What is Public Relations and how can it help your business?

11 min read

Public relationsSMEToolkits

Raising awareness of your business and what you can offer your customers has never been more important, with recent research showing that 60% of SMEs are concerned about how they will attract customers back to their business in the wake of Covid-19.

Public relations
Telling your business’ story in a strong and compelling way can be a great place to start.

Public Relations (PR) is all about the way organisations communicate with the public, promote themselves, and build a positive reputation and public image. PR professionals communicate with the media to represent their organisation positively and get across key messages.

 

Our five step PR toolkit

 

1. Identifying your story

As successful business owners, you are passionate about everything you do. From installing a new till system to finding a new way to get products to customers, every change will be a talking point. But how do you know whether people outside of your business, or industry, would view what you want to talk about as interesting?

  • Is it new, innovative, or novel? If you are the first business to be doing something differently, then it is more likely to be something that those outside of your business want to hear about. 
  • Will people notice? Will there be a benefit to your customers and local community or just to your own people and processes? Finding a new way of getting products to customers will undoubtedly benefit them, having a new supplier for till roll, less so. 
  • Is there a human element? Bringing what you want to talk about to life, with a customer case study or by giving a personal account as a business owner is a great way to get others interested in your story. 
  • Think about a photograph that will illustrate your story – a good picture will draw journalists and their readers to the story.

Find out more with our handy video guide

2. Successfully selling your story

Once you have an idea of the story you want to tell, how do you get the right people to listen?

  • Do your research! Understanding the media you want to pitch your story to is undoubtedly the most important step. Identifying media outlets and key journalists who write about topics relevant to what you want to talk about will make sure that you are not wasting your time (or theirs) when it comes to telling them your story. 
  • Get your point across – and quickly. The media work to tight deadlines and often don’t have time to digest a lot of information. Make sure the key point to your story is clear in the first few sentences of a phone call or in the headline of an email or press release.
  • Don’t exaggerate the facts. Media will find this patronising. 
  • Ask them what would work for them? Once you have a dialogue with the media, be flexible on what you can offer them. Would they like a case study? More stats? A photo? The quicker you can fulfil their needs, the stronger the chance they will run your story.

 

Find out more in our handy video guide

3. Dealing with bad news

Unfortunately, there may be times when the story you are being asked about is not the one that you would want to be talking about. Rat in the kitchen? Staff member gone AWOL? Dispute with a customer? A bad news story has the potential to damage the reputation of your business, so dealing with it the right way matters:

  • Do not get drawn on speculation or rumours. If it is something you are investigating or looking into, say that and stick to it. 
  • Do respond in a timely manner. Do not avoid calls or questions, as this will only irritate those asking them and lead to a more negative piece. 
  • Do apologise if you know something has gone wrong. Sometimes things happen, and the only thing to do is say sorry. 
  • Do outline any plans you have in place to put things right.

Find out more on dealing with bad news in our video guide

4. How can social media help your business?

Nowadays, many people get most of their news from social media, and no matter what business you are in there is a benefit to having a presence online.

  • Social media is a wealth of information. When it comes to PR, Twitter is a great place to find out what journalists and the media are interested in. If you’re not using Twitter, try setting up an account and finding relevant people to follow. Look for journalists who are writing about your industry or sector and those in your local area. Journalists often use #journorequest when they’re looking for a case study so it’s a useful hashtag to set up a search for.
  • Find the right platform. Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok – with so many to choose from it can be difficult to know where to start. Research each platform, see what other businesses are posting and identify which platform best suits your business goals, your brand and how you want to be perceived. 
  • Consistency in posts and tone of voice. Once you have identified the platforms you want to use, plan out what you want to talk about. The key to social media is having content that appeals to your followers – whether they’re existing or potential customers. Think about what matters to them and how they can engage with you. 
  • Creating content: Your content will need to work hard to get people’s attention. Keep it interesting! Are your images eye catching and do they reflect your brand? Keep your captions succinct and make sure your call to action is clear. It can be a good idea to have a test account where you can check your content looks spot on before you publish it to your followers. Don’t be afraid to try different things to find out what works – and ask for feedback from your followers.  Each platform has its own help section to support you in creating a great post on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube, Tiktok and Instagram.   
  • Engage. The clue is in the name, social media is supposed to be social. Engaging with your followers and responding to comments – good or bad – will help you build a strong social following. 
  • Consider paying. Social media platforms have the option to boost a post by paying for it. This can be cleverly targeted to customers in your local area, or who follow other relevant pages linked to your type of business. 

 

5. Presenting and public speaking in person or virtually

For some people, public speaking is their worst nightmare, but as a business owner there may be times when it could be of real benefit to your business to stand up and present live to a crowd or virtually via a webinar. Look for speaking opportunities where you will reach potential customers and then follow these tips to make the most of a captive audience:

  • Practice. Practising, out loud, in front of a mirror or friends and family, will help you make sure what you are saying flows and help you identify any sentences you stumble over. 
  • Speak slowly. Inexperienced presenters have a tendency to speak too fast, slow it down and keep breathing. 
  • Make it engaging. Look for opportunities to bring in audience participation, even something as simple as asking for raised hands can help change the pace of a presentation and make people feel involved. Presenting virtually? Think about using voting buttons to make it interactive or the chat function to ask for questions, or even breakout rooms for smaller discussions. 
  • Move around, but not too much! Try not to be static – both in your body language and tone of voice. But do not move around too much. An easy trick is to move for impact – for instance you could move towards the audience slightly to draw them into a point. 
  • Where are you looking? If you are presenting online, make sure you are sat comfortably and think about where you are looking. Speaking down the camera will make participants feel like you are speaking to them, but it may be tricky if you are managing notes as well.  
  • Get tech savvy. Know how to use the mute buttons for participants if you are the host.  Make sure you have your screen ready to share and other devices are switched to silent, so you are not disturbed. Switch off pop-ups so your emails or notifications do not disturb the webinar.

Find more tips on public speaking in our handy video guide

 

Found this guidance useful? See other ways we can support your business, including the full list of topics and areas we’ve covered to help you reach your customers and gain press coverage.

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