Public Relations for small business made visual

Public Relations is all about building relationships with the company, whether you’re a sole proprietor or a Fortune 500 corporation. This graphic shows the basics for the small business owner. Public relations practices aren’t limited to these four. Not included are government relations, employee relations, donor/member relations, multicultural relations and any other “public” you can think of. Other work includes crisis communication and planning, speeches, events, etc. All require brand development, strategic planning and message development-no matter the company size.


Don’t be a Brutus Backstabber

If you are engaging a speaker for your students, your event or your business,  applying good public relations practices critical for your reputation. I’ve recently been on a public speaking circuit and/or had occasion to help others with their engagements. Thought I’d share some observations.

One of my closest friends teaches high school English. To engage her students in the story of Julius Caesar and Brutus, students were assigned a media relations challenge: conduct a media publicity campaign for either Caesar or Brutus and defend the case. Kids did great jobs: citizen on the street reaction to the death of Caesar, radio scoops interviewing “Brutus” and TV reality shows. For those who have forgotten their high school history, Brutus and Caesar were pals until Caesar started making like a king. Brutus thought a republic with fair representation a better way to go. Seeing his friend’s grandiose ideas, Brutus felt his only option was to take Caesar out-stabbed him in the back. About 3/4ths of the students supported Brutus and the push for democracy, even though killing was extreme. We talked about the challenge in public relations about taking on a client who goes against the administration and when that is appropriate, overcoming oppressive regimes.

My friend invited two of us working in the field of public relations to come “judge” the media efforts. We committed nearly three hours of our time to observe 4-50 students present their cases and provided feedback on the elements of persuasion and public relations they showcased. Gladly arranged my schedule to accommodate this educational endeavor.

But the high school administration became Brutus. My entire experience was ruined when I went to my car. You see I couldn’t find any parking upon arriving. I got to the school at the appointed time but couldn’t find parking and still had to negotiate signing in at the front office. The 6-8 visitor parking spots were all occupied, the street parking was full, so I parked in a spot clearly marked faculty. There were several open faculty spots, not like I was preventing faculty from parking closely. When I returned to my car an astrobright gold piece of paper was on my windshield. The note read

You have parked in a faculty designated parking spot. In future, park in the designated visitor parking. -High School Administration.

Clearly the administration knew I was a visitor and not a student. What an abysmal way to treat a visitor. I had to sign in and state my purpose as a guest. They knew why I was there–to share my expertise with their students. And yet, they left a nasty gram on my windshield. No one asked me where I parked when I checked in. But they sure wanted me to know where to park if I ever came back.

If the high school teacher who invited me wasn’t my best friend, I wouldn’t ever go back. I’ve painted a mural on the wall over a hot summer weekend for the class. This is the third year I’ve volunteered time to provide professional insight to student class work. And one moment could easily have ruined our relationship (mine with the school, not my friend). I told my friend about my disappointment, so this isn’t a surprise. But she wasn’t surprised either. The school administration’s heavy handed approach created a great analogy for the class assignment, fulfilling both Caesar and Brutus parts.

Feed the Photographer Eye Candy

Whenever you have a gathering for your business, don’t forget the photographer. Doesn’t matter if its a networking event, a fundraiser, board retreat, business opening, new product–be sure to take pictures.

Ideally you use a professional photographer; when you can afford to, do it. They are skilled at capturing the right moments, recognizing the lighting and working with what’s available, they can manipulate the picture or know what frames well in a picture. Tips like not wearing name badges, or wires above your heads, or shadows across faces–all skills a keen photographer’s eye can capture.

When working with a photographer, try to think in advance what you want to DO with the pictures. Annual report? Submitting people shots to the local news people-watching column?This is an excellent option for publicity–sometimes you can promote your business if you’ve hosted an event and just submit pictures of the attendees. Get the media requirements for this–typically you can submit photos from an iphone if the quality is good.

Write up a check list of those kinds of shots you need-shots of happy kids, active shots of business interactions, people mingling.

Negotiate the ownership of the pictures. Many photographers will sell you all the shots; some may only sell use of the artwork for a period of time. There’s valid reasons for both, just know your options.

If you can’t afford a photographer, you can still take pictures–and should. All these shots can be taken–it’s often just remembering to bring the camera or assign someone to use it during the event.

