ASCII Group's Chairman and CEO Alan Weinberger interviews Joe Balsarotti, President, Software To Go.
Q: Why should IT business owners start thinking about obtaining public relations services (PR) for their company and how does it differ from traditional advertising?
BALSAROTTI: Advertising and marketing are significant expenses to any business, especially in those early years before a business gains a clientele and a reputation. Investing a modest amount of time and effort in a PR initiative, can yield tangible results without breaking the bank.
A PR campaign helps a business with image. It doesn't have the 'call to action' of traditional advertising, so for best results they need to be used together. What PR can do is position you and your business as a leader and expert, reinforcing your traditional advertising and opening up the possibility of commanding a higher price than your competition.
It's usually best for the owner to be the face of a business, but if you have a manager or staffer who is comfortable in front of a camera and whom you trust to get your point across, use that resource instead.
Also, since interviews tend to happen with little, or no, notice, you have to be sure you can portray a positive image of your company before making yourself available, whereas with traditional advertising things are done with more control and on a much longer timeline.
Q: How important is budget when it comes to creating effective PR for a small business?
BALSAROTTI: The beauty of PR is that it doesn't have a big price tag in a monetary sense. However, one does need to consider how much the time it takes is worth, especially the prep-time. If a PR campaign, or anything else for that matter, is taking time away from money-making endeavors, one needs to be sure the value justifies it.
The only hard costs one might have are for printing and compiling a media kit. Professional photos, nice quality paper and folders go a long way as does spending time over a lunch or coffee to meet media people. Email and social media don't cut it in this instance. You want something tangible (and something they will keep on file) in the hands of an editor or producer. You keep in contact and follow up with the digital communications (i.e. / email, social media, etc.).
Other expenses might include a nice sign or background for interviews, if one is going after television or video-based media, the visual will help with the overall look and feel and reinforce branding (if applicable, if the logo is present).
Q: What are the steps that business owners need to take when establishing and building relationships with the right media outlets?
BALSAROTTI: First, decide what value you can give an audience. After all, if you don't have a compelling message, what is the point? DO NOT make PR opportunities into advertisements. This is the ultimate in soft-selling.
You must demonstrate knowledge and connect with the audience and/or interviewer, giving them a reason to want to seek you out.
Send introductory emails and snail-mail, include a basic CV listing your experience and qualifications. Be sure to mention what topics you're comfortable speaking on and what benefit you can provider to their
Keep in mind that the editors or reporters are usually on a tight deadline, flexibility and creativity on how to help them do their job (getting information out to their viewers or readers) goes a long way.
Business owners need to make multiple contacts as media staff tend to switch jobs a lot. Don't be afraid to contact multiple people at every outlet in your area. We, as technology business owners can speak not only on tech issues, but on business or economic issues, as well. Don't limit your exposure by thinking only in terms of tech.
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