It seems like all the odds are against a small business. It doesn't have the resources, reach, budget, or team that bigger businesses do. Still, many small businesses are thriving, with more than 2.5 million operating in Australia today.
But how are these small businesses flourishing, despite the stiff competition from major corporations? For many smaller companies, digital PR is the key to leveling the playing field. But what exactly is digital PR, and how can it help your small business succeed?
Digital PR focuses on improving a business’s brand awareness and reputation among its audience and the general public through online channels like social media and podcasts, rather than traditional avenues such as radio and print media.
Although digital PR and digital marketing seem like interchangeable terms, they aren’t. While similar in their intent to improve brand awareness and reputation, digital PR focuses on telling a brand's story, instead of conversion-related goals like generating leads and sales.
"...digital PR focuses on telling a brand's story, instead of conversion-related goals..."
Digital PR makes it possible for small businesses to compete with major corporations. It used to be that a big budget was required for PR success because traditional PR channels like TV, print media, and radio cost so much. But digital PR uses online channels, many of which are free, on which to develop a presence. So, it wipes out the budget barrier that separates major corporations from small businesses and enables it to achieve the reach that larger corporations have because it's accessible and budget-friendly.
"...it wipes out the budget barrier that separates major corporations from small businesses..."
Not only that, digital PR enables small businesses to compete with global leaders because online resources can be leveraged to develop brand awareness and a strong reputation in their respective local communities.
For example, optimising a business' website for local search intent and creating a Google business profile can provide a consistent influx of local patrons. These individuals are often a small business' most loyal customers and having a large, loyal and local customer base is one of the best ways to compete with national brands.
So it follows if small businesses want to stand on their own against major corporations, digital PR is clearly the way to do it.
"...if small businesses want to stand on their own against major corporations, digital PR is clearly the way to do it."
Here is a short list of digital PR best practices for a small team with limited resources and a tight budget if you hope to get started quickly.
One of the most common mistakes small businesses can make is overlooking market research. Without it, your understanding of your target market, competitors, and industry trends will be thin.
How well you know your desired market also affects your ability to identify potential customers and develop an effective digital PR strategy that resonates with them. Make target audience and market research a priority to:
"Make target audience and market research a priority..."
You should already be collecting data on your market and target audience through your digital marketing channels. Comb through this information for specifics on how your competitors are establishing their online presence and public reputation, as well as data on your target audience, how they communicate, and what inspires their loyalty.
The more a small business understands its target audience, competitors, and market, the easier it will be to draw up an effective digital PR strategy.
"The more a small business understands its target audience, competitors, and market, the easier it will be to draw up an effective digital PR strategy."
So much of the success of a small business's digital PR strategy depends on the online channels used. There's nothing more ineffective and costly than spending time trying to reach your target audience on channels they don't frequent.
"There's nothing more ineffective and costly than spending time trying to reach your target audience on channels they don't frequent."
Instead, use data to figure out which online channels your target audience frequents. Sure, you could go with your gut. But this won't be as accurate as actual data on where your target audience spends their time online.
Go back to any target audience data you've collected on your digital marketing channels. Pinpoint which of those online channels is most popular among your target audience. Is it social media and/or email? Is it podcasts and/or blogs? Is it websites, ads, and search engines?
"Pinpoint which of those online channels is most popular among your target audience."
Use this information to solidify the top three online channels you'll use for your digital PR strategy.
Of course, good digital PR will result in leads and conversions. But this isn't the sole or primary goal. Instead, the heart of PR, generally, is telling a brand’s story effectively to its target audience and maintaining a positive reputation among the public.
To do this, you must master storytelling. If you can piece together your brand’s story in a way that captivates your target audience and teases out an emotional connection with them, you can take full advantage of digital PR.
"To do this, you must master storytelling."
What matters the most to your target audience about your brand and business? How do you show people that your brand can be a positive force in their lives and the community? How can you leverage current industry trends while still keeping your messaging timeless? Keep your answers to these questions at the forefront of every PR message and piece of content you create for your strategy.
It's also a good idea to adopt these storytelling best practices as well:
Don't forget that good storytelling is often the difference between successful and unsuccessful digital PR campaigns.
"...good storytelling is often the difference between successful and unsuccessful digital PR campaigns."
Competing with major corporations as a small business is a brutal challenge to take on. However, there are things that can give small businesses an advantage in an arena where large corporations dominate. One of those things is digital PR.
Make target audience and market research a priority, use data to drive decisions about online channels, and focus on solid storytelling to leverage digital PR successfully as a small business.
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