The history and practice of public relations has earned the profession a rather ironic reputation. Although it was first recognized as profession in the late 1800s, the term public relations was not popularized until World War I when propaganda writers, such as Edward Bernays, began referring to themselves as “public relations counselors.” The practice of “spinning” negative events to improve public opinion --particularly in the case of politicians-- gave rise to nicknames, such as spin doctors or spinmeisters.

You might be thinking, “Why do I need PR? My company isn’t even big enough to have a corporate scandal.” Despite their reputation, most PR consultants never have to run damage control. The main goal of PR is to help a company promote and maintain a positive public image.

Advertising is pretty much an everyday part of life in America. Ad companies are constantly bombarding consumers with ads telling them to wear this, buy that, drink this… It is difficult enough for a small business to get noticed over its competitors, let alone having to vie for consumer attention against the multi-million dollar campaigns of major corporations. PR provides you with a different outlet to draw a consumer attention. A good PR firm will get you into the public view and help you to develop your company’s image.

It may seem expensive to set work with a firm to run a PR campaign, but pricing can be pretty reasonable. Unless you plan on moving into corporate scandal sometime soon, your small business does not need to hire a firm on full time. They can work with you on a campaign basis, which is usually most effective if you have an event of some kind coming up.

A small business is better off employing the services of a local PR firm. The cost is much less and your money will stretch further with a small firm. You are just another small-time client to a big firm, but you are going to get more attention with a firm that has fewer clients. Not to mention, a local firm is more in tune with community events and likely has connections with a local media outlets.

While PR may not be a substitute for a good ad campaign, it does function well in coordination with your advertising efforts. It improves your company’s ethos and contributes to your role as a member of the community. Local businesses may be having a hard time, but it helps likely customers to associate a physical person with the company.