What is PR?
Making a plan
Planning how you will promote your business is an essential part of a healthy enterprise. Try to work out a plan for the year ahead. This will help you continue with promotional activities at both busy and quiet times, vital if you want the keep up your business profile.
Start by writing down all the different promotional activities you can think of. Include ideas that have worked well in the past, and things you see working for competitors. Look on small business sites on the internet for more inspiration. Talk to people at networking groups, face to face or online, and ask what works for them.
Then, using a spreadsheet or year planner, note down which activities you will do when. Make sure you have a spread of activities throughout the year. Look at where you have gaps and see if you can come up with an event or have a special offer so that you have things to promote all year round. Try to make one phone call or send a few emails every day. Continuous effort is far more effective than big bursts of promotion without any follow up.
To be effective, update all blogs with snippets of news, achievements, links to successful PR articles etc. at least every week.
- What’s good about you and your product/service? What makes it special or different to any other business? Focus on this difference in all your promotional materials – it is your business’s UNIQUE SELLING POINT, your special ‘thing’ that makes your business stand out.
- It’s a great idea to have a 30 second ‘pitch’ that sums up you and your business. Practice your business’s pitch until it rolls off your tongue easily, whether telling someone what you do at the school gate or when you meet the bank.
- It’s really important to know your target audience: Ask yourself, “What are they like, what do they read, watch, where do they go?” If you can, do a small survey of your customers to find out. That way you can make sure your promotion is reaching them.
- Use your contacts: don’t hold back if you know someone in a position of influence, whether they run the local NCT magazine or chair the Chamber of Commerce. Ask how your business could help them, in return for some publicity.
- Develop a contact on your local paper or community magazine. Find out what sort of stories they need, and keep them up to date with relevant news from your business.
- Offering your services to talk about your work at the local college, to a local women’s group or similar, and tell the local paper you’re doing it.
- Read the magazines and listen to or watch the shows you’d like to feature on. It is the only way to really understand the sort of story they are after.
- Brainstorm all the different media you could use to promote your business. Make your own list of relevant newspapers, fairs, shows etc.
- Don’t forget to think about posters, leaflets, business cards. Plan out where you could distribute them, and how many you could send out, then place your order. Never order promotional materials without being sure how you will use them.
- Attend exhibitions/fairs/shows and study what looks good, what attracts people, who’s there, what are they doing, what’s popular and which stands are empty. This will help you improve results if you attend an event.
- Get media packs from papers and magazines or exhibitors packs from shows to find out who attends, what they are looking for, what they spend. Ask yourself whether they fit with your existing customer profile? Or are there areas of overlap – could you see your product selling to them, could you adapt your marketing to make it appeal?
- If promoting your own business seems overwhelming, break it down. Write a big list of everything you could do, then break it down into one small task a day, one idea a day, one phone call a day, or just 15 minutes thinking each day?
- Inorder to promote your business, you need good publicity materials. You need to be creative – remember to focus on your business’s Unique Selling Point, and put in quotes from clients and the press etc.
- Keep publicity materials short, clear, snappy. Cut back on long descriptions. Write out a rough draft and then revise it, cutting out unnecessary words. Use short words rather than long ones. There’s no need to try to sound clever or fancy – you want EVERYONE to be able to see what you are offering at a glance. And make sure you have the essentials in – how to buy, and how to get in touch.
- Think about how your promotional materials will look. Computers make it easier to design stuff yourself. If you’re looking for something plain, straightforward, black text, try doing it yourself. If you have a pc at home, run off a few copies first and test them out on people – don’t commit to a large print run if something’s going to change quite soon! A professional designer will add lots to your materials – weigh up the costs and benefits.