Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Negative Publicity & Bad Press: Coping as a Small Business



negative publicity
With limited resources, small business owners face the unique challenges of avoiding bad press coverage and handling negative publicity. These challenges can seem daunting, but managing them isn’t as hard as you think.

Preparing ahead of time makes all the difference when limiting bad press. Simple steps can be taken to lower your risk of receiving undesirable media attention. In this day and age social media gives everybody a voice, and even the smallest businesses are likely to receive negative publicity. Learning how to deal with this is critical to your livelihood and longevity.
 

Bad Press


negative publicityFake news. We’ve seen a lot of it lately, and for a small company it can be absolutely devastating. When it comes to bad press coverage, being ahead of the curve is crucial. Having a policy in place for social media usage is key. Training your employees in media relations is necessary. Every employee has a voice that can negatively or positively impact your business.

Be forward thinking. Instead of allowing bad press to occur, generate your own good press. Go into the community and present what your business has to offer. Share the positive and progressive values which you represent. 

Word of mouth is also a great resource for small businesses with a limited marketing budget. The idea here is to turn your customers into brand ambassadors who will promote your brand to their networks. 

Negative Publicity

 

negative publicity
Whoever came up with the saying “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” probably wasn’t a small business owner. Large firms like Volkswagen or United Airlines have faced a boatload of negative publicity recently. And they’ve been able to bounce back from this with relative ease due to their extensive customer service and marketing budgets. Small companies simply do not have these luxuries, and must use alternative, more cost effective methods to cope with negative publicity.

Used well, social media can be a primary tool for representing your company and responding to customer complaints. Today, over 81% of Americans have a social media presence. This is an over 3x increase from ten years ago, and this huge market can be tapped for little to no cost. Spreading your message through social media content or low-cost paid ads are proactive ways to generate good publicity. However, as a business owner you’re likely to face some sort of backlash online. Knowing how to deal with this is very important.

Be Responsive

 

negative publicityWhen it comes to responding to negative publicity on social media, you must learn how to distinguish genuine criticism and complaints from trolls trying to get a reaction. If the issue is not very serious no response is necessary, but that doesn’t mean not responding is the best option. Not responding won’t actively bring negative publicity to your company, but negative comments from customers can spread like a wildfire online. And speaking of fire, you don’t want to start a flame war with a customer. If you’re going to respond be decisive, transparent, and have the customer’s interests in mind first and foremost. Your response to it is a great opportunity to show the world what your company’s really about.

As a business owner, bad press and publicity can be difficult. Being prepared and knowing how to respond is essential in order to avoid a PR nightmare. 

For more information about dealing with bad press and negative social media experiences, contact Spotlight Publicity for a free consultation today.

We love your feedback and comments- please share your experiences with positive and negative publicity in the comments below.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Small Business Survival During Tough Times

food truck
Every company goes through rough times now and then - it's a fact of a credit-based economy. Small business survival during tough times depends on staying focused, making informed and logical decisions and staying creative within the bounds of your business plan. Whether the issue is receding cash flow, staffing issues or a spate of bad business choices, remaining calm and patient will see you through to better times.

To succeed, review the following best practices and take the appropriate steps. An adjustment here and a change of habit there can do a world of good, as long as you focus on the future when making short terms decisions.

Be Patient


patience
Positive change doesn't happen over night, just as negative trends in your market don't last forever. Before making any adjustments to your business strategy, ensure that they are required. Sometimes, forces beyond your control are at play and will soon pass. Be calm and collected in order to analyze the situation before taking steps to correct it.

Speak with employees, advisors and peers in the community to gain a larger picture of the situation. Should you determine change is required, make them methodically and consciously. Know how they will effect your business not only in the present, but in the future. Don't make decisions that will come back to haunt you such as selling vital infrastructure or reducing hiring requirements.

Strive For New Business


networking
All solid business plans call for the regular acquisition of new clients, but in tough times small business survival often means generating new revenue on a stepped-up scale. Look to professional networking opportunities, referrals and old-fashioned foot work to revitalize your bottom line. Tough times means getting out there and making things happen- don't sit back with crossed fingers hoping luck will save your company. Small business survival means going out and doing the work.
Look to these types of organizations for much needed connections:
  • Local Chamber of Commerce- Hosts various events to showcase local businesses and often sponsors networking events to support local member businesses.
  • BNI - Business Networking International is a large, formalized and international membership group driven to help it's members succeed.
  • Meetup.com- An online social networking platform designed to bring group meetings together based on common threads.
  • Google it- Quite simply, a Google search for networking events in your area could turn up a hundred or more gatherings, sponsored by a wide variety of players in your community. Everything from industry-specific meetings to affiliation events are at your fingertips with only a few strokes of the keyboard.
  • One on One Meetings- What's stopping you from networking on a small scale with those in your business park, office or town? 
Remember- with networking, commonalities are what make connections.

