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3 ways your small business can afford public relations

- Dawn Buzynski, executive director of Public Relations at Strategic America, writes this guest opinion on public relations.

I consistently find myself trying to educate clients on the necessity of public relations. Many don’t find it's necessary and small business owners often find it difficult to justify spending money on public relations in their already slim marketing budget. My response is this — you can’t afford NOT to have a public relations strategy.

Why public relations is important
Very simply, public relations is building trust. Public relations is the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with the public (customers, groups, businesses) that you depend on for your success. Like any mutually beneficial relationship, you need to nurture it.  One of the challenges of small business marketing is that the CEO/owner wears many hats. Of all the responsibilities weighing on them, public relations tends to be the one that gets ignored. This is where having a public relations agency is valuable.

Right size your public relations budget
Many believe PR is just too expensive. The truth is public relations is very scalable. The important thing is that your PR objectives are realistic with what you are comfortable spending, and that they align with your business goals. You don’t have to break the bank to make an impact. In fact, here are three strategies that can have big impact with minimal investment.

Social media and storytelling
News flash – social media is free. Mostly. What it does take is time. If you are going to spend the time, make sure you have a defined strategy will measurable goals and realistic expectations. With that strategy, develop content for at least six months starting out. You should be posting content to Facebook and microsites daily. Blogs should have a new post each week. Then you need to watch the engagement and authentically talk to those who post on your wall. Engagement drives shares, which extends your reach. As I said, it takes time, but the payoff is huge.

Community involvement
Corporate Social Responsibility is one of those overused terms, but when you truly embrace the spirit of charitable giving, CSR is a strong public relations strategy. So with that in mind, reach out within your local community and engage a nonprofit or charitable organization. With this type of PR strategy, it is important that the partnership be authentic, so do your homework and choose an organization that aligns with your business values and principles.
As an example, last spring Strategic America recently celebrated our 35th anniversary. To commemorate the event, the entire agency spent the day packaging 35,000 meals for Meals from the Heartland. Although the purpose was not to gain media attention, we sent out a release with photos to Central Iowa media and received good coverage, including a feature interview on a local morning show.

Employee engagement
Your employees are your best advocates. Word of mouth is still the most credible advertising there is. So let them be your brand voice. Make sure you involve them in your marketing and PR initiatives, and listen to their ideas. Think win-win.

Whether you’re just launching your small business or you want to expand into new markets, public relations is a purposeful strategy in your business plan that should not be left out of the budget.

Dawn Buzynski leads the award-winning public relations team at Strategic America. Dawn is an accredited public relations practitioner (APR) with nearly 15 years of experience in public relations and marketing. Previous to joining Strategic America, Dawn spent seven years focused on B2B public relations for industrial clients. She is former president of the Iowa chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. A graduate of Iowa State University, she lives in West Des Moines with her husband and two daughters.



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