The South African business environment is uncertain. Political changes, credit rating downgrades, higher inflation costs and diminishing jobs opportunities seem to be the order of the day. But, you can still thrive.
Creating wealth, even for small businesses with staying power, is becoming increasing challenging. With so much market uncertainty, creating opportunities requires SME's to radically transform how they operate and take products to market.
''If I was down to my last dollar I would spend it on Public Relations,” Bill Gates says. And it’s something you should consider too.
Why leverage public relations?
When there is a downscale in the economy, the rippling effect means that more people won't be able to pay you for your services and many lucrative income streams will start narrowing. The trick at the onset is to avert credit and risk if it’s going to have a ripple effect you won't recover from; but also importantly increase sales and scale your products.
The key to staying relevant is to make sure you have market presence in the sectors you want to influence, penetrate and trade in.
Aligning your brand and your offering with a savvy marketing and public relations plan is essential to take your product and services to market and let people know you have a solution in their time of need. Stewart Ewan (author and historian) was spot on when he said: “The history of PR is a history of a battle of what reality is and how people will see and understand the reality.”
Accordingly, the responsibility to tell your story and take it to market is a key functionality of any business in any sector that wishes to connect to its market.
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Don't cut the PR budget when panic hits
So, you have a great product, spent thousands to create your offering which is well researched, and you've taken years to perfect the business model, but you are still struggling to attract sales or the right customer.
Your PR and marketing strategy may also not be up to the standard to influence your market. Worse for your brand is if your PR activation is non-existent or you decide to pull the plug.
Identify the missing links and package content to tell your story
Chances are entrepreneurs often forget to identify the platforms that can take their product to market. Investing in a marketing plan and creating a PR strategy is essential and requires businesses to manage their brand reputation and package their offerings to tell their story.
Publicity is absolutely critical. ''A good PR story is infinitely more than a one page advert,” says Richard Branson. Levelling the business playing field through creating relevant content is important. The power of publicity influences markets only as far as you have created the stories that will turn an ‘interest’ into a ‘sale’. Create content that can tell your story and make sure you plug into platforms where you can channel your content and build an ecosystem.
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People don't buy goods and services; they buy relations, stories and magic. How you choose to package your story and take it to market is a choice offering you must make.
Some simple tips that can help you create a good PR presence without costing you an arm and a leg:
- Research your market and see if they can connect with you quickly -Optimise your website. If you do a google search the data collected can help you repackage your connect.
- Fix and refresh the platforms you use for your business. If you have a website, its always critical to refresh and update your content and make sure the key words align with search engine rankings.
- Don't wait for a formal press release to let people know what you up to. Announce new customers, update your products and services and let people know how to find you by creating content for your platforms.
- It’s always a good idea to create press releases, short snippets for mailers, visual content for You Tube, online posters etc. Getting an online presence in a digital era is no longer an option. Managing your brand reputation is a process and never a one hit wonder. To stay relevant, create content for diverse media platforms and make sure you are intentional in how you distribute the content.
In the words of the wise Benjamin Franklin: “Next to doing the right thing, the next critical thing to do is let people know you are doing the right thing.”
If you can employ a PR team at the outset of a project, they will fast track you to ensure you have the visibility and reach maximum awareness. Once you establish your ground base keep updating and building new content and connect to your markets.