Entrepreneur & Small Business PR Trends for 2019
New Year, New PR Strategy
Public relations is a powerful tool for startups and small businesses trying to compete in marketplaces dominated by larger companies. 70% of consumers prefer getting to know a company through articles and referrals as opposed to ads put out by the company (Content Marketing Institute). A well thought out marketing and public relations strategy is one of the main ingredients to a successful publicity campaign to gain those B2B leads and new clients. Unfortunately, this is one of the things that many companies negate and take for granted. According to a report from Smart Insights, around 50% of companies do not have a dedicated marketing plan!
With 2019 upon us, in this everchanging society, it’s important to acknowledge one thing, the goal of public relations has not changed but the tactics have altered. As a small business owner, decision maker, or PR professional, we must always be committed to building trust with audiences, clients, editors, reporters, and journalists. They all matter. Taking into account everything that has gone on in 2018, here are the top 10 ways to stay on top of the game and maximize your assets in 2019.
Personal Branding is Priority
Public relations is the art of shaping the public’s opinion of your business product or of yourself. This perception also includes views of the people leading your company. As a business owner, this means that your key employees must also have the buy-in by branding themselves in the way that your audience connects with and trusts your brand. Personal branding and thought leadership have become important functions of modern PR teams. Each person connected to the company has a level of participation in the branding and communications process. Establish yourself as an expert in your field by also having your employees and partners reflect the same image. It matters. If you are a bike-shop owner and your employees cannot help me understand the difference in tube types, it leads me to believe that not everybody in your organization is bought-in. How can you expect those on the outside to rely on your as the expert?
“When you take a partisan stance, your brand reputation gets a spike in social conversation for the day, but it doesn’t have impact over time,” said Mike Hess, VP of Marketing, Storyful.
Consumers increasingly want more than a “no comment” from companies on political and social issues, says Kyle Austin, founder and managing partner of Beantown Media Ventures in Boston. He added that, according to Edelman, 59 percent of American consumers base their buying decisions on brands’ publicly stated beliefs. “Therefore brands like Patagonia and Nike that take a political and ethical stand will continue to drive media awareness and dollars to their bottom lines in 2019,” he says.
Since 2016, I have struggled with this controversy as a PR and marketing professional. I have personally bought and not bought products based on a company’s social and political stance. When I was a kid, my mom was told that Proctor & Gamble supported the satanic church. I don’t know if that is true or not. What I do know is that the many household products that P&G sold, we did not purchase.
PR, marketing and communications all come back to knowing what will resonate with your audience, customers, partners, employees, stakeholders and what will push them in the other direction, no matter how good the offer is.
Extract Your Own News
Looking at your company and all aspects of your story, you must find ways to connect with your potential clients and customers. Spend some time reviewing your journey and developing pitches that promotes thoughtful discussion. What are some of the obstacles that you have had to overcome? What stories do you have in common with some of your clients that might resonate with other prospects? Because the media seems to be suffering with a trust issues, you, as a professional, telling your story is a great way to hurdle the obstacle of trust. There is a level of importance placed on experts. In fact, trust in technical experts, CEOs, and successful entrepreneurs has risen since 2017. Like every aspect of communications, public relations is always evolving, and the ways you reach, engage, and build trust with the audiences that matter most to you need to also continue to evolve.
There is a fierce level of competition within traditional media outlets! They are cutting staff, combining beats and doing all that they can to stay a step ahead of the next outlet. The best way for you to attract them to your story is to offer them exclusivity. Where you may initially believe that a press release blasted to several outlets would be great coverage, attract quality coverage from a major outlet by offering them an exclusive. First, decide which outlet would be most beneficial. Next, decide WHO you want to cover your project, event or story. Do your research. Only target those who cover the subject matter that you are pitching. Study some of their past work to detail why you chose them to cover your story. This not only gets your story covered but then creates a quality, long-term relationship with that reporter and outlet.
