Do SMEs Need Public Relations (PR)?


It is no secret: Public Relations (PR) is a cost-effective tool to garner publicity.

Bill Gates has often been quoted that he would spend his last dollar on public relations, and Sir Richard Branson’s sentiment that a good public relations story is more effective than a front page advertisement reflects the style of his businesses.

However, both business legends own some of the largest brand names in the world. And it does seem like public relations is a tool that can only be afforded by large corporations. So, are Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) able to invest or work on public relations?

The answer is a resounding yes! However, before jumping into the digital PR, content marketing, media release, press conference and all the public relations jargons, let’s take a step back and understand why SMEs need public relations and what it entails.

PR Creates a Compelling Story

PR is about creating and sharing a brand narrative that resonates with target audience. In order to develop a story about why a brand is interesting and why it deserves attention, first identify the areas of interest to the audience:

  1. History of company
  2. Founder / Founding journey
  3. Research / Technology
  4. Value / Philosophy

The logic is simple: No great storyteller can tell a story if there is none. If a company or brand is founded based on years of research to bring about better quality of life to the elderly, then that could be one of the many angles.

Bear in mind that a story must have a message, should be rich, and ideally chronicles a journey – one that depicts a triumph of human spirit, or a philosophy that underpins greater things to come.

PR Builds Credibility

Public relations is a long-term investment that builds brand awareness and fosters a relationship with stakeholders. Therefore, public relations must be built on brand values such as honesty, integrity and credibility.

It is critical to remember that a compelling brand story with positive brand values necessitates the foundation of favourable business reputation and image. Fundamentally, no amount of public relations can salvage a company that has questionable integrity.

Public outrage against companies such as Monsanto (1) and The Honest Company (2) founded by Jessica Alba are recent case studies. Closer to our shore, we have City Harvest Church (3) which continues to see dwindling attendance. The church’s reputation has been severely hit by Singapore’s largest religious scam involving the husband of Mandopop singer Sun Ