There are many parallels between public relations professionals and small business owners.
Public relations professionals strive to build long-lasting, honest relationships.
They help their organizations and clients stay relevant and valuable.
Small business owners want to be the only source consumers think of to meet a specific need.
They work to grow a loyal customer base that keeps coming back.
PR values ensure customers, employees, and the community are deliberately considered.
If you are a small business owner, these values can guide your operations.
PR Value #1: Honesty
An ethical public relations professional represents his or her organization or clients honestly.
When communications are based on lies and deceit, the truth always comes out.
This can escalate into what could have been an avoidable crisis.
Ivy Lee, often dubbed the founder of modern public relations, advised the Rockefeller family to tell the truth: Because sooner or later the public will find it out anyway. And if the public doesn’t like what you are doing, change your policies and bring them into line with what the people want.
As a small business owner, heed this advice.
Your customers and employees will turn on you, rather than support you, if the truth comes from a different source.
PR Value #2: Transparency
Closely tied to honesty is transparency.
Being transparent builds trust and humanizes your organization.
Invite feedback and respond graciously, especially if it’s negative.
Setting up feedback channels communicates you care about those you employ and serve.
PR Value #3: Accountability
Any good communications professional is well versed in crisis management.
A key component is taking responsibility for your actions.
The fact that you operate a small business means, at some point, you will receive criticism.
The criticism may or may not be rooted in reality, but you need to be prepared to respond.
If the critique is online, a good barometer is to consider how you would respond if the interaction was in person.
You likely wouldn’t yell in their face.
(If you would, that’s a different discussion).
Acknowledge their concern and work to find a solution.
Here is a perfect example from a coffee shop I frequent:
PR Value #4: Advocacy
Ethical PR pros don’t solely act in the interests of their clients.
They carefully consider how their actions affect public interest.
Small businesses can, and should, use their role to advocate for a cause.
For instance, the Des Moines Bicycle Collective is a bike shop that regularly collaborates with city planners to develop bicycle and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.
They also offer an earn-a-bike program, bike shares, bike giveaways, and more.
PR Value #5: Adaptability
To stay relevant, PR pros must adapt to the evolving communications landscape.
As a business owner, continually evaluate and tweak how you conduct business.
Being willing to adapt will keep your doors (or online shopping carts) open.
This could entail introducing or removing different products and services, or experimenting with social media advertising.
PR Value #6: Relationship Building
Building these relationships speaks volumes for personal drive and willingness to contribute to others’ success.
A small business can show it isn’t strictly about profits by building relationships with the community that supports its existence.
One of my favorite restaurants serves the community by hosting a free outdoor concert series.
On a less grand scale, once a month a local boutique features a nonprofit, and donates 10 percent of its daily proceeds to that organization.
PR Value #7: Customer-Centric
All of the above values support your ability to be customer-centric.
Communications professionals are obsessed about learning all there is to know about different audiences in order to resonate with their unique needs and attributes.
You can start by crafting messages that go beyond sales mumbo jumbo.
Instead of “Our clothes are 50 percent off for Thanksgiving weekend,” try “Can’t dress a turkey dinner to save your life? Well, at least you’ll be the best dressed.”
This is super cheesy, but you get the point.
It’s not about you and your megaphone, it’s about them and their interests.
PR Values and Small Business: A Perfect Pair
Public relations professionals encourage dialogue between an organization and its public.
These interactions build valuable relationships.
Likewise, small business owners can nurture a loyal customer base by being responsive to customer’s needs.
When PR values shape your business operations, you become more than an organizational robot.
You become a key component of your community, you build long-lasting, loyal relationships, and you become human.