Media Relations

Prove Your Dough: A Recipe for Small Businesses to Navigate Your Own Media Relations

By Afrika Nieves-Bentley on May 27, 2024

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An overhead view of someone baking.

This month, I want to reach small business owners so that my communications training can help you help yourself with media relations.

Think of the example of retail: when you’re running a mom-and-pop shop, it’s hard to make time for anything other than the daily grind. You’ve got suppliers making deliveries, people phoning you, customers to serve, and everyone needs your time right now. Maybe you manage to put holiday hours or special event posters up on social media, but that’s not enough in today’s media landscape.

Because I’m always trying to make life more delicious, I’ve prepared a special recipe to manage your media relations strategy.

Ingredients

1 oz of prevention. Just like you have to preheat the oven before putting a cake in there, your business must have a media relations strategy before you need it. Hopefully, your business will never need to do crisis relations, but shit happens. Draft a simple document highlighting your company’s guiding principles, mission statement if you have one, how long you’ve been in business and your company’s leadership. Having this basic information in hand will be good in a scenario such as speaking to a reporter or publishing a statement.

1 grain of salt. Media relations these days aren’t just about the mainstream media. They also encompass things like Google Maps reviews. No matter how good your reputation is with your customers, you can still be reviewed-bombed by people who just want to mess with you. Make it a habit to respond to positive reviews, respond respectfully to legitimate negative reviews, and ignore trolls. You can ask loyal customers to leave a positive review to drown out the trolls’ voices, but you have to take constructive criticism seriously.

The secret ingredient: word of mouth. I’ve been surprised about how much social media engagement my workplace’s channels get. It’s because my boss has cultivated a culture of outstanding rapport with the people who walk in the door. This has translated to better engagement on social media because people know there are real people behind the account. The boss herself doesn’t make any content, but because of the relationship-building she has done, the content we produce gets in front of the eyeballs we want.

Instructions

Step 1: Mix all ingredients with a daily dose of optimism and active listening.

Step 2: Fold in employee-friendly policies. Your employees can be your harshest critics or your best brand ambassadors. Make sure they feel appreciated, and they will draw customers to your business.

Step 3: In the unfortunate event of needing to do crisis communications, choose a company spokesperson early on and let that person be the face of the business. This should be someone in leadership—you don’t want to throw your subordinates under the bus. Make sure that person is aware of all the facts of the situation. Then, ensure they have a key message they can stick to so they don’t get distracted. 

I wish you many happy hours baking up great things! Running a business can feel like being yelled at by Gordon Ramsay, but with the right media relations, you’ll have more moments that feel like Bake Off. And that’s a lovely bake.

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