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What is your digital PR strategy for 2021?
Across North America--and the globe--small business owners were among the hardest hit during the pandemic. With SMBs in mind, I asked a few dozen public relations and marketing professionals for their best tips for small business owners.
I put together this series to help you succeed this year. Read on to see what folks had to say about their top digital PR strategy--and how it can help you going into this crucial year.
This is the third installment in the Public Relations Tips for Small Business Owners series. Make sure to read Part 1 - Connect: How To Bond With Your Target Fans This Year and Part 2 - 25 Best PR Tactics To Reach Your Target Audience.
Here are the best digital PR strategy tips for small business owners. What can you implement today?
"I think that the results of Public Relations have always been challenged because they have not been quantifiable. PR is crucial for any company and it benefits you to give long-term results. It is now possible to determine the impact of PR through proper data analytics and make your decision according to that. It is essential that we establish Data-Driven metrics to help measure the accurate results of PR activities. You can use data to analyze the type of audience you are targeting, behaviors, understanding the right time to publish information, etc."
— Stewart Dunlop
CEO, PPC Genius
"The crisis has boosted SMS marketing activities. As people spend more time at home, they have been doing more online shopping and are spending more time on their phones which makes SMS an effective communication channel to engage with their audience instantly. Knowing that SMS has an open rate of 98% and a response rate of 45%, companies use this opportunity to reach their prospects and clients with short messages and call-to-actions."
— Jean-Carl Cohen
"COVID-19 has entirely changed consumer behavior and how your customers see your brand. There is a lot of uncertainty and unknowns in the business world. Therefore, businesses need to focus on RESEARCH and OPTIMIZATION to fuel a strong post-pandemic marketing and communications strategy. You need to figure out what your customers want. Be up-to-date with their changing preferences. Do a lot of customer surveys to get deep insights. Based on these insights, discover the channels your customers prefer, update the content, and change the messaging."
— Hamna Amjad
Outreach Consultant, Physicans Thrive
"My tip for marketing after the pandemic is to switch mainly to digital
marketing if you have not done so yet. The reason I say this is because the
traditional channels have been drying up and COVID is ensuring this. People
are less likely to touch things now, so with that being said advertising
in newspapers or other physical forms is losing its effectiveness. Think
social media, Pay Per Click Advertising, and Search Engine Optimization."
— Caleb Riutta
Co-Founder, Dusk Digital
"When it comes to small businesses staying relevant online after a pandemic, they should be very up-to-date on where their customers hang out online. Be it through online communities on social media and/or forums such as Reddit, it's imperative to identify where the audiences are and what content they engage with. The beauty of knowing this is that a content strategy can be tailored to match expectations of what really resonates with the audience, and this can do wonders for your overall marketing KPIs, including brand awareness and an increase in sales."
— Itamar Blauer
SEO Consultant, ItamarBlauer.com
"With a tremendous amount of uncertainty, engaging with the audience is essential for any business - customers are looking for brands that are able to engage with them. With that in mind, businesses need to build trust with their consumers as well as grow their presence and visibility. Here social media platforms come into play. Not only do they allow you to create a safe space for the audience, but you can also respond immediately and directly to all who are interacting with your brand."
— Alexandra Zelenko
Senior Marketing and Technical Writer, DDI Development
Get Your Brand Noticed.
"For B2B marketing, trade shows and conferences are not taking place, direct mail campaigns won't work as most office jobs are now working from home, and unless you've got a prospect's mobile number, your outbound sales team are not going to be getting through to any new leads. Post-pandemic, these activities are unlikely to return to the pre-COVID era.
As the number of marketing channels available to B2B businesses has declined, the competition for generating awareness and sales leads online has never been greater. This means it's more important than ever to rinse as much value as possible out of your website. If you can increase your conversion rate you can outbid your competitors on PPC and spend more to rank well on Google organically."
