Residential Lighting: Why is public relations so valuable?
Mary Lou Denny: Placement of your story on a website, magazine or newspaper makes you look the same size as anybody else. It’s a great way to build your brand, image, reputation and goodwill without big advertising dollars. PR also gives you ways to educate people, and it sets you apart from the competition. It’s a key to successful marketing.
RL: Help us with a basic plan.
MLD: Look at the media landscape — magazines, TV, websites. What kinds of articles do editors want? In lighting, you have lots to talk about. Think about what customers ask you when they come into the showroom. What are they interested in? Look at the competition and see what they’re doing. How can you differentiate yourself from them? Play up your successful projects, and take pictures of them.
Be sure to use Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube and e-newsletters. Every day, more than 8 million Facebook users visit fan pages. A fan page builds traffic, which in turn builds up your website’s organic search results. You may not need to buy Google ads. So, put content on Facebook, Twitter and a blog. Bill yourself as the professional that people trust on lighting.
RL: How should we work with editors?
MLD: Editors love to hear about trends and about new products. They also love to hear what’s popular in the local area. Send pictures and a little write-up. You’ll need high-resolution digital photos, about 1MB to 3MB in size, which will look good in print. Respond quickly. Always be honest. On the Web, be sure you are who you say you are. Transparency is important.
RL: Should we hire professionals?
MLD: PR pros have relationships with editors. It’s what we do. If you want to get your feet wet, make a calendar and stick to it — “I’m going to comment on my fan page twice a month, or Tweet weekly.” If you get bigger, and you start seeing success from your PR efforts, then hire someone who can do more. You’re running a business and don’t have much time. Just start with a Facebook fan page. Be sure to write a social media policy. One study says only 17 percent of businesses are prepared to handle the risk of social media. You need a good plan.
RL: What constitutes a good social media policy?
MLD: If you let someone do your Facebook and Twitter, you have to be clear on what you expect them to say professionally and personally. You don’t want to put a comment on Facebook implying you’re a customer when you’re not. You should identify yourself clearly, and you want your staff to do that. They need to be trained to be informative and engaging, but grounded in the core beliefs of your business, such as honesty, education and quality. Really, content is so important on the Internet. A website is not just about getting hits; it’s about people hitting on good information. That’s how they stay connected to you.
RL: Any other ideas?
MLD: Videotape your store and put it on YouTube. People are interested in making a human connection. Talk about the services you provide. Many people love to work with the small business person. They feel like they’re better taken care of. In our area, we have a lighting store. If we go to that store, we know they’ll show us concern. They can do great PR because they have a good story of high service.