Chamber Insider Blog

Public Relations Small Business Tips from Loudoun’s Experienced Professionals

Blog post written by Ashley White Krimmel, Loudoun Chamber Events Staff Member


Recently, the Chamber hosted a panel discussion on “Leveraging PR to Grow Your Business” alongside the Business Women of Loudoun Committee. We heard from Shawn Flaherty, President of Creative Strategies Public Relations, Katie Barchas Wilson, President and Chief Marketect of The Market Group, and Sharon L. Wright, President and Owner of Loudoun Clear Marketing.

Andrea Winey, Director of Communications at the Chamber, led the group in a series of questions to define PR, discuss building a strategy, and outlined how small businesses can use PR to be successful. Read more from these experts in the field!

How would you define Public Relations? And how does it benefit small businesses?

Public Relations is good storytelling. It is sharing your message. Before you share it, you must refine who “the public” is to you and be strategic in your reach. Keep in mind that PR touches many different aspects of your business, not just media relations. PR often involves special events, sponsorships, social media, email marketing, crisis communication, and reputation management to name a few.

As an example, special events are a way to draw in your community. Before planning an event, you need to understand and clearly outline what you’re trying to achieve so that your message resonates with your target audience. If you want to have a product launch, every detail down to the invites, nametags, and advertisements should be specifically chosen and integrated into your marketing plan.

Small businesses should prioritize community relations as well as use their current client base to promote their product or service. Your best source of business are your happy clients.

How do you begin building a PR strategy for your business?

The first step is to identify your audienceand figure out how to reach people. Next, determine the right messagingfor each audience segment. Finally, choose the channels that best reach your audience. For example, many businesses use focus groups to better understand consumers and their needs.  Most importantly, you must find your storylines within your business. What makes you interesting? Special products? Philanthropic efforts? Brainstorm and map your strategy.

Time is valuable for any small business owner. What are your tips for any business to grow trust? And any tips for dealing with crisis management?

Pick a channel that will directly meet your client and spend time there. Connect with your customer. When it comes to social media and online reviews, have someone on your team constantly monitor this activity. Be transparent when there is a crisis and be prepared with a quick response and the right messaging to deal with unsatisfied customers and their experiences. Crisis management is an area that can be outsourced to a PR firm, so please reach out and ask for help to protect your business. The Chamber is also a great resource to manage your brand, grow your business, and help tell your story. If you’re not an expert in PR, it’s worth investing in someone who is.

Ask yourself the important questions: Who are you? What is your why? And what is the marketable difference between you and your competitors?