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Eight essential PR tips for small businesses

By Babagana Amodu Abba & Temitope Rasheed Salawu

By most accounts, starting a small business anywhere can be a difficult and expensive venture. More so, in Nigeria, most of the factors necessary to set up a business rest on the entrepreneur with little or no support from the government institutions.
Now that your business is set up, your next goal is to ensure that your business gets as many potential clients as possible. In order for this to happen, you need a PR strategy to help you achieve the required objectives without breaking the bank. Here are eight essential tips to reach your target audience on a budget.
Stay connected: Getting your audience to listen to you is quite simple. The secret is to craft your story around your brand- a story that your target audience can relate to you. Many PR experts describe this as ‘humanizing your brand’. This involves telling audiences about your brand essence, its backstory, and its overall mission with a view to building an atmosphere of trust. And since most people tend to do business only with people/brands they trust, you would have succeeded in getting something going here.
Build media relationships: Doing business is mostly about forming relationships-and media relations are more than just a nice-to-have. To establish your brand and create top-of-mind awareness among your target audience you need the help of journalists who cover your industry. Reaching out to them and building a relationship before you need their help wouldn’t be such a bad idea as this may be the difference between your business making a lift-off or staying grounded.
Pitch that story: Now that you have the relationship part sorted out, you need to pitch your story to journalists and popular blogs who can help you push your brand. This is, however, not that simple as you need to justify to them why they should use your story, press release, or any other content.
Your job is to craft your content in a way that the journalist see it as relevant to their audiences. A well-crafted ‘newsworthy’ content does not need to be paid for, so if you want to get your brand story out there, you might need to spend a lot of time perfecting your pitch.
Build your profile: At this stage of your business growth, much of the success gained by your personal brand reflects on your business. Therefore you need to take every opportunity you get in presenting yourself as a subject expert.
Write articles, opinion pieces, blog posts on your journey as a service/solution provider. You need to try as much as possible to be broadminded in your approach so as not to sound opportunistic- remember your overall objective is to position your brand as a problem solver while volunteering your expertise free of charge.
Understand winning press releases: A big part of getting your story out there to the public is crafting press releases that delivers your message. It’s amazing the sheer number of press releases out there that will never pass the press test. If you can’t find a professional to help draft a proper release then here’s a solution: identify a press release that has been published but credible media platforms and re-engineer it to fit your purpose.
Review the content to understand why it was a good sell and structure your press release after it. As a rule, ensure your press release is not only newsworthy, but also straight to the point.
Keep your focus: it’s important not to be fixated on a big catch, sometimes what your product/service needs is a niche market, or brand influencers who have the capacity/social media followers/goodwill to help your small business turn the curve.
Sometimes what you need is to focus on a platform- Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, Whatsapp, Linkedin etc- consistently provide content, jump on trending topics and relevant hashtags then monitor closely to see what works and what doesn’t . Bigger brands can afford to establish their presence on multiple platforms at a time, but nothing acts as a leveler better than great, relatable, content with the capacity to go viral.
Now listen up: Now that you’ve got your word out, all you have to do is listen carefully to the conversation about your brand. One way to do this is to set up tools like Google alerts to help you monitor your mentions, with this you can analyses if your do it yourself PR effort is gaining a better understanding of your business environment. Don’t forget, the aim is to learn better ways of getting your word out, not getting fixated by your competition.
Don’t forget to collaborate: it is important to partner with other organizations to achieve better brand positioning. Collaborating with a media platform in delivering an event or other kinds of engagement is a sure way to get needed mileage for your brand as it gives you an opportunity to leverage on their ‘ready-made’ brand assets to reach a larger audience.
And a bonus point…
Have a damn good product! There’s no PR stronger than a happy customer. No ambassador more effective than a satisfied customer. Research shows that 84% of customers say they would more likely make a buy decision based on recommendations from friends and family, and another 88% from online reviews based on customer experience.

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