We are a visual society. The more you can add graphics, especially pictures of real things the better for your blog, Facebook posts, annual reports, investor reports, publicity submission. Click away!

Tragedy Strikes! Sharing best practices.

Newsletters are hard to do. You need to be brief, provide value and be engaging. This is the best newsletter I’ve seen. Printed with permission.


a new way to buy wine…
based on flavor and body

Damonte Ranch Town Center
1131 Steamboat Parkway
Reno, NV 89521
775-851-VINO (8466)

Click here to visit us online!
Tragedy Strikes Vino 100
Last week on Tuesday Phil and the crew moved the cash register down 35 inches in anticipation of the arrival of our bar which was built off-site and was to be moved in like furniture.Thursday the trailer got hooked up and our bar was on it’s way to Vino 100!! Maury (who built the bar) noticed the trailer unhooked, the safety chains both broke and the trailer kissed the retaining wall on the freeway, 396 North near College Parkway. The granite top came crashing down and broke into 4 pieces. The 1/2 wine barrel (which was the corner of the bar) hit the trailer, got banged up and went sliding along the freeway!! Lots of dam age.

Our bar attempted suicide.

We are in mourning.

The bar was rushed to the ER where the physicians got out the paddles, yelled “CLEAR” and began resusitating our new baby!! The bar is still in urgent care but is expected to pull through with a little TLC!!

The new tasting bar is expected to be at Vino 100 by around Nov 10 or so. Come see if they did a good job on the repairs!!

November 3-Thursday- Art opening for local artist Susan Moore 5:30PM. Come check our her artwork and sip on FREE wine (while supplies last)!! Also, it’s Martini Night 2 for $13!!

Nov 4-Friday Appetizers, an entree’, and dessert by Chef Antonio from 5:30-10PM…come join us and check out our new beers!!

Thursday Nov. 3….First day for November Wine Club Pick-up!!

Saturday Nove 4- Free Tinytini tasting 12-9pm!!! Try 3 different flavors and rate them:)

Monday Nov. 7-Martini Madness Monday. Try the new “Pumkin Pie Liquified, Lemon Meringue, Honey-Mint, Cucumber-Basil, Strawberry Shortcake, Classic, and MORE 2 for just 13 smackaroos!!!

Wed. Nov 9- Wining Women 5:30-9!! A special night of girl bonding at Vino 100!!!

Vino 100 Wine Club Wine ($35 + Tax) – Club Members get 20%* discount any purchases made during their Wine Club coupon (starts on the 1st Thursday of every month). Plus Wine Club Members get 15% off on all 4 Wine Club Feature Wine all month! And LOTS more….just ask us!!

Six Student Recommendations any Business Could Borrow

In my spare time, between a day job and running a coaching business, I am an adjunct professor for the Reynolds School of Journalism at University of Nevada. Nearly each semester I take on the overflow class in any of the three required sequences in public relations instruction.  Spring is always the Case Studies class, second in the series-follows introduction and prior to a full campaign. Over the years the structure of the class has morphed. We used to study old cases. That was boring. Then the content was shifted to run the class as in-house talent for an imaginary client. The last couple of years, the course is structured so that students present to actual clients. For the length of the semester the students learn strategic planning: research the client’s audience, assess and analyze the situation, provide a solution with an ambitious goal, defined strategies, with measurable objectives, incremental tactics and effective evaluation that includes identifying outputs and outcomes. They need to consider budgets or at least costs for every element of recommendations and provide a timeline to anticipate milestones. Each has a real client to present and individual plan as mid-term; then a team effort for a different real client for finals.

It pays off for the clients and the students. Some bright spots from this year’s crop of students in no particular order:

