Hanna Knowles

Seven Ways to Deliver PR Value for Small Business Success

By: Hanna Knowles | December 5, 2016 | 
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Seven Ways to Deliver PR Value for Small Business Success

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:

Acknowledge their concern and work to find a solution.

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

Communications professionals build networks, encouraging professional development and progressing the field forward.

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.

About Hanna Knowles


Hanna is a Marketing Communications Coordinator at The University of Southern Mississippi’s College of Health and School of Kinesiology. She is focused on finding the intersection of creativity and strategy to develop effective communications plans. Her mission is to shine the spotlight on those who accomplish good in this world. When not sharing the stories of faculty and student successes, you can find her running, biking, swimming, reading or writing.

  • First, you know I love the bicycle example. You are my bosom buddy!

    I really love how you’ve related what we do to business growth. The PR values are truly values for living our lives.

    • Yay! I really like how the bicycle collective is meeting people where they are at and then helps them move forward in comfort and skill.

      I was actually going back and forth between writing this post from that angle – PR values are good life values. I now write way more thank you notes.

  • Yep, what Gini said. I love posts like this because they show that the foundation of great PR isn’t snazzy technology or huge, expensive campaigns….but good old fashion human values and relationships. Period.

    • Thanks, Laura! It’s so true and that is why I’m drawn to PR. The core values are not something to be ashamed of – they build connection and set the stage for sharing messages in an ethical manner.

  • paulakiger

    Pretty much summed up here: “It’s not about you and your megaphone, it’s about them and their interests.” Well said!

  • Great, timely post, Hanna.

    PR it’s about being human, it’s about connecting with people, putting yourself in their shoes and genuinely caring about what they say and want. It’s about being part of the community.

    Thanks for writing this!

    • Thank you, Corina! To quote Seth Godin’s morning email once again (these are just spot on!) – “The other person is always right…you’ll need to travel to this place of ‘right’ before you have any chance at all of actual communication.”

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