President & Founder of Mekky Media Relations, a boutique PR agency based in Chicago with clients nationwide, delivering powerful publicity.
When I launched my public relations business six years ago, I had one pro bono client and no staff. As a new entrepreneur, I knew I had to grow the business—and fast—if I had any hope of making it through that challenging first year. But my options for promoting my young agency were limited. I certainly didn’t have an advertising budget.
What I did have, though, turned out to be just as valuable, if not more: a large social media network and the ability to introduce Mekky Media to friends and followers far and wide—for free!
So I stepped up my social media outreach, strategically utilizing my presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to explain why I branched out on my own and how my new agency was uniquely positioned to deliver powerful PR. I outlined my expertise and background and shared my beliefs about the power of good PR. In time, I was also able to post successes in promoting that first client and the others that started to sign on. I took the approach of being real, authentic and honest.
Little by little, friends, colleagues and even strangers began to take note of my growing agency. Potential clients started reaching out because they saw my posts or heard good things from someone who did.
Admittedly, my social media marketing was relatively rudimentary back then. But I believe the authentic nature of the posts was enough to call attention to the results the company was achieving and provide the much-needed boost that took my business to the next level.
Whenever I talk to new entrepreneurs, I strongly recommend they devote time to creatively utilizing their social media real estate to help build their business. It’s a valuable asset yet often overlooked. And it’s especially important for anyone trying to get a business off the ground with meager resources. I don’t know where my agency would be today if I didn’t have social media channels to spread the word.
Today, we take a more targeted and sophisticated approach. I’ve invested in strategic partners to help us build innovative content. My team works with these pros to create compelling social media for our company. I also focus on online personal branding for myself. This emphasis on my own outreach shows clients they can trust me, and it also has elevated my presence as a PR expert and thought leader on topics ranging from leadership to public speaking to being a cancer survivor.
I like to put my team front and center on the agency’s social media channels, featuring them and the high-quality work they do. Of course, not everyone is comfortable having a strong online presence, and that’s fine. We’ve given team members the option of volunteering to become “Mekky Media ambassadors” with responsibility for producing content.
But does all this post just add to the noise, or does it make a real, measurable difference? I believe there are enormous business benefits to incorporating social media into marketing plans. Not only was this essential in my agency’s early days, but smart and frequent outreach has helped put us on a successful trajectory—even during the pandemic. We’ve doubled our team and client list, have achieved record-breaking revenue and reached the milestone of becoming a seven-figure business.
I attribute much of this success to social media, whether we’re using it to tell my story and leadership journey, share impressive contributions of the team, demonstrate agency strengths or share client successes. Many new clients who reach out have heard about us from our posts and stories.
This doesn’t mean all social media is a good thing. More posting is not always beneficial. It has to be done the right way, with a strategic timeline and engaging messaging and images. That’s why I recommend working with a professional who knows how to craft posts to connect with the audience.
It’s especially important for businesses to feature their team and use professional photography to do this. We periodically hold an all-team photo shoot. We’ve done these at the office, on the steps of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, next to Lake Michigan and, most recently, at a loft studio (as part of our sixth-anniversary celebration). The results have been amazing. We use the group and individual shots for social media, our website, new business presentations and more.
Photo shoots require an investment. I’m sometimes asked why we spend the time and money on them. I believe they’re important to the livelihood of the company. To stand out among the competition, we must continually put ourselves out there and show how we’re different and what we bring to the table. This is important for any business that wants to become better known in the marketplace and attracts the attention of potential future customers. In addition, our shoots have been fun team-building experiences, which can be just as important as the business benefits.
So whether you’re a leader just starting out or looking to take your established business to the next level, don’t forget about social media. It might be your best, most cost-effective way to find and reach people who need to hear your message in order for your business to grow and thrive.
Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?