The Power of PR Part 1 A Basic Understanding


By Stacey Zable

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Public relations or publicity can add up to a boost in profits and clients by expanding a small business’s marketing reach. In this first article of a two-part series, we offer a basic understanding of the role public relations can encompass in any company’s growth plans. The second part of the series offers actionable tips for small businesses to take to enhance their potential publicity. 

Advertising Versus Publicity  

As an economical way to market your business, publicity is at the basic level a “low-cost or no-cost marketing tool,” says Charles Mardiks, President of Mardiks Public Relations in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Publicity is ‘earned media’ versus ‘paid for media’ you receive through advertising,” he adds. “You earn media by making news or becoming part of a larger news story or trend piece.” 

Building Trust

Publicity is a good way to build trust with prospective clients. “Effective public relations efforts establish third party credibility, often through articles in traditional news sources, radio or TV interviews and placements online,” says Michelle Olson, APR, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) 2021 Chair and Managing Partner of Lambert & Co. in Scottsdale, Ariz. Though Olson sees advertising and marketing as “important tools to promote the business,” she stresses that “public relations builds trust in a way that is hard to achieve otherwise.”

Dick Grove, Founder and CEO of INK inc Public Relations in Overland Park, Kansas, agrees with Olson: “A strong media presence, in the form of earned media, can evoke a sense of ‘legitimacy’ for a small business. Audiences will typically see quotes in a story as coming from experts in a space.”

Hire a PR Pro 

Businesses can attempt public relations on their own or can look for professional help when they want to kick up their public relations efforts. A monthly retainer to a public relations agency can potentially go a long way for a small business. Megan Bennett, CEO of Light Years Ahead in Overland Park, Kansas, says that “public relations is really the best bang for your marketing bucks. This fee covers the agency’s time devoted to promoting the brand to all of the key media, getting samples in their hands, and securing editorial coverage. You can get so much for your money if you have a good PR firm that can get you the editorial coverage needed to build brand awareness.” 

Word of mouth or contacting your nearest chapter of PRSA for referrals is a good way to find local PR practitioners, says Olson. “Ensure the expert you bring in has case studies and references that attest to their work.”

A small business PR firm might appeal best to a fellow small business owner. According to Olson: “There are so many professionals who have struck out on their own after establishing themselves as public relations experts that it makes the most sense to start with an independent practitioner and scale from there as your business grows.”