Conversations over conversions: The importance of PR for small businesses

- May 24, 2022 3 MIN READ

Many business owners are confused about the differences between public relations and other forms of business advertising or marketing. Founder of The PR Hub, Sam Dybac, explains exactly how PR differs and how it can be useful alongside other marketing strategies.

Recently I was invited as a guest speaker to present to a group of Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO) Sydney forum members at one of their annual strategy days. My mission was simple: to shed some light on the field of Public Relations (PR) and the integral role PR plays in business.

The opportunity provided me with valuable insight into some very common questions that small-medium business owners have when it comes to PR, ranging from ‘How does it differ from marketing or advertising?’ to ‘How do you measure success?’ and ‘Do I even need it?’

To help, I’ve addressed these key questions below.

Is PR the same as marketing and advertising?

No! In its simplest terms, think of PR as ‘earned media’ and marketing (and advertising) as ‘paid media’.

The latter obviously provides you with more certainty around the content, as you can control the look and feel of what the audience sees, reads or hears. However in the eyes of the audience, PR is often (whether consciously or sub-consciously) more credible as the coverage is being provided by an independent third party.

Conversations over conversions

Likewise, assuming PR exists to drive conversions is misguided. While it can help amplify your marketing strategy, PR is a longer-term play and is more focused on creating brand awareness and trust.

PR can support a variety of business goals, like recruiting potential investors or even staff. It can also help you meaningfully engage and create relationships with media, and help you become a ‘go-to’ for expert commentary and advice in your industry or specialty.

Public relations diagram explainer

Does my personal story matter?

Definitely. I started my brand marketing career with Australian brand Nad’s. If you’re a certain age, you’ll remember the very endearing Sue Ismiel, her lovely daughters, and their iconic hair removal products. Nad’s’ extraordinary success was built on Sue’s willingness to share her personal story with the world. My experience there taught me the true power of tapping into a founder’s unique story and ‘why’, and leveraging that to drive awareness, credibility and trust for the brand.

People buy from people. Using your story to leverage your personal brand is not attention-seeking, or wishing you were famous. It’s about believing in the value of what you have to offer.

Personal branding, even just by building awareness via your LinkedIn profile, will help you grow as a person, open doors, and attract like-minded people and customers.

Is my business too young/old for PR?

No business is too old or too established for PR. People’s memories fade and new brands enter the market, so staying fresh with messaging and maintaining a consistent brand presence is vital.

On the flipside, if you’re an early startup with limited funds, or waiting for stock to arrive or to firm up your distribution channels, you’re probably not ready for PR.

Defining your story, your branding, and your target audience takes time, and rushing into PR could see you expending time, energy, and resources with little return and a frustrating outcome.

Invest the time to get the results

You don’t hire a personal trainer and not show up or put in the work, then expect results. PR requires ongoing time, energy and commitment. Every business has their own unique objectives for what they want to achieve, so being clear about your objectives early on will help you set up a pathway for measuring results.

In some cases it can be straightforward to measure success. For example, you appear in a television segment and website views or enquiries go up. Or an article appears online that gets the attention of a future investor. But this is only one measure of success. Think more ‘big picture’ about what success looks like, such as how you’ll amplify any coverage you do receive, or the impact of PR on SEO.

PR should form an essential part of your business’ long term communication strategy, but it’s not rocket science. There is lots of advice available to make sure your business is ready for PR so my best advice is to keep it simple, and have fun!

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