Tips on keeping a positive profile
Getting a good write up in the media - be it newspaper or online - can be positive for building brand awareness for your company but the trick is managing your public relations well.
PR experts say the key to making your voice heard above others in the increasingly crowded email inboxes of the nation's media is give them a reason to care.
While SME owners may put paying a PR agency in the "too expensive" basket, many New Zealand agencies are adapting their pricing structures and services to accommodate small operators.
But in the modern digital world there is also more scope for SME owners to manage some PR brand building themselves.
Leanne Frisbie, director of Auckland PR company Passion PR, said social media is an obvious example of one of the easiest ways for a business to promote its brand.
"If you can only afford to do one thing, make it social media. If you do it right and often, using all the channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and a blog, you can really drive interest in your business online.
"If you use each of those channels to tell a different story, it's pretty hard to saturate the market."
She said the best way to get your social media on target is to be a regular user yourself.
"Just put yourself in the environment and make sure you have a smartphone and a tablet. You need to use the tools social media users are using and be in the same environment."
But make sure you have a story to tell, or even better, many different stories, she said.
"It can often be the hardest thing for a business to do - recognise their own stories. It is often the difference an agency can make. They can come in and talk to you, and tease all the stories out of your business, and pitch them to the appropriate medium.
"You always need to keep going back with a different story. There are so many channels out there these days it's pretty hard to saturate an audience - unless you're just telling the same story over and over again to the same people, through the same medium. That's when people turn off," Frisbie said.
Wellington-based PR director Daniel Paul, of The PR Company agreed.
"Often a lot of the businesses that come to us haven't figured out the core business of why anyone should care about what they're doing.
"They are in love with their own product or service and they think everyone else will be too. But you need to give the media a reason to be interested in you," he said.
It's one of the key roles agencies can provide for new clients - asking a lot of questions and facilitating a discussion on what makes a business interesting and unique, Paul said.
Over the past six to eight months, Paul said The PR Company has seen an increase in approaches from SME owners looking for innovative ways to promote themselves, as opposed to the usual client base of large corporates and membership organisations.
And there seems to be an increasing willingness among PR companies to adapt their services to suit smaller businesses unable to afford vast fees.
"Traditionally PR is not that expensive, but there is scope to tailor options for smaller clients with small budgets. Often we can design a plan for a client and leave them to implement it.
"We'd catch up with once a month to see how they're going and assist where necessary. It becomes more of a mentor role," Paul said.
Meanwhile, Frisbie said the other key thing for SMEs new to PR to remember is not to expect miracles overnight, whether they go for an agency or go it alone.
"Often when we meet with a new client they want a quick fix, don't want to spend too much money and want to see an immediate increase in sales. It's just like anything. You get what you pay for.
"If you only want to invest a small amount of money over a short period of time, you'll get smaller results," she said.
"If you really want to build a brand story, and gain a high profile, and wider awareness, it is going to take some time."