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.
Pondering this trip as a public relations program, thought I’d share some insights.
A group I volunteer with nominated me in January to be part of the program. Come February I had not officially heard. I won’t bore you with the back and forth emails. Let’s just say it took several emails, nothing ever “official”.
Rule one: if you are hosting a program formalize a communication program to assure you have a welcome.
As days passed for the June event, I’d get random emails. Often with cryptic instructions, if any. And with very little turn around. I’m a very flexible person. I rarely enjoy details and can wait till the last minute, but I gotta tell ya, this was pushing it for me. I received an email on the 9th requesting me to send my visa to get to its destination by the 11th. Without really explaining what would happen to my visa once it arrived and when I’d get it back. I trusted in the process, but most people wouldn’t.
Rule two: save yourself the headache. You MUST communicate reasons WHY you want something. Rule three: Consider that not everyone is standing by email to read your missive–provide time for planning. And did I mention you need to explain to people why you want what you want and what you’re going to do with it? Yeah, do that.
I’m not exactly a world traveler. I’ve lived in England on a US military base; gone to Paris for a week; crossed the Mexico/USA border for six hours and ventured to Canada to two provinces. I knew nothing about going to Kyrgyzstan. The program director provided a conference call but gave limited info about what to expect. Callers asked about culturally appropriate dress, getting local currency, medical issues and received answers. We also were assured other information was coming in the packet prior to departure.
The “packet” turned out to be a very limited PowerPoint with only weather information and nothing really substantive. I felt frustrated with the very limited info. I didn’t even know what questions to ask. When I returned home and couldn’t exchange the currency because of its rarity, I realized I should have asked how and when to return the currency.
Rule four: anticipate every step of the journey for your group-getting there and returning. Make sure your materials start from a zero information educational basis. Don’t assume every person as done something similar. Yes, search engines can provide tons of information, but it doesn’t help answer the likely questions that address your program.
The trip was amazing and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The coordinator assigned to the project did a great job herding 7 adults. At the end she asked for a quick response evaluation about the project, with a promise that a thorough evaluation would be sent.
Rule five: deliver an evaluation. It’s been 3 weeks since I returned. I’ve had more time to process, if only they asked for my suggestions. Of course I could send them unasked. But it’s the clients who don’t forward insights on their own that you have to worry about.
You’re a small business and you know there are dozens of public relations marketing options for your business, even as you confess you aren’t sure what public relations marketing IS. And you want to get your arms around this social media thing. And how do you find time for it all without running around like a chicken with your head cut off?
For those living in the Reno Nevada area, I’m hosting a workshop on just how to tame herd those chickens and determine the right public relations marketing mix for your ideal client. For those not in the area, we’ll be recording and selling the recording shortly after-so look for it. Can help small business owners, board members for professional group in charge of “marketing”; non profit staff having to do it all with no ad budget, transitioning journalists who are now doing public relations in house.
Saturday, Jan 28th, 2012
$149 per person
The seminar price includes refreshments, all seminar materials and an individual assessment of current PR practices. Class runs from 9:30-11:30 am. The course will cover target audience, situation analysis, uses of the most common public relations tools: (customer relations, networking, social media and social networking (and what’s the difference), publicity, media relations. Includes an assessment tool for current practices and how to evaluate. Sign up here
One of the best tips I’ve seen for fundraising and timing of emails for small business comes from Convio, a constituent engagement company for non-profits and advocacy groups. They recommend in a recent email some key tips both non-profits and small business owners can use.
The first recommendation is to send emails out in the evening so that they arrive first thing in the morning in the “inbox”. Middle of the day the reader is likely to put off for another few days. As you probably guess many of us open our emails first thing in the morning.
Second is plan your strategy. Your content should match and a theme of information should be consistent in your communications, from emails to blogs, from website updates to social media.
