Here's Why PR Should Be An Important Part Of Your SME's Strategy Effective PR sparks an interest in your audience and gets them to sit up and take notice of your brand and product offering.

By Anastasiya Golovatenko

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SMEs account for 95% of all organizations in Dubai, and when it comes to their business plans, public relations (PR) represent an important tool in the marketing mix, actively and continuously differentiating brands from the competition and speaking directly to audiences. Here are just a few reasons why PR is a must-have for every SME communication strategy:

1. PR creates awareness Effective PR sparks an interest in your audience and gets them to sit up and take notice of your brand and product offering. This could be in the form of regular audience interactions, campaigns and so on, focused on promoting key brand traits. A well thought out PR strategy is key to creating inspiring campaigns that stand out.

2. PR builds credibility As Richard Branson wisely said: "A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad." A 2014 Nielson study concluded that PR is 90% more effective than advertising. 80% of business decision-makers prefer learning about companies through articles instead of advertisements, and 48% of the millennial audience says word-of-mouth influences their buying decisions over other marketing forms. Credibility is a hard-earned respect and comes from knowing your product enough to build a strong brand image and communicating exactly how it benefits the customer. Effective PR is clear, concise and transparent, steering clear of anything that may be misleading. In addition, 84% of consumers are willing to pay more for a product/service from a company they believe to be socially responsible.

3. PR showcases your thought leadership A successful PR team knows they need to differentiate. By getting creative and taking a stand on issues your brand identifies with, you reflect yourself as an expert and forward thinker. A good example is Cisco and their campaign around "The Internet of Everything," covering innovation and interconnectivity. Such plans require the availability of regular content that is interesting, informative and original, relayed across all communication channels– it pays to remember your audience is always listening.

Related: Getting Social Right: The Pitfalls And The Opportunities

4. PR delivers value for money The value of PR is rooted in strategically maintaining positive and engaging two-way communication between your brand and audience– this effort takes time, research, planning and skill, and when done well, is worth every dollar spent. When it comes to PR budget allocations, everything depends on the type of campaigns you're looking to run and the value derived thereof. Your goals, channels of choice and audience need to be clearly defined for plans to succeed, securing organic exposure on multiple levels. Is your PR plan focused on increasing traffic and interest or building brand image? Are you doing something different from the competition? Social media allows for considerable brand reach in terms of PR, so it is essential to use it to its maximum capability as well. The ROI on your PR campaign will help determine the kind of dollar spend you need to account for to ensure maximum reach and impact.

5. PR helps with crisis management A thoroughly researched PR plan prepares you to deal with crisis communication in a responsible, sensible and professional manner. If the situation should arise, a brand needs to be adequately prepared in advance and able to efficiently calm audiences and the media with timely, appropriately formulated responses. Any crisis that is mishandled can have damaging consequences to a brand's reputation. It is recommended to prepare all press materials in advance or at least draft some key documents.

6. PR tells your story Organized PR tells a well-crafted story to all those interested in listening across traditional, hybrid, social and owned media platforms. It speaks of your brand personality in a positive manner, demonstrating how it is able to answer customer needs, whilst showcasing brand purpose and passion in an authentic and realistic tone.

7. PR establishes relationships 92% of consumers trust media stories over traditional ads. A well-planned PR strategy places considerable emphasis on interactions with customers, the media and other key industry players and influencers, building loyal, two-way relationships across various channels. Social media allows brands to get to know their audience on a personal level, starting conversations that are real, relevant and engaging.

Productive PR drives business goals and as an up and coming business, it's recommended to have an expert PR team handling your marketing strategy, either in-house or outsourced to a specialized agency.

Related: Crafting Your Story: Public Relations Expertise For Your Business

Anastasiya Golovatenko

PR Director, Sherpa Communications

Anastasiya Golovatenko is an accomplished PR professional and business advisor who leads a Dubai-based communications consultancy Sherpa Communications. With more than 12 years of expertise developing and executing all aspects of public relations and marketing campaigns, she provides senior counsel to brands of any size and structure, helping them achieve business objectives and meaningful results through the strategic use of communication.

She has experience across various sectors -from B2B to B2C industries, and has worked with MENA, international and CIS clients, diplomatic bodies, trade institutions, government institutions, and NGOs- supporting them both in-house and on the agency side. Anastasiya and her colleagues also actively support a rising number of startups and SMEs in the UAE and Middle East region providing advice on best practices and tactics for effective scaling up and business growth. She prides herself on establishing a personal connection with agency’s clients to best match their specific needs.

A passionate public relations practitioner, Anastasiya is actively involved in community groups in the UAE helping individuals and businesses master PR tools for their projects. She is also involved in mentorship programs by in5 in Dubai, UAE. She writes for the UAE and international media on important industry topics sharing tips and advice on effective communication, reputation management, savvy marketing planning amongst others. Anastasiya graduated with honors from Kiev Institute of International Relations, where she earned Master Degree in Public Relations & Analytics (Hons.). 

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