Public Relations

public relations

Public relations can extend your referral marketing and Internet marketing efforts. Last week, I talked about how to use online and offline advertising together to attract more clients and grow your business.

This week, I’m going to give you some powerful strategies for increasing your company’s credibility and reputation through good public relations and word of mouth, both on the internet and in person.

What is public relations when it comes to small business?  Most people think that public relations is all about press releases and the like and that you have to be big in order to use public relations effectively.  I used to have this belief myself until I looked into what industry experts describe as pubic relations.  According to Business Dictionary – public relations usually involves activities that can be described as including activities “through publicity and other nonpaid forms of communication”.

Public Relations Strategy 1: Get recommended by happy clients.

Some of your best salespeople are clients who were thrilled by your product or service. When someone was blown away your quality, or by the way you went above and beyond to make their lives easy or get them good results, they’re eager to share that benefit with their community.

Here are some online and offline methods you can use to ensure that your customers have an amazing experience, and that they’re willing and able to share it:

  1. Make sure your customer support staff is attentive, polite and knowledgeable.

Your customer service staff is the face of your business, and they will either help you grow your business, or negate most of your efforts by driving your hard-won customers away.

Even if your client encounters a problem with your product, if your customer service team is good, they can preserve that client’s relationship with your company.

When someone floods the internet with negative reviews, it usually isn’t because there was a problem; it’s because there was a problem and it wasn’t fixed.

Because of this, it’s important to make it easy for your customer to contact your support team. Don’t hide the link in a button surrounded by other buttons, way down near the bottom of a page, or have any email addresses or phone numbers on your site that aren’t monitored.

Instead, put a link to your contact page in your site’s navigation bar, or at the bottom of each page, or both.

When a client contacts your business, make sure that your customer support team:

  • Knows your products well enough to quickly answer questions and diagnose problems.
  • Is fluent in your target audience’s primary language, and can speak clearly. Few things frustrate a customer more than a customer service rep who needs them to repeat things four times, and who they can’t understand no matter how many times he repeats himself!
  • Understands that it’s better to get it right on the first try than to have to try five times. Some customer service teams are in such a hurry to finish each conversation that they toss out the first half-applicable answer they can think of, rather than taking the time to find the right Not only does this waste the customer’s time, but it makes it look like they aren’t listening and don’t care.
  • Are polite and patient, even when the customer is angry, and have the skill and training required to defuse an argument rather than escalating it.
  • Know who to contact if the client has a question they can’t answer.
  • Are willing to admit when they don’t understand a question, and ask the customer to clarify rather than taking a shot in the dark and making it look like they aren’t listening.
  1. Over-deliver.

Few things delight a customer more than when they expect one thing, and they get that thing, PLUS something above and beyond what they anticipated.

This doesn’t have to be huge or expensive.

A hotel that includes water bottles in its rooms, a restaurant that serves drinks in large glasses instead of small and disappointing ones, and an event host who gives her attendees chocolate-covered strawberries are all examples of businesses that pleasantly surprised their customers, for only a few cents per client.

  1. Engage with your customers, and listen to their feedback.

Calls to your customer support team aren’t your only opportunity to connect with your clients and build trust, rapport and appreciation.

Your social media pages, reviews in local directories that allow you to respond, your email newsletter, and any live Q&A sessions or webinars that you host are all opportunities to engage with your tribe, find out what they love and what you need to improve, and see if they have any additional needs you can meet.

When you hear about a problem, fix it promptly, and let the people who brought it to your attention know that you fixed it. This tells them you care about quality and good service, and that you’re responsive to their concerns and needs.

  1. Give them easy ways to promote you.

Now that you’ve wowed your customers, it’s time to make it easy for them to rave to their families and friends about you!

Give them sample scripts, emails and social media posts they can use when speaking or sending messages to the people to whom they want to recommend you, so they don’t have to figure out how to explain your offer or describe your service themselves.

Public Relations Strategy 2: Get reviews from happy clients.

