This is a guest post from Honest Communications founder Holly Daulby offering tips on how PR agencies can support local businesses in the current climate.
The need for strong, effective communication in the past year has been greater than ever. With small, local businesses seeking ways to communicate with existing customers, while still reaching new ones, there have been ample opportunities for PR agencies to lend a hand.
1. Be there to help
As part of lending a helping hand, be sure to offer value and utilise your experience and channels to give free advice to help others.
When lockdown first happened, and the world was filled with so much uncertainty and the future looked bleak for so many local businesses, we took to our blog and social media channels to offer advice. One article which proved popular was our top 5 tips for communicating in a crisis, which we even threw social media advertising budget behind, to really help reach as many people as possible who might need some free PR advice.
2. Be genuine, not opportunistic
Overt selling doesn’t sit well with people, they see straight through it. Companies trying to push sales, and not reading the room, look ignorant and self-serving – and no one wants that!
Don’t reach out to people to take advantage of their desperation, reach out to people because you want to help them turn things around.
That’s the key. Help. Not sell.
Be genuine in your reasoning for doing so too.
Authentic communication will always shine through. People don’t want cynical, opportunistic companies trying to sell them things they don’t need, particularly during a global crisis. Profiteering from a pandemic isn’t a good look.
The societal shift that has occurred over the past twelve months has seen communities come together to support each other. What resonates now is raw, honest communication to create a more favourable perception of trustworthy, helpful businesses.
3. Be adaptable and be there for your clients
Among so many other things, 2020 taught us that things don’t go to plan. You might have a client activity plan signed off and lined up but you always need to have the flexibility to adapt.
Staying in regular contact with your clients is vital to stay abreast of the changes in their business. Being there to support your clients will not only show you care but will also give you a deeper insight which will help your work be more informed.
Going beyond your normal remit too will also garner favour and clients will appreciate it in the long run. Offer your wider marketing insight and ask how you can support. After all, PR is about building relationships.
4. Broaden your service offering
So many businesses have shown ingenuity, resilience and agility by tweaking what they offer.
Small, local businesses might not be able to afford ongoing retainers or perhaps aren’t in the position they once were. Don’t let money get in the way. Think beyond your core services, and instead think about helping. Find out what people need and match that with your skillset.
For example, as PR professionals, writing comes more naturally to us so you might be able to help local businesses with their case studies, copywriting projects and newsletters. Work on an ad hoc basis to offer help when it’s needed instead of seeking ongoing retainers. We all know the benefits that retainers can have for brand building but they aren’t always possible.
If there are any positives to come out of this pandemic, people pulling together is one of them. Now, more than ever, people realise they need each other, and we can see how interconnected everything is. The same is true of businesses – it’s a tough time for everyone and offering a (metaphorical) helping hand where you can, will be appreciated. If you can find any opportunities to collaborate and combine forces with other businesses, it might help you to get back up to speed more quickly.
Here at Honest, in the past year, we’ve joined forces with a local photographer and a local brand consultant. Not only has this helped other local businesses, but it’s also allowed us to offer more to our clients to be able to further help them. Win-win!
In all of this, the main thing to remember, which should always be the case– pandemic or not – is that genuine, honest communications will prevail. After all, honesty is always the best policy.
For more on how PR can support local businesses, read our previous guest posts from White Rose PR’s Louise Pinchin on Supporting Local Business with Local PR, Gallium Ventures’ Heather Delaney on The Power of Community and Spike’s Andre Gwillium on How to Implement a PR Strategy for a Local Charity.