Public Relations can be a powerful (and cost-effective) marketing tool for entrepreneurs and business owners. However, there is a lot more to it than the odd press release in your community newspaper every now and then. Ruth Steyn, an Academic Officer at GetSmarter shares with us her 10 tips on how you can use PR to promote your business.
1 – Join your local Chamber of Commerce
A chamber of commerce is a means for businesses to work together to look out for their common interests. These societies advocate on behalf of the local business community. Apart from promoting your own business interests by getting involved, this is an excellent way to network.
2 – Sponsor an Event
Sometimes you have to spend a little money to make money, and sponsoring an event or supporting a charity through your business is a great way to get your name out there. If you’re a smaller business, consider approaching bigger companies to team up, or contribute to an existing event – this will also allow you to make contacts in the business world. If you can’t afford to give away a product, offer to supply discount vouchers for goodie bags that are distributed at events aimed at your target market.
3 – Go Digital
The online world is your oyster, with multiple free means of managing your reputation and getting your business’ name out there. If you have a website, make sure you keep it up-to-date and interesting; if you don’t, try to at least get advertised on someone else’s. There are a number of South African website directories that allow you to list your business free of charge.
4 – Take advantage of Social Media
If creating your own website is beyond your expertise and financial means – and even if you already have one – make the most of the advantages offered by social networking platforms. These offer a great way to manage your online reputation, as you are able to respond to both positive feedback (to reinforce it) and respond quickly if any negative feedback pops up. Consider running competitions from your business page using third party apps to draw attention to your product, or offer discounts to people who share your page online.
5 – Make a Good Impression
Word-of-mouth is still one of the most powerful PR tools, and with the monumental advances in communication technologies, no business can afford to have a bad reputation. If you offer a good product or service, clients will recommend you to others, and there is no PR tactic that will do you in better stead.
6 – Find out about Community Exchange Systems
In a world that revolves around money, community exchange systems are a refreshing phenomenon. They work on the principle of non-monetary exchange, much in the same way that in early society a farmer might have paid a barber in potatoes, and a blacksmith might have traded his services for fresh milk. Find out about community exchange systems in your area to see whether you can barter your goods and services for media exposure in local publications or other forms of publicity that will promote your business.
7 – Enter Competitions
Keep an eye out for suitable competitions for your business, and enter them. Whether this involves a consumer vote or presenting a winning product or idea, winning awards is an excellent way to let the public know that you offer a quality product or service.
8 – Get the Influencers Talking
Product reviews in magazines, newspapers, and online will help get word out about your business. Send free samples to potential reviewers, or offer bloggers a free meal at your restaurant or night at your guest house in exchange for writing about it. Some bloggers will also accept payment to write about your product.
9 – Make use of Crowdsourcing
Social media has made this a popular, simple, and cost-cutting tool. Crowdsourcing is a form of market research that involves getting feedback from consumers on products and ideas. It gives the consumer a chance to participate in the decision- making process while creating the sense that you care about their opinion, and has the added bonus of saving you time and money, particularly if you do it through social media.
10 – Expand your Knowledge
If you want to find out more, or feel that PR is somewhat out of your depth, sign up for a course to get you on the right track. A better understanding of the principles and practices of Public Relations will help you to reprioritise your goals and focus your strategies to ensure that you are reaching your target market.
To learn more about how to use PR to boost your business, register for the 10-week University of Cape Town Public Relations short course, presented part-time and entirely online throughout South Africa in conjunction with online education company, GetSmarter. The course starts 19 November 2012 and includes a 5-week holiday break. For more information visit www.GetSmarter.co.za.