When you think of public relations (PR), what springs to mind? Schmoozing on champagne, endless socialising, and Eddie from Ab Fab? You’re probably way off the mark when it comes to running PR for your latest startup.

In its simplest form, PR means the way that you and your business communicate with both the general public and press. Building an effective PR strategy should be part of any business’s marketing plan. Whether you’re just starting out, or a seasoned SME owner, having an understanding about PR can put you ahead of the curve when it comes to getting your biz noticed.

According to the latest research by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), there are over 4.6 million self-employed people in the UK, and according to the UK Gov’s Business Population Estimates there are 5.4 million private sector businesses – a rise of nearly 2 million since the turn of the millennium.

With so many SME owners taking their first steps into business, it’s imperative that you’re able to cut through the noise and make your startup heard.

Be active on social media

If you’re new to the startup game, you might not have the funds to outsource your PR work. However, having money set aside for some hardcore social media marketing is a really good starting point. A study by the European Commision found that only 61% of European SMEs use social media – get ahead of the crowd by having a water-tight PR strategy for your social media activities.

A key thing to think about is what message you want to put across on your channels – warm and friendly, or straight-down to business, for example. How does your online tone of voice reflect your business and its ideas? Consistency is key when PR’ing on social media; you don’t want to be the tough guy to one customer and sickly sweet to the next – this will give customers mixed messages, which is a big no-no. Consumers are, quite rightly, sticklers for consistency. Switching up how your business comes across to the general public will appear sloppy and confusing.

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If this is your first step into using social media for business, many social networks have great documents on how they can help support your latest venture. Remember to start small and work your way up – you don’t need to be learning about targeted ads from the off. Pace yourself and play around with different functions. Are you finding that more of your core-demographic are on Facebook than Twitter? What posts garner the most responses? Think about where your marketing and PR time is best spent.

Your PR strategy might be as simple as having a Facebook page and Twitter account, so you can actively communicate with and market toward your customer base. Engage customers – both current and potential – by starting conversations, asking questions, and, perhaps most importantly, responding to feedback.

Use social media to help create a sense of business identity – become a company the public can relate to. Social media allows you to relay your organisation’s core ethos, value, and message to a targeted audience – so make sure you’re really nailing exactly how you want to be portrayed.

Set yourself a budget

As a new business, chances are you might be a bit strapped for cash. But while you’re putting together that all-important budget, consider saving some funds for your PR strategy. It’s all good and well having some pennies set aside for social media marketing, but it might be worth outsourcing your PR to a local, reputable firm. Vicki Hughes from Fugu PR says:

“There are so many demands on your time and urgent priorities when launching a new business, that it can be difficult to prioritise and manage your own PR. It’s also often difficult to objectively understand how others see you and the strength of your reputation outside of your business.

“Hence, outsourcing to PR and marketing specialists means that it becomes their priority and your reputation will be managed by professionals with a wider external industry perspective and an insight into how your business is perceived.”

Even if you’re strong in some areas of PR, it’s still worth hiring a PR firm to help support in the areas you’re not so hot at.

Investing in a PR company can be a huge benefit when getting your new business off the ground. It can help to shape and maintain the image a business portrays to the public, and ensure consistency.

Make links with the press

While digital media is all very current, PR has its roots firmly in traditional media, for example newspapers and magazines. Attending networking events where you know (or assume) that there will be journalists is a good way to start spreading the word about your latest venture.

Craft a good press release and distribute this to not only print media, but also key influencers – bloggers and thought leaders in your sector. The press release should contain a succinct summary of your business and why people should be interested. Think of a press release as a ‘who, what, when, why, and how’ information sheet.

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Make sure to send releases to relevant publications only – if your business is in the tech industry, you might want to give sending your press release to NME a miss (unless it’s music orientated tech, obviously).

When not adhered to correctly, PR can be a business’s worst nightmare. No company likes to upset or antagonise the public, so it’s important that you think your strategy and approach through, double check it, and then go over it with a fine-tooth comb. Ask for feedback from peers before launching any kind of publicity stunt – you’ll thank yourself when they notice a glaring error that could have broken your new business before it had even began.

PR doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Strategise, think cleverly, and communicate your brand’s message with passion, conviction, and consistency. If the general public understands and trusts you, you’re on the road to success.

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