If there’s one resolution a small business should make as we round the corner on 2015, it should be to create a PR strategy – that is, if they haven’t already realized the benefits of a solid public relations plan. For those small businesses that understand how PR fits into their business model, the benefits – and the payback – can be immense.

Here are seven reasons a PR strategy is smart business for small companies.

1. Credibility

Getting a favorable mention of your business in the media holds far more value than a paid advertisement because it has more credibility with the public. Nielsen’s 2015 Global Trust in Advertising poll showed that earned sources – including word of mouth, customer testimonials or editorial content such as newspaper editorials and articles – are more trusted than branded/owned vehicles such as ads. Press releases, press tours and other publicity-generating PR events help fuel editorial coverage and shape public opinion.

Most Trusted Ad Formats Infographic

Of course, not every company story lends itself to a media pitch. A seasoned PR team will help sift through ideas to filter out the duds and focus on the most compelling stories, those that will grab media interest and reach. And if a media pitch isn’t the way to go for a certain story or angle, your PR strategy can help you navigate to the right channels and the audience you should target.

2. Control

Providing the story to the media means more control over the message. Ideally, a media outlet will run your press release verbatim, but even if you can’t control a reporter’s final version of the story, you have more influence if their starting point is your press release. Further, a PR agency has relationships and experience with the local news media and can help you gauge potential risks, should any exist, and can help you target the right media outlets.

3. Crisis management

A good PR plan isn’t just about generating positive news coverage involving your company. It’s also about avoiding and being prepared to handle bad publicity. Being ready with a plan before disaster strikes can save valuable time and face in the event of a crisis. Whether it’s a credit card breach leaking customers’ sensitive information, an environmental or employment-related scandal, a food-borne illness outbreak, a lawsuit filed against your small business – your public relations strategy can help position a small business for the best possible outcome in a bad situation.

4. Exposure

People have a lot competing for their attention these days. Public relations offers another way to reach them, another channel to build awareness and create a positive image. It can be leveraged and supplement your other marketing efforts.

5. Staying power

In the digital age, news stories no longer have a shelf life. Their visibility on search engines doesn’t decline as time passes; instead, articles continue to gain exposure over time as they’re linked by other sources, whether in a newer article, a blog post, a Yelp review or elsewhere.

6. SEO benefits

Making sure positive stories are told (both in earned and owned media, and across social media networks), that your messaging is consistent and that your content is timely and relevant will keep your organization higher up in search engine rankings, bringing more customers and driving more business growth.

7. Value

Because small businesses might not have access to the financial resources and large advertising budgets that big companies do, PR offers more bang for your buck. Establishing the right public image and communicating it via the news media is a cost-effective route to raising awareness and improving the perception of your business. Editorial coverage in particular can come at no cost to you, and it can greatly enhance and supplement marketing you’re doing elsewhere.

Bill Gates famously said, “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.” Gates understood the value of a good PR strategy, which is that it offers a cost-effective means to increasing your long-term profit.

Do you have a PR plan that you can rely on? Learn more about award-winning public relations services.