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An article for VARs (Value-Added Resellers) from VARBusiness Insider, Issue 36, January 19, 1998, a biweekly electronic newsletter from VARBusiness Magazine.

FYI: Public Relations and Publicity
Make Public Relations a Priority
From an article by Deidra-Ann Parrish

"It's too expensive." "We're not sophisticated enough for that yet." "It's just sending a bunch of stuff to people to tell them how great you are." "There's no way to cost justify it." Four VARs. Four opinions. Four fallacies.

Public relations is one of those ubiquitous yet misunderstood entities in the business world. But despite its negative reputation, most people agree that public relations can be a powerful tool in a competitive environment. By far, the most invaluable benefit of P.R. is that it tells customers who you are and what you're about.

Although public relations is not an asset you can list on your balance sheet to impress bankers, if used properly, it can eventually be translated as such. Ideally, public relations entails a continuous distribution of positive messages that convey who you are and what you do. Done well, it will gradually shape public opinion of your company and steer more business in your direction. So put aside your misconceptions and start take some tips on how to implement a smart P.R. strategy.

DEVELOP A STRUCTURED APPROACH. Many VARs participate in marketing activities supported by co-op dollars from their vendors, but only a handful of VARs say they actually have structured public relations efforts. Despite what you've heard, marketing and public relations are not the same thing, though they are related.

GET YOUR MATERIALS IN ORDER. Develop newsletters, press releases and media kits. They don't have to be all that elaborate to start, but they do need to be well-written and targeted. Invest some money in hiring a professional, at least to help you get things off the ground. Eventually, you may have enough business to merit hiring a full-time P.R. person.

TARGET YOUR LOCAL BUSINESS COMMUNITY. Participate in events where attendees have scheduled a focus on technology, or take the initiative to provide an agenda to a local business group. It costs little time to give demonstrations and/or impromptu consultations to attendees at these functions. Little, if any, selling is involved, and the practice will help you land some sizable accounts.

USE P.R. TO EXPAND YOUR BUSINESS REACH. Once you've gotten the word out locally, think bigger. Many VARs that start out with one office end up opening satellite offices as their businesses expand. And often, that success starts with references from satisfied local business customers.

STRESS YOUR INDIVIDUALITY. In crowded markets, a lot of the PR sounds the same. That's boring to the public, which wants more than generalities and canned sound bite. Shape your message in such a way that the public knows what your company is about and that it understands their needs.

For more exclusive advice on public relations, check out

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Source: VARBusiness Insider, Issue 36, January 19, 1998

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