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Ten years ago, Lucy and I set up our integrated communications agency with a team of two (namely us), in a one-bedroom apartment. A decade later, we are a multi award-winning company with more than 60 talented team members, representing the world's leading international clients, running a digital division and are now proud to be in much bigger and better premises. How did we do this? Not through a large marketing budget or advertising campaign. Not through international affiliations or local partners. The success of our business has been built through the power of establishing a market-leading reputation. To build this reputation we have focused on many of the tools that we deliver to our clients; fantastic quality work, exceptional client servicing, innovative creative ideas, and the power of good PR.
Our clients' success has been our number one priority, and in turn they have been our best business development tool and have championed our services amongst their own networks. Fundamentally, we have grown organically based on the strength of our reputation and our dedication to our work. To help other budding entrepreneurs build their own reputation and benefit from the power of PR, here are our top tips to get SMEs on the radar of potential investors, clients and talent:
1. Identify Your News Story
Think about what makes you special. Are you the first to introduce a service or product to the market? How will this impact the wider business community? Is there untapped potential in a certain sector that you are able to meet unlike your competitors? Or are you the first SME to breakthrough with a new service for a specific demographic? Identify your story– the reason why someone should sit up and take notice of you. Use this story to pitch to the media.
2. A Targeted Approach Rather Than a Scattergun One
Now that you have successfully identified what makes you different to your competitors, you can start sharing this with media. The key is to ensure you reach the right people. So in other words, if you are a construction company looking for investment, being interviewed on a travel blog is not going to help you get funding. Search online or buy local newspapers and magazines. Understand who your target audience is, what they read, what they listen to and then start targeting that media. Although it will seem daunting to make a journalist phone call out of the blue, they are actually a lot more accommodating than you think, so give it a go.
3. Amplify Your Reach
Now that you have appeared in your chosen publication, you should begin to share links of your coverage to your wider network. Encourage your network to comment and like your posts. The more people who see you sharing your success, the more they will want to be part of that success.
4. Don't Shy Away From Tapping Into Your Own Network
We all have personal networks, whether it's friends from university or former colleagues. More often than not, they want to hear what you are up to and share in your successes. Send out regular email updates. People buy in other people. Today's investor doesn't always wear a pinstriped suit and sit in a bank, they are just as likely to be sat at a cafe reading their Twitter feeds on their iPad.
5. Embrace Digital Channels
Platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook can be harnessed to ensure you are on the radar of potential investors or clients. Use a blog to highlight your industry expertise and start conversations with digital influencers in your field. Digital is the most powerful word-of-mouth tool at your fingertips and the cheapest. Talk about your exciting growth plans and encourage others to be part of that journey. The more people hear about you, the more successful you are perceived to be.
6. Network and Learn How to "Work A Room"
The key to successful networking is having a genuine interest in people. Fortunately, in this market you meet people from a variety of backgrounds and industries. Networking is a skill in itself and one that does not come naturally to most people, but one that can reap dividends in terms of getting a foot through the door in terms of an all-important meeting with a potential customer or client. Once you've got that foothold, make the most of it.
7. Be Prepared
Ensure that you have your "elevator pitch" ready. This is a 60 second overview of what your business is and what you can bring to an investor or client that no one else can. If you can't explain the benefits of what your business can bring to the table, don't expect others to understand why they should support you.
8. Substance and Style Are Crucial
Every interaction with any customer, large or small, is an opportunity to make a good impression. Ask yourself whether you know your clients' business back to front. How does your product or service enhance their portfolio? Do you have a presentation to share with them? Is it slick? Would it install confidence in them of your ability to grow a successful company?