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.


Four Times “so what”

A great strategy (ok, it could be a game) for developing your message and defining real clarity for prospective clients is to play “So What”? Here’s how it works:

  • Ask a trusted friend or colleague to help. You need someone who will give honest feedback and not just affirm how fabulous you are. Ideally they have skills to listen and write down what you say (or type fast on their iPhone).
  • State your message-you know, your cool 30 second elevator speech.
  • NOW your ally needs to ask you “So What?”
  • Expound, get to the next level.
  • Your ally needs to ask you “So What?” AGAIN.
  • Flesh out your message. Instead of the features of what you do (you make better widgets, smoother process) talk about the BENEFITS of what you offer–solutions to the prospective client’s needs.
  • For a THIRD time your ally gets to ask “So What”?
  • Answer by try ingto overcome objections, even if they aren’t stated.
  • ONE LAST TIME your ally says “So What?”

If you have really pushed through this process, the final message is the heart of what you offer. It differentiates you from competitors and it’s the place where your passion shines through. A new business acquaintance kept asking me while we were at lunch the other day, until I reached the place where “my face lit up” at the point I discussed what I do and can do for my clients. That’s the “So What”! Now work with these words and use as your opening messages at your next networking event.

Is your online presence Boutique or Costco?

When you’re shopping for toilet paper or tires and you need large quantities for cheap you go to Costco. When you want that special occasion dress, you go to your favorite boutique because of the unique items, good fit and worth the splurge.

So when you write your website, blog, or Facebook content are you writing for Costco or the Boutique?  Google doesn’t think much of the Costco approach in their algorithms for sites. They are looking for the high-quality sites with unique items, a good fit and worth the effort.

They have 23 suggestions on things to ask yourself if your site is valuable to prospective users. Interestingly the questions break down to trustworthiness, accuracy, expertise and depth. Wouldn’t you want to be seen as the expert in your industry? Editing errors happen, but consistently being error prone makes it hard to take you seriously. If you can’t write, outsource to the experts who can.

Provide meaningful content. No one wants to be “sold”. Ease up on the ads. Newsprint used to the most “views” on the pages with 2/3 ads and 1/3 articles (not the full page ads). Today’s online must be closer to 90% content, 10% ads–if that. You have information and insights in your field  whether you make candy or use healing arts. Talk about the passions and provide insight that no one else has. That gets the notice of  the search engines. Make sure there’s a uniqueness in your posts on blogs, websites, social media. Be careful not to be so efficient that all the pages look the same-there’s a balance between using similar ideas for other blog sites and over posting the same article. Over duplication can actually put you at the bottom of the search engine list.

Treat your content like the boutique experience. Save the Costco approach for buying toilet paper.

Three steps to create your message

Everyone knows about the “30 second elevator pitch” and that as a small business owner or professional you should be able to use it to talk about your business.

What we aren’t sure of is how to do that, or at least not well. You message about your company needs to do two things: showcase your expertise and fit the needs of the client. Often business owners stop at the expertise. It takes three steps to create a message: define the client, suggest solutions and describe the benefits to them.

To fit the needs of the client, I recommend you figure out exactly who your client is before you even start. I’m talking seriously visualizing minute details. Targeting women 25-35? Ok. You have a long way to go

Define: ethnicity (if it’s relevant), marital status (married or single), parent status (mom to how many?), shopping habits (mall or boutique or online), eating habits (vegan, slow food, organic, no specialization), and more. Figure out what her lifestyle is. Married professional women have hectic lives–they do three times the work their spouse does: their job, their parenting, their household.

Offer solutions in your message–your business will save time, make life easy, etc. A salon can either offer latest styles in half the time or pampering service with every hair cut. A women’s professional group can offer support for the juggling woman and extra hands to catch the pins. An accounting firm can assure one less thing to worry about.

Then show case the benefits. A little pampering helps her de-stress for her family. Personal and professional support can assure success. Worrying less a small business owner can focus on growth.

Then string it all together: Zenith salon pampers each client while providing the latest look. Network with women who support the professional while understanding the needs of the individual. Stella CPAs keeps an eye on your books so you can keep your eye on the stars.

Need more training on message development, reach out to us at


Finding trade journals for B-2-B communication

Need to find trade journals to promote your business? It’s amazing what an Internet search can give you. If you need a list of trade magazines, go to Wikipedia.

For some free trade magazines, you can check out this list.

What is important to know is how many you need to read or subscribe to for your benefit and in return, how often you can pitch your own story to the trade journals. Lots of information can be gleaned such as trade shows or helpful articles on your field.

Five tips on building your media list

“Media” is a giant word and references a variety of organizations. Used to be reliably one or two local papers, two or three TV stations and maybe a couple of radio. Now there are all kinds of stations, cable, newspapers, magazines, trade journals, social media sites…where to start.

First tip is to remember to know your audience. Are they TV watchers? Do they get their news from local papers or national? Do they read trade magazines or alumni publications?

Second build your list. You can do it the old fashioned way by creating a spreadsheet and putting the reporter/editor/publisher named, role, Beat if they have a specific one, media, phone, fax, email, website. Look them up individually.

Third option is to use a media service. Sometimes its worth paying for someone else to do the work. Several groups offer lists and provide the information above for a price. If you want your product to stay local, you can probably get a smaller list. National exposure is going to cost more.

Another option is to check with your local chamber of commerce or small business development center who might be compiling that information for businesses.

Don’t forget to check the materials that you read: trade journals, small business magazines, newsletters for the Chamber of Commerce. Keep the contacts for these publications on your media list as well.

Five milestones to promote to alma maters

Today many schools, from vocational schools to junior colleges to universities, are promoting their alumni. It’s a good place for you to promote your activities when you hit milestones. Some of those milestones could be

  1. Starting your own business
  2. A significant number of clients achieved
  3. Expansion of your business
  4. An important anniversary of your business
  5. Collaboration with any other alumni

Look for the publications from your Alma Mater to pitch as media or post this information on their social media. Be sure to do this appropriately.

Good: “Thanks to my education and ongoing connection with the University of Nevada, I’m able to start my own business in public relations. Continue the great work. Go Pack”.

Bad: “My PR Coach offering. Check out our rates.”

Depending on the policy, they may just remove your information. They might mark you as spammers. Be polite in your process. You never know what alums might need your services.