Small Businesses and Public Relations: It's a Little Different

Today, most students in public relations (PR) aim towards working at a PR firm in a big city. As someone who grew up in a small town, I have never been comfortable with the idea of living in the city. It’s loud, crowded and the cost of living is expensive; especially for recent college graduates. Throughout my college career, I’ve realized that no one talks about PR in small businesses. That’s understandable; I have yet to meet someone else who plans on working as a PR professional for a small-scale company after college. This blog is to show you how working for a small business is different, but just as important.

I come from a small town in southern Virginia. During the summer, I work at a family-run company that sells canoes and kayaks. The business, Appomattox River Company (ARC), is very small with less than 15 employees. But, it has grown into one of the largest distributors of quality boats in the country.

Working for such a small business has helped me build relationships with my coworkers with a lot of ease. Although this is very much possible in a firm or corporation setting, it may be more difficult with a larger team of employees.

Corporations are another issue; there are so many problems today. That’s not to say that all corporations are bad, though. They aren’t. But it’s important to consider that their main goal is to make as much money as possible. This can be tempting for people to unethically make a profit.

It is true that small businesses want to make money, too. It’s the only way a business will be successful, no matter the size. Typically, though, small companies have other goals to achieve. ARC’s goal, for example, is to introduce people to the paddling sport with safe and reliable equipment.

On the other hand, doing PR for small businesses can be challenging. Most of ARC’s customers are the older men in their 50’s and above, who typically don’t habitually use social media. This is very problematic, as ARC’s biggest buyers are unable to stay up to date with special events or sales. Plus, the people who do follow our social media (women and young adults) are not being acknowledged as a part of our audience. As a result, this could imply that ARC and the paddling sport are not inclusive.

This is why I was given the task of blog-writing for ARC this past summer. The idea was, if ARC’s followers on social media saw someone young displaying knowledge of the paddling sport, then it would spark interest in other women and young adults. So far, my blogs have increased traffic on ARC’s website and social media.

Another challenge with PR in small businesses is the lack of a team to carry out multiple tasks at once. At ARC, there are two of us who work on the company’s image. That’s only when I’m there working during the summer, however. While I’m away at school, the manager is the only one left to write blogs, social media posts, organize special events, and the other issues that arise unexpectedly. This is a lot for two people, let alone just one.

Overall, PR is extremely important, whether it’s from firms, corporations or small businesses. It helps people find innovative methods of reaching out to their target audiences in order to create a good reputation for themselves. Many times, however, PR in small businesses is severely overshadowed by PR firms and corporations. It’s important for us all to understand and acknowledge the work that goes into it and appreciate the people who work through the many challenges of the industry.

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