Third is to understand the calendar and “hook” accordingly. For example. lots of non-profits make a final, year-end pitch as people consider their tax write-offs. But they wait till the last day of the year. That fell on Saturday for 2011; hopefully most of you pushed for the final letter (and social media and email, etc) to drop on the last Monday of the year to give people time to give. The same attention should be paid for businesses. January is resolution month, if you’re in the fitness or healing arts you should be sending info and deals out. February can be presidential or romance or Black History, if any of that resonates with your business and clients, start planning Now.
The fourth tip refers to who you send to–we call it “working your list”. In your list of donors, activists or clients you have people that consistently support your non-profit or small business. Certainly you need to interact with them–treat them as the VIPs they are=make them an offer, send thanks, but let them know they are appreciated. But don’t forget the “maybes”. It’s time to start connecting to the people who you haven’t really. Send a survey or better still call them individually and inquire what they like about the company, why they signed up on an email, what can you offer that they aren’t seeing. Connect. And keep connecting.
Hoping your New Year is prosperous and that your public relations are planned, implemented and measured.
You’ve planned the event. You’re hosting a coffee Q&A, a fundraiser, a workshop, a networking gig. You set the date, picked a venue and orchestrated the logistics of refreshments and a program. Now how do you get the people to come?
First step-know who you want to attend. Is this for prospects? To raise money from long time donors? New benefit for clients? Don’t tell me everyone–nothing on this planet is a product for everyone. If you think about water, which everyone does need to exist, then tell me in 10 seconds the different waters you can purchase, you realize my point.
Second step-plan in advance enough to be able to notify people. You can’t get 100 people to an event with less than 2 weeks notice. Part of the plan is having a tracking mechanism to know how many are coming. But know the formula for attendance. Used to be invite twice as many as you hope to attend. Now people would give an arm to have that. It’s really about 10x the number of people. Put another way, however many you invite, across platforms, expect only a 10% return.
Promotion and publicity happen in four platforms: in person, on the phone, online (email to social networking) or third party (local newspapers, client referrals). You need a plan to promote across every channel.But keep in mind that in-person, super time intensive. Not likely to happen-if you have that kind of time you probably should be retired.
Most of you try to hit the most number of prospects by going to the local news. It’s a broad reach, a little work. But results are limited. Certainly from a public relations perspective send out a news release and submit your event to calendar options to all the news outlets. And this includes newsletters such as the Chamber of Commerce, not just the local paper. Know what’s available in your community. You aren’t likely to get 100 people to attend with just this tactic. Works for awareness (making it worthwhile to do), not so much for the trial/adoption buy-a-ticket phase. Think about how many news calendars you look at for stuff to do. Usually you find an interesting event you might want to attend only after you’ve gone to looking for a specific event for you kids’ soccer team or your mother-in-law’s senior club.
Then be sure to push the event on your social media (blogs and tweets) and your social networking (Facebook and LinkedIn). And repeat. Friends/clients aren’t on their social media all the time. You want to post when people are likely looking at their sites. And vary that to catch as many of your target as possible.
You absolutely must share with your list and more than once. You can include info if you have a scheduled newsletter, but don’t just leave it at that. You need to be sure to send a stand alone email to your list with specifics about the event. Make it easy to sign up and calendarize by adding these features in the text.
Finally, pick up the phone. Especially for a fundraiser. People forget; you may need to remind them about their RSVPs or that they usually go and they haven’t signed up. Don’t expect that your fabulous information is always read and by 100% of the people you sent it to. Even your mom won’t read all your stuff.
If it’s a one time event try to schedule it when there aren’t competitive events for your same clients (i.e. fundraising). If it’s a regular club event, be sure to set the schedule so members know it’s every third Tuesday at lunch–makes it easier to calendar.
Be sure to repeat the communications-social media posts and event invites and emails. And plan for fewer folks to attend than RSVP on those social media platforms. Follow up phone calls, best way to get people there.
