Without publicity and a solid reputation within their community, many small businesses may struggle to grow and thrive even if their business models are rock-solid. But a quality marketing strategy isn’t just about bringing in a profit – it’s also about building, managing, and promoting a brand reputation that aligns with your audience and its core values.
Your best audience – and certainly your most reachable – is your local community. Your friends, neighbors, and fellow small-business owners are likely going to be the biggest supporters for you and your business, and cultivating and investing in your community is a great way to build that network.
As a small-business owner, it's imperative that you work to establish a meaningful connection with your local community. By utilizing some of these PR tactics - from setting up grant programs to organizing fundraising events and more - you will be able to strengthen your brand's reputation at home – and across the country.
1. Promote your brand values.
Within a community, trust is everything – and trust is also the most vital thing a brand should obtain from its target audience. Without trust, it’s harder to attain an increase in exposure and following, and a lack of credibility can eventually lead to business failure. A quality community-focused public relations brand campaign will help bridge the gap between the business and its target consumers through marketing, thought leadership, specialized efforts like those highlighted below, and more.
Set up grant programs.
Every small business should have a cause or two that it publicly sponsors, whether it’s something the founders and staff hold personally dear to their hearts or a need the community at large would benefit from seeing filled. Establishing and publicizing a grant that would empower local nonprofit organizations to benefit your community as a whole is a great way to demonstrate that you care about your community and want to have an active hand in giving back to those equipped to help the people who need it most.
Make time to volunteer.
Whether it’s a day a year or a week a year, make sure your small business is a regular fixture at local community volunteer events: highway cleanups, local carnivals or benefit events, or community garden days are all great places to start. Not only will these local events appreciate your thoughtfulness and remember your business in the future, but you’ll be underscoring to your community at large that your business and its employees are as invested in community growth and safety as they are.
2. Cultivate community connections.
Even if your small business has become a community staple, it’s vital that you continue to grow and deepen your ties with other influencers and companies that could help your brand reputation grow. Cross-marketing is a fantastic way to partner with other local organizations complimenting your brand, which can boost both of your businesses.
Intentionally build partnerships.
In the words of Robert Ingersoll, “we rise by lifting others.” If your small business’s offerings complement that of another local enterprise, reach out and offer to craft a mutually-beneficial partnership that would open doors for your business to their market and vice versa. As a result, you’ll double your target audience and, as a bonus, be able to promote this partnership to local media via a press release or other forms of coverage.
Consider also leveraging these connections to host a fundraising event aimed at supporting community organizations that impact the community at large. Fundraising events are fantastic collaboration opportunities that will enable your business to connect with others interested in making a difference – and who knows where those partnerships could lead in the future.
Don’t forget about the media.
Speaking of which, don’t underestimate the power of the press – especially your local newspaper or television station. Many local news outlets dedicate a portion of their weekly coverage to small businesses and their local initiatives. You can boost your chances of being covered by consistently reaching out and highlighting the work your business is doing within your community.
Think about the last time you visited your local coffee shop. Did you see signs about how they sourced their coffee beans and pastries from local roasteries and bakeries?
3. Invest in local-minded PR solutions.
The best PR tactics start with the right PR team. Whether you’ve recently launched your brand or have been in the industry for a while, investing in PR can help you achieve your business’s goals. Working with a PR firm as entrenched in your community as you are – or as you hope to be – will pay out many dividends in both the long and short run.
Prioritize community connections.
If you’re working with a local PR firm or with a PR firm with a proven track record in helping businesses build solid and lasting community connections with your target consumer base, you likely already have a leg up. New outlets and media members, other area businesses, and community members and neighbors already view this firm as a trusted business partner. With your business’s name attached to theirs, the endorsement will likely speak louder than you think.
4. Prioritize positive brand recognition.
Building off of the nod to press coverage above, with a well-crafted story designed to focus on your brand, seizing your audience’s attention and building a personal connection can be simple. PR’s job is to alter and influence how the public perceives your brand; positive messages relevant to your target consumers help elicit equally positive responses – and if a crisis ever comes about, that goodwill built through positive PR can turn the tide and mend your brand’s image.
Offer community resources.
Use your employee’s unique skills – and your own! – to demonstrate the value your organization brings to your community. If you’re a technology company, offer computer classes for children or seniors (bonus points if you bring them to your local library, which will deepen that community partnership!). Restaurants could offer cooking classes, creative consulting organizations can provide free workshops for aspiring entrepreneurs – the possibilities are endless!
While everyone loves a free event, you could also ask for a small entrance fee and donate all those proceeds to your local grant fund or a charity or cause benefitting the community. Before the event, as you begin to build out your promotional material, don’t forget to send out a press release or email to your local news outlets to ensure it’s on their radar as well.
Support other small businesses.
Think about the last time you visited your local coffee shop. Did you see signs about how they sourced their coffee beans and pastries from local roasteries and bakeries? These kinds of mutually beneficial partnerships don’t just impact your bottom line – they also demonstrate that your business is actively investing in a consumer ecosystem that benefits everyone.
Ultimately, the best PR strategy is one that positions your brand as a leader in your industry and an organization that cares deeply about its community and audience. Highlighting how your business goes above and beyond to support other community enterprises sends a strong message about your brand: that you should be known as one who gives back the good you receive from your clients, customers, and neighbors.
Photo: American Express