Social Media for Small Biz and Emerging Markets

As a communications professional, small businesses, minority owned enterprises and emerging markets are my fan favorites to work. I really enjoy this area, because many developing markets, small businesses and as minority owned businesses have not yet harnessed or completely understood the full value of social media, public relations and/or community relations.

Many small businesses, artists, and developing economies are not aware of the power that they can wield using media to help accomplish their goals. Social Media is NOT a standalone tool, even if your product is content or media oriented. Many are not clear on how social media plays into their business or how good (and bad) press can be used to push your message

Social media, like any other media gives users the option of engaging in a variety of ways. You can create buzz, generate interest and even ride the wave of bad press to good outcomes if you employ the consultation of a skillful strategist. But unless you understand what social media can do for your business/project/nation or economy you will never truly benefit from it.

Its important to understand that hiring your nephew or a local friend to handle the social media may not be good enough. Remember, marketing is NOT the same thing as Public Relations and not every social media manager has a background in public relations/international relations or communications. There are nuances to getting things done, and hiring a professional sometimes needs to be done.

A professional that understands your market and community can help with overall strategy, orienting the public-facing staff and social media managers (yes, even you’re nephew if he’s administrating your social media pages). One mistake many executives and department heads makes when it comes to public relations and social media, is forgoing a professional because they can’t afford a full time public relations professional. But you don’t have to do that. You may not be able to hire a full time professional, but there are options!

I encourage you to have a professional on standby. Even if you cannot hire a full or part time professional, hire on a project basis or retainer. Schedule a few sessions to help you with messaging and a social media/public relations strategy that can be implemented across all channels and departments.

Having someone on deck who can help you navigate difficult PR situations and community relations issues is worth their hourly fee for a couple of days to complete the grant, get through the crisis or roll out the new productline.

Here are some tips on how to use a consultant PR agent/communications professional to your advantage:

#1. Do the Ground Work First. Get your questions together, have internal conversations with your staff, list the issues and problems. This saves time and money spent going back and forth with the consultant. Create a list of questions from staff. Have a clear idea of what you need, your challenges, the problem/crises, project/grant and goals. I recommend a minimum of 1-2 meetings with staff/executives before reaching out to the professional.

#2. Schedule a Call/Meeting. You will want to have a brief call with your executive staff and the professional first. This doesn’t have to be lengthy. Give the professional a synopsis about what is going on, your goals and negotiate fees. Once payment has been discussed, select a time when the consultant can meet or join a video call with the staff and executives and a final call with only the executives. Schedule as many meetings as you have negotiated or budgeted. When you have arrived at an agreement, it is a good idea to send over an outline of the meeting and what you wish discussed, who will be there and the time allotted.

#3 Follow Through With the Plan. Once you’ve got your recommendations, follow through with the plan. Be sure to keep an open line of communication with the consultant in case you have questions. If a training needs to take place, schedule for it. Get it done, and be sure to schedule a follow-up evaluation with the consultant three to six months later (earlier if it was a crisis event) to determine if you are implementing the plan correctly.

Keep a good relationship with your PR/Communications Consultant–so that should an incident arise and s/he is out of town, on vacation or some other contingency, he/she will be more likely to help you out in a pinch. It matters to have someone “on deck” should something arise. Plus a PR/Communications person who believes in your cause is more likely to negotiate salary, be patient with fees and even wait for grants, checks and payments to clear should you have liquidity issues or extenuating circumstances.

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