Better PR on a Budget
You want Fame. You want to live forever; you want the world to remember your name. But you’re on a budget.
Um… pardon? Ah, I see. We’re not talking about your ability to dance in brightly coloured, fashionably-falling-down legwarmers here; you want Fame for your business. That’s lucky, because I can’t help with the other situation. Try dancing in the middle of a random, rundown street and talking bravely about your tragic past. It seemed to work.
However, if advice on achieving great public relations for very little cost is what you’re after, read on. And take those legwarmers off, for heavens’ sake. They won’t help.
What is PR?
Public Relations is the warm, fuzzy side of publicity. Relating to the public is not all about the hard sell. If you want your business to be well respected and successful, you need to make sure that not every interaction you have with others involves forcing your special offer upon them, so here are a few suggestions for building a good relationship with the public, for minimal cost and maximum effect (no dancing required).
Communicating costs nothing – or nothing beyond what you’re already paying for your phone or internet, anyway. Make phone calls and send emails to ensure other local businesses, associations, schools and colleges know you’re there and appreciate what you can do for them. They might be able to do something for you, too.
Can you offer students work experience? In return for investing a little of your time, you could get another pair of hands around the place, and a keen work experience student could become a great employee of the future if you take time to ensure they gain something from the experience and feel valued. Perhaps you could do a talk or a workshop in school, or let students come for a visit and explain what you do?
What about doing a temporary employee swap with another related business or a client’s company (providing you’re not in competition, of course!)? Maybe you could collaborate up with another business for a promotion or an event.
Whether it’s a relevant newspaper article, an internet forum or a local business network meeting, don’t be afraid to have your say. Write a letter in response to that article, offer to write a slot for that local or industry magazine, call into that radio chat show or attend that meeting and have your say. Soon people will link your name with your business, meaning they’re more likely to come to you for advice, a relevant quote on an event or news item, or – drum roll – the products or services you’re selling. They might even offer you a slot speaking at a conference or on a local radio show. What a great way to get publicity (and show how lovely you really are). The legwarmers are only allowable if you’re on the radio, though.
Show Your Support
Donate a prize to a local raffle. Sponsor the local school’s football kit or supply useful but inexpensive products. Supplying something constant is great because you may get a regular mention in school newsletters. For instance, my local preschool gets free fruit and vegetables for snack time from a shop in the village, while our local butcher supplies the meat for Scout fundraisers such as weekend breakfasts and their burger stall at the village fayre. Both businesses get frequent publicity and lavish public thanks in return.
Host a charity fundraiser. Give time to help a local cause, such as clearing litter or helping to redecorate the scout hut. Donate unwanted office items to charity or a local group or school. The chances to do your bit for a good cause while gaining valuable publicity and kudos are limitless, and everyone benefits.
Share the Love (and the Knowledge)
Blog about what’s happening in your company. Mix up humorous or more informal blogs with useful tips and industry news. Consider featuring testimonials or case studies from customers or clients, answer queries about your services or products and search the internet for frequently asked questions in your industry, too, so that you can attempt to answer them in your blog.
A blog can be a great way to connect with your customers and show them that you have a human side, while also demonstrating your expertise and commitment to customer service and support. It can help to drive traffic to your website, too.
Show You Value Customer Opinion
This means not only asking their opinion in as unobtrusive and friendly a way as possible, but also taking note of those opinions and changing what you do in light of them (budget and practicability allowing). Of course, once you’ve made the changes, make sure you let your customers know that you asked, listened and acted. You can report on both surveys and the changes you make on your blog, or in an email or newsletter.
Now I know I said there was no dancing required. However, if, in the pursuit of a suggestion above, you find yourself hosting a charity street-party, then dancing in the street may be involved – and yes, you can join in, providing you’re sure this won’t hinder your public relations rather than help them. Perhaps you could sponsor the local knitting group to produce the legwarmers…