Ep. 50: Why Public Relations Matter

Learn about public relations for your business.

Accidents happen, we make missteps, sometimes our brands are tarnished. So how do we prepare for the inevitable and mitigate impact? Indya ‘Icy’ Wright, the Founder and CEO of Artiste House, a PR firm that prioritizes diversity, inclusivity, and representation, has some answers. According to Wright, “all we can do is try to minimize the results of what happened, rectify it, and if things go well, move forward.”

In this episode you’ll hear:

(02:35) How do you figure out what your story is?

(05:22) How do you determine which issues to take a stance on publicly?

(07:52) You never know when a crisis will strike, how do you prepare?

(08:27) After a crisis, how do you deal with the potential loss of business?


1 - Your story is one of the most important assets you have. Make sure you know what it is. Then create your content around what you have to say. We connect with the people behind the brand, so don’t be shy.

2 - Before you invest in public relations (PR), know what your goals are. If it’s improving invisibility, say yes to as many opportunities as you can. One of the few exceptions is if the offering brand’s values doesn’t align with your own. Another is creating controversy for attention’s sake.

3 - Being true to yourself and your brand will help you decide when and if you want to take a  vocal stand on issues. Tap into who you want to serve and what matters most to you.

4 - If you find yourself in the middle of a PR nightmare, bring in crisis management. You’ll need to assess impact, take accountability and most importantly, outline actionable steps toward preventing the same thing from happening again. Another smart step is having a crisis management plan in place before you need it.

5 - PR crises are inevitable. No matter how well loved you are or how careful you are, missteps happen. Plan for it. And remember, the customers who stick with you through the hard times are the ones who are truly invested in you and your brand. Once you know who they are, you can focus your messaging to them.

Episode Transcript


Andrea Marquez: Whether you're just starting your business or you're well into your entrepreneurial journey, one thing's for sure: your public image matters. But how do you build and maintain that? If you're not sure how to manage your brand's public relations, or PR, then this episode is for you.

I'm Andrea Marquez, and this is Small Business, a podcast brought to you by Amazon. Today, we'll be talking about PR, how to get started and things to keep in mind for you and your business.


Indya Wright: When you think of smaller businesses or even just different nonprofits, they can invest in a public-relations agency nine times out of ten, and then the work that they're doing gets ignored and then they can't raise funds for the important causes that they serve. And so I love being able to provide that service, a quality service, but prioritizing the people that otherwise get ignored.


Andrea Marquez: That's Indya Wright, the founder and CEO of Artiste House, a PR firm that prioritizes diversity, inclusivity and representation. Indya has been working in PR since she was just 14 years old.


Indya Wright: Being a DC native, I was in something called the Summer Youth Employment Program, so I've got to see firsthand creatives doing their projects, advocates doing their projects... I've always been in this field and didn't realize it.


Andrea Marquez: Indya eventually worked in banking and the legal sector, but those early experiences stayed with her.


Indya Wright: And while in my free time I was amplifying the work people were doing, I never considered that something that could be a career for me. But I finally had this random aha moment after quitting my job at the Superior Court. Like, “Okay, what next?” Because I had no backup plan, no money saved at all. My first thought was to tell my story.


Andrea Marquez: And two weeks after quitting her job, she ended up in Chicago, telling her story to Mark Cuban and Steve Harvey on Steve Harvey Show.


Indya Wright: They gave me a seed of a thousand dollars with the caveat that this money has to go towards your dream, and honestly, I did not know what my dream was, what my thing was, and so I just went back to doing what I did best in my free time: amplifying people. But what happened from that public exposure was that people that had the budget to invest found me, hired me to help tell their stories, and so that's honestly how my company was born.


Andrea Marquez: So Indya knows from experience how important PR is, because telling her story is how she managed to start her own business. But before you can get your story out there, first you need to figure out what your story is and incorporate it into your brand.


Indya Wright: Everything you do, consider the story you want to tell, and that's going to reflect in the content you share online, where your product or service is available, the people you serve. That all ties to the story of your brand. When you think about PR, what I find is a lot of small businesses think, “Oh, I'm not there yet. I don't have the sales. I don't have the client base. I don't have this. I don't have that.” All this imposter syndrome kicks in. But the reality is it really, truly is about the story, and more often than not, people are more interested in the people behind the brand than the brand itself. It's less about the product or service, more about the person and the mission, and I feel like that's across the board. Any industry, any brand, any goal. Who are you serving? Why are you serving them? I feel like that's the hook that makes things newsworthy.


Andrea Marquez: Once you've answered these questions, Indya says that the first thing you should focus on when you're trying to amplify your brand story is building community.


Indya Wright: They become your biggest supporters, your audience, your fan base. They continue to help amplify the news that you generate for yourself. So I definitely think any business, any size, big or small, should start with community-building and nurturing their desired audience.