— David Richter
Director of Marketing, CIPHR
"With the pandemic disrupting our publishing calendars, we learned that we need to be able to pivot fast if we want to stay afloat during this pandemic. Having done this, my best advice for small business owners regarding marketing in the post-pandemic era is to never forget that the pandemic has lasting effects. And even if a vaccine comes into play, everyone will be forever scarred especially the hundreds and thousands who lost loved ones. This is why you should always be sensitive and keep the balance between moving on from this unfortunate time and considering the after-effects."
— Samantha Moss
Editor & Content Ambassador, Romantific
"I'd say that post-COVID, there will be tons of opportunity to do PR and Marketing in other languages aside from English. Due to COVID-19 and the lockdown that we experienced in many parts of the world -- apps like TikTok observed more traffic. People were spending more hours on platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram as primary digital marketing sources. There must be a reason why TikTok boomed during this pandemic - aside from the fun and entertainment value, there is no language barrier!
Due to our current situation, people are spending more time -- consuming content, which came as an opportunity for companies to create content in other languages to promote their products and services. English content is now overly saturated online, and businesses are starting to generate content in other languages. That is actually what our company began to do, 5 or 6 months ago. Fast forward to today; we are getting lots of leads from places like Italy, Brazil, Spain, Germany - because we generated Marketing and PR content in languages such as Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, German, and even Japanese."
— Claudia Cruz
Digital Marketing Manager, Thrive Agency
"The best advice I have for individuals handling PR and marketing efforts post-COVID is to create a marketing plan that is flexible and agile in nature. Consider how businesses were able to pivot their offerings during the pandemic to reach the needs of customers. Your marketing and PR efforts will likely focus on a few specific channels, such as LinkedIn and monthly e-newsletters, and should also include an additional channel that has the ability to meet customers where they are. In the case of the pandemic, many PR and marketing professionals have focused on adding customer review programs to increase positive reviews or starting podcasts that are relevant to the business and may fill the space of traditional live events or speaking sessions. Meet with your team regularly to brainstorm new ideas, track the success of these campaigns, and to make sure everyone is staying on track with their workloads."
— Deborah Sweeney
"It is important to stay up-to-date with trends and modify your business strategies accordingly. My 10-step strategy consists of 10 things that we do: Research, Ideal Customer, Copy, Bait, Target, Retarget, Landing Page, Opt-in Page, Thank You, email sequence. Once this is implemented in the correct order in a lot of Industries you will find and get your ideal [customers] in the door with their wallets out and ready to buy from you."
— Lawrence Parnis
Serial Entrepreneur / Growth Strategist, Hive Salon Software
"Small businesses should leverage social media opportunities as well as engage with their audience online as much as possible. Some ways to engage with target audiences on social media is to create polls, questions and giveaway posts. Also, it is important to use searchable and relevant hashtags so potential clients, consumers and supporters can find your business page. Lastly, small businesses should consider revamping their website to attract more viewers. Online sales were successful during the pandemic due to strong marketing strategies and well designed websites."
— Alexann Brown
Public Relations Strategist, The Rose Agency
"Focus on expanding your online presence. With more and more people acclimating to online shopping, the move to digital is an absolute no-brainer. Nurture online shopping habits visitors developed during this period, and keep growing your traffic and conversions."
— Domantas Gudeliauskas
Marketing Manager, Zyro
"Bank on thought leadership to boost your brand awareness, establish your authority, and to gain people’s trust. Make a conscious effort to measure the impact or performance of your campaigns and give enough time to evaluate the data and analysis that was gathered, then use it to improve and polish your strategies. Also, don’t forget to provide high-quality and relevant content. Measure. Evaluate. Polish. Repeat."
— Seb Hall
Founder/CEO, Cloud Employee
"A unique technique for new or small businesses to attract media attention is with a simple and cost-effective PR survey. The main objective of conducting a PR survey is to collect opinions from the general population or a niche audience of people regarding a certain topic related to a brand. The results are then shared through company outreach, press releases, news sources, and journalism outlets. The reason public relations surveys are so popular is because they can be completed quickly and affordably.
