In August I gave a talk for the eWomenNetwork Accelerated Network Luncheon. I spoke about a few things that stood out in a survey taken with the group here in Seattle, Washington. The last topic addressed was on how to budget for working with a public relations professional (which will be addressed in a following blog, and I mention this primarily for the eWomen Seattle group). During the speech, I promised to blog about the topics I spoke on in more depth, as well as answer questions individually to those that asked. My plan ongoing, is to also to write about the questions in more detail. This post is the beginning of that journey, which should take us through the next several weeks. It will be a learning experience not only for the eWomenNetwork Seattle group, but for all interested in this topic. Here I will discuss why a public relations plan should be a part of the overall business plan. Strategic public relations planning is not just for large companies, and it does not require hiring a full on agency if your small business does not warrant it.
In my 20+ years, I have learned time and again that it all starts with learning about what public relations is, and for our purposes here I will be addressing publicity and promotion under the public relations umbrella and why a crisis management plan is important. From my survey taken with the eWomen Seattle group, getting the word out about what they do, who they are, why it matters and who benefits is critical. This is important to all entrepreneurs, whether they are in a service profession and work out of their home, work independently with a larger firm, have an online business, or a small-to-medium sized business with a storefront. It is easy to get confused, depending on who you listen to and the books you read. Here are three things you can sink your teeth into to start with, on the journey of understanding why you need public relations:
1. Put your marketing plan in motion first, because your PR plan should ignite it. The marketing plan is built from the marketing mix, something most people know about from going to business college – if that was your path. It you did not, then pay close attention, as this will be a great help to you. The marketing mix is made up of four parts: your product (or service), the price you set for that product (s) or service (s), the place or location you choose to have your business–online, store front, home office (this also includes distribution), and promotion. How are you going to promote your business? There are a number of things you can do, including direct mail, in-store or online parties, partnering with non-profits, or as David Meerman Scott proposes in his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR–do something brilliant that gets the attention of your customer and the media.
2. Make a list of creative promotional ideas. Promotional campaigns, which are also called PR campaigns (because promotions are leveraged for publicity) should be fun, relevant, and attract attention. This is the buzz effect. If your product or service is not necessarily exciting you have to create something exciting, or get involved with the latest craze to get noticed, like the current ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. You can either get on board and create your own (it is about over though, they have raised about 100 million) or take another route like these people Mashable wrote about “8 Bucket Challenges That Don’t Involve Any Ice“. You can make it funny, or more serious depending on the message you are trying to convey. The key is to consistently live outside your comfort zone brainstorming ideas. Using the latest craze can get you media attention and the attention of your customer. What sets good PR apart, is the approach taken to create buzz that gets you noticed instead of your competition.
3. Decide who will take care of your clients in an emergency. Crisis management is a practice area under the public relations umbrella. We will touch on it briefly here, as it should be a part of your overall public relations plan which makes for a healthy business plan that not only makes it more attractive to loan institutions, (if you are thinking about going for a small-to-medium sized business loan) but it’s good business. Just over two years ago I had a health emergency that landed me in the emergency room (thinking I had food poisoning) and following emergency surgery, I was in the hospital for almost two weeks. I had no plan in motion to care for my clients, no one to call that could either jump in and make phone calls, or manage my clients in my absence. The lesson here, is even if you are a sole proprietor, it is your responsibility to make sure that someone knows who your clients are, what is in motion, and has all their contact information. The best plan has someone on call that you collaborate with that is familiar with your clients, and knows who to call to put the plan in action. From there, your emergency partner can either manage these clients with your direction until you can step back into your business, or find them someone else to work with in the event of your death. When my emergency happened, I lost two clients. It was my responsibility to make sure there was someone to call them and keep them informed and give them options. I did not have this plan in action. I do now! It is the right thing to do, and it shows your commitment and integrity to those you serve, in case of an emergency. Make sure your clients are aware of your plan, they will respect you for it.
The three things talked about here are great to get your mental engine going–getting a strong marketing plan in place so you can ignite it with public relations, brainstorm your promotional ideas and make sure to get that crisis management plan in place. I look forward to hearing your questions and comments here. Jump in! Let’s engage and have a conversation. There will be many blog posts to follow, and I look forward to giving you great content to continue to sink your teeth into!