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The power of publicity is a potent tool to build brand awareness about your small business. If your situation and timing is right, hiring a public relations firm can be a worthy investment. A seasoned professional will be able to construct a media campaign that will lead to measurable results. But before you start looking for a publicist, consider these key elements:
The Right Product
“A great time to hire a PR firm is when you have a new product. We define a product as a person, place or thing that’s available to the masses,” says Tammy Brooks, president of FYI Public Relations, a New York firm that offers promotional services for consumer products and entertainers. “It’s all about making the proper investment and determining if your brand is viable and if there’s a market for that perspective.” Another important factor is where your product or service will be sold and the best way to reach that audience. In other words, “Don’t waste your time doing a national campaign if your product is only available in three markets,” says Brooks.
The Right Time
Finding your ideal team, at the right time, is critical. Far too often, the work of a publicist who is hired too early or too late in a campaign is rendered obsolete. For example, publicists who work with magazines require more time — planning six months or more in advance — to secure coverage. But you also don’t want to start spreading the word before you’re ready. “Some small businesses make the mistake of launching too prematurely,” says Brooks. “You’re going to be wasting your money and your time, and the media’s time.” For the Internet and daily newspapers, a public relations blitz can be planned just a few months before a product or service is available. A good publicist should be aware of how to time coverage for optimal results.
The Right Platform
Needless to say, the digital world has vastly changed the parameters of public relations. Blogs and social media campaigns using Facebook and Twitter are paramount to a strong media push. “Each one of my clients has a Twitter account,” says Brooks. “Viral is the sign of the times.” She also suggests producing video content for the web. “Visual gratification is huge, so using YouTube and Ustream can be key.” Brooks favors integrative cause marketing, which includes philanthropic work to enhance her clients’ image and often leads to strong media impressions.
The Right Match
Naana Brocks is a New York-based fashion designer who hired a public relations firm in 2009 for her apparel line, Naana B. “The firm I hired was a young company at the time. That chemistry worked out very well,” she says. “The president and founder of the firm wanted to grow her client list — and I was one of her first clients.”
Brocks says small-business owners should follow their instincts and define their expectations early in the process. And be prepared to provide a wish list of specific outlets — including television and radio programs, newspapers, magazines, blogs, websites and social media channels — where you’d like to be covered.
Before she found the right fit, Brocks met with several different publicists, testing out their services on a trial basis. “Your PR rep ultimately is your brand ambassador. They tell your story. If they don’t believe in your brand, the relationship may be purely monetary and it won’t work. The firm I settled on really believed in me as a designer and that energy created a media eclipse of sorts. I ended up with lots of great press.”
Tamara Warren is a New York-based writer who has contributed to The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Delta Sky, Vibe, Stuff, Time Out New York, and a long list of other newspapers and magazines.
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