Business Success Strategies Q&A with Sakita Holley: Jumpstarting PR for Your Small Business

By at 10 February, 2014, 6:36 pm

Effective public relations (PR) is important to the sustainability and growth of most small businesses.  A smart and targeted PR strategy will help build your business brand; allow customers to know you exist; and drive traffic to your storefront, website or place of business.  But for resource and time-constrained entrepreneurs, developing and implementing a PR/media strategy may get overlooked or sidelined once the day-to-day grind of running a business takes over.  It shouldn’t, because PR is a cost-effective tool. And the Internet provides the entrepreneur with new and innovative approaches to creating a PR strategy, and engaging with the media and customers.

Sakita Holley is founder and CEO of House of Success.

Sakita Holley is founder and CEO of House of Success, a lifestyle PR and branding firm.  Sakita says it “takes years to become an overnight success.”  She encourages entrepreneurs to become their “own media outlet” to accelerate growth and traction in the marketplace.

With social media and blogs, for example, the small business owner has better hands-on control to build brand recognition and product/service differentiation.  It is important that the entrepreneur have a thoughtful approach for using social media along with a plan for media outreach and general communications.  For advice on these important PR and branding topics, SBE Council turned to a successful and seasoned expert in this dynamic area.

In this edition of Business Success Strategies Q&A, SBE Council president & CEO Karen Kerrigan interviews Sakita Holley, founder and CEO of House of Success, a NY-based lifestyle PR and branding firm. Holley is also the editor of the PR lifestyle blog Hashtags + Stilettos. Prior to launching House of Success, Sakita held various roles on account teams at Prudential Financial, Ogilvy PR Worldwide, Jade Dressler Communications, The Britto Agency and national non-profit Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Holley took the time out of her busy schedule to share her sage advice and tips.

KERRIGANA public relations and media strategy is often overlooked or discounted when a startup entrepreneurs or small business owner develops or fine-tunes their business plan. Why is it important that an entrepreneur develop such a plan?

HOLLEY: When entrepreneurs are prioritizing their business goals, public relations and marketing are often at the bottom of the list; which is a huge mistake. In many industries, barriers to entry and access to the necessary resources needed to start a business are low, which means that there is a lot of noise in the marketplace and a lot of competition.  Having a strategic and proactive PR and media plan can help you stand out in the crowd. Entrepreneurs can no longer subscribe to the “If I build it they will come,” mindset. If they do, they won’t be in business very long.

KERRIGAN:  For most entrepreneurs and small businesses, resources are limited for hiring a PR professional or devoting to media. That being the case, what should business owners think about in terms of taking on this responsibility themselves, and doing it effectively?  

HOLLEY:  Great question. Business owners should leverage available resources like their own website/blog, social media, employees and existing customers to get their story out.

If local media isn’t interested in covering your business (yet), there’s no reason why you can’t write the feature story you want to see and post it on your blog and social media. Be your own media outlet. Highlight and empower employees and existing customers because these are your best brand ambassadors.

Make relationships with the reporters who cover your industry or region and send them relevant, timely and newsworthy information about your business (Note: creating 10 new jobs is more newsworthy than promoting an executive or adding one new person to your team; know the difference and reporters will love you).

KERRIGAN:  For the startup, what are some effective and time-efficient PR approaches for generating interest in their business?

HOLLEY:  Read every single publication and website that you want your business to be featured in. Learn to spot the type of features or sections that appear each month. If you have a relevant pitch that fits into that real estate, contact the reporter. Or, if there’s something interesting (not just to you, but something that would be interesting to a wider audience) send reporters a heads-up (i.e. product launches, events, etc).

KERRIGAN:  What are your key tips for small business owners who take the DIY approach?

HOLLEY:  One of the most important things for entrepreneurs to realize is that it takes years to become an overnight success. If you’re taking the DIY (do-it-yourself) PR approach, you need to commit to investing the time it takes to build relationships with media and other influencers. Take the time to communicate your vision for the business and the story of what makes you unique.

KERRIGAN:  Is there an underutilized approach or strategy that you suggest small business owners take advantage of?

HOLLEY:  I think many business owners underestimate the value of thought leadership and the work it takes to become an authority in your industry. The disconnect has to do with an unwillingness to talk about other businesses or products that you’re essentially competing against. It’s great that you’re an expert on your company, but to become a respected industry authority you have to be willing to talk about other people/brands.

You can use blogging/content creation, speaking gigs and appearances, and social media to become a thought leader in your field.

KERRIGAN: Many business owners are confused by social media, or skeptical as to its ROI for their business.  What advice can you give these entrepreneurs?

HOLLEY:  Again, overnight success is rare. The same goes for social media. Focus on building your following one by one. Value and engage with the followers that you have today and maybe they’ll spread the word about your business.

Think about how you can add value to your social media audience. Don’t just share content about your business. Use humor (when it’s appropriate) and give your social media brand accounts a clear “voice.” And customize content for each platform. What resonates on Instagram might not work so well on Twitter or Facebook.

KERRIGAN:  How should a small business owner gauge the effectiveness of their PR strategy?

HOLLEY:  A PR strategy should be closely aligned with business goals. A good way to gauge if your strategy is effective is to look at whether or not you’re accomplishing the goals that you’ve set.  It’s that simple.

KERRIGAN:  At what point should a small business owner decide to hire his or her own PR firm? 

HOLLEY:  It can take between 3-6 months for a PR campaign to gain traction, so it’s important to have a budget that covers at least 6 months of retainer fees. You should also wait until you have a great product and a great story.

To learn more about Sakita Holley and her services visit House of Success. She is also the editor of the PR lifestyle blog Hashtags + Stilettos.  You can follow her on Twitter @MissSuccess.

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