Public Relations: Antidote for Small Business Failure
When small businesses fail, the wreckage is often assigned to undercapitalization, among other mistakes. Seldom is failure attributed to a lack of effective communications that might have modified the behavior of sales prospects in a positive way, thus averting bankruptcy.
In my view, raising money for new businesses is a skill best left to others, but smart, aggressive communications is not. As the entrepreneur, you cannot rely on your financing source to create the broad public exposure your business needs if it is to survive. Ideally from Day 1, you must take the lead in this vital effort accepting the fact that good results come only after careful planning and implementation of a realistic and workable public relations strategy.
Before you achieve real growth and prosperity, your target audiences must not only become aware that your company exists, they must be motivated to take action. Doing something about how your business is perceived means a well-planned public relations program that can reach, persuade and move those prospects to action.
At the root of it all, is a simple truism we all know but tend to forget:people act on their perception of the facts. If the small business owner is to have an effect on those perceptions, he/she must deal with them promptly and effectively.
So the question for you, Ms. or Mr. Small Business Wannabe, is, have you thought about some of the unattended perceptions out there that could nudge your fledgling business closer to bankruptcy than success? Perceptions that, if left unattended, may well result in actions that run counter to those you and your banker may desire?
Obviously, small businesses have limited resources. Still, there are certain cost-effective activities you can undertake to reach them. And considering the survival nature of this topic, while some expense is involved, you may wish to research nearby public relations professionals willing to partner with you during the early days of your enterprize.
Together, you may move in this direction:
First, rank your external audiences as to importance. For example, #1 customers; #2 prospects; #3 employees; #4 local and trade media; #5 your local business community; #6 community leaders, and so forth.
Second, as time permits, interact with members of each audience and jot down their impressions of your business, especially problem areas.
Third, prepare tailored messages that not only provide details about your product and service quality and diversity, but address problems that surfaced during your conversations.
Fourth, consider the most effective means for communicating each message to each audience. This may include everything from simple meetings, briefings and news releases, to media interviews, facility tours and special promotional events.
How will you know that your efforts are changing perceptions for the better? Over time, you should notice increased awareness of your business, a growing public perception of the role your business plays in the community; and, of course, growing numbers of prospects.
Such results are tracked by speaking on a regular basis with people among each of your key audiences, by monitoring print and broadcast media and by interaction with key customers and prospects.
Remember what is at stake – nothing less than the survival of your business!
So, keep an eye on what’s most important, and remember that people in your community or marketing area behave like everyone else – they take actions based on their perception of the facts they hear about you and your business.
And that means you must deal promptly and effectively with those perceptions by reaching and persuading them to your way of thinking, thus moving them to take actions that lead to the success of your business.
Bob Kelly counsels, writes and speaks to business, non-profit and
association managers about using the fundamental premise of public
relations to achieve their operating objectives. He has been DPR,
Pepsi-Cola Co.; AGM-PR, Texaco Inc.; VP-PR, Olin Corp.; VP-PR,
Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.; director of communi-
cations, U.S. Department of the Interior, and deputy assistant press
secretary, The White House. He holds a bachelor of science degree
from Columbia University, major in public relations.