How Small Businesses Can Use Public Relations to Stand Out and Succeed – Mitch Leff (Part 2)

Today we welcome Mitch Leff of Leff and Associates back to the Atlanta Small Business Show. In our first interview with Mitch, we talked about public relations and its role in modern marketing. In this segment, we want to talk specifically about how small businesses use PR to help them stand out and succeed in a crowded marketplace. 


Jim Fitzpatrick: Today we welcome back Mitch Leff of Leff and Associates back to the Atlanta Small Business Show. In our first interview with Mitch, we talked about public relations and its role in modern marketing. In this segment, we want to talk specifically about how small businesses use PR to help them stand out and succeed in a crowded marketplace.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Mitch, welcome back to the Atlanta Small Business Show.

Mitch Leff: Thanks for having me. Great to be back.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, sure. So why should a small business focus on PR as part of their marketing effort?

Mitch Leff: Well, as a small business, it’s important to have a good business plan and the same way you budget for staff or equipment for manufacturing, you want to have that marketing part of it as well.

Mitch Leff: So public relations can really support your marketing and sales efforts and it’s not just, we talked in the last segment about earned media, getting stuff in the newspapers, being on television, but it’s also about networking. It’s about presence. It’s about being at the right trade shows and the right conferences.

Mitch Leff: We work with companies and help them create bylined articles that can go into trade publications or setup keynotes to go to trade shows and conferences and get in front of your customers.

Mitch Leff: So you want to understand who your audience is and how you can get in front of them to help raise awareness about who you are and sell your product or your service.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, it’s an essential part then of small businesses that start out, isn’t it? It’s not. We talked a little bit about is, you know the question came up is PR a luxury for a small business, but it seems not to be nowadays. It seems to be pretty much a staple that all businesses need to take a look at.

Mitch Leff: You have to. It’s, if you look at the numbers, there’s a huge percentage of small businesses that don’t last more than a year and an even smaller percentage that last past five years.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Mitch Leff: So if, you can have the greatest product in the world, but if you don’t have a plan to sell it and market it then you’re nothing. You can have, this coffee mug can be fantastic, but if no one knows why it’s fantastic or what it costs or where to buy it, then your business is not going to survive. You’re going to have a warehouse full of very nice looking coffee cups that you’ll bequeath to your descendants for generations to come.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, sure. I would imagine too, you hear so many people that want to get out in their industry, become what you hear about a thought leader and PR is a great way to get that word out, isn’t it? From the founder or the president of a small business.

Mitch Leff: We work with a lot of companies on that thought leadership part. Very often you have a product or a service, but you can’t necessarily be in the newspaper every day talking about your coffee cups.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Mitch Leff: But you can talk about ceramics, you can talk about the economics of it. You can talk about different facets of your business that show your expertise. And oh, by the way, I make coffee cups.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right, right. All roads lead …

Mitch Leff: All roads lead back to your coffee cup. So you need to have that thought leadership platform and that can flow through, as I said, earned media, your social media, your website. You can do blogs, go to trade shows and talk about your positioning.

Mitch Leff: There are many companies and many executives who create thought leadership platforms that don’t necessarily connect right to their business, but they could be related. If you’re a power company, you might have an environmental platform. Your CEO might be out there talking about the importance of clean energy and solar power that kind of thing.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure, sure. Well, you know, since the advent of the internet and the popularity of social media, how has that changed or contributed to public relations?

Mitch Leff: It’s created some more channels for us. So whereas before we might have been focused more on traditional television, radio, magazines, newspapers. Now we can also control the social media channels and create our own content that we can target more specifically.

Mitch Leff: And of course, Facebook allows you to be even more focused. You can boost your posts, so you can say, I want just people in Georgia or I want people in a certain demographic. So you can be very focused on who’s actually seeing your message.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right, right. What are, talk to us about some of the most common mistakes that people will make with their PR efforts.

Mitch Leff: Yeah, it’s interesting. I think the most common mistake I see very often is not having a clear message. So you have different people in the same company. They’re saying different things about what their company is and what they do.

Mitch Leff: So we always sit down with a client and we’ll say here’s, let us develop your message. So that the CEO, the VP, the sales people are all talking about the company in the same way and they’re emphasizing the same things. Really emphasizing the strengths of your product or your service that you want your audiences to understand.

Mitch Leff: There’s nothing worse than being at an event and you hear the CEO here talking about, this is the kind of company we are and you hear another executive over here saying something totally different and you wonder are these people with the same company? I don’t think they are.

Jim Fitzpatrick: How does that happen, right?

Mitch Leff: Yeah, so that’s very common. The other thing is not having a long term view, long term plans, and don’t necessarily think that public relations is going to sell 50,000 units of your product in three days.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Mitch Leff: Public relations will help you build awareness. It will support your other sales and marketing efforts, but no one tactic should be used in a vacuum.

Mitch Leff: The measurements are something you should think about, think about how you want to measure your results and it’s not always just how many products did I sell? It could be website traffic, it could be inbound calls, it could be how quickly your sales cycle changes.

Mitch Leff: Ideally, you know if you have a sales cycle that usually takes six months and you’re finding that because of your effective marketing, your sales cycle is decreasing to three months, then you’re going to be much more productive and much more profitable.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, the PR should definitely support the ad efforts and the ad efforts should coincide with the PR, right?

Mitch Leff: Absolutely, absolutely. And public relations people usually are not the advertising people and vice versa. There are some companies where they mix the two, but it is key that those two disciplines be in sync.

Mitch Leff: So if you’re doing an ad campaign, you can do public relations that supports that campaign and information about your ad campaign going to website, go out through social media, you talk about those messages.

Mitch Leff: So the key messages are the most important, that flows through everything and it might not sound verbatim like it’s the same message in an ad versus an interview.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Mitch Leff: But the thought gets across, the common theme gets across. So it’s consistent across presentations, across trade show presentations, across social media, across your advertising and across your earned media as well.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. Well, for those of you that are watching Mitch right now talk about this. If you’re interested, go to Mitch Leff and Associates because this guy is the guy in Atlanta that knows PR better than anyone, who’s got a million contacts so he can help small businesses here in Atlanta as well.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So Mitch, I want to thank you once again for joining us on the Atlanta Small Business Show. We very much appreciate it. I know our viewers get a lot out of it and we’d like to hear from you as well, so if you’ve got some comments or some questions, send them in and we’ll get Mitch to answer them as it relates to PR.

Mitch Leff: Very good.

Jim Fitzpatrick: All right. Well done.

Mitch Leff: Thanks for having me.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Thank you.