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HOW PUBLIC RELATIONS CAN HELP SMALL BUSINESSES

HOW PUBLIC RELATIONS CAN HELP SMALL BUSINESSES

Public relations describes the various methods a company uses to disseminate messages about its products, services, or overall image to its customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, or other interested members of the community. The point of public relations is to make the public think favorably about the company and its offerings. Commonly used tools of public relations include news releases, press conferences, speaking engagements, and community service programs.

Although advertising is closely related to public relations, as it too is concerned with promoting and gaining public acceptance for the company’s products, the goal of advertising is generally sales, while the goal of public relations is generating goodwill. The effect of good public relations is to lessen the gap between how an organization sees itself and how others outside the organization perceive it.

Many business owners elect to handle the public relations activities for their own companies, while others choose to hire a public relations specialist. Managers of somewhat larger firms, on the other hand, frequently contract with external public relations or advertising agencies to enhance their corporate image. But whatever option is chosen, the head of a company is ultimately responsible for its public relations.

Like other types of organizations, small businesses can benefit from public relations in terms of their relationship with customers, employees, investors, suppliers, or other interested members of the community. Since small business owners are the most visible representatives of their own companies, they frequently handle many of the public relations functions themselves. But experts caution small business owners against taking on this responsibility if they are unqualified, or if they are unable to give public relations the attention it deserves. In these cases, entrepreneurs may choose to hire a public relations specialist or contract with an outside agency.

Most companies need to seek outside help from a public relations agency at some point. Even if staff members handle most of your PR efforts, an independent firm can assist with a special project, or give occasional advice.

There are a variety of reasons why a small business owner might decide to contract a public relations work out to an external agency. For example, company personnel may be inexperienced in handling public relations; the company may be geographically distant from the main audiences, the company may not be able to afford to hire a fulltime public relations executive with the needed skills; or the company may want the objective judgment of an outsider. 

A small business owner can locate reputable public relations through the public relations association, the trade press for their industry, or the recommendations of fellow business people or local news people. When choosing between several potential agencies, a small business owner should consider those that have experience in the industry, clients in similar industries, financial stability, and a compatible overall philosophy. Contracting with an outside firm can be costly; some charge their clients a monthly retainer, while others charge straight rates for limited services. 

While communication is the essence of public relations, an effective public relations campaign is based on action as well as words. Whether it is practiced formally or informally, public relations is an essential function for the survival of any organization.

Small business owners cannot afford to neglect public relations. But lavish parties and gifts are not necessary. It is possible to vastly improve a small business’s image within its community while also controlling public relations expenditures. Sponsoring a local soccer team, speaking at a chamber of commerce meeting, and volunteering at a neighborhood  cleanup are among the wide variety of public relations activities readily available to small businesses.

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Bernard Taiwo
I am Management strategist, Editor and Publisher.
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