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SMEs need to prioritise public relations [Bizcommunity (South Africa)]
[February 14, 2014]

SMEs need to prioritise public relations [Bizcommunity (South Africa)]

(Bizcommunity (South Africa) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Public relations is routinely under-rated or over-looked when it comes to strategy in small to medium enterprises. That often comes down to reasons which include insufficient budget, a perception of poor value-add and the tendency to lump PR into marketing, where it is seen as secondary to other activities.Seeing is believing What is the major challenge facing most ambitious small businesses? For many, it is visibility. With an established line of business and a proven method of adding value, the SME that seeks to grow needs to find more customers. That means visibility; the more that prospective clients know about who you are and what you do, the more likely they are to engage with you for your products and services.

Today, the internet is the first place to which a great many people turn when they need something. A website is considered essential for all but a very few specific businesses. However, your online presence does not end there; in addition to a website, smart small businesses are increasingly turning to their PR company to assist with content marketing. Content marketing Content marketing is a marketing format in which the creation and sharing of content demonstrates your company's insights, ability and awareness of issues. It demonstrates your competence and helps new customers to find you.

Content marketing is not new, of course, but the internet, in combination with traditional media, makes it accessible to almost any business. Remember that people like to trade with those they know and when your market has an easy opportunity to find out about you, a gap is bridged.Weighing up the odds There are a number of areas that compete for funding as you seek the competitive edge. One of the more obvious and popular ones is training; while certainly necessary, this is not always the best option for two reasons.

The first is that most SMEs will look to hire mid-level employees who bring with them the right mix of qualifications and experience to get started and add value from day one - whether this is more qualifications than experience, or more experience than qualifications. This is important for the SME, as many are often thinly- or even under-capitalised and cannot carry employees who are not yet bringing in income for the company.

The second is closely related: most SMEs cannot afford to invest in training, only to see workers change jobs before the investment in skills is realised.

This is different in large enterprises, where qualifications are needed if there are plans to move to management - so, and this is perhaps tongue in cheek - the small business owner needs to beware of training up staff for possible management roles in large corporations. Where to find your game changer Arguably, visibility provides a better competitive edge. Not only does it bring your business to the attention of new customers, but it also has the added effect of drawing in talent. That visibility can be achieved as the result of the tools used by a PR practitioner to market your organisation to the target audience. The right PR professional helps you provide the market with relevant business opinion, highlighting what makes you different; giving your company and brand a voice and speaking to the market.

Low- or no-visibility is a common problem for many highly capable SMEs: they are simply an unknown in the very markets they wish to target. The lesson is that if you do make PR your focus, your business can stand above those that do not and earn the competitive edge you seek.

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