By Claire Cunningham - Director - Rockallwight PR
You don’t have to search and click very far online to find numerous blogs and consultancy reports about the challenges facing UK SMEs. Some are related to what’s likely to happen in 2018, for example the impact of predicted inflation rate rises. And we are all acutely aware that current economic uncertainty is increasing the pressure. SME leaders now have to manage the impact of that uncertainty with their staff, customers and stakeholders.
Other SME challenges are more perennial, such as the need to make customers aware of products, developing and launching new product lines, attracting and retaining skilled staff and customer acquisition and retention. Then there’s the basic need to deal with cash flow. With so much to juggle and many conflicting demands on their time, SME leaders don’t always have the luxury of thinking strategically about solutions that may help to grow the business.
Finding time for the big picture
Despite the daily demands of running a small business, carving out the time to take a ‘birds eye view’ and consider how new approaches may help to smooth the way and open up opportunities, is a valuable exercise. It could even unblock some of the problems that SMEs currently face and provide the momentum to get a business out of the doldrums and to the next level.
How can PR help?
Believe it or not, strong communications approaches underpin many of the solutions to some of the most common issues. For instance, on the face of it, it may not be obvious how PR support could help a company attract and retain skilled staff but let’s dig a little further below the surface….
Potential candidates, particularly millennial job seekers, are very keen to find out about the culture of a company before they join. Research has shown that those aged between 20-35 are more likely to pick and choose between employers and more hasty to move on if their expectations about a job are not met. If the research is correct, this means that the younger half of the UK workforce are less loyal than their older colleagues. These people are the future of your company, so keeping hold of them is a worthy goal.
A company’s culture is developed with the help of strong internal communications and communicated externally through its brand. With good PR support, it’s possible to work on these areas of your business and make it more desirable for skilled staff to join the company and to stay.
Best kept secret?
There’s a common refrain that I have heard often from SME leaders about customer awareness of their product. It’s the familiar concern that their product is “the UK’s best kept secret”.
Why do so many businesses say this is their problem, even though they put money into marketing budgets? It may be that given all of the conflicting demands on their time, their focus is elsewhere but often the solution lies in much clearer and targeted communication. This needs to deliver clear messages about their business, the product and themselves.
Clarity of message
Even the most high-tech products or services can be described in a clear straightforward way but so many times product descriptions and company narratives get lost in technicalities. This makes it difficult for customers and stakeholders to gain a quick understanding of the value and benefits of the product.
By seeking external PR support, SMEs can outsource the thinking and the work that needs to be done to implement good communications solutions, without the costs of hiring specialist communications staff.