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PR On Any Budget, With Tips From The Best In The Biz!

Small Business

Milan Kundera once said, ‘Business only has two functions: innovation and marketing’.

Either you’re creating an amazing product or service, or you’re telling people about it. For many creative small business owners, it’s the latter that can be the hardest challenge to overcome. How does one increase brand awareness, without extravagant budgets? Is it simply a case of contacting media and hoping for the best, or are there strategies and tactics that any small business owner can apply?

This month Fiona Killackey of My Daily Business Coach speaks with four of Australia’s top PR & Communications experts – Kate Dinon (Character + Distinction), Chriss Mannix (Soda Communications), Camille Thioulouse (Communiqué Group) and Esther Navarro-Orejon (The Project Agency) for their advice on achieving strong PR, on any budget

26th April, 2019

TDF Open House promotion by The Project Agency. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Fiona Killackey
Friday 26th April 2019

‘Focus on your own goals and subgoals, rather than getting caught up in what you perceive you “should” be doing.’ – Fiona Killackey.

FIONA’S ADVICE FOR MANAGING YOUR PR   

 1. Know the outcome

Do you know why you want PR, or what you’re expecting in return? For many creative small business owners, marketing and PR are things they feel they “should” be doing more of, but it’s not always clear why. Before you engage with a PR / communications expert, consider why you’re doing so. What would a successful PR campaign look like to you? What concerns, if any, do you have? Understanding your answers to these questions with help both your business and the PR agency / consultant you choose to engage.

2. Set expectations

After working with hundreds of small business owners, one of the most common myths I hear repeated is the idea that one media article or one influencer ‘liking’ an IG post will bring sudden fortunes to a struggling business. While when done well, PR offers an incredible boost to a brand, the stories of small businesses who have hit the jackpot from just one article or one collaboration with a (moderately-priced) influencer are few and far between. As with anything, brand awareness may take some time to achieve, so ensure that when you look at PR for your small biz, you’re aware that achieving the cut-through you seek may not happen overnight.

3. Do your research

The four experts we have interviewed in this article each have different approaches to PR and expertise in a variety of different industries. When choosing a PR / communications agency or consultant to work with, do your research to find the best fit. This person or this agency is representing your business, so it pays to find someone you feel comfortable enough to share your story with the public. You also want to find someone who has networks and connections in your industry and that you, as a small business owner, can really learn from and grow with. Experience counts and as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. Experienced PR is one area of your business that’s worth investing in.

4. Track, track, track

Brand awareness can be one of the hardest things to track, particularly when you’re working on offline tactics such as events, experiences or word of mouth marketing. Where possible though, consider how you will track the return on investment. This may be by setting up ongoing surveys on your website or asking customers in-store i.e. ‘where did you first hear about us?’, tracking website traffic or brand name searches before, during and after a PR activation/media campaign or simply looking at variations in sales pre and post working with an agency. Most agencies will offer some sort of reporting, so don’t be shy in asking them to explain how this works and what you should expect after 1, 3 or 6+ months of working with them.

5. Learn from the experience

Trends change, and what worked for your business yesterday may not achieve cut-through tomorrow. When it comes to garnering media attention, you’re also dealing with a certain level of uncertainty. Your giant launch may well go live the same day as a natural disaster or a major news story. Or, perhaps the influencer collaboration you have spent months planning launches the day Instagram updates an algorithm. When running a small business, there are very few, if any, guarantees. By working with an experienced PR / communications agency or consultant you are minimizing the risk of money being wasted, or worse, damaging your brand from a poorly thought out media campaign.

Fiona Killackey is a business consultant, author, and mentor for My Daily Business Coach. You can sign up to her weekly email full of small biz insights and tips here or purchase her goal setting (and getting) ebook here.

Camille Thioulouse of Communiqué Group.

Esther Navarro-Orejon of The Project Agency. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Esther Navarro-Orejon of The Project Agency is The Design Files’ go-to PR consultant, when we have a specific project to promote, such as The Design Files Open House! Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Chriss Mannix of Soda Communications.

