By Karen Pierce Gonzalez

Public relations is all about how you and your your business relates to the public. Your target audience – everyone who works with, lives near or is somehow connected to your target market – will respond to how you present yourself. Once you enter into the public arena, your ‘curb appeal’ as well as your interior design, so to speak, will be on display. It will be important to have some control over how you are being perceived by others. One of the best ways to make that happen is to generate the presence you want rather than waiting for the public to create it for you.

To do this you’ll need a good plan. Most businesses do not think about public relations plans until it is too late; after they have found themselves exposed in negative ways. Those who already have public relations efforts underway tend to fare better when/if their visibility generates a negative attention flow. During a crisis is not the best time to start relating to the community you serve. Look for ways now to relate to the the public – your public.

Here are four reasons to start your public relations campaign now:

1) Stay on top of mind

Your clients and potential clients are literally bombarded daily by countless advertising and marketing messages. A solid public relations campaign that highlights your company’s activities and events will help your clients remember who you are and what you do. Consistenly remind the public in non-sales ways that you are ‘out and about’ in the community working on various projects or involved in other ways that benefit the larger community.

2) Remind people of your expertise

Your expertise and experience is what makes you and your company unique. Rather than rely exclusively upon advertising which does not provide quality assurances, plan on offering free resources, such as useful articles. Because they come without strings, encourge sharing so that potential clients will also learn about you.

3) Build credibility

In today’s world credibility is becoming increasingly important. Your public relations campaign can build credibility because instead of ‘selling’ to the public you are engaging them in conversation or inviting them to participate in what you are doing. This public exposure, whether it’s a Facebook post, a newspaper article or radio interview will draw attention to the ways in which you support the general public. This may very well be what distinguishes you from your competitors.

4) Save money on advertising and marketing

An ongoing public relations campaign is only one element of a good overall marketing campaign. While it cannot completely replace the need for advertising, it will save money because there will be less need for paid advertisements and for crisis-managment. Keep in mind, however, that a well-placed message in a popular magazine or on a signficiant blog has greater value than an ad in the sampe publicat ion.

Public relations is an important part of any business marketing plan. It is just as essential as the advertising and other marketing pieces. Don’t wait to develop and implement a public relations campaign until your business is suffering. Be proactive and, at the least, do some public relations work on a weekly basis. If you can do something more frequently, like Twitter posts that link to a helpful industry article, that’s even better. The key is to have a plan that makes the best use of your internal business resources so that you can relate to the public in a way that benefits both you and them.

Karen Pierce Gonzalez of Karen Pierce Gonzalez Public Relations has more than twenty five years of media/public relations experience. A former journalist, she promotes individual, agency and small business solutions to social concerns to the media. or