  • Students recommended the “journalist rapper” who does social commentary hookup with mixtapes to connect to his audience and tour with politically minded college groups as they gear up for the presidential election.
  • A bamboo construction specialist was advised to “like” interior designers on the business Facebook page rather than his personal favorite band to generate interaction with prospective clients. Their research showed the significant power of Facebook and how interior designers look for visual content and use the internet to connect to products and clients.
  • One client with a variety of business entities on one property was encouraged to focus promoting and developing those elements that met the values and vision of the artistic ventures and less on businesses that detracted from that.
  • Another client was encouraged to change the tone of the message to meet a different audience. The client offers a unique self improvement service and was targeting the under aged 35 market. While the message worked for that market, students revealed that market couldn’t necessarily afford to invest in the workshops; changing to the 40+ market with a softer message would likely reap benefits for business owner and customers alike
  • The team that advised the performing arts group targeting youth to do old-fashioned PR–attend assemblies with mini-performances and hold open houses. They researched recommendations on local publications that reached the k-12 student population. The client was also given tips on how to develop relations with the media, researching styles, story content and connection points to open the door with different reporters and media.
  • The final group worked with a non-profit trying to create a sustainable event in the community. Their solution was actually board development and creating structure with delegated responsibilities so three key individuals could set the vision and find others to help implement, thus expanding from their personal nucleus of contacts for support.

The recommendations ran the gamut from media relations, marketing communications implementation, internal board development, community relations and message development. The students made the grade–does your business?

When PR Strategy Turns Ugly

Public Relations is a delicate balance of trust between practitioners, the clients, the media and the public. Used wrongly or willfully it can influence voters, or stockholders or business deals and not necessarily for the better. Take the Facebook vs Google campaign recently run by Burson-Marsteller. BM did a public relations campaign for Facebook that included trying to pitch a story to reporter about the grasp for data that Google is doing. Never mind that Facebook already has all that data and has their own troubles with privacy. What Facebook apparently did is hire this public relations company to at least stir media piranha if not feed fear to Google users.

The public relations plan backfired for a lot of reasons:

  1. The privacy blog journalist Christopher Soghoian asked a smart question of Burson-Marsteller-“Who’s your client and why are you pitching this info about Google”. While pitching the privacy guy would be smart if the client was the ACLU or other public advocate, not smart trying to use the reporter for personal gain.
  2. Facebook asked Burson-Marsteller to keep their identity secret. If you want public good, you don’t get to be behind the scenes. Clearly taking out Google would benefit Facebook.
  3. Smear sticks to you. Sooner or later the smear tactics come out. And people don’t like when you abuse their trust. Now, no one is going to stop using their Facebook page any time soon to punish Facebook for trying to keep our data all to themselves. We’ve already given up a significant interest in privacy to Facebook. We aren’t going to pay attention to the difference if Google has the same information. Google is beloved–people share the Google site when they make a cool graphic. The company name is so entrenched in today’s vernacular that the company name is transformed into a verb–go Google it to find it on the Internet. Not going to get hue and cry, sorry.
  4. Small businesses are grateful for the data collection and the micro targeting capabilities; some will use Facebook, some will use Google.
  5. Your PR firm may throw themselves on the sword and take you out while they are at it.

So don’t take a page from Facebook: don’t hire a PR firm to try to discredit your competition; don’t be stupid with the media and assume they won’t check your reasons or sources; don’t try to hold all the tiddly-winks and don’t do public relations secretly. It may backfire.

Building relationships key to business

People do business with people they know and like. It’s that simple and yet so complex to build those relations. In a recent workshop one client didn’t know a thing about public relations. He’s a computer geek who is building a business in a personal passion, riding motorcycles. We found commonalities in many of the same people: we used the same branding expert, the same website developers, and we’ve done business with some of the same people for other ventures. He’s a classic case of knowing instinctively well how to connect to people-you talk to them and you ask. For years he didn’t really pay attention to his brother-in-law’s business, insurance. How often do we pay attention to spousal connections? But when he was attending a racing event, turns out his brother-in-law’s company was sponsoring it. That’s when the AHA moment came, plus an opportunity  to share his product through the company’s client outreach–hundreds of thousands of prospective clients! What my client knew is you do business with people you know. You start talking to them. See who THEY know and start asking them to connect you.

Happened for me today. Friend of mine knows someone in the field of small business development. Early coffee meeting with him and we realized we both bring value to each others’ operations. Wouldn’t necessarily have gotten the chance to talk to him without the recommendation. What I knew and was so highly reminded of is it pays to keep talking, but to make sure you talk to more than one person at the company. I have been connecting with his colleague, who is the director of training. He has a different role in the office and she didn’t share our relationship. Both offer something different and so have different needs for our services.

So keep talking about your business to people you know–and always keep in the back of your mind how that connection may come in handy one day. Maybe not now, share everyone’s services with others. That matchmaking pays forward and you’ll reap the benefit.