Successfully opening the doors of a new business, adding another location, growing a product line, building on your B-to-B firm’s market position or securing more community support for your not-for-profit — these are all scenarios in which smart public relations and marketing can add value — and lots of it. Following are eight strategies you can employ to spread the word about what your business or organization is up to.
Bring in the experts, early and often. Seek advice from established professionals early on. You would not trust your open-heart surgery to a first-year med student, nor should you ask a novice to promote your company. Having knowledgeable advisors in place from the start can get your big news in front of the right audiences right away, bringing in early customers and keeping the excitement going long after your grand opening or first contract. Consider working with a PR agency for its “hit-the-ground-running” expertise or engage a communications consultant to develop a framework to implement. Planning is key and no tactic should be executed without an end goal in mind.
Get on the radar of the VIPs. If you’re marking a business milestone such as an anniversary or other noteworthy growth, an on-site event is a great way to bring the community and your current and future clients together. Set the event up for success by booking the date well in advance and align with business and community organizations to help turn your day into a big deal. Send a ‘save the date’ letter or email to VIPs and elected officials whom you’d like to have on hand well in advance, since their calendars book up fast. Give important people, such as the mayor, an active or speaking role in your event, so they will have even more reason to attend.
Build out your social profile and commit to it. Think about where your ideal customer is likely to be engaged on social media and be there. Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, wherever they are, create a content-rich social media profile on that platform or platforms. Then, establish a posting schedule and strategy and commit to it. Remember, it’s better to maintain one site well than to have three neglected profiles, so be realistic about what you can handle. Monitor all pages you create or sites you’ve posted reviews on to respond to comments in a timely fashion and enter into real-time dialogues with customers. Their input can be enlightening and invaluable, if you listen.
Announce news regularly. Just because there are lots of great things going on does not mean the media will know about them or cover them. If your CEO wins an industry award, for instance, announcing it in a professionally written press release with a high-resolution photo would be the best way to get the word out. Similarly, the launch of a new division or opening of a new local hot spot could be shared widely with the media, while seasonal stories or trends may be best announced through a solitary pitch to an appropriate reporter, any of which could lead to media coverage. With the aforementioned public relations professional by your side (or on speed dial), you’ll be able to discern what warrants a press release or pitch letter and what may be better shared on social media or a blog.
Get your lens in focus. Having professional photographs on hand, including headshots of key executives, is a must for any business. An iPhone is nice in a pinch, but should not be the sum of your photography repertoire. Sharp, high-resolution images that are composed well with just-right lighting and backdrops set your business up for social media shares, press release pick-ups and a take-us-seriously vibe. The investment requires a small slice of the marketing budget, but truly matters. Consider hiring a professional who knows your industry or community well and leave the stress of capturing the perfect shot to them.
Enlist influencers and forge alliances. Today’s world moves fast and the everyday customer can be paparazzi. Think of how often you see people snapping selfies or photographing their food or vacation destinations. Or of how a review and comments on sites such as Google, TripAdvisor or Yelp can color your opinion of a business before you’ve ever set foot in the door. Developing relationships with trade and regional journalists and key industry influencers can help further your public relations efforts and position you or your business as a thought leader. Don’t just make an ask; comment on, like or follow them on social media to support their efforts in an authentic way.
Think beyond the obvious. Get creative when it comes to promoting your business. Aligning with interest groups can allow you to reach new spheres of influence and attract customers who might not have engaged with your business otherwise. For example, live music events or not-for-profit benefits can suddenly bring music fans or community-minded people through your door and engaging with your business. I’ve seen companies attract crowds with a brunch event, and a local business secure a feature news story, thanks to becoming a collection site for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.
Realize it’s not a one-and-done proposition. Increasing your visibility and minding your reputation is not something that’s done once, then put on the back burner. Marketing should be an ongoing effort that you spend regular time and resources on. Encourage new and repeat clients and customers by consistently and clearly reaching out to your audiences and continually assessing what’s working, and what isn’t. Your bottom line depends on it.
Here’s to getting the word out!