Small Budget, Big Impact: Why PR is Essential for Small Businesses, and How to Get the Most Out of a Limited Budget

by Julie Daubenmire

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Swanky press tours.
Red carpet events.
High-profile PR stunts. 

With the perception that PR is all about expensive, glitzy campaigns, I can’t blame small businesses owners for often thinking public relations is out of reach for their budgets—and struggling to see how they can incorporate PR into their business model with limited resources.

And while there are companies with the need and funds for big-ticket campaigns, the reality is that PR can and should be used by all organizations.

Small businesses, especially, can’t afford not to invest in PR. And here are a few reasons why.

  • Raising Awareness: Strategic public relations can be an ideal complement to traditional advertising in building awareness about your brand. By seeing media and influencers talk about your company, people will recognize your brand and say, “Oh, yea, I’ve heard of them!”
     
  • Building Credibility: Paid advertising is important for sure, but generally the public knows that advertising is all about getting them to buy something. On the flip-side, a powerful media article or influencer mention serves as an authentic, credible, third-party endorsement for your brand.
     
  • Endearing You to the Public: PR is less about selling your product and more about telling your story. And people love a good story. Whether it is a behind-the-scenes look at the inspiration for your company, a moving testimonial about the business owner or news about how you are giving back, telling people the back-story about what makes your business unique helps create positive connections with the public and potential customers.

Throughout my career I’ve had the privilege of working with small business owners to develop and implement PR campaigns to support their business. And these are some of my favorite businesses to work with—mostly because working on a small budget requires you to be efficient, resourceful and a little bit scrappy to make the most of the available resources.

From this, here are some key lessons about how small businesses can get the most bang for their PR buck:

1.    Be clear about your objectives and target audiences.

This seems simple, but often small businesses go into a PR plan not fully knowing or understanding their end goals or the people they are trying to reach. Do you want to build awareness about your company? Grow social media followers? Drive traffic to your website? With whom? Having a clear idea from the start about what success looks like will help tailor the right strategies to help you reach your goals.

2.    Have an open mind about strategies.

When most people think of PR, they assume media relations. And while media relations and earned media coverage can play a big role in building a brand’s relationship with the public, it is not the be-all end-all. Typically, PR works best when there are multiple elements like media relations, social media campaigns, influencer outreach and thought leadership working together in tandem.

3.    Do some of the legwork.

No one knows your business and industry better than you. So, when working with outside PR counsel especially, do some of the research on your end to help the PR professional do his or her best work. Things like identifying the right media to target, researching relevant influencers and keeping your consultant in-the-know about industry trends or news help make the most of your budget.

4.    Amplify great coverage.

Seeing your company profiled in the media or mentioned by a top influencer is a great feeling. So, when you do see success from your PR efforts, use your own channels to amplify and get even more out of the coverage. Merchandise media coverage on your company website and social media accounts. Share it on your own personal pages. Utilize press coverage in materials for sales teams or in any in-person presentations you do. In short, keep the conversation going.

As it is getting harder and harder for businesses to cut through the noise and truly connect with customers, public relations is more important than ever for small businesses.

With some careful planning and legwork, small business owners can still develop PR campaigns to make an impact.