This was a guest post I recently did for the IdeaLady. If you haven’t checked Cathy Stucker’s site out, be sure to pay her a visit at www.idealady.com.
When it comes to small businesses, PR is in everything you do. If you’re interacting with the public then you’re doing PR. How you answer the phone, how you respond to emails, the design and message of your website, your advertising — everything you do that the public can see is a promotion of your small business.
The best way to promote your business is to give people something valuable for free. If you own a coffee shop, I’m not saying that you should give away free coffee. Though I’m sure that would grab people’s attention and would bring people into your business. But when it comes to building a strong customer base, there’s a fine line between providing something of value that engages your customer base and straight-up buying them or bribing them to patronize your business. Giving away free coffee is a bribe and won’t necessarily create repeat customers. (Though I do like the idea of those coffee cards where you buy 10 and the eleventh is free.)
Now think about it. If you’re a small business owner, what can you provide for free that is valuable and engaging? A great example would be a small coffee shop providing an after-hours class on how to make professional-style lattes, cappuccinos, espressos — you name it — to anyone interested. What’s great about something like that is the owner and staff would be able to interact with the community, provide value and really engage them. They would be able to talk to their customers, show them how it’s done, receive feedback and even learn from them. It can even be video taped, uploaded to video portals and be a feature on the coffee shop’s website.
The most important thing a small business should focus on is how it can serve rather than what it can get. List all the places and platforms where your company interacts with the public. Look to see what impressions you’re leaving people with. How are you portraying yourself to the public? Are there opportunities you’re missing where you can engage people?
Start with your website. You should definitely have more than your mission statement and contact information. Use your website as a platform to engage people. Tell them what you’re up to, show your personality, post how-to videos on your site, create a newsletter — anything that provides value. The small business is a great vehicle for creating a motivated community. It will give your business a higher purpose, will be more rewarding for you and your customers, and the most fun part will be when the media picks up on the story, covers it, and peaks the interest of others who didn’t have any idea what you were up to. Now that’s big PR for your small business.