Why your SME needs PR just as much as the big boys – if not more


Small Business Saturday has just been and gone on December 2 and as campaigns go, this one is pretty genius, writes Lucy Stephens.

Invented by the mighty marketing minds at American Express back in the far-off reaches of 2010 – and supported by another big hitter, BT – Small Business Saturday is a fantastic example of a campaign that does exactly what it says on the tin.

Largely fuelled by social media, the idea behind the campaign is to give a voice to small businesses everywhere, highlighting everything from the high street sweet shop, the one-man band and the niche manufacturer innovating brilliantly from pocket-sized premises.

Because of the simplicity of its title, Small Business Saturday’s messages can be harnessed by a wide variety of people including owners themselves, but also customers wishing to tell the world how they love to shop local – and their favourite places to go.

It’s a great arena for politicians, too, who may use the day as a hook to highlight and – with any luck – find some solutions to issues faced by hard-working SME heads: the challenges of VAT registration, for example, or what grants may be available to help firms continue to grow while grappling with soaring energy and food costs.

READ MORE: Our Lucy shares tips on how to make sure your Christmas content sparkles

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – then-Chancellor – chats with residents in Yorkshire during Small Business Saturday. Image: Small Business Saturday

The campaign is not just about highlighting and championing these millions of companies, but also shining a light on the challenges they face, the successes they enjoy, and the impact they make.

Because make no mistake, small businesses do have a huge impact.

According to The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), at the start of 2023 nearly ALL (99.2%) of the UK’s total business population were in fact officially Small to Medium Sized Enterprises, or SMEs for short.

Not just that, SMEs are providing around three fifths of employment in the UK and around half of the private sector’s turnover.

We Brits traditionally love to champion the underdog, and it seems our SMEs really are punching above their weight, playing a big role in the UK economy, and in all our lives, too.

It’s easy for SMEs to feel that when it comes to engaging with PR and shouting about their services, they won’t stand a chance of having a voice in the media. After all, expert voices commenting on the radio or being featured in the news belong to CEOs of huge companies, right? What chance does a smaller business have of being heard, and surely the story of your SME is not nearly so interesting as that of a major international success story anyway?

But that’s exactly where anyone who thinks along these lines would be wrong, because the stories of SMEs are always worth hearing, and there is definitely demand for their voices in the media. In fact, one might go so far as to say that in many ways, SMEs are at an advantage when it comes to PR over the big boys. Here are a few reasons why:

1 – It’s all about the story

As highlighted by Simon Burch’s blog last week on the power of storytelling we humans just love a story. According to Simon, it taps deep into our campfire origins when we exchanged stories with one another over the flickering flames. I always knew there was a reason why there’s nothing so much fun as a good gossip!

The story behind any small business is always worth tapping into. For one thing, many of us will already know the origin tale behind major global companies: the bitter feud between the brothers who founded Adidas and Puma being one example that springs to mind.

The story of your business is not old news like theirs; it’s a nugget waiting to be unearthed. Who are your founders? Why did they start up? What need did they see and why? Many people won’t see the stories under their noses until some PR professional such as a team member at Penguin PR asks these questions, to elicit the answer, “Well, it’s a funny story actually … “

2 – Nimble reactions

One of the major benefits of small businesses over your big juggernauts is the ability to react fast to breaking news, such as budget announcements or other Government legislation that may affect millions of people in different ways. A major strand of our work is getting people not just into print but on the airwaves too, and the best way to do this is for your PR team to pick up the phone to our contacts on TV and radio and offer up a perfect ‘expert voice’ who is willing to put their head above the parapet and offer an opinion.

Working with major corporations makes it much harder to do this – the bigger the company gets, the more people tend to be involved in any decision, and the harder it becomes to move fast. Your SME owner can be nimble and react fast to changes, to their advantage.

3 – Local shops for local people

Yes, The League of Gentleman’s take on shopping local might have been genius, but the fact is people really do actually buy into the ‘shop local’ message in this country. For small businesses, this is a huge weapon in their armoury. We do like to buy local in the UK and despite difficulties in competing with big Internet providers, the benefits of personal, friendly service that’s available on an actual street rather than over the screen are not to be under-estimated. Losing our Great British High Street is a real threat to our country, not just because it would mean losing business and jobs, but because a smile and a wave in a shop is a huge connection for many of us who are living alone. We lose it in favour of convenience at our peril.  

So with all that in mind, don’t think PR is not for you if you’re a smaller business. Your story is just waiting to be told! Contact us now or pop into our office for a cuppa and chat.

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