Keys to Successful Community Relations
It’s a familiar situation for all of us: You walk into what you could have sworn was a brand new pizza joint or coffee shop in your area, ask the friendly person behind the counter how long they’ve been open and, much to your surprise, they respond with something like “Oh, about 6 months ago.” How did that happen? You swear the sign wasn’t even up last week!
That common occurrence is also a PR professional’s worst nightmare. How can you avoid this when you are either supporting your client entering a new market or you yourself are opening a brick-and-mortar in a new community? The answer is: Community relations!
It is important to make sure the PR strategy around you new opening is about more than just media placements. As a franchise PR agency, we support many different openings throughout the nation—sometimes in new markets and other times opening a 2nd or 3rd location to support the demand in the area. To successfully enter into these markets, you need to embed each brand into key parts of the local community and raise awareness. Here are my tips, based on many successfully executed community relations strategies, on how to make sure your Grand Opening doesn’t get lost in the news cycle.
- LinkedIn, Facebook, MeetUp, Instagram, and Google are your best friends. These tools will help you to find influential groups and people in the community. It is important to look at your target market and find people that would be the perfect fit.
- LinkedIn is a great resource when you are looking for professionals to invite to your opening—you can find the exact individuals that will be your future regulars.
- Facebook and MeetUp are great tools when searching for influential groups in the area (ex: you can find young adult groups that would love to host happy hours in your new location).
- Instagram is a great way to connect with influencers, and Konnect’s social team can provide you with tons of tips for finding the perfect, effective influencer for your brand.
- Finally, Google—your resource for everything. Don’t know other companies in the area—search google. Looking for young adult sports teams—search google. Utilize the information that your community provides and pinpoint groups/people that would be your customer or partner.
- WIIFM (What’s in it for me? Or them?) When reaching out to different groups, remember you are a stranger calling from a company—don’t be a telemarketer. Make things personal—ask for the right individual if you are unsure—introduce yourself immediately and be FRIENDLY. It is always beneficial to lead with how they can benefit from joining your celebration—do they get freebies (always a bonus)? How long is the event? Can they bring friends? Connect with them and personalize each invitation to attract them for what they need (ex: For the sports team leader, your location is the perfect place for a soccer team to have team parties).
- Call, Email, Snail Mail, Carrier Pigeons, Owls, Morse Code—Just follow up. We live in a busy world and people are constantly on the go. They may have expressed interest on the phone or in your first email, but since then they have had three nights of sleep, an important meeting or a crisis that took precedence over your Grand Opening celebration. Follow up to get the confirmation they will join—a phone call can go a long way as emails sometimes get lost in the spam folder. Then follow up before the celebration to remind them of the date and time and let your attendees know how excited you are to meet them! This is the first impression of the brand—make it a lasting one that will make the community not only come back but partner with you in the future as well.
- Be flexible—so you were able to connect with your dream community partner, but they are unable to meet you at your Grand Opening celebration? IT IS OKAY! Keep an open mind and invite them to experience the location during a time that works best for them—remember this is about embedding yourself into the community, not just finding that next customer. If they cannot make it to you, go meet them! Get that connection so you can show the community why you are so passionate about your company.
These are a few tricks that I have used to secure different community partnerships, event attendees and/or future meetings as a publicist in Los Angeles. The biggest tip is to be confident and personable. Now go get ’em!