Considering PR Assistance for Your Small Business
September 8, 2021
By Matt Resch, originally featured in our FOCUS magazine
No matter what your small business does or who its competitors are, you are likely already engaged in public relations. Your work tells a story every day, but is the story you’re telling the right one? Is it loud enough that people will hear and act on it? Can your team do more and are you ready to address any looming crises with ease? If the answer to any of those questions is no, then it might be time to consider outside PR support.
I founded my firm, Resch Strategies, 12 years ago at a desk in my spare bedroom. We are a public affairs and public relations firm based in Lansing, that assists organizations, big and small, with their communications needs. Today our firm has eight experienced professionals and a diverse client list whom we assist with communications needs both large and small. From statewide digital campaigns to single op-eds and letters to the editor, we deliver the tools, resources and supports necessary to tell your story. We are proud members of the Small Business Association of Michigan and support SBAM with its public relations/media relations needs on behalf of Michigan’s small businesses.
It’s an understatement to say the pandemic was devastating to many entrepreneurs. Recovering from the impact of COVID-19 isn’t simple, and small businesses must think critically about how budgets are spent. Because dollars can be tight, PR services may not top your list, but you may need them sooner than you think. That’s why we wanted to provide a guide to help small businesses navigate their PR strategies.
Hiring a PR agency can be a cost-effective way to enhance your organization’s reach. Agencies typically work on contract without the need to add additional members to your staff. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming to determine if you’re ready for outside PR help. We’ve developed a list of key indicators to help you decide if you’re ready.
You may benefit from PR support if:
- You have an understanding for what your communication needs are and what some
early deliverables could look like.
- Something is coming up that you know you’ll need help with—an event, a product/service launch or even bad news you can’t avoid.
- You have a strong sense of your organization’s mission and purpose and are ready to share your work.
- You are ready to develop specific, actionable plans and hold yourself and your PR agency accountable for achieving them.
- You have a team member who’s eager to help facilitate your team’s feedback and work with a PR agency.
As you consider taking this step, it’s critical to understand what to expect and what’s not possible. Having realistic expectations will help you envision how PR can—and can’t—elevate your organization. For example, PR can’t make your organization front-page news on day one. It takes time to garner media attention and build the identity of your business. However, with an effective plan in place, a PR agency can build your organization a foundation that will garner media success over time.
By the same token, PR also can’t offer instant guarantees. While many public relations activities can generate strong returns, it’s not possible to guarantee the outcomes of PR work, though most agencies will measure progress and work toward desired outcomes at your side.
Sometimes negative situations and bad news are unavoidable. While public relations can help with these situations, it can’t hide or “spin” that news into something positive. Crisis communications is a critical part of public relations and helps to effectively communicate during negative situations. Attempts to mask or conceal news, especially in today’s 24-hour news cycle, will make a bad news story worse than it needs to be.
What services do PR agencies offer?
Each agency is different and offers a wide variety of services that are usually customizable to your organization’s needs. Typical services include project planning, market research, issue management, branding development, public relations and earned media, writing and editing services, media training, graphic design, digital media expertise and so much more.
After you’ve decided where help is needed, you’ll want to put together a request for proposals. This will ensure you get a fair price and allow you to get a sense for each firm’s approach and personality.
To simplify the process, we’ve compiled a list of items that should be included when seeking PR agency proposals:
- Describe your organization and the problem you are interested in solving. Include goals and target audiences
if you know them.
- If you have a defined scope of work or timeline, include it.
- Include the budget you have in mind. This will help an agency envision the amount of work possible.
- Ask for a description of the agency, its team, its work and how it approaches new clients and projects.
- Request information about what the agency already knows about your issues, organization and competition.
- Ask for a rough work plan to make sure the agency can meet your deadlines in a way that you’re comfortable with.
- Request samples of past work and references you can call.
- Ask for agencies to share how they’ll determine success on your project.
- Request a detailed budget to see how the agency would allocate the dollars you give them.
There are many ways to evaluate a PR agency proposal. Whatever approach you choose, it’s important to ensure you can have a high degree of trust in them. These folks are going to help tell your story and you want to make sure they use strategies and information that gets the job done right.
A good match is just as important in business as it is in personal life. That’s why it’s important to be thorough when hiring outside PR help. The wrong match won’t lead to the results you expect, while the right match can greatly enhance your organization’s reach. Long story short? With the right up-front expectations and a competitive hiring process, PR can be the very best asset for your small business. As your team bounces back from the pandemic, don’t forget to remember your public positioning and make your plans early.
Matt Resch is the president and owner of Resch Strategies, a public relations and public affairs firm in Lansing. Find out more information about Resch at www.reschstrategies.com.