So, let’s say you’re a business owner – a relatively new one at that. You’ve come up with this great product or service that you can’t wait to spread the word about. You may have even hired a PR firm to help you out. And yet, your business is still anything but booming.
While you’re thinking of new ideas, you think of the phrase about networking: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” So now you’re browsing the Internet looking for local events to network with like-minded people. But after hours and hours of looking you realize that attending all, if any, of these events could play a huge factor in your expense report; and right now you’re likely not in a position to spend big on anything non-business related.
So, now what?
If marketing and public relations is best achieved from a relationship approach, then your potential clients need to know who you really are. What better way to connect with them than doing some community relations? That is, community relations (CR) is just the way your business interacts with the environment you work in.
Believe it or not, community relations is one of the easiest ways for you to promote yourself. It lets your potential customers know that you care about the things they do as opposed to just selling to them. By dedicating your time to the community, you start to build trust with others and make a name for yourself as being people-oriented.
Please note, however, that it’s just not enough to attend volunteer events just to show your face – you have to be down with the cause! That means you have to be genuinely interested in the community work you choose to do. For instance, if you participate in a community clean-up event, but are afraid to get down-and-dirty with the other volunteers, they will notice your actions and may feel uncomfortable working with you. In other words, they’ll question your character and you won’t have the trust from them that it takes to build your business; and you know what they say about trust!
If you’re looking for low-cost ways to get involved in your community, here are just a few ideas:
- Coach a youth sport – If you work well with kids, you’ll leave a lasting impression with parents.
- Community cleanup days – Interact with the area’s most passionate citizens and get a sense for what the community wants.
- Join a committee – Get to know the most influential people and offer your ideas to an organization in need.
- Mentor those who aspire to do what you do – Remember, even you had to start somewhere.
- Offer a free sample, demo, or presentation of what you do – Some people have to see it to believe it – nothing wrong with a little show-and-tell!
At the end of the day everything is brought in full-circle. Just as you had to put in some elbow grease to get your business started, you have to do the same to promote yourself. People don’t buy what you do, but rather why you do it. And what better way to show them why you’re in business than by getting involved with your community?
Just make sure you have fun doing it along the way!