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Traditional PR used to be one of the few ways — other than paid advertising — for a small business to get noticed. But increasingly, public relations means finding your own voice through traditional media channels, visibility in the community, and social media.

“Today, there are so many ways that you can get noticed that do not require going through mainstream media,” says David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules Of Marketing & PR. “You can create your own original content in a blog, or images, or videos. The whole world of public relations is open to us with the tools we have available.”

The first step, according to Scott, is to ask yourself, “How do I best reach my potential customers?” Start with the idea of who you are trying to reach and then figure out how you can understand and reach them.

Scott says keeping up with media requires a lifestyle change. “It can become … transformational to your business, but you can’t do it just by dabbling,” he says. “It takes time.”

Dr. Selina McGee, OD, of Precision Vision in Edmond, OK, gets this. “I could make PR my full time job, but who’d have time to see patients? Consistency is king. I am active and visible, even went so far as to participate in a local “Dancing with the Stars” — I was one of the stars. The PR game has to have a goal, and a consistent roadmap to get there, or you can wind up in the weeds with a lot of money spent.”

It’s also easy to get so wrapped up in social media and online reviews, that you forget your basic people skills. Take on social media with enthusiasm, but don’t do it at the expense of traditional media channels or of building relationships offline.

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“Local talk and referrals,” are where it’s at for Elevated Eyecare in Denver, CO, according to Heather Harrington. “Word of mouth has brought us more business and the most loyal patients we could ask for.”

In a nutshell, PR should be both your bullhorn and your buffer. As author Ed Zitron writes in This Is How You Pitch: How To Kick Ass In Your First Years of PR, you need both to get out the good news about your brand and to protect your reputation.

HOW TO EARN LOCAL MEDIA COVERAGE

Get to know local media representatives, says Lydia Baehr, a PR professional in Houston. “Remember, with PR, you can’t tell the media what you’d like them to say. They draw their own conclusions. The best thing to do is get to know them. If they can count on you to have a good story idea and you are easy to work with, they will get in touch with you.”

Becoming the eyecare authority in town has worked for Chicopee Eyecare in Chicopee, MA. “My partner and I are the go-to experts on eyecare,” shares Dr. David Momnie. “I was interviewed on a local morning TV show when we had the solar eclipse two years ago and I am one of twenty health care leaders asked to write an article about the next decade for healthcarenews.com (see “Vision 2020”).”

Dr. Adam Ramsey of Socialite Vision in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, is also no stranger to the TV cameras. “I have done a few TV news station spots over the years and they’ve interviewed me in store a few times as well. Most recently, when my billboard went viral and piqued their interest.”

Especially in small markets, the TV and print media are always on the lookout for stories that are positive and community-minded and once you get to know the reporters, it makes it easier to pitch story ideas. The best way to do that is to send out at least one press release per month and always be prepared to go on camera.

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HOW TO TACKLE REVIEW SITES

The time to prepare for a bad review is before you get one, Scott says. If you are regularly active and responsive on review sites, you can build a good reputation for customer service and create a following. “If you are reviewed on a particular review site, where you have zero positive reviews and a negative review comes up, that can affect you. But if you have a lot of positive reviews and a single negative review comes up, I think that’s a good thing. It shows that the reviews are real. If they are all positive it can be looked at as fake, as being too good to be true.”

“If you’ve done a good job online and somebody says something negative about you for whatever reason, others will come to your defense and say, ‘Oh, this person isn’t really like that,’ or ‘I love their products.’ That can only happen if you are already active and present on that network.”

If bolstering your number of reviews is task number one, take a cue from Bee Cave Vision Center in Bee Cave, TX: “We do a Google review sunglasses giveaway every quarter and it’s really increased our reviews,” shares Gayle Bergthold.

HOW TO PULL OFF A PR-WORTHY PROMOTION

Well attended, high-traffic events can be a business-building gold mine. Most places have some event that brings people and media out. To boost impact and lower costs, find businesses and vendors to partner with.

Golf draws impassioned supporters and Dr. Texas L. Smith of Dr. Texas L. Smith & Associates in Citrus Heights, CA, knew that when the PGA came to town he needed to be there. “I teamed with a local Lasik surgeon at a Senior PGA event and worked with Alcon to give away contact lens solutions,” he shares. “All the people that came to our booth wore contacts and many were interested in discussing Lasik surgery and what was new in contacts. I got new CL patients and co-managed those patients that got Lasik surgery.

“The ophthalmologist paid for the booth, Alcon supplied the solution, and I gave out eye charts with our name on them. It was a three day event with thousands of people paying several hundred dollars to attend. Many of them had vision insurance to cover their eyecare. It was successful beyond my wildest imagination. Best PR event I’ve ever created,” he concludes.

