ask the expert | dubunking fears and myths about PR & advertising

black coffee 150.jpg

Today we have a guest post from our PR/advertising expert partner: Nicole Leedham from Black Coffee Communications.

Welcome to my first blog post for build a little biz. I am very excited about demystifying public relations and advertising for small businesses. After all, I’m a small business myself and I too struggle with some aspects (bookkeeping anyone?).

So, I thought the best way to start would be to debunk some myths about PR and Advertising. Which, by the way, are two very different beasts.

Public Relations

Let’s talk about Public Relations first, and what it is not.

PR is not sending out a bucket load of media releases into the ether, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

Nor is it standing around in skimpy outfits in nightclubs handing out free samples.

And it is definitely not glamorous, or exciting.

Building relationships

What it is about is establishing relationships with stakeholders. This might include customers, media, licensing and regulatory agencies, suppliers, neighbours and more.

These relationships mean that when you do have something to say, people listen.

Let’s imagine, for example, that you have an online service that supports small businesses. Probably the best type of PR in that scenario is word-of-mouth (either on- or offline). A happy client will tell others about you.

Collect these testimonials and use them on your marketing material. Third-party endorsement is the best PR you can get.

As for media, you also need to do some research so you can target your news releases. There is no point sending out a general release to the general email address of the nearest metropolitan paper. They get thousands of these a day. You need to discover which journalist writes about small business and contact them personally.

And never underestimate the power of local media or trade journals. The former lap up stories of “local kid done good” and the latter is often crying out for decent content.

None of this has to be expensive - although if you are not a writer and want to prepare a press release, or submit an article, I suggest it is worth investing in someone who writes for a living and knows how to get your message across.

But if you have built a relationship with the journalist, getting the story printed will be a piece of cake. It’s the cultivation that takes time and effort.


Advertising is not (always) big bucks for mass media campaigns targeted at a broad audience.

Nor is it a guaranteed return on investment – especially if it is not done properly.

Advertising is about being clever with your marketing budget – and it is just one component of that budget (which might include sponsorship, flyers, trade show exhibitions and more).

Granted, the likes of Coke and McDonalds have more money to throw at mass media advertising than most of us will see in a lifetime, and they wouldn’t be doing that if they weren’t seeing results. But for small businesses, success can come far more cheaply.

Again, don’t underestimate the local rag. If you are, for example, a solo tradesman, or a cleaner, you will likely get a great response from a small, targeted classified advertisement in your neighbourhood throw-away.

In kind

Some smaller, niche publications also offer “in kind” advertising space. Maybe you have a service that you can “trade” to get your branding on someone else’s website or flyer?

Another great option is “pay-per-click” online advertising, where you don’t pay a cent unless a person “clicks” on your ad – and you can set a daily maximum.

While this is a very broad-brush post that hopefully makes PR and advertising less daunting to you, future articles will go into more details on specifics.

What questions do you have about PR and advertising for your little biz? Please comment below and I will answer the best I can. Your questions will help me with future blog posts so I would love to hear from you!  

Nicole Leeham is the owner of her own little biz: Black Coffee Communications. She specializes in helping small to medium businesses with writing, editing, marketing, public relations and media.

Ask a question about biz: one of our expert partners can help us find the answer for you!