Andrea Marquez: Indya also says that you need to consider what your goals are before you invest in PR. And if your goal, like most small businesses, is to make sure everyone knows who you are, then you need to say yes to as many opportunities as you can.


Indya Wright: I feel like in the beginning, the more visibility, the better. The one exception to that is if that brand's values completely are not aligned with your own. Then it makes sense to not want to introduce yourself to their audience. But if it's just a random preference thing, “I don't think my audience is here,” you never know who may take interest in your brand, in your product. There's different facets to everyone.


Andrea Marquez: And there's one more reason to say no to an opportunity.


Indya Wright: There are some PR agencies that believe in using scandal to get the community talking. Personally, in my career, I would never advise a client to do that. I do not believe all press is good press. I prioritize the mission and the importance of what they do.


Andrea Marquez: I think it's so important that Indya pointed that out, so I'll say it again: not all press is good press. Visibility is important, but you need to make sure that you're reaching the right audience. Indya talked about how storytelling and community- building are important. People connect to the story behind the brand, and we see that when customers get upset if their favorite brand doesn't comment on an issue that they feel is important. So how do you figure out when to enter a conversation? Indya says that it all depends on how your brand is positioned.


Indya Wright: So if it's a situation where you're just being true to yourself, true to your brand, and you've been mission-based at the onset of creating this brand, it's not out of place for you to be vocal. So I think it depends on what means most to you. Is it about being accessible to everyone, or are you not afraid to niche down and really tap into who you want to serve and what matters most to you?

So, for example, let's say it's a major bank, a bank that serves clients nationally, globally. They may want to stay out of the conversation. They may want to stay quiet. It really has nothing to do with the clients they serve, the work that they do. But there may be, let's say, a small minority-owned bank whose community is impacted by something happening in the world. It may be important for them to be vocal about it because the people they serve may be waiting to hear from them.


Andrea Marquez: And if you end up with a PR nightmare on your hands, that's when you turn to crisis management.


Indya Wright: The first step would be assessing the impact, what was said, and then taking accountability for that. And then also the biggest piece to crisis management that puts clients, customers, viewers, at ease: you always have to outline actionable steps that you will take going forward, because an apology is just words. People want to see how you're going to prevent something like this from happening going forward. You have to be vocal. You have to display actionable steps. Otherwise, people will feel like you're not taking the crisis seriously, and it really hurts public trust.


Andrea Marquez: So assess the impact, take accountability, and lay out actionable steps to show your customers that this won't happen again. But that's a lot harder than it sounds, especially if you need to address a crisis as quickly as possible. So Indya says that having a crisis-management plan before a crisis happens is essential, no matter how big or small your business is.


Indya Wright: Who do we contact when crisis strikes? Who's going to be the front-facing spokesperson when crisis strikes? Who's going to approve the messaging to make sure we're all in agreement? And how soon do we respond to this crisis? The best course of action is to stay ready so you don't have to get ready. Have a crisis plan. Even if you're at a place in your career where you can't invest in full-time public relations, or crisis management, you can reach out to a PR firm to say, “Hey, we would like help developing a crisis-management plan just in case so that we have this.” That's another affordable option as well.


Andrea Marquez: Do you think every crisis can be navigated? Because I think about this a lot when I'm on social media. I'm like, “What can they do?”


Indya Wright: All you can do is mitigate impact. Unfortunately, even the best of professionals in the communication space, we cannot completely prevent or protect people from crisis. All we can do is try to minimize the results of what happened, rectify it, and if things go well, move forward. That's the result of good crisis management. It's reflecting, adapting, and potentially moving forward.


Andrea Marquez: I know hearing this is scary, that it's impossible to get it right, but the plus side is that staying true to your values can be good for business.


Indya Wright: There's never going to be a perfect answer, a perfect solution for anything. There never will be. And I think honestly, there's peace in realizing that that's okay, because when you potentially lose part of your audience or potentially lose clients or lose supporters, they weren't aligned with you and your brand. And I think the key to being profitable, the key to building brand awareness, the key to getting out there, is making sure people that are really invested in you and what you're doing find you. And I think by weeding out those that aren't, it makes it easier for you to really hone in on the messaging for your audience.


Andrea Marquez: That was Indya Wright, the founder and CEO of Artiste House. Ending on a positive note, even though I hope none of us have to go through a PR crisis, I feel a little more comfortable knowing what steps I should take in case that happens.

We covered a lot in this episode. If you missed anything, don't worry. We've taken notes for you. You can find them at smallbusiness. amazon/ podcasts. That's it for this episode of This Is Small Business, brought to You by Amazon.  

Make sure to subscribe and tell your friends about us by sending them a link to this episode, and please, please, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It's easier if you do it through your phone. Or send us an email at thisissmallbusiness@ amazon. com.

Until next time, I'm your host, Andrea Marquez. Hasta luego, and thanks for listening. This is Small Business is brought to you by Amazon, with technical and story production by Jar Audio.



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