or other professional services provider, and you want to offer a multitude of complex information to your clients, sending them a newsletter that has several pages can be an effective tool. They take longer to craft, but they also show off your expertise in a dynamic way.
Single-page newsletters: As long as these are filled with informative content, they can be the most effective outreach you offer. These should contain:
- an introduction,
- a main feature story,
- a sidebar that complements the topic featured in the issue
- Book reviews. They’re useful, depending on your industry, and every newsletter should include upcoming events and press mentions.
- Interviews that you do with other professionals in related industries.
- Events you are hosting. Use your newsletter to bump up attendance and excite readers about the networking opportunities at any educational classes you are offering.
- Citations — or mentions of your company in other publications or media — leverage the original mention into a credential that reflects your expertise, and it amplifies the original mention to reach a larger audience.
How should you harness the power of advertising and social media so they work to your advantage?
For that information — and additional fun, interactive exercises and insights — get your copy of PR Rules: The Playbook, coming in January 2014.