I’m turning 50 this year. As part of embracing the new decade I decide last birthday that I would host 50 dinner parties this year, one for every year on the planet. That’s just about one a week. You’d think I love to cook-I don’t. But I do love entertaining, I CAN cook, and think table decorating is fun. These last 11 months really showed me how planning for dinner parties much like public relations. It required understanding the challenge, determining a message and positioning of the dinners, strategies and tactics for execution and objectives and evaluation for assessment. The budget and timeline required flexibility, but still played their role.
The first challenge is to determine who to invite. My life is blessed with dozens of friends and hundreds of acquaintances. I needed to decide who to target–just the top 10 wasn’t enough, we’d all get bored after 3 months. I could just focus on the dozens, but what would I be missing if I didn’t get to know some acquaintances? So, much like one would in a PR strategy, I focused on attributes. I wanted to invite people I knew I liked, who could hold a conversation, be flexible in meeting different people and that I wanted to spend time with getting to know and investing my heart, and my dinners with.
The second challenge was positioning. Folks needed to know they may or may not get invited back, because I have a lot of friends. I had to convince them I can cook–few actually have seen me do that. And to assure them a good time at my house–not dining out.
Then came the strategy invite people who fit the criteria, work with the schedules available and try to pair interesting groups together.
The measurable objectives kind of easy: needed to accomplish one a week, but barring that it could two or three in a week. (I’m doing a lot of catch up this month, September wasn’t conducive to too many dinner parties). The dinner party size had to vary but could be no more than 10, because that’s all the chairs I can fit around two tables in my dining room. But a dinner party could include as few as one guest. I had to be host–sometimes I was out of town, so I picked up the tab. Sometimes it was potluck, those generally were at my house. Had to be dinner–not lunch, brunch, or breakfast.
The tactics included the invite (email only); the scheduling; the meal plan; setting tables, including decor; buying appropriate supplies; fixing the meal (or my part of the potluck or choosing the restaurant); and enjoying the dinner party.
The budget varied–mostly depended on whether I added filet Mignon or how much wine. Some meals very simple and didn’t cost much to wow the guests.
The evaluation certainly the dinner party idea a huge success. The Output has been merely counting whether I did the dinner. I chronicled them with photos, so I could keep track and see who I had invited. The outcomes turned out to be interesting–at first I only wanted to cook. But dinner out with people who heard the plan worked. An offer to do breakfast didn’t sit well–wasn’t what the intention of the dinner parties were. I have only had two meals with family and only a couple of meals with the people I feel the closest too, some not at all. I already get together with a group of women regularly, so the dinner party seemed redundant but also a logistical nightmare. Unexpected results were improved cooking skills, an interest in recipes and trying new flavors, great new wines. The best number for guests? Six diners around a small table makes for easier food preparation, more time for the chef to be with the guests, and great conversation as a whole and in groups of 2 or 3. I have the most interesting friends; more friends than acquaintances and an ongoing passion for relationship building. Isn’t that what public relations is? It should be. Are you thinking as if you’re hosting dinner? You should be.
The first step is to determine if your client prospects are attending this event. Targeting women? Perhaps there’s a women’s expo in your community. Provide business-to-business solutions? Then the local Chamber of Commerce or a business Cooperative might be a good source. Conduct health services? Sponsor a health fair.
Once you determine the right venue, then figure out your level of participation. Can you afford a sponsorship? What does that entail–booth space, name on promotional materials done by the event organizers? Determine the value besides access that goes with a sponsorship.Too expensive alone? Consider sharing with a business that offers a non-competitive service but targets the same audience.
Next question-Booth or a table. Be sure you figure out the materials you need: banner to see your booth, stand up items, a freebie to engage participants, signup sheets and handouts. Sometimes you can just give away promotional items as the freebie. Sometimes you can give away a “large” valued item as a raffle prize for those who leave a business card–then you are capturing leads at the same time.
Another option may just be attending the event. People at booths are good targets as well as other attendees. Use your business card with a NeoReader code linked to a coupon or discount or just offer the discount for an upcoming workshop or other service you provide. Distribute widely.