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
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?
* If sales prospects are unaware of your product or service, you will not get them as customers.
* And if those customers don't remain convinced of the value of your product or service, you lose them.
* If employees believe you don't care about them, productivity suffers.
* If a minority person believes you discriminate when you don't, a host of unnecessary problems may ensue.
* If community residents don't perceive your business as a good place to work, you have employee hiring and retention problems.
* If insurance carriers perceive you as a bad risk, they don't provide the business coverage you need.
* If journalists are suspicious of your motives and you don't convince them otherwise, you get "bad press."
* If business people believe what some competitors say about you, that joint venture you want so badly may not come about.
* And, as you grow bigger, if government regulators believe your products are not completely safe, sales will almost certainly be negatively affected.
Obviously, small businesses have limited resources. Still, there are
certain cost-effective activities you can undertake to reach your target audiences. 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 enterprise.
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.
This will help you set your public relations goal.
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
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
Please feel free to publish this article and resource box in your
ezine, newsletter, offline publication or website. A copy would
be appreciated at bobkelly@TNI.net.
Robert A. Kelly ? 2005.
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 communications, 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.
Visit: http://www.PRCommentary.com; bobkelly@TNI.net