05 Feb 2013

PR lessons from growing businesses

Well before Roaring Mouse launched last year, I started spending time meeting with founders, entrepreneurs and innovators from a wide range of firms in the digital, technology, telecommunications and advanced manufacturing sectors.

After several years at a multinational, it was vital to spend time reconnecting with different kinds of early-stage and fast-growth businesses, and learning what makes them tick.

While these businesses come in different shapes and sizes, and their areas of focus differ, many face  similar challenges and share common priorities.

Sales are the overriding priority

Whether the first sales of a fledgling enterprise or the flurry of activity that propels a fast-growth gazelle to even greater heights, the leaders of these businesses are quite rightly focused on building their pipelines and closing sales opportunities.

One digital entrepreneur I work with manages his business in the early-mornings, evenings and weekends to ensure that the hours of 9 – 5 are all dedicated to selling, meeting customers and promoting his business.

Growing businesses need brand awareness

While not everyone we talk to has previously invested in communications support from an external agency, those we do business with recognise the need to build positive brand awareness.

They know that it is far easier to sell to someone that has heard of them, identifies with their enterprise and understands the benefits of what they are selling. Few people buy from businesses they are unaware of. Many will prefer to shop with organisations that share their values and make a positive contribution to society.

Online and social media provide a massive opportunity. Social media provides a low-cost opportunity for everyone to communicate directly with those closest to them and start to build an audience. Specialist bloggers can also provide valuable reach and endorsement to your efforts.

Those that use these newer media forms in isolation risk missing a trick. The wealth of specialist trade and business media in the UK, alongside increased interest from mainstream media in entrepreneurship and small businesses, provides ample PR opportunities for brands that are able to package their corporate stories appropriately.

More traditional media outlets continue to enjoy significant reach and authority amongst those that consume them. Trusted trade publications provide opportunities to reach niche audiences with relevant news and expert analysis. Getting covered favourably by an influential journalist adds a huge amount of credibility to your business.

Compelling stories and content are required to build and engage an audience, be it through traditional, online and social media. Once content is produced, it can be adapted for each of these channels and communicated in a way that encourages sharing by journalists, bloggers and followers on social media.

Web traffic is in hot demand

It isn’t news to anyone that people are increasingly transacting online. Many businesses we speak to aim to manage customer interactions entirely online, and even in industries in which face-to-face interactions are commonplace, the internet is crucial in engaging the audience and influencing how they buy.

Business transactions involving purchasing diligence and negotiation may not be completed online, but it is certainly the case that they are increasingly initiated and influenced in that environment.

Brands engaging with target audiences online and through social media do so because it is shown to generate interest and web traffic. These tools enable businesses to build awareness relatively quickly and cost-effectively, while traditional media continues to offer significant reach that is difficult to achieve quickly through a brand’s own media channels.

The businesses I talk to recognise that good PR drives web traffic. Many cultivate unique brands and optimise their websites to make sure that those with an interest in their story can easily find them after capturing their interest through other media outlets.

Positive media exposure in traditional media outlets with authority and a decent audience extends this further. Broadcast, newspaper and magazine coverage talks to a much bigger audience than smaller businesses are able to access directly.

Not only does this dynamic make it essential for websites to be up to scratch, but it also important that compelling communications content is given prominence on websites.

Flexible and affordable PR

These challenges and opportunities exist for every entrepreneurial organisation. The digital revolution and changing way in which people work means that those on limited budgets can compete on a more level playing field for the attention of those they want to do business with.

Because we use digital technologies and specialist freelancers as required to run our client campaigns, early-stage and growing businesses have a flexible and affordable way of engaging high-end PR expertise to support sales, build brand awareness and drive web traffic from their target audiences.