One of the most rewarding things I do is act as a mentor to young entrepreneurs.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of them over the years, coaching them and helping them learn the ins-and-outs of running a small business.
It’s an exciting time, but also a challenging one. They never have a shortage of ideas, but they definitely have a chronic shortage of cash and networking contacts to draw on for work and information. In many cases, they’re simply tossing themselves in the water to see if they can swim, and PR is either seen as an afterthought or something too ambitious to consider.
It was a familiar tune to Lee de Lang, a Toronto-based film professional. Five years ago, when the city’s movie production scene began to dry up, Mr. De Lang decided to start his own video production company, Flashframe Digital Media. The field is very competitive, and like other creative roles – writers, photographers, graphic designers – success hinges on constantly hustling for work and getting client referrals.
Mr. De Lang took a slow but steady approach to promotion. He worked his network of friends and family, many of whom worked in Toronto’s media and public relations industry. He began to get work filming videos for them, and made a point of stopping by the office, and getting his name and face out there. Flashframe had virtually no money for advertising, so the company made an effort early on to drive word of mouth. The site contains client testimonials, plus easy links to Twitter, Facebook and – most important, given their expertise – YouTube.
Word spread, and work began to come more steadily. Flashframe continued to focus on organic growth and to take care of the little things, such as sending gift baskets to clients and always pushing the boundaries of creativity, giving clients more than they expected.
The slow-and-steady approach paid off. Today Flashframe employs five people, and the company plans to expand the focus of the business in the years ahead.
It’s easy to look at public relations once there’s cash in the bank and major products and services to talk about. But it’s important to emphasize promoting yourself at every stage of your evolution, even at the very beginning. Step back and think of ways to get your customers talking about you – as one successful entrepreneur I know often says, “aim to surprise and delight – give them what they didn’t know they were looking for.” Take care of the small things – send follow-up thank-yous, share a key learning, and don’t be afraid to ask existing clients if any of their friends or colleagues is looking for help.
Slow and steady may not seem like a lot early on, but like saving for retirement, hang in there and it can pay off big for those who are patient.
Special to the Globe and Mail
Mia Wedgbury is president of the Canadian region for Fleishman-Hillard Canada and its sister company, High Road Communications. With more than two decades of experience in creating and growing award-winning communications agencies, she is focused on fostering the overarching vision for the Canadian market. Her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle. She works in partnership with her clients, some of the most innovative and well-respected companies in the country, to build brands, mitigate risk and shape communications strategies that drive measurable results. Ms. Wedgbury is known as an innovator, an advocate of career opportunities for women and a dedicated supporter of the technology industry.