TDF Collect exhibition with Sean Fennessy opening, featuring Magnum & Queens Wine Merchants ( a relationship facilitated by The Project Agency). Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

The Project Agency. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Shrub Hub launch event, facilitated by The Project Agency. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

IN PRACTICE : PR ON A BUDGET   

When it comes to achieving strong brand awareness, working alongside an experienced PR/Communications agency or consultant is key. For this month’s column, we asked four of Australia’s best for their advice for achieving PR on a budget of $1000, $2000, $3000 or $5000.

Expert: Kate Dinon, Founder & Managing Director, Character + Distinction (follow on IG here). 

PR Budget: $1000

‘Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that PR doesn’t have to cost much at all in terms of $$$, the bad news… to do it well, will cost you time.

Start by finding a slightly more advanced competitor, or a brand you look up to in your field. Search for any media/influencer coverage they have received and note down all of the journalists and publications that have written about them. There you have your ready-made media list. You can then use amazing free tools like CrystalKnows to gain insight into how to approach each journalist (it’s spookily accurate). You will need to spend time to craft an individual email to each person – please, please, please don’t ‘spray and pray’. Sending lazy or irrelevant emails will harm your chances of building a relationship.

What you will need is great photography. This is where the $1000 comes in. I would spend it on a shoot to get creative and compelling photography of your work, and of yourself!’

Expert: Chriss Mannix, Managing Director of Soda Communications  (follow on IG here).

PR Budget: $2000

‘Think about the media outlets (mainstream or online) that you think have the best synergies with your brand and maybe focus on a ’top ten wish list’. Make sure you really know what each outlet or section covers so you’re not wasting your time or theirs. Focus on this tight list for sending out any pitches, media materials, kits or product samples.

I’d look at collaborations or joint PR initiatives you can do with businesses or industries that complement yours.

Money can’t buy opportunities and unique experiences create the best angles for media. For $2,000 you should be able to put on a short event that introduces your business product or concept to media. It could be a sample class in whatever you make, a morning tea with a trends forecast of your industry or other industry insights, or an experience that takes media ‘behind the scenes’ of your business. If you are working with other businesses or industries you can make this even bigger and better i.e. you might be a health and wellbeing consultancy, so why not team up with a naturopath and a local Pilates business and work together.’

The launch event for Shrub Hub was a simple but effective way to get the word out. Facilitated by The Project Agency. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Expert: Camille Thioulouse, Director, Communiqué Group) (follow on IG here)

PR Budget: $3000

‘More than ever, PR is increasingly becoming essential for any business, and now also encompasses social/digital media. Creating credibility for your business is the purpose of PR and will build brand recognition.  In the first instance, I would make a point of attending events for your industry peers and networking the media and making connections with key media and influencers in your industry.  In PR, personal relationships are key, and they don’t cost anything to develop.

In the digital age, content is fundamental to any business so with $3,000 I would look at using a photographer for around $1,000 to develop beautiful brand images that can be used on the website and also social media and any marketing collateral for the business.  These images are a long-term investment and if done correctly, could be used across a long period of time.

For the remaining $2,000 I would look at investing in paid posts with 1-2 micro influencers who are influential in your area of business.  They don’t have to have a large following, but they do need to have good engagement and have key attributes which are relatable to your business or brand.

Focus your efforts on people who are already influencing your target customer, help them to understand your message and how their followers can relate to you.’

 

Expert: Esther Navarro-Orejon, Director, The Project Agency (follow them on IG here). 

Budget: $5000

The first step when commencing a PR/communication campaign regardless of budget is to establish a plan and a strategy. Decide on the key activities, define the goals and explore whether you have the skills, expertise and resources to absorb the PR function in-house, or whether you can seek external support.

The next thing would be to decide on how you’ll spend the $5000 – such as partnerships, gifts/seeding, hosting an event or activation, creating or amplifying your online presence, or partnering with a PR professional.

Whilst a $5000 can seem like a lot of money it can be quickly absorbed. Thus, be strategic about your plan, choose the direction you will take and remember consistency is important. Invest in PR beyond one key activity.  We suggest a regular calendar of messaging is established to ensure regular dialogue with media, consumers, influencers, and a commitment to creating new content regularly to keep audiences engaged. Adapt and evolve. Be active, passionate and committed to a long-term PR approach.’

TDF Open House 2017, promoted by The Project Agency. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

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First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net