Laura Sutherland: Business growth in a social age

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Whether you’re a one person business or an SME, business growth is an objective.

– Business planning

Do you have a business plan? Have you set out short, medium and longer term objectives?

I hear many of you sigh and say ‘it’s on my to-do list’. That’s fine, but do it! A business isn’t going anywhere without a plan and strategy.

Many business owners I meet through my business, Aura, know they need to have one but have either put it to the bottom of the list or don’t know where to start.

I’m not trying to teach my granny to suck eggs, but come on, to run a business you need a strategy.

What is the purpose of your business? What value does it give to your customers or clients?

– Business strategy

Now comes the bit you may not ‘get’. Public relations works with businesses and strategies are developed in order to help achieve business objectives. The tactical aspect comes further down the line.

If you engage a good public relations practitioner, consider a Chartered one so you know they have the credentials, they will work with you on developing the business strategy and the public relations strategy runs alongside it.

By doing both together, you’re consider your target audience. You’re including all the communications and marketing activity in your business strategy, after all, where would you be without communicating with anyone?! And, to make a finer point, it’s comprehensive and you know the following:

  • Mission, vision and values of the business
  • Your product/service and its USP
  • Who you’re targeting, what they care about, where they hang out and how you could go about engaging them
  • Using a strategy you can and should, be setting key performance indicators so you know when things are working and when they aren’t, plus you’ll be able to measure and evaluate all the work being done

– How public relations impacts the bottom line

Public relations is not a dark art. It is not about spinning anything. Public relations is about building relationships between an organisation and its publics, therefore building trust, creating good perceptions and maintaining relationships for the longer term.

Public relations is not about sweeping anything under the carpet. If like me, your appointed consultant is Chartered, we abide by the CIPR’s Code of Conduct and are held to account.

We are ethical and will provide you with sound, ethical advice in times of crisis.

– It’s time to invest

I was reading a post on LinkedIn earlier which was asking for advice about how to grow a business which has just launched. The person had approached me some time ago and said he wanted to use my services but then went cold. It was down to spending money, parting with cash.

Public relations has the ability to add tremendous value to a business or organisation through its work. It’s a strategic management discipline and those of us who have modernised our practice since technology, behaviours and media landscapes have changed so much, will know exactly how to help your business grow.

You need to directly relate the activity to the impact on your business. It’s not good enough just to achieve some press coverage or for a blogger to write about your product. How has this activity impacted on your sales, your reputation and generated additional value to the brand?

I’ll leave you with one last point.

When I was talking about the person who posted on LinkedIn looking for ideas, he saw PR as a spend. He didn’t see it as an investment.

If you invest in quality public relations, you’ll see a return on your investment. There is no silver bullet. There is no one-size- fits-all approach. There is simply a strategy, with objectives and a plan for how you’ll execute the strategy.

– Don’t dabble. Commit with a professional approach

If you’ve tried PR and had a bad experience – ask why. Was it because there was no strategy? Was it because nothing was aligned to what the business set out to achieve? How do you know it didn’t work? Did you/the consultant even bother doing proper evaluation?

One of my aims is to educate the business world about what public relations actually is nowadays. Most business owners I speak to vaguely know it’s about media, social media and websites, but fail to realise the technical aspect we’re now involved in, which coexists with the traditional work we do; such as SEO and Google rankings, video and influencer relations.

– You’ve changed

We’re all socially driven, we make decisions based on recommendations, what we read, pricing, trends and much more. We tend to Google and do research before we commit to buying anything, normally on a mobile. Times have changed. People have changed. Never has there been a better opportunity for brands to directly engage with its publics/target audience.

Are you ceasing the opportunity or are you relying on old fashioned methods which are no longer relevant?

Thanks for reading my post. Got any questions? Please drop me an email or give me a call (07764 936 840).

Blog post by Laura Sutherland, Chief at Aura, a Glasgow-based PR consultancy.


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