September 25, 2018 - Episode 9

Public Relations Tips for Small Businesses in St Pete

Public relations can be an important component of the marketing strategy for small local businesses. It includes a lot more than just press releases and often involves a blend of both digital and traditional tactics. We review what public relations is and how it can help a local business succeed. Were joined by Andrea Gomes, one of our marketing assistants, who has experience with writing, including as a journalist, and has authored several blog posts about public relations on our Kapok Marketing blog.

Episode Transcript

Jake Braun:
Hello everyone. Welcome to Kickin' it with Kapok, a podcast about business owners' marketing struggles and solutions and other business-related topics. This is episode nine, "Public Relations Tips for Small Businesses in St. Pete." Today, Mirela and I will be talking about the basics of another marketing concept. We'll be talking about public relations and how it applies to small businesses, especially those in St. Pete or the Tampa Bay area. We'll also be joined by one of our marketing assistants, Andrea Gomes. She has a lot of experience in writing, including as a journalist, and we consider her one of our strongest writers. Andrea has authored a number of blog posts about public relations on our Kapok Marketing blog, so she will definitely be able to help us out a lot today as we talk about public relations for small businesses. What do you think we should start with here, Mirela?
Mirela Setkic:
Well, I think before we get started, it's only fair that we welcome Andrea to the podcast and tell everyone a little bit about Andrea so they don't feel like they're listening to this mystery person on our podcast. So, a couple of things about Andrea. She has been with us for almost a year. She graduated from Eckerd College here, and she majored in communications with a minor in communication marketing. Here at Kapok, she does a lot of our content marketing, which includes blogging and social media posts. She also writes most of our press releases here at our agency, and like you said Jake, she's really strong in the writing department. I sometimes get really nervous when she proofreads some of my stuff. It's Andrea's first time on the podcast, so welcome. Hopefully this is not as scary as it feels inside of my body. Officially, welcome to the podcast.
Andrea Gomes:
Hi. Thank you for having me today, both of you.
Mirela Setkic:
You're welcome. How should we get started? I guess first things first. I think in the last episode we had Joey West from Bay News 9 on our podcast and he talked about TV coverage for local businesses and what it takes to actually get the attention of local news people and actually get some coverage for you. I think one of the interesting things that Joey talked about is the story behind a story and digging deeper and finding out why should someone care about this story? That segues us into the idea of public relations and what does it mean, why should people care, and how can people engage in public relations? Since Andrea, I think, has more of a stronger suit in public relations, I will let her get us started and tell us what public relations is, and then Jake and I will have some questions. Hopefully they won't be stupid questions for you. Tell us a little bit, what is public relations?
Andrea Gomes:
Before we sat down, I went ahead and looked up the definition so I wouldn't be giving you guys false information.
Mirela Setkic:
All right, research. We like research.
Andrea Gomes:
Right. The official definition of public relations is the process of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization and the public. It really involves a variety of different things. It could be creating exposure for an organization or individual to a target audience, developing and maintaining a positive reputation for that organization, or even defending a company's reputation during a crisis. This could be through traditional media channels, digital media, and speaking engagements.
Mirela Setkic:
Sometimes, the way that I look at public relations is the company taking certain steps to manage the relationship between the people inside of the organization and all of the stakeholders who are outside and what do you want that relationship to be.
Andrea Gomes:
Right, because people are gonna form an opinion about your company and you wanna be able to manage what people are thinking. You wanna be able to control that opinion, to a certain extent.
Mirela Setkic:
That's true, and I think this reminds me of a class I took at USF when I was doing my undergrad. It was some type of marketing class and it was a topic of public relations. We talked about how you can be very proactive in your approach to PR or you can be reactive, meaning that you only do something if ish hits the fan and things are really bad. Most of the time it's better to be more proactive and actually go out there and manage your reputation.
Jake Braun:
I think one of the first things, or only things, that people think about in public relations is press releases. What exactly is a press release and how does that fit into public relations?
Andrea Gomes:
If you're planning an event or you're launching a product or anything new is coming into play into your business, you wanna create a formal and detailed announcement and that's what the press release is. You wanna create this announcement so that you can send it to relevant media groups. The goal is to get publicity for your brand.
Mirela Setkic:
Can I just take a piece of paper and scribble down my press release and then fire it off? What should I have? What should I say? Main ingredients that you need to have in this press release?
