I recently had a call with a Founder/CEO of a multi-million a month company who complained of the need to constantly prove himself in first introductions with major industry players.
This surprising admission came after we had discussed his background – from serving his country to founding a business that quickly grew to #4 on the Inc 5,000 list a couple years after launch – this CEO not only had a great American success story but was also frequently invited to Washington D.C. to weigh in on the benefits and pitfalls of ecommerce before Congress.
Yet. When meeting with future partners in the supply chain, he found himself explaining who he was and why he was important enough to warrant the meeting. One hundred percent of the time his self-sales pitch never failed to impress, and the decision-makers would proceed with the deal eagerly. Great, right?
Not so much. He asked me “Why are these other companies who are marketing-over-profits (and maybe never will turn a profit) getting all the attention? Their CEOs are prominently featured in every WSJ article and invited on Squawk or Mad Money and they aren’t proven viable!”
The answer to his question is as simple as it is intangible. In the ecommerce world of data and customer conversions it’s often easy to roll your eyes at PR. If your stuff is selling and you can track what’s working, why invest in PR? Afterall, everyone knows you can’t really measure it.
I won’t get into all the benefits of PR in terms of the sales-marketing funnel. Way more people have written better pieces on the topic, but I will breakdown why even a small local business owner should invest in PR.
- Reputation, like branding, is all about perception and, as with branding, you can and should build your reputation strategically. It may feel awkward to hire a PR firm to literally build your local/national/international reputation through calculated communications strategies and thought leadership PR but your competitors are doing it and they are taking your place at the table.
- Life gets easier when people know you by reputation. They are asking for meetings and interviews, not the other way around. There is no more need to explain who you are and why you’re important (one less thing, right 🙂
- You have an automatic platform for your company news. Guess what? When no one’s heard of you or your company it’s hard to get media or consumers to care about your news. When you’re well known, it doesn’t matter how small your news, it will be shared and celebrated.
- You attract employees. If you live in a rural area, you can actually boost the local economy by attracting and hiring fresh transplants.
- You get awards. You get on business 500 and 5,000 lists; you get named Entrepreneur of the Year and make your employees proud (‘I work for the Entrepreneur of the Year!’)
- This one is most important in my humble opinion. You inspire people. You accept the award because you’ve earned it but be sure to let people know it’s possible for them to be in your shoes one day. Explain your failures and hardships. To me, that ability to propel people forward filled with hope and admiration, is the true power of PR.
To wrap up, I want to share a quick success story about one of our longest client partnerships (indeed since 2011).
When we started working with the founder of an organic baby food brand she had just pulled off the feat of parlaying her baby food offering from her local farmer’s market to a huge national retail chain with absolutely no retail experience (or experience running a business with employees and partners).
She had to learn fast and at the same time she recognized the value of being the face of the company. She was a real mom who wants to feed her babies real food that she would eat herself and took action. Within a year she was featured in every parenting and business magazine, in all the national daily news sites, in the popular blogs and on morning shows. She guest judged on Dragon’s Den, mentored startup founders at a competitive accelerator, got paid to speak internationally to tell her story and her company made many millions because of the trust from one mom to another.
Today she is CEO of three brands – from baby to teenager – and has helped inspire many would-be entrepreneurs by not sugarcoating the bumps in the road, speaking honestly about the hustle needed, and the power of humbling herself to all our PR advice 🙂