Prepare for Economic Downturn
Monitize your audience. Continue to show them that they are valued. Get ready for the economy to not be so generous. For the pubic relations community, this means that pitching will be more important that ever. If the economy holds steady, the influencer prices will continue to rise exorbitantly. If things take a familiar downturn, the first things that go are the marketing and PR budgets. They get cut significantly or abolished altogether. So, keep building your brand and adding value to yourself, your company or your signature service. Increase your constant visibility through brand journalism.
No More Lazy Pitching
With the PR pro to journalist ratio now reaching 6:1, the odds aren’t great for just anyone to break through the noise that all of the journalists have to sift through. Each journalists is forced to search through a plethora of pitches for gems that lend to a great story. A good PR professional must be very selective in which story they pitch or risk losing credibility. As a business owner, knowing your business inside and out to determine the best angle will be your challenge. You don’t want to lose the attention or the credibility of a potential story partner. If you are lazy and don’t do the work, but still pitch the wrong story to the wrong journalist, they will start to see you coming and have preconceived notions that you and what you may be offering is a waste of time before they even open their email. I would suggest having a public relations professional on retainer or willing to work on a project basis but either way, remember that your window of opportunity is no unlimited. Take advantage of it in the best possible way.
Technology & AI Become Essential
Public relations is about relationships. The job includes connecting with people, helping others, and managing relationships. This makes it a bit scary to start to bring technology into the fold. However, if used correctly, you can incorporate technology into the relationships to make them more efficient and even build credibility and a level of trust. The right tools help to curate the best content, give you alerts to make sure that you don’t miss anything, communicate better across platforms and capture elements important to projects that you may be collaborating on. This could be essential to the relationship and even lend to building more confidence in each other and accountability for proven results. As a business owner, you need as much help as you can get. Technology can help to automate some processes, remind you of mandatory tasks and elevate your productivity. Embrace it.
Humanize Your Brand
When you create and share your core values that define your company, you are giving it a voice. You give it life. You give it a human feel. Establish the values that your company represents and reflects well on you. This will help your target audience relate to you. Make sure that your values are authentic, unique to you and not simply what you think that your audience wants to hear. You will wind up with the wrong audience and no brand loyalty. These values will be reflected in your content, in your advertising, in your messaging. Make sure to craft a well thought out vision statement that is reflected in everything that you do. Be consistent with it. This ensures that when something happens, or a disgruntled customer takes to social media to discredit you or your company, your core audience will know and be loyal to the brand that they have become accustomed to supporting.
Expand & Elevate
You can’t just tell your story and keep it pushing in 2019. As a business owner or PR professional, you have to expand your network to reach a more extensive and diverse group of partners who can help expand your stories and scale your reach. You cannot rely on 1 or 2 different channels of communication. You must understand multiple modern communication techniques and adapt accordingly in 2019. This includes extensive social media engagements, repurposing content, “mobile first” thinking, blogging and a hyper focus on videos and images. No more blurry, pixilated images or poorly shot videos.
Listen & Use Your Customer’s Voice
The biggest difference between marketing/advertising and PR is simple. Marketing and advertising is the act of telling prospects how amazing you and your company are while offering them something. This gives them a chance to try you out or use you again. Public relations is the art of getting others to boast and brag about you and your greatness. It is endorsements and referrals from influencers, happy customers and advocates. There is nothing more powerful in PR than a raving fan. These are your real spokespeople. No celebrity can do the work of a loyal and enthusiastic fan base. As a business owner, this really is your primary job. Put out great products or services and ensure that those receiving them become loyalists. They will be happy to tell others in your target audience. Get testimonials and case studies. Get creative in how you can feature them in your public relations strategy. Turn your good work into a PR win!
With everything that you are already doing, keep these 10 things in mind to ensure that your 2019 is as successful as possible.
Tonya McKenzie, owner and principal consultant of a public relations firm specializing in working with small businesses, nonfiction authors, speakers and entrepreneurs, Sand & Shores PR (www.sandandshores.com), based in Redondo Beach, CA. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.