Small businesses often underestimate the power of public relations. In fact, most small business owners do not see the point in investing in a public relations team. Since small companies operate on tight budgets, investing in a public relations department and resources is regarded as an unnecessary burden. Overlooking the potential of public relations, however, can turn out to be a costly mistake for small businesses.
Increased competition has made it imperative for small businesses to focus on highlighting their strengths and achieve competitive advantage. Ruining public image is, therefore, not an option for them. Yet, PR disasters are not uncommon and there are several instances where small businesses have lost customers because of a lackadaisical approach to their public image.
Here are some examples to show how poor public image can destroy business.
Ignoring Customer Complaints
In the age of social media, customers are empowered to not only voice their opinion but also turn the tide of public opinion against businesses. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter allow users to express and share their views with millions of people all over the world.
So if a business fails to respond to a customer complaint on time, the customer can go online, post damaging updates about the company and spread negative word-of-mouth.
Lacking a Well-Defined Social Media Strategy
Popularity of social networking sites has made it imperative for businesses to pay close attention to them. Most businesses today have a Facebook page and a legitimate Twitter account to connect with customers. Without a proper social media strategy, however, PR disasters are just waiting to happen.
Businesses need to know what they should share with their target audience. Confidential information, for instance, should never be shared with anyone outside the company. Likewise, maintaining no control over who can share information can lead to public embarrassment.
Responding to Negative Criticism with Aggression
Arrogance on social networking platforms does not go unnoticed. Yet, companies lacking a solid PR strategy end up putting off their customers with brash answers. For example instead of responding to a customer query with patience and humility, many companies have adopted a rather aggressive approach that has backfired for them.
Businesses must also realize that conversations go viral easily these days and a bad example can forever tarnish their image in the market.
Promoting Products at the Wrong Time
Striking a chord with the target audience is a big challenge for all businesses. Customers believe in companies that have a humane approach to their job and the challenge lies in adopting a more compassionate approach to business. Things can go horribly wrong when businesses lose their connection with the target audience as they fail to look beyond numbers.
Launching a product at the time of a natural calamity or a disaster, for example, can easily cause a major PR disaster. Likewise, promotional messaging that ties up with an ongoing crisis can cause massive uproar.
Making a Promise and Not Fulfilling It
For any small business, every customer counts. Further, every customer expects the business to honor its promises. Yet in a bid to attract more customers, many small businesses make promises that they cannot fulfill later. In fact in some cases, businesses end up pointing at the fine prints to avoid honoring their commitments.
Businesses that do not fulfill their promises are seen as unreliable partners. They lose business faster and the PR debacle ensures potential customers stay away.
A well-defined PR strategy is more important for small businesses that operate on limited budgets and depend on each and every customer to stay profitable. Without the right PR strategy, small companies can easily lose business to competition.
It is, therefore, essential for small business owners to take the long view and integrate PR into their operations.