Budget-Friendly, High-End PR/Marcom Trickles Down to Small, Local Businesses

Recently, I got a call from a prospective client who asked me to draft a branding campaign. He insisted I include ample time for research and analysis of his product, market and competitors, a prescient request from any client, made more so that it came not from the communications director of a multi-national corporation, but the proprietor of a locally owned and operated distributor of printers and printing supplies. The man, an Asian immigrant with an immigrant sense of entrepreneurship, proceeded to outline, in rather prescriptive terms, what he wanted his branding campaign to do and how he wanted it to proceed to be cost-effective and successful. Once again, I was impressed. “That’s what I would do,” I thought—research and develop branding materials and follow that with an inventory/overhaul of his website to stay on budget and message. Research, it should be noted, is the first step in PR planning. It’s also one of the Public Relations Society of America’s KSA (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) and a test question on the PRSA’s APR exam, which asks: Which comes first in PR planning “objective” or “research?” You’d be surprised how many PR pros get that wrong, but this guy got it right. I wondered, “Why?” My guess is that being marketed to throughout his life had taught him a thing or two. Combine that with a shrewd understanding of his own business and the ready availability of marketing/PR information on the Internet and you’ve got the makings of a fairly sophisticated small business client, one who knows his market, his competition and how to reach his audience. And he’s not alone in his request. A couple of months ago, the owner of a local private security firm, this time a Middle Eastern immigrant/entrepreneur, contacted me to develop a standard branding campaign—letter of introduction and follow up and brochure. He also needed to pare down his copy-heavy website and showed me an example of a competitor’s site that he hoped to emulate because it appealed to the clients he hoped to reach. This type of strategic planning—once the purview of elite marketing communications and PR folk at large agencies and corporations—has trickled down to small, local businesses (what used to be fondly called “mom ‘n pop shops”)  the way high-end luxury automobile features have trickled down to budget-friendly subcompacts. Like the buyers of subcompact cars, small local business clients want economically efficient branding and marketing communications that gets them where they need to go. PR and marcom pros should be prepared to haggle over the sticker price of communications services. Like subcompact buyers, these small, local business clients can’t or won’t pay the top dollar prices of their Mercedes Benz-communications counterparts, but will pay respectable hourly rates for services rendered.

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