An example of a brand conducting a PR survey is this. A bank conducts a national study with homeowners. The PR survey asks respondents questions regarding stress levels when buying/selling a home and emotions surrounding the home experience. The bank creates a press release with the headline, '95% of homeowners in the U.S. experienced some level of stress when buying or selling their home.' The press release discusses the PR study further and promotes the bank’s new digital platform to make buying and selling homes easier. The press release is picked up by media outlets across the country with a link to where people can visit their new online platform."
— Emily Carroll
Marketing Coordinator, Drive Research
"2020 is certainly a year no one will ever forget. Yes, the “Roaring Twenties” came in with a bang and turned the world upside down. So now it’s 2021 and you and your business survived the Pandemic. CONGRATULATIONS! You are now positioned to “take the bull by the horn” and ride a wave for forthcoming prosperity.
Taking a page out of history, if the post-Spanish Flu days of 1918 are any indication, pent up demand for just about EVERYTHING will be unstoppable! Are you prepared? With so much of our day-to-day lives this past year geared toward digital business, live streams and cyber-shopping.
Now is the time to position your company for future growth. How? Update your website. Make it relevant for today’s world. Make sure you have optimized it in as many ways possible to generate views. Use all the social media platforms available to aid in this task. Highlight your past successes and have you team ready for the influx of business.
And, most importantly, project confidence and pat yourself on the back for having survived, when many others have not!"
— Phil Lobel
Founder/President, Lobeline Communications
"We've found that responding in detail on Help A Report Out is the absolute best way for small businesses to get PR and earn valuable backlinks for SEO. Take time to make sure you answer all their questions, then go above and beyond. A little extra effort sets you apart. Don't be afraid to explicitly ask for a link to your site, then follow up if they don't link to your site when their post goes live, or if the link is a no-follow link that doesn't pass SEO authority. We've built dozens of high Domain Rating links for ourselves using HARO and even more for our clients."
— Eagan Heath
Founder/Owner, Caravan Digital
"A war stories' approach to storytelling in the pandemic aftermath is a compelling proposition, everyone loves to hear about and contemplate the hero's journey in the context of their own life. PR people can tell the story of how the small business tackled pandemic challenges, how they pivoted the business showcasing creativity and resilience, how everyone on the team pulled together, etc. and made it out the other end. Companies should continue to be deeply involved in the community as it was indeed
unprecedented times, which were best gotten through together!"
— Caroline James
Founder, Forever Speaks PR
"Our changes were not only internal but external by guiding our clients through the changes the pandemic made on their businesses. [Here's] the best advice that helped our PR efforts succeed during the COVID-19 pandemic and advice for handling PR and marketing after the pandemic:
1. Provide a fresh perspective and angle that is not being covered in the news. For example, if your brand specializes in a specific field, see where your expertise would fit in and add a different perspective than what’s already being talked about.
2. Brands should think of ways to incorporate their community goodwill into a social media marketing plan that they can share with their consumers and employees.
3. Building relationships and becoming a trusted resource for a reporter. Being respectful, acknowledging the reporter’s tight deadline, and acting fast to the media request will not only show your interest and expertise but will increase your chances of working with them for future stories."
— Sara Neumann
Director of Public Relations, Nuvolum
"If your demand for your products has increased, then your focus should be to convert that demand into sales by promoting those products online. Nevertheless, if the demand is down then incline your focus towards 'brand promotion/building so in turn your brand reaches to the audience. This helps in preserving your brand presence."
— Sachin Yadav
Freelancer Digital Marketer, TechnoLogers
"As you emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, it will take a while for the pandemic’s long shadow to disappear completely. Promote how careful you continue to be with sanitizing and other safety precautions and about how excited you are to see your customers again. Further, it’s been a long, dark time for your employees, and you need to communicate the message that you appreciate their loyalty and hard work, which in many cases went above and beyond the call. As it will take a while for the economy to bounce back and people will continue to suffer, show that you are dedicated to your community by setting up a percentage of sales to support a nonprofit group serving your neighbors in need."
— Ron Gold
President/CEO, Marketing Works