Social Media & Small Business Survival


social media
Staying relevant in your sector means staying relevant with your customers. Though they may not require your services daily or even monthly, keeping your brand in front of them is critical. Revisit your social media strategy to continue to provide quality information and opportunities for your customers. Don't slack off. If the concept is new to your small business, consider having a reliable social media guide on hand to assist.

Social media posts should be a mix of 1/3 sales pitch, 1/3 niche news and 1/3 pertinent content such as videos and articles- share news articles your clients would find useful or entertaining. Post updates on your products. Sponsor contests. Engage with your feedback and take steps to adjust as your clients needs change. Stay on top of what your demographic needs and you will foster an audience that is receptive to direct marketing- coupons, sales alerts and promotions. Give your clients a reason to follow you.

Use LinkedIn to write original blog articles about your industry and share relevant posts with your audience. There is a caveat, however- LinkedIn isn't a place to advertise directly for business. Instead, it's a place where your expertise is on view. If you are providing value to an audience on LinkedIn, you will see business resulting from your activity.

As a general rule, keep your social media pages and your website up to date. A weekly review of what information you have available would be a chance to provide the latest news or events to attract customers. Your accounts are living netizens in a sense. Make sure they act like it.

Outside the Small Business Box Thinking

 

big fish little pond
Look to the micro-economy for ways to incorporate sales volume into your business. No two businesses are alike, and reaching out to those in your niche to cross promote products and services can help breath new life into your business plan.

Keep an eye out for businesses that aren't in direct competition with you and schedule a meeting. Be straight forward and keep mutual benefits in mind- these connections have customers who need the services and goods you provide, while existing customers may benefit from your new relationships.

It's time to work hard and keep an eye on the future. For more information, or to schedule your free consultation, contact us at Spotlight Publicity.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

5 Terrible Pieces of Business Advice

Business adviceHindsight is 20/20. Who could have predicted in 2000 that bigger wasn't always better when AOL and Time Warner agreed to merge the two largest media companies in the world? Against even skeptical business advice at the time, it went through. 

The deal became the poster-child of disastrous business mistakes with the collapse of Dot.com bubble and the introduction of high speed internet. $100 Billion in stock value was erased almost overnight due to a near-complete loss of advertising dollars.

Dial-up was dead and so were the hopes of a New Age media revolution.

BUSINESS ADVICE 101

 

It can be tempting to place too much stock in advice given from your peers. What worked for them could possibly work for you. What seems like a 'no-brainer' most likely will turn out to be exactly that - a solution that has no merit in intelligent decision making. To understand how business works, you must realize the uniquely individual circumstances of your own success. There is never a magic bullet that solves every issue, and there's no common path to positive growth.

To this end, here are five pieces of free business advice that should never be followed blindly. 

After all, you get what you pay for.

THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT

 

business adviceIn 1985, the Coca Cola Company revealed it's re-formulated soft drink 'New Coke,' after a mistaken belief that the youth of America demanded a sweeter, more syrupy taste in their soft drink. Market research had shown that Pepsi, which had that taste, was quickly gaining shares and the folks at Coke were nervous. 

It is no secret that the experiment failed, and New Coke was removed from shelves after only three months. The outrage from loyal customers was unexpected as sales plummeted. What Coke thought was what the customers wanted was completely off base.

Satisfying customer needs is important, but it is not the final answer to business success. Though a common piece of business advice, it does not take into account the damage caused by re-branding to meet a poorly conceptualized market demand. The customer is not always right.

For small businesses, a daily issue is bowing to every customer who demands a discount. They insist the know what will make them satisfied, and often money is the only solution to their issue. This can be harmful as well. Take each request for a price adjustment in stride and balance the options. Each pacification hits your bottom line.

A customer does not take into account your profit margin when demanding a 'break,' and does not have the inside track on the maintenance of your bottom line. Instead of providing a dollar discount, perhaps counter their demand with an upgrade or perk to please them.

NEVER TURN DOWN A PAYING CUSTOMER 

 

Believe it or not, there can be a thing as too much business. For small businesses, there exists a saturation point where too many customers means a decrease in quality of services. Limited employees means a finite ability to provide quality service, and taking on more than you can handle decreases the quality for existing customers.

A decrease in service is noticeable, and a small business can soon discover their customers are leaving in droves to a competitor who can satisfy their needs.

To combat this, know the limitations of your service and focus on giving the highest quality you can. Your existing customers will appreciate it and remain loyal.

YOU MUST SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY

 

It would be great to have the latest technology, the newest model of delivery vans and a top of the line insurance plan for your employees. But by depleting your cash reserves or extending your credit line can turn disastrous quickly.

business adviceIn 2005, News Corp Billionaire Rupert Murdoch wanted to add to his empire and spent $850 Million to purchase the social networking site, MySpace. The concept was clear - monetize the insanely popular website by introducing advertising to its platform.

