Posts Tagged ‘small business’

PR Holding Statements: Walk Before You Run … Into the Crisis!

May 24th, 2010

If you’re reading this, and happen to own or operate a small business or large corporation, we’re willing to bet you’re curious about media holding statement 101.

No business is immune to the need for smart public relations crisis management.  If you sell food, assume your customers might get sick.  If you sell cars, assume the brakes will fail.  If you house sensitive financial information, assume it will be compromised.  If you sell medicine, assume it may have unanticipated side-effects.

The permutations are endless, but the sure-fire way to escalate your business’s crisis situation is to be caught flat-footed — or, in a PR crisis, with both feet in your mouth.

In other words, no matter how many weeks you’ve spent analyzing the weak points in your supply chain, setting up a war room to monitor media fallout, preparing for reporters through media training, or anticipating how critics and competitors will leverage a crisis against you, all your efforts are wasted without a proper holding statement ready for release.

Each holding statement is unique for a particular business, but the basic principles are the same.  The holding statement must address the crisis head on and without any doublespeak, acknowledge that something wrong is going on, offer immediate information, and resolve to address the media and public again once all the facts have been collected.   And, most importantly, you must show sincerity, genuine concern and appreciation for the crisis situation.

Apply this general approach when your business needs to speak, and you will buy the precious time necessary for a more coordinated, concentrated response to any problem factors that may arise.

Crisis Corner: What a Small Business Can Learn From Toyota

February 24th, 2010

Toyota’s predicament speaks for itself, but what would your small business do if it faced a raft of angry or injured customers?  Crisis management principles are often the same regardless of the scale of your business – it’s not just mega corporations that risk dealing with angry, hurt or confused customers.

In preparing for incidents of blowback with their goods or services, here are some questions any small business marketing or communications professional must ask:

Have you accepted the possibility of a mistake? The first step is always the hardest.  In small business communications, it’s important to accept that something in your supply chain can (and will) go wrong.  Define the potential problem before you start crafting messages to respond.

Do you have a crisis response plan in place? You must determine what you’ll say depending on who are the key stakeholders – customers, business partners, regulators, and so forth.

Have you designated a spokesperson for media inquiries, and have they undergone media training? Don’t just assume that your spokesperson will do great on camera.  Media training is a serious discipline and absolutely necessary if you’re going to survive tough interviews.

Do you have a media list of reporters and media outlets who would cover your crisis? You know your industry, trade and community better than anyone else.  Identify the key media outlets, trade publications and other interested journalists and bloggers who will take interest in your business’s response to any situation.

Can you update your website’s home page quickly to ensure your response is easily visible? Your site designers should have built the site’s architecture in a way that allows a prominent update to appear on your homepage.  And on that end, do you have a process in place for Facebook and Twitter updates?  You do have Facebook and Twitter pages for your small businessright?

If the answer to any of these questions are “no” you should let us know

Small Business Marketing Tactics: Sometimes All You Need Is Good PR

February 3rd, 2010

Often, publicists are asked what the difference is between marketing and public relations.  The answer varies greatly, but a soft distinction helps separate the mess – paid media vs. earned media.  In this post, let’s focus primarily on the hurdles small businesses face.

When we hear about small business marketing, we think of goal-oriented communication that ideally encourages consumers to purchase a product or hire a service.  In that process, a marketing firm dictates the content, placement and reach of the communication, for example an advertisement.  Let’s call this “paid media” because the client, i.e. the small business, is paying for these messages to be delivered to customers, based on the marketing firm’s recommendation.

In contrast, a publicist recommends public relations strategies that encourage newspapers, websites, blogs, etc. to devote coverage and content to the client.  The best small business publicists know how to target interested media and increase the likelihood of getting that prime headline or story.  You’re not paying for the content but rather the publicist’s services, so when you get that sweet press hit, you’ve got “earned media.”

The great advantage of earned media is the objectivity associated with the messenger.  For example, when the small business CEO is quoted in an article on investment advice, and the outlet has a reputation for impartial reporting, the messaging gains significant authenticity.  And once the press hits pile up, the publicist can then push them through viral media, social networking sites and other platforms where potential clients, customers and stakeholders are waiting to hear about the next big thing.

So, the moral of the story is that in developing a small businesses marketing plan, the client should always appreciate the importance of paid and earned media, working in tandem, to generate more revenue, positive attention and ultimately success over competitors.

Getting Small Business Marketing out from under the TARP

December 10th, 2009

Put aside your politics (yes, even in DC!) and evaluate a case study of communications opportunity presenting itself.  This past week, President Obama hosted a White House forum on job creation, and part of the discussion focused on possible federal incentives to support small business recovery.

Obama made the point that while he supports such incentives, “ultimately true economic recovery is only going to come from the private sector.”


Always remember, in public relations, perception consistently trumps reality.  Accordingly, here is what the public perceives and/or is real.  First, the TARP program that blunted the recession actually will cost $200 billion less than the forecasted $341 billion.  While this certainly is good news, the common perception is that TARP helped Wall Street more than it did Main Street, USA (a nod to for excellent analysis).  So, Obama’s private sector argument immediately gets a leg kicked out from it.

Second, with all the discussion on what TARP does for big business, the public misses the point because they don’t hear about (i.e., perceive) what could be done for small business.  This is where small business marketing and small business PR can play a big role, even if it’s just talk being made by one small business.

Effective small business marketing tactics could turn part of the conversation toward the idea of steering more federal bailout money specifically toward small business programs.  The narrative and talking points almost write themselves – with small businesses success offering feel-good stories and great statistics, the small business community has ample room to enter the federal bailout discussion aggressively.

Through blogs, trade associations, chambers of commerce and other platforms, messages of support for small business programs can be broadcast and ultimately force public officials to acknowledge the questions being raised.  When these officials begin making relevant statements and proposals, allies and opposition can be defined, and small business public relations tactics will then prove their worth.