Utilising online PR for small business
Imagine you were setting up a local coffee shop pre-internet; how would you go about promoting your lovely steaming java?
You would probably post some flyers, try to drum up some word of mouth interest, and probably delve into some traditional PR. However, you would be limited to how far your reach spanned and the channels through which you could promote.
It seems like an almost alien world now we have the internet in all its splendour, but I guarantee that there are small businesses out there who are stuck in that old world, a world where cats could spell and Charlie’s finger remained un-bitten.
The thing is, small businesses are missing a trick if they’re not investing time into the internet. Even if you’ve got a website set up and a Facebook page (all the rage with the kids, nowadays) there’s plenty you can do to expose your brand to a wider audience and get the attention that you deserve.
Engage with the locals
This doesn’t mean going around knocking on every door in the vicinity. Set up a company Twitter account and follow people both relevant to your interests (coffee news, coffee lovers) and local people. Maintain a good flow of conversation, but don’t be tempted to fill your timeline with offers and ‘promotional’ tweets.
Make sure you reply to customers in a timely manner and don’t be afraid to be human with them. Host monthly competitions to win prizes, in our case it could be a free latte – it doesn’t have to be much, but one free coffee could mean the difference between a loyal customer or just someone who pops in for one hot chocolate.
Start a blog
There are plenty of good reasons to get blogging. A blog is an avenue that provides fresh content that can help grow your standing in the search engines; it lets you show off your knowledge about the industry you’re working in; and it provides a platform for great PR fuel.
Let’s go back to our coffee shop. By nature it’s a public-facing business so our blog should mainly consist of information the public want to read, which gives you licence to be creative. Piggy-back on holidays, news and events in order to give yourself a hook for your content. Write interesting posts that tap into public consciousness – whether that’s creating coffees named after pop stars or doing as comprehensive post about bizarre coffee facts.
However, it’s not going to do a whole lot of good just writing a post and letting it sit there – tweet, Facebook, Stumble and ultimately get your blog seen. When you start to get a following, allow comments and let people contribute. Get guest writers who work in the industry.
There’s so much you can do with a blog to help your company get noticed and grow your customer base.
Do original research
If you can create interesting news then you stand a great chance of ending up in the press as an expert in your industry. The easiest way to do this is through a survey, whether that’s using a dedicated program like Survey Gizmo or just the default poll capabilities of Facebook.
In our coffee shop we could try to find out the nation’s favourite type of coffee, or perhaps look at what people get confused about when ordering their coffee (names, sizes etc). The aim of this is to present some interesting research that the press will eat up.
All of these ideas cost little to no money, but will require time and energy to implement. Still, if you want to increase your reach as a business you’re missing out if you’re not investing in the internet.