Public Relations for Small Business Owners
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PR for Local Small Business – Yes, You Can

Many small business owners consider PR unnecessary, but the fact is that having some PR basics in place, and learning how to manage your public reputation IS something most small business owners can do. In fact, once you understand the basics of PR, and have some of the essential tools in your toolbox, you CAN handle PR and reputation management internally.

Here are some of the basics that small business owners need to have in place so that PR becomes semi-automated and integrated into the way you conduct business.

1. Support local non-profits or youth organizations. This is a great way to inadvertently get your name out into the community. In this world of ever-increasing global news and issues, people are craving the “yester-years” and simplicity of small-town life. Local, community papers are widely read, and having your business mentioned during the “Paint Your Heart Out” or “Arbor Day” celebrations in your town is a great way to touch the locals and neighbors who are most likely to patronize your business or request your services. You don’t need the name of your roofing company splattered all over twitter, you just need the elderly couple 2 blocks over to know you’re there when they need their roof repaired, have their carpets cleaned, or want to have pavers installed.

2. Have solid internal communication chains IN PLACE. This is huge not only for good customer service, but during a crisis or natural disaster in which your services may be needed, knowing who in your organization is reporting to whom will keep communication clear, and reduce the chances of a missed lead or poor customer service due to a botched hand-off. Knowing the points of contact within your organization for customers, project managers, staffing supervisors, and having clear expectations of which channels of communication are to be used by whom (text, email, phone, auto-notifications, etc.) will ensure that every member of the team is receiving the information they need to provide services requested, and report supplies and/or personnel needed.

3. Don’t be afraid to go public. If you’re not using social media, reconsider this. People are on social media, so if you want people to feel they can trust you and your team, you need to be there too. Whether you’re in the construction industry or have a food truck, you need to be posting content that makes people smile, offers them helpful tips, and showcases your expertise. Post images of your work, post quotes that satisfied clients have said to you, post blogs about simple recipes or helpful-DIY hints, create a fun # around your annual company picnic with hilarious pictures of the egg toss and the three-legged race. It’s absolutely ok to show off the good and the positive things that are happening with your work and your employees, so GET SOCIAL!

4. Invest in a professional Press Release Template, and start compiling a database of local reporters. Of course, Savvy Sister can provide this, but if you are really on a tight budget, just search up press release templates online and try to create a professional press release template that can be used to push out information to your business to local papers and reporters. As you see a story online or in the paper, make a note of the reporter. Most reporters cover a certain beat like lifestyle or “feel-good” stories, local schools, local council meetings, zoning issues, etc. Try to find reporters that cover stories relevant to your business, and start keeping their contact info in an Excel spreadsheet. When you have something to share, write it up (or let us do that for you), and send it out to those most likely to have an interest in covering the story.

5. Make asking for reviews part of invoicing. Having links to your business on Google+ or links to your profile on Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, (whatever is relevant to your business) at the bottom of emailed invoices is very powerful, and allows customers the opportunity to share their experience with others. There MAY be negative reviews, but this is unlikely if you are committed to providing good service, and the amount of positive reviews is usually heavily outweighed, and is worth this effort.

These are just some of the basics of PR, but if you are using these tools on a regular basis (whether it’s an annual press release or daily posts to social media), you CAN internally manage your reputation. If you want to learn more about solid PR strategies for your organization, contact the team at Savvy Sister Marketing today. We are here to help the small business owner, the non-profit team, and the upstarts! WE WILL HELP YOU. Contact Us Today.

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Responding to Negative Reviews

It’s going to happen. There are individuals who truly believe that the internet is the appropriate place for them to vent their personal grievances against a business owner or their employee(s). Thankfully, most review sites have some policy guidelines that give business owners recourse to have these reviews removed, but if a review – regardless of whether it was true or valid – doesn’t necessarily violate the policies of the site on which it was posted, a response may be required. Here are some guidelines to help small business owners respond to negative reviews.

Don’t – If the review is truly a “rant” when people read it they will likely determine on their own that this is not necessarily a person from whom they can get an accurate assessment of the quality of products and services they can expect from your business. If the review is emotional, extremely long, and full of misspelled words and grammatical errors, it is probably best to let be its own best testimonial. Some people make it clear from their own words that they are unreasonable and/or not believable.

Keep It Professional – Do NOT make personal statements or offer any criticism about the client / customer who left the review. A great advantage to getting a negative review is that it can be an opportunity to showcase your customer relation skills, and demonstrate that you are committed to client satisfaction. State that plainly and clearly, and you will be likely be admired by potential customers regardless of the legitimacy of the review.

Offer A Solution – If the review is actually legitimate, it’s likely that it can be easily resolved. Offer a coupon, free shipping, free appetizer, a face-to-face meeting with the person, whatever is appropriate for the type of products and services you offer. The outcome may not necessarily be that you win that customer back, but it may demonstrate to potential customers that you are a business owner who cares about the opinion of your clients.

Don’t Explain Yourself – Don’t re-hash conversations you may have had with this person to resolve the issue. The chances of winning them over after you have tried to come to an agreement face-to-face or by phone or email are very slim, so don’t bother publishing your efforts on social media. Explaining your “side” will likely make potential customers feel as if you are not someone who listens and rather that you are someone who needs to have the last word. Don’t bother.

Apologize – If the review is legitimate, if you have truly tried to resolve the issue with this person, if you offered some type of recompense, it’s ok to just agree to disagree and let them express that they had a bad experience. This is so very, very rare. Most people are reasonable, and truly want resolution and peace, but there will be times when it’s just impossible. It’s ok to just offer a public apology and wish that person all the best.

By taking the high road, bad reviews can actually be an opportunity to show potential customers that you truly care, and that you are professional, educated, and willing to admit wrongs and try to make things right. It is a chance to be the bigger person and bring a little peace to your small corner of the world.