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Public Relations and Your Small Business

What do you call advertising without ads? You call it public relations or PR, and it is something that no business, large or small, can do without. At its most basic, PR is the face your company shows to the world, how your organization relates to the public. It can be as simple as the way your employees treat your customers or it can be a complex array of things playing their part in a larger marketing campaign.

This kind of communication is not done through paid advertisements. The credibility of advertising is limited at best since it is naturally assumed that the advertiser is trying to sell something. Public relations uses the news media as its conduit. The primary tool for this is the press release. 

Press releases are stories, written by you (or someone in your organization or even a professional PR firm), covering something newsworthy pertaining to your company. It is usually a page or two in length with the majority of the space given to the subject of the release. The last paragraph often gives basic information about your company that would be useful in any story. These press releases are then distributed to local, regional and national media depending on the coverage you need. 

“I don’t have anything newsworthy!” I hear you cry. Of course you do! Important dates, promotions and important new hires, grand openings, ground-breakings, new products, your Little League sponsorship—the list is limited only by your imagination. Still, to really hook the media, you may need to stage an event.

Just because you are staging something, that doesn’t mean it isn’t news. Some years ago, while working for a local PR agency, we had a fledgling office machine supplier that was ready to have their grand opening. Having some pull with local government (contacts help a lot) we were able to have the kick-off party at the Art Institute of Chicago and the main event, a charity copier demolition, in Grant Park. Under the encouragement of former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, participants paid $5.00 for the chance to take a sledgehammer to an old copying machine. The money—well over $600.00—went to a good cause and after the copiers had been reduced to scrap metal and plastic, everyone trooped into the museum for a great evening. More importantly than that, there was TV and print coverage that did more for that company than any ad could have. Our client was separated from the crowd in the heart of their target sales area, Chicago’s downtown business district. 

Would they have done well without the big kick-off and charity event? Probably, they had solid products and good people, but their arrival in the market would hardly have had the force that evening of champagne and sledgehammers gave it. We were able to take a relatively minor event—the opening of an office equipment supplier—and turn it into something that helped to propel their sales for some time afterwards. All it took was a few calls and a well-written press release.

Those few calls, some to political figures and some to press contacts, highlight the importance of cultivating positive relationships with those who can help you make things happen as well as those who can get your story into print or on the air. After all, your press release is worthless if no one reads it. You need to consider these to be long-term relationships and it is important to keep up with them even if you don’t need their services at the moment. Someday you will. 

Now, you can do all of this yourself, which is a lot of time and effort if you plan to do it right, or you can go with an expert who already has the contacts you need. PR Newswire is the world's largest electronic distributor of press releases and they will ensure that your news is delivered to all your critical audiences including media, investors and potential customers. On top of that, they are offering members of America’s Best Companies a package of free and substantially discounted services valued at $1,400.00. Check out their offer and see what public relations can do for you.