According to GetAmbassador, 84% of consumers said they always or at least sometimes acted on personal recommendations, while 70% said the same of online consumer opinions.

Because of this, reviews are a very important part of your internet marketing system. Internet reviews are different from recommendations in that they’re posted online for all the world to see, as opposed to being exchanged directly between two individuals.

The more positive reviews you have, the higher you’ll rank in search engines, and the more likely you are to get a valuable position in Google’s “Snack Pack”, which is the three most prominently highlighted results on Google’s first page.

Because of this, it’s important to actively seek good reviews, and to make sure you have profiles in local directories relevant to your industry for people to leave reviews on.

Try typing “(your industry) in (your city)” into a search engine, and see which sites come up. For example, if you type “restaurants in Pittsburgh, the top results will probably include sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.

Services like Grade.us enable you to send your clients a review page, which asks them how many stars they’d give your business. If they give you four or five starts out of five, they’re asked to share a review of your business on several key sites.

If they give you a three or lower, it invites them to give you feedback on why they aren’t happy, so you can correct the problem and hopefully preempt a negative review.

If you discover that someone has left a negative review, it’s important to address it. Find out why they were upset, if it wasn’t already clear from the review, and tell them what steps you’ll take to fix the issue.

Even if there’s nothing to fix, and the client is lying or being unreasonable because they were angry for an unrelated reason, replying gives you a chance to tell your side of the story.

Public Relations Strategy 3: Get recommendations from other business owners.

One of the best and most efficient ways to boost your reputation in the eyes of large numbers of potential clients is to be recommended to them by a business they trust.

This is especially true if they have a personal relationship with the business owner, or have forged some sort of connection with them through their teachings, educational marketing, or other points of contact.

Find other business owners who give good service and share your target audience, and build a relationship with them. Start by seeking to serve them – don’t just go up to them and ask them to promote you.

Express interest in them, learn about their goals and challenges, and find ways to offer support, including recommending them to your own community.

Once you’ve established a relationship, then you can mention how one or more of your products could be of benefit to their audience, and ask if they’d be willing to tell their community about your offer.

As with client recommendations, it helps if you make things easy for them.

Give your referral partners scripts, emails and social media posts they can tweak to suit their own voice and use in their internet marketing and word of mouth recommendations, so they don’t have to figure out how to market your business for you.

Public Relations Strategy #4 Sponsor events or take part in non-profit activities in your community

In today’s world, there are numerous opportunities for you to support the causes and charities in your area that you’re passionate about.  This is particularly important in the minds of the largest and fastest-growing age group in your potential client base: millennials.

The Pittsburgh region is a hub for technology and medical research, so there are many centers for research and treatment that conduct fundraisers and other events related to heart disease, cancer, and other ailments that impact countless people’s lives.

To make it easy for you to find an organization that supports a cause that matters to you, the Pittsburgh Foundation has a list of the 501c3 organizations in our region that could use your help, and that will, in turn, help you with your public relations activities as a side benefit.

The Pittsburgh region also has numerous community events. In Allegheny County alone, there are 130 municipalities. For example, the Philadelphia county is a subset of the city limits of Philadelphia.

Each of these little communities is an opportunity to be seen at community day events.

Pittsburgh is also very church-focused. Churches sponsor golf tournaments, car cruises and other fundraisers.  What better way for church members who are also small business owners give back to the people they care about?

Want to connect with more potential clients and referral partners?

Now you know how to boost your reputation, wow your customers, and attract more clients by engaging with the right people in the right ways.

Your next step is to find more high-quality people to engage with!

At BNI, we bring conscious entrepreneurs together so they can learn how to grow a business and form mutually supportive relationships with each other.

We give everyone a chance to talk about what they do and who they serve, and we encourage our members to form referral partnerships.

If you want to help more people, make more money, and support your fellow business owners, we’d love to see you at our next meeting.  Check out a meeting – To find a BNI chapter to visit click this link.

Image Credit – Adobe Stock

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