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INVISION’S Tips for Writing a Press Release

  1. Be yourself. Be real. Be honest.
  2. Explain who you are and what you do.
  3. Make it easy for the reporters. Include quotes and photos in case they aren’t able to do an interview.
  4. Include all the information — who, what, when, where, why — especially about events.
  5. Include a way to reach you directly.
  6. Spellcheck!
  7. If you’re not sure if it’s news, ask, so it won’t be mistaken as an advertising pitch.
  8. Follow up. If you say you can send additional information, do it, and do it quickly.
  9. PR is not as scary as it seems.
And make the most of advertising partnerships, too, to connect to editors. If you advertise regularly in any local papers, magazines or radio shows, ask your ad rep to arrange a meeting with editors and reporters in the style, health, and business departments. Let them know you can be a resource for information about shopping trends, retail, eyecare, health, entrepreneurship or small business.

10 TIPS FOR BOOSTING YOUR IMAGE WITH DIY PR

MAKE THE MOST OF 2020. 2020 is the year of vision and that right there is enough to hitch a media pitch to. No doubt that’s a reason otherwise PR-shy Modern Eyes in Austin, TX, has switched up their approach this year. “We usually do minimal PR but 2020 will be different,” offers Dr. Sonja Franklin. “We are participating in the Google Wellness Color Expo which spotlights minority-owned businesses and where we’ll get to market to Google employees.

WRITE A HELPFUL/FUNNY BLOG. “Business owners make the mistake of writing about their own products and services, but consumers are looking for information that’s going to help them or be funny or interesting,” says David Meerman Scott. Do blog, says author David Newman in DO IT MARKETING, because blogging is forever. A blog continues to sell your company and your value day after day and year after year.

USE REAL PEOPLE’S PHOTOS on your website, preferably happy clients, says David Meerman Scott, to give your site and your business authenticity.

RESPOND IN REAL TIME TO COMPLAINTS. Be prepared to respond immediately to customer complaints or feedback. “It used to be you had time to react, to respond slowly,” David Meerman Scott says. “Today, when someone says something, they expect a response RIGHT NOW, not tomorrow and not even this afternoon. If you are quick, you have an advantage.”

RESPOND TO REVIEWS. Listen and respond to everyone, says Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Local. If you see a negative post, rather than freak out or ignore it, react in the most constructive way possible. Respond publicly, indicating you are going to solve the problem privately. Remember it’s never too late to respond. If you have a lingering complaint you initially ignored, go back and answer it NOW and do your best to resolve it. Most visitors to Yelp or Google won’t even notice the gap in time between complaint and response.

GO AFTER THE KIDS. “We live in a community with four high schools, so we do our best to participate in as MANY things as possible,” says Dr. Cynthia Sayers of EyeShop Optical Center in Lewis Center, OH. “Yearbook ads, sponsorships for sports teams, little league, local parades, etc. When the parents see your brand over and over and know you support their kids it makes you someone they refer to friends.”

PARTICIPATE IN ALREADY HIGH PROFILE EVENTS. The best strategy is to become active in your community,” insists Pam Housley of Texas State Optical of Nederland in Port Arthur, TX. Participate in health fairs. Work with your local Chamber of Commerce. Run or Walk in support of fund raising efforts.” And of course, make sure the entire team is wearing matching shirts, jackets or hats (all three even) with the name of the business clear and easy to read. For the modest investment in gear the ROI in visibility is immeasurable.

FIND PARTNERS. It is never too late. That’s the lesson Jennifer Leuzzi of Mill Creek Optical, in Dansville, NY, learned with last summer’s event “Wine Glasses and Eyeglasses” after 23 years in business. “We are adjoined to a small coffee shop and she made treats and let me use her tables to set up three companies to display trunk show style. It was an overwhelming success and everyone had a blast,” she reports. “We heard about it for weeks after and had people stop by saying they heard about it and want to be invited next time. It was a great injection of excitement to our store and a nice boost of revenue.”

THINK OF SOCIAL MEDIA LIKE A COCKTAIL PARTY, says author David Meerman Scott. “Do you go into a cocktail party and ask every single person you meet for a business card before you agree to speak with them? Do you try to meet every single person, or do you have a few great conversations? Are you helpful, providing valuable information to people with no expectation of getting something in return?

PROMOTE GOOD PRESS ON YOUR WEBSITE. A website is not like a business card. Websites are organic and need to constantly be updated, Baehr says. “Share the links of the press you do get. Have a press room on your website, to which you can refer journalists or bloggers looking for images that are ready to go. Invest in great photography.”

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].

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Sponsored by Shamir

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for life improvement, fashion, performance sports, occupational single vision, and progressive lenses. Our values, the driving force behind our ideas and actions, keep the ECP in the center. Every Shamir representative is personally committed to our customers’ vision, and to providing the best service and support to meet and exceed their expectations, all with a personal touch.

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