Small Business Failure? Nuts!
Pardon my enthusiasm, but a large part of your small business’ success is somewhere else. Namely, out among the company’s important external audiences.
How they perceive you, and what they believe about you and your business, directly affect your chances of success. And that’s because those perceptions usually lead to predictable behaviors, good or bad. So they’re pretty important!
Now, here comes the public relations professional who tests the opinion waters, then decides whether, on your behalf, s/he needs to create, change or reinforce that opinion about you and your company. This is important because it will affect the message content you prepare aimed at those perceptions.
Next, s/he’ll attempt to reach, persuade and move-to-actions- YOU-desire those very people whose behaviors affect your business. And we’re talking about actions like neutralizing a rumor, clarifying incorrect perceptions of your product quality, or reinforcing awareness of your product’s healthy profile.
Now, of course, you and your public relations counsel agreed up front at the beginning of the program, on the behavioral changes you would like to see occur. So, it’s a simple task to review together just how successfully the public relations effort on behalf of your small business is, or is not going.
As you may suspect, I do not give up easily when it comes to how public relations can help a small business succeed.
So, who does what to get us to this point?
First, you list those two or three groups of people, i.e., key external audiences, like your prime prospects, or certain segments of area residents, or influential community leaders, and others if appropriate to your product and service offerings.
You need a basis from which to evaluate opinions about you and your small business. So you need to take the time to interact with members of these key audiences to find out how they perceive you, especially any areas of potential trouble.
This is the information gathering phase of the program.
Only then can you and your public relations person decide just what opinions need to be recreated, or changed, or simply reinforced. This becomes the public relations strategy to be followed in a mutually agreed upon time frame.
Now, we prepare messages most likely to persuade both those harboring misconceptions, or no perceptions at all about you, and bring them around to your way of thinking.
Remember that bad perceptions can lead to bad behaviors and, fortunately, vice versa!
At this point, you need to select the communications tactics – “beasts of burden,” I call them – that will carry your carefully crafted messages to the eyes and ears of each target audience. In other words, how will you reach these important people?
You and your public relations counsel have a wide choice of tactics. Everything from personal meetings with members of each target audience, your periodic speeches, emails, newspaper and radio interviews to promotional events, awards ceremonies, news releases, and many others.
As time passes, you must continue to speak with members of your target audiences watching and listening carefully for signs of awareness of your business and its role in the marketplace and in the community. Stay alert as well for a growing receptiveness to your messages by prospective customers.
These are indications that reflect local feelings about your organization. As your public relations counsel will tell you, progress in this regard will be directly proportionate to how much effort and attention you personally give to the outreach program.
The good news is that when public relations modifies behaviors among groups of people important to your organization, the effort may be pronounced successful.
Which is why the title of this article remains, “Small Business Failure? Nuts!”
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.