Every business has two main communications avenues: marketing and public relations. When execs decide which one to outsource, they almost always prioritize marketing. With the growth of digital marketing — which tends to be very labor-intensive for the ROI — many SMBs lack the skills, the technology, and the personnel for modern marketing. However, PR can generate a lot of good buzz without the costs associated with marketing. Some small businesses don’t yet have a coherent PR strategy. They also hesitate to trust a critical part of their branding to outsiders. In some cases, it’s smart to keep PR in-house. In other cases, it’s better to outsource PR to a professional.
When to Do Your Own PR
In-house PR works well in a couple of different scenarios:
- Small company, tight budget. If your business is just getting started and you can’t afford to hire a PR company, you can do some elements of PR on your own, and you can do them well.
- Growing company with enough capital to hire someone. Perhaps your business has reached a threshold in which you no longer need to hire a PR firm. You’re ready to bring on a full-time person (or a staff) to take care of PR internally.
Whether you’re handling PR in-house because you’re thriving or because you can’t afford other options, you should allocate your time and money to the right activities, and you should focus on finding the right audience.
Do a SWOT Analysis
Start with a simple SWOT analysis of your business to determine potential PR needs. The “S” and “W” stand for “strengths” and “weaknesses,” or the strengths and weaknesses of your company, not of the outside environment. The “O” and “T” stand for “opportunities” and “threats,” or the outside factors that you can’t necessarily control.
- Strengths. Examine your personnel, your financials, your assets (including your location), and your products. What’s working well for you right now? What are the things you don’t need to change?
- Weaknesses. Do your employees lack skills? Are you missing a product that you need to have? If you’re about to retire, do you have a succession plan?
- Opportunities. Examine cultural and economic trends, regulatory issues, demographic changes, funding sources, and new technology developments. Where are your opportunities to move your business forward?
- Threats. Are inevitable regulatory changes going to hurt you? Can your business keep up with current technology?
Your SWOT analysis can shape your in-house PR strategy. For example, if one of your strengths is a good reputation in the community, organize or sponsor a local charity event. If your main product line is becoming obsolete because of technology changes, start developing new products and a PR strategy to promote them.
Build Your Reputation
PR builds goodwill with your customers and your community. Could someone from your company speak at a local event or conference? Can you nominate your company or your product for an award? Finally, it’s a simple tip, but make sure to create attractive promotional materials that include professional photographs of you and your product. You want to ensure that your company looks successful, whether or not you’ve taken off in the marketplace.
When to Outsource PR
PR agencies cost money, but you get access to their network of contacts. It might be tough for you to get Businessweek to cover your company, but a PR agency could make it happen. Additionally, PR professionals can tackle crisis management. If your company is big enough that bad publicity would make headlines — or if you’ve just had a public screw-up — a professional can get you out of the swamp. If you can afford to hire a PR agency, start by asking for written proposals from two or three agencies. If you’re not ready to work with an agency full-time, hire a freelancer on a project-by-project basis. For example, if you open a new store or launch a new product, a freelancer could handle PR surrounding your project. Either way, you get better avenues for exposure, and you have more time to run your company.
Don’t Neglect PR
The old saying holds true: Marketing is the coverage you pay for, and PR is the coverage you pray for. Good PR can be more effective than any marketing campaign. Whether you do it yourself or hire it out, start thinking about PR today.
Founder Dinis Guarda
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