Is Small Business Public Relations an Oxymoron?

When I was a marketing director, I was asked to send out press releases for major events, but very rarely were they ever picked up "off the wire." Some people would discredit our local newspaper, or our millennial community, and I didn't have enough information to know any different. In fact, Public Relations was the one part of my job where I know I put the least amount of effort because it often gave minimal - if any - results. 

When I started my own agency, I knew this was a weak area for me that I needed to learn more about. 

As I have started to talk with owners at Public Relations firms in the Charlotte area, I'm realizing quickly that Public Relations is more than just about press releases. Organizations still need to have contacts within the media world - but what that relationship looks like is varied. In fact, a marketing contact at a local brewery told me, "Yeah, press releases don't work. We never do them." Noted. 

Many of my clients are just started to feel comfortable allocating dollars towards marketing, let alone public relations (I mean, aren't they the same thing?) No, they're not. Public relations is a strategy of an overall marketing plan and it can (and should) have its own strategic plan

However, if they don't have a lot of money, but want to continue to build those relationships until the day they do - a media night or "Introduction Night" (even if my client has been in business for 10 years) is a good place to start. Then, they're paying for the event cost (and that can stay cheap), and the staff has the opportunity to meet the people they want speaking about their organization face-to-face. It's not a cold press release carefully scripted and blasted to dozens of media personnel - it's a warm invitation to "meet us," and learn more about what we do and why we do it.

Ongoing public relations work is expensive, and there are wonderful agencies directed to just that. But when an organization is just starting to develop their small business marketing plan and strategy, it's not always feasible to drop a few grand a month to support this effort. This is when the old-fashioned warm invitation to meet and greet (but don't call it that) could enhance your brand awareness to just the right people. It's planting the seeds for later growth. 

Cassandra D'Alessio