Instead of clicking on the advertising, users of MySpace flocked in droves to Facebook, an upstart, add-free alternative with a more user-friendly approach. 

Murdoch lost a fortune, selling the company for a paltry $35 Million and tweeting, "We screwed up in every possible way, learned lots of valuable expensive lessons." 

The lesson here is to not be in such a rush to make a buck.

HIRE THE MOST EXPERIENCED PEOPLE

 

It's often noted that there's no substitute for experience, but that isn't always the case. Experienced personnel may know how to perform in the manner the business is accustomed to, but their fault is they often don't have the ability to step outside of the box and provide new concepts.

The world is constantly changing and to keep up, a small business must be prepared to change with it. By hiring employees who are eager, young and ready to learn, a company can expect to be inundated with fresh ideas to broaden its horizons. A millennial with a briefcase filled with unique proposals can do more with one idea than an experienced salesman with a Rolodex stuffed with old contacts.

STICK TO YOUR PLAN

 

Business plans are living documents, meaning that they should be adjusted to fit the direction your business is heading. Sometimes, the unexpected opportunity arises outside of your plan's spectrum, and you must jump on it to succeed. 

Business AdviceAs business advice goes, this one can surely do the most damage. Keep on top of developments in your field, have operational funds earmarked for the unexpected opportunity and always be open minded. 

In 1974, Kodak engineer Steve Sasson developed a way to translate photographic images into binary code. This was the birth of digital photography.

Though the Research and Development branch of Kodak invested billions of dollars in its development, a conservative cadre in the upper echelons of the company stalled the technology's release in fear of losing a profitable edge in traditional film and paper photography.

When the company finally got on-board with digital in the late 1990s, it was too late to capitalize. 50,000 employees were laid off and the company filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

When the opportunity arises to change for the better, take it.

TAKE BUSINESS ADVICE SERIOUSLY

 

The next time you attend a networking event or find yourself chatting over a cup of coffee, be conscious of the business advice being shared. It may not be detrimental, but blindly taking advice without looking at the possible impact can be damaging to a small business. Weigh out the pros and cons, and at the very least, get a second opinion.

What's some of the worst business advice you've ever received? We want to know, so leave your comments below.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Why Bother? Resolutions vs. Goals



Ah… New Year’s. A time for resolutions.  New diet, workout more, get up earlier, get more sleep, stop smoking, be a better mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son. Go to church more. On and on we go. How many times have you set one and abandoned it after one or two months?

I say phooey.
sharing education

This is the first year I have not set one resolution, and you know what? I feel great.

It’s January 6th and I have not disappointed myself yet.

This is liberating.


It’s not that I don’t have goals. I have big goals for this year. Goals are different than resolutions. Increase client relations. Network more. Build clientele. Grow business. Expand services.

Also eat healthier.

So what’s the difference between a goal and a resolution? A resolution means that if I eat mac and cheese tonight I blew it. And then I’m off track, and then why bother? Because I already blew my resolution. A goal means if I eat healthy 5 ½ days a week, why can’t I eat some ridiculous mac and cheese? Why can’t I have a steak?  

I can, and I will. It’s all about balance.

fall red
According to Forbes, only about 8% of people achieve their resolutions. Why is this?

Setting unrealistic resolutions is the number one cause of failure, which leads one to feel badly about themselves. Why do we do this year after year?

A goal is different. Losing 10 pounds over six months is different than a resolution of abandoning donuts and cookies and hitting the gym everyday before work.

A goal is eating healthy, but also enjoying indulgences once in awhile.

A goal is looking at the finish line as in the future, not for today.

Tip:
  • Have an accountability buddy. If you plan on a Tuesday and Thursday gym date with your buddy after work you are far likelier to show up.
  • Want to write that book? Have a friend who will check in on you and see if you reached your weekly goal of pages written.
  • Make a plan. Want to move to a new state?  Just saying it won’t get you there. Get a journal and map out the road to your success.
  • Want to launch that business you’ve been dreaming about? You need a roadmap. 
You get the idea.

New Year’s Day does not have to be the day to launch a new change. Any day can be the day to make small steps towards achieving your goal.

Are you thinking of an artistic endeavor? A business growth? The launch of a new product?

We can help you map out a path of success that will get you there.

scrable yesSpotlight Publicity is a family owned, small business that understands the nature of the struggle to be the Big Fish in the Small Pond. Founded in 2002, we have helped numerous artists, authors, small and medium-sized businesses, educational institutions, non-profits, entrepreneurs and others to find their path, set goals, and achieve them.

Learn more about us here:


Here’s to achieving your goals in 2017!