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Public Relations More than Press Releases

Margery Kraus, President and Chief Executive Officer, APCO Worldwide

Starting and growing a business is never simple. There is capital to raise, people to hire and manage, markets to conquer.

Mostly, there is a concern about selling enough of the service or product to sustain the cash flow and earn profits to build and grow the business for the future. It is usually in this regard that people start to think about marketing and public relations. In fact, most entrepreneurs find it difficult to distinguish between the two.

While public relations support for sales is important and maybe even essential, it is a very narrow view of what public relations or communication can do. Good communication can be the backbone of success for every entrepreneur. This goes way beyond products or services. It speaks to the very essence of the vision of the business and what makes it unique. A good communication plan can help you raise capital, gain strategic advantage in your field, motivate associates, raise your market value, avoid crises—and yes, help you sell what you have to sell.

Here are some ways to leverage public relations:

Think about the audiences that are important to your business and what they need to know about it. Develop a communication strategy for each audience. Think beyond the message to the messengers. Should you communicate directly? Who can you use with the audience who helps you gain credibility?

Can you articulate a clear vision of what you are trying to do for your investors? Can you tell a compelling story that creates passion for your idea? When you are finished, do people get it? Who knows about your company and your field that can give you an endorsement so there is independent validation of your idea?

What about your employees? Good communication around the vision and values of your company can create loyal, dedicated, and inspired employees. Startups and highly entrepreneurial companies can be very stressful. Make sure your employees understand how you see success for the company and for them. They also can help create a "buzz" about your company. Be sure to listen as well as talk.

How about your customers? What do they read or watch that makes them buy your service or product? How do you gain "shelf space" in that venue? This is a creative process and has to be worked. You need to get people who want to buy, so you don't have to sell them. Reaching your targets in the right way takes a professional eye. Invest wisely in extremely targeted public relations efforts.

Don't forget the Web. There is virtually no success today without an online strategy. As you build support for your company and its products, the Web is a wonderful and cost-effective vehicle for getting your message out. While most traditional media reaches a broader audience, using the Web has the ability to narrowly focus on your most important markets.

Having a good Web site not only is essential, but also basic to your communication plan. A good public relations program will go way beyond the basics and does not have to be expensive. Creating valuable content, if placed strategically, can be a very good way to get recognition on the Web.

Plan for the unforeseen event. Today's business faces many obstacles. Every business faces a twenty four-hour news cycle, which is also global. A small problem in one area of the company or one part of the world can easily get out of control if not managed properly. Operate with intelligent transparency and meaningful corporate responsibility as an offensive tool. There are no secrets in this day of instantaneous communication.

As with most entrepreneurs, resources can be scarce. Don't make the mistake of thinking public relations is optional or that it has to be expensive. Focus on what it will take to develop the kind of reputation you want and need to build and grow your business.

Get expert advice. You wouldn't leave your return on investment (ROI) to chance. It is the focus of your attention and will define success and determine the market value of your company. The same can be true of a quality public relations effort that creates a less tangible return on reputation (ROR) built on paying attention to the elements that build, reinforce and articulate the reputation of your enterprise and of you as the business builder. The value of investing in ROR, along with ROI, builds value for the long term and creates a compelling case for your company and its products and services.

Quality public relations is not a tactic, it is an essential part of successful business.

© 2007 Margery Kraus. All rights reserved.

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