Thanks to the prominence of the internet, consumers are able to access more and more information on companies, which in turn means brand and reputation has become extremely important for businesses. This means that, if businesses are to be competitive, PR has never been more essential. For new companies, or a small business looking to grow, PR is a valuable tool for building your business’s reputation and awareness, and showcasing your expertise.

In the world of start-ups, entrepreneurs are recognising the power of PR to drive business investment. Those that are successfully launching businesses and raising funds via crowdfunding sites understand that successful campaigns start way before the launch. Many start drumming up public interest and building their following on social networks months before they actually launch a campaign. They will also ensure they have a solid website and press materials in place for journalists to instantly download, realising that if journalists can’t find more information on their project, they’ll simply chose to promote another one instead.

Andrew Sherick, founder of Mr Sherick’s shakes (a range of award winning luxury milkshakes), is a case in point. With the aim of raising £250,000 via Crowdcube, Andrew built a solid brand name and reputation on social media and even invited journalists to come to the factory to design a milkshake. With the help of Seven Consultancy, Mr Sherick’s Shakes gained coverage in The Telegraph, Forbes magazine and Real Business, and ultimately led to him raising £279,950 (well in excess of his original target).

Entrepreneur Cecile Reinart has seen her fashionable maternity wear business, Seraphine, go from strength to strength since the opening of the first shop in 2002. Now a global business, sales rocketed after receiving extensive publicity when the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton wore a Seraphine dress for the first official photograph with baby George. In today’s media climate, celebrity is a hugely powerful force in generating media exposure and brand coverage, and Seraphine has certainly reaped the rewards of this, with many celebrity fans such as Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson. This, along with extensive pr coverage of Cecile as a highly successful female entrepreneur have helped form a solid reputation, positive trust, and personality for the brand.

Useful PR tips for SMEs:

1) Start with PR

PR will help make your story simple and compelling particularly if you’re struggling to explain your business idea to those around you. It is vital at the beginning to PR your point of difference if you are to secure funding and other valuable support.

2) Online pr can be simple and cost-effective

Aswell as being economical, online PR allows business owners to deliver their business’s messages to the right audience, at the right time, through the right channels. Start with your own website, and use it to communicate with your customers as well as sell to them, building up an audience for your blog posts and emails. Give people a reason to sign up to regular e-newsletters by offering them regular insight and offers. Be clear about your business goals before you embark on the online activity as you will need to ensure your messaging is consistent. These could be anything from establishing expertise amongst a peer group to marketing a new service, or building an existing brand.

3) Don’t waste money or time talking to the wrong audience

The best press release in the world is wasted if you email it to a journalist who isn’t interested in the subject. Focus on the key publications your customers read. PR doesn’t have to involve spending hours securing an interview on BBC Breakfast if a solid case study in an industry magazine will make more of an impact with your customers.
Consider your audience’s wants and needs in relation to your goals. For example, if your aim is to become a key opinion leader in your field, offer useful white papers, presentations or articles. Not only is this a great way to showcase your knowledge; at the same time you’ll educate your audience. Use your own website to promote them or, if not, identify suitable sites to offer them to.

4) Consider outsourcing

Finally, if you are not entirely comfortable writing your own press releases, not sure where to send them , or unsure what to say to a journalist in a crisis, you may wish to engage the services of a PR agency. Outsourcing your PR can be extremely valuable to SMEs – particularly as the professionals will have extensive media contacts allowing you to hit the ground running. This means targeting the right journalists, with the right information, at the right time. Take time in your search – look for relevant SME experience, flexibility to accommodate business change, and a team you can trust.