Andrea Gomes:
Press release writing is very similar to news writing. You have the lead, which is the intro, the body, and the conclusion. The lead is the first few sentences of any news writing, in this case it would be the press release, and it should be two to three sentences maximum. It should include the who, why, what, where, when, and how. This is really the key to your press release. It's the most important information and you wanna put this at the very top because most people will only read the first few paragraphs.
Mirela Setkic:
That is true. Should a press release be one page? Two pages? Ten pages? How much information should you actually put out there, in this document?
Andrea Gomes:
You should put as much information as you can within one page, because you don't want to overload your audience with too much to read, too many words. People will refrain from reading that because it's not as attractive. If they can read something very quickly, that's more appealing.
Jake Braun:
I think that echoes what Joey was saying, that you gotta get their attention early on in the press release.
Mirela Setkic:
Actually, that reminds me. I think Andrea recently did a really nice blog post on the Kapok blog. It was about how to write a press release that will get journalists' attention, and I think you have a really nice infographic on there that includes all of the major components that someone needs to have in the press release in order to have it look presentable and professional and actually get people's attention.
Andrea Gomes:
Right, and in that infographic I included the inverted pyramid. This is a writing tool that identifies how information should be organized in a press release. All the most important information should be put at the very top, and then it should go in descending order of importance. So, the least important information should be at the bottom.
Mirela Setkic:
That's a very good point because by design, human beings like to skim and by, maybe not design by just nature of our life, most of us are very busy and nobody has time to actually read the whole thing. So if you don't get someone's attention within the first probably five or ten seconds, you probably are not going to get their attention at all, which brings me to my next question, and this is kind of a big question, or maybe it's too broad, but I would like to talk about some other things that fall under the umbrella of public relations. I think Jake said earlier that the press releases are probably one of the most important components, but by no means are they the only thing that people can do that fall within public relations. Do you have any other examples you can share with us?
Andrea Gomes:
There's speech writing. There's events. Planning of the event, actually being there running it, after the event reaching back out to people that you may have met, which is part of the networking aspect of it. There's blog writing as well. Blog writing is very, very important. Content marketing is huge and creating blog content consistently is really important with communicating with your audience and engaging with them. There's also crisis control. When something goes wrong, you have to address it. This goes for even just managing social media. When someone responds to any type of content negatively or leaves a negative review, it's part of public relations to respond to those messages, because you don't wanna leave anything unanswered.
Mirela Setkic:
That's true, which reminds me of the current popularity of online reputation management. There are companies that actually just do that. They help other businesses manage their image online and how they respond to negative comments. That's something that we actually do for some of our clients as well. It's very important. If you leave negative comments unanswered, or even positive comments unanswered online, then if a comment is positive and you don't reply to it, then it looks like your company is ignoring that person. If the comment is negative and you don't respond to it, it almost implies as if you don't have a good response and maybe that complaint is valid. So, you want to take proactive steps to answer those things.
Jake Braun:
Yeah, I think that's a good point. I think we touched on this in a previous episode as well. It's not only the platforms that you're on, but it's the platforms that your customers are on. You might not think of Yelp, but people go to Yelp to look for reviews, so you really need to be watching all of those places even if you don't think that they're important.
Mirela Setkic:
That's very true. At the end of the day, it's not a good idea to only say, okay, well I only like Twitter, so I'm only going to talk to my customers on Twitter. I don't care that they are talking about my product or my brand on Instagram. Instagram is not my cup of tea, so I just choose not to be there. That is not a good way to do public relations. You have to have conversations where people are having them, and sometimes your customers choose a platform for you.
Jake Braun:
Yeah, it's public relations. It's up to the public to decide where they're going to look for their information. If you're responding, you need to be where they're at, not hope that they come to where you want to be.
Mirela Setkic:
Exactly. That also means that part of your public relations, you are actually going out and finding out where people are talking about you and making sure that you are there at the beginning stage of that conversation so you can mold it and you can make sure that the message that you want out there is out there instead of showing up when it's too late, when the milk has spelled and now you've got to put it back in. It's a messy situation.
Jake Braun:
Yeah, it's better to get involved in public relations before you're in a crisis. What else have we missed? Is there anything else that anyone can think of to add here?
Andrea Gomes:
A common thing that people don't know is that public relations is actually unpaid. That's what separates it from advertising. You obviously need to pay for the marketing agency or maybe your staff who are creating these public relations documents for you, but it's earned publicity, it's not paid. It's really the art of persuasion. You have to persuade these media groups to select your story.
Mirela Setkic:
Yes, and publish it and get you the coverage that you need. You can't just go and say here's a thousand dollars. I want you to write this beautiful story about me. Some publications do, I think, advertorials, where you can pay for stories, but that's a different thing. That's not free publicity.
Jake Braun:
Yeah, that's more just straight up advertising that journalists are disguising as not advertising, to a certain extent.
Mirela Setkic:
Yes, yes.
Jake Braun:
You can earn so much free publicity, if you will. Yeah, you have to pay someone to think of the idea or think of the idea yourself, but sometimes you can get so much more publicity than if you paid for expensive TV commercials or other advertising on or offline.
Andrea Gomes:
Organic publicity is the best publicity, because your audience can tell the difference between unpaid and paid publicity. It comes off as more authentic and more trustworthy.
Jake Braun:
That makes sense. People are smart.
Mirela Setkic:
I agree. I feel like I can always tell when someone has paid for a story. I become super, super suspicious and then I started thinking how they're plotting against me and they want me to buy this product.
Jake Braun:
It's almost like the bad product placements in a movie, where the cereal box or the Coke can happens to be faced just so that it's in the camera shot at when it doesn't even make sense.
Andrea Gomes:
Right.
Mirela Setkic:
Yeah, but sometimes, if I pick up Green Bench Monthly or if I pick up a Tampa Bay Times and there is a beautiful story about the annual reading festival that happens down by USF, I love that story. I get to find out what authors are coming, what book they're going to be there, and that's valuable content. That's way more powerful than someone running a half page ad in that publication about that event.
Jake Braun:
Good point. Do you have anything else to add., Mirela, in terms of things we might've missed in the episode?
Mirela Setkic:
I think we were going to talk about how the results of public relations are not instant or like microwave results and you can think about them as branding. You don't necessarily immediately have the ability to calculate the return on investment because a lot of it is not tangible. It's getting out there and building your reputation and your brand image, and some of that stuff takes a long time to actually accomplish and you don't see the return on your investment immediately, but it's kind of like a slow drip effect. Eventually, you're planting the seeds, then doing more and more, and then one day you just wake up and your community knows about you and they think that you're the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Jake Braun:
Yeah, it's building blocks, and it's not very trackable because if it's truly organic then you don't really necessarily even know when it's gonna happen. You just have to look at it from the big picture, long term. If I'm constantly getting publicity, it's gonna bring people to my business. Not only that, but it might be a bonus to the other advertising that you do do. People might think oh, I saw you in an advertisement and I saw you on the news. It just builds on itself. It's a lot like content marketing where you've gotta start and it might take you 12 to 18 months before you start seeing the results in terms of a big result. I think with public relations, it can be the same way.
Mirela Setkic:
Really, if you have a client or a potential client with whom you're speaking to and you're trying to close that deal and you're going back and forth, and maybe one day your client picks up a local newspaper or goes to a local newspaper's website and sees a beautiful story about your business or about your product. It can be a story about your product or a story about you doing something nice for the local community. That can actually tip the whole back and forth in your favor and it can convince the potential client to actually sign up with you. Or, at the same time if you sell, let's say cookies or whatever the case is, it can convince people who've never been to your store to actually come to your store because they really like the cause that you are supporting that they've read about in the local paper.
Jake Braun:
If you're looking to get more information, maybe in how the news people see this, the flip side of the coin I guess I'll say, the last episode that we did do, episode eight with Joey West, who's from Bay News 9, he gave the perspective on what it's like on the other side. So, if you haven't listened to that episode, it would be probably a great episode to listen to if you are interested in this topic. I think that's pretty much all we have for today. I think we should again thank Andrea for joining us on the podcast today.
Andrea Gomes:
Yeah, of course. Thank you.
Jake Braun:
If you are enjoying the podcast, we would really appreciate it if you could subscribe and rate or review us wherever you listen to podcasts. It really helps new listeners find us and keeps the podcast going. It gets us more publicity on all the places where people find podcasts and it really helps other small business owners find the podcast and hopefully learn something, because that's the primary thing that we're trying do, is just educate people. I think it's been a great ninth episode. We'd like to again thank Andrea for joining us on the podcast. Feel free to reach out to us if you do have any questions or comments about anything we talked about today or marketing in general. You can visit us on our website, KickinItWithKapok.com or on social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as Kapok Marketing. This has been Kickin' it with Kapok, brought to you by Kapok Marketing. Thanks for listening. We'll have something just as great for you next time.