Sarah Evans on How to use Public Relations and Social Media to promote your small business

Posted by Owen McGab Enaohwo


This Video Transcript was prepared by the Transcribing HYVeneans™

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Public Relations (PR) is tool that businesses, regardless of their size can use to maintain or improve their public image, increase the public’s awareness of their services, products and so on. That said, many small business owners think that they do not need PR; unfortunately they assume it’s only for the bigger well established companies within their niche or they simply cannot afford it. This view of PR is actually wrong and the reality is that it has become even more accessible for small businesses because of the various social media tools currently available for free. When done correctly, you can essentially create enough buzz around your company to rival the PR campaigns implemented by the big boys.

This is the reason I interviewed Sarah Evans of Sevans Strategy; a Chicago-based public relations and new media consultancy firm which specializes in educating clients on how new strategies and tools can integrate with traditional public relations. I felt the need to interview her so that you can get some insight on how to implement a public relations campaign for your small business. During the interview she explained the following:

The old school PR first of all PR incorporates the following communication “types” internal, external, community relations, government relations, media relations and so on. Most small business owners tend to focus on Media Relations which has changed in a lot of ways. In the past you typically would find a story, find the right media sources such as the journalists, editors and so on as well as define the ideal reader or customer for the article and then pitch the story to several media contacts at once hoping that the story sticks and someone finds interest in your story.

The New school PR and how it benefits the small business owner – Social media now presents the opportunity for the small business owner to go directly to those sites online where their potential customers and clients hangout. Though you can basically bypass the traditional news media by going directly to the consumer, you have to do so in such a way that your message does not interrupt the consumer or does not appear too much like an advertisement. In other words you do not want to appear like you are out-rightly marketing to them because they will tune you out like most other marketing messages that they constantly get bombarded with. Hence you have to figure out how they want you to engage with them and present your ideas in such a way that it is in line with how they have chosen to receive your overall message

Don’t abandon everything that you are currently doing PR-wise – You are still going to have to reach out to the traditional media, bloggers and those with influence within your niche so that you can pitch them on your idea so that they write about it but you want to make sure that you do your research to find out whether what you are offering them is in line with what they usually write about. This in itself is nothing new; the new concept here is first of all working to build buzz and a community around your idea, products and services before reaching out to them. This will make you appear more valuable and newsworthy to them.

Figure out the benefits of your message to your audienceFirst of all you need realize that not everything is newsworthy – now that I have highlighted this point we can move on. In order to create buzz you need to be timely and look at what’s currently happening on a national and/or local basis and craft a message that suits your overall purpose. You need to think of the benefits of your message to your audience and how useful what you have to say is to your audience. When you have completed this task then figure out how best to craft the message in such a way that they begin to think of you as a resource; hence focus on building trust through crafting content that they can immediately benefit from.

Create really good content – The main idea with content creation is to create content that leaves the end user feeling that they gained something useful. Also the content you create can be in various forms, it can be audio, words, and so on, it does not matter. The main idea is to get the conversation going with your audience. Sometimes the buzz you create as a result of your content might be about your business or something that is only slightly related to what you do. When this happens do not run away from it; try to engage your audience to find out why this specific piece of content / message even though not directly aligned with what you do resonates with them so that you can build upon it.

Interact with your audience and get their feedback Incorporate steps and strategies to solicit interaction and feedback from the community that you are building. It’s important to realize that your audience will engage with you by various means; some will leave comments on your blog, some might ask question on twitter and other social media sites, so you need to be able to engage with your audience through whatever medium they use to communicate with you.

Be prepared to handle negative PR Bad news about your business, products and/or services when left untouched can be very detrimental, hence you need to be prepared to tackle any negative PR as soon as it rears its ugly head. Just knowing that it is inevitable is not enough; you need to have a strategy in place that outlines how you will respond. When you respond, you need to be genuine and show that you care about finding a solution. Remember to quickly and thoughtfully respond to the crisis because the longer it takes for the public to hear from you the harder it becomes to sway them positively on the situation. Acknowledging that there is a crisis that needs your attention makes you more human and shows that you are serious about making timely correction to the situation.

Tips on how to get affordable PR for your small business If your budget is tight, then you need to first of all look for a student PRSSA (Public Relations Society of America) chapter at your local college. A lot of the students are looking to gain some experience. You can also look for small PR consultancy/agencies that take in only a few clients at a time. You need to mindful of the fact that you get what you pay for. Before hiring any of these companies, make sure you find out their experience in your industry because they might already have the necessary media relationships that you seek. Find out if the firm is already making use of social media and what success they have had with it.  Also find out their pay structure and who within their firm will be implementing the work that they will be doing for you. Don’t forget also to trust your gut and ask them for referrals.

Connect with Sarah Evans:

On her FaceBook Page

On Twitter

Check out her website

Question from me your host:

So what new ideas and strategies did you learn concerning using Public Relations to promote your small business? Have you applied any of the tips and strategies discussed in the interview already? Please leave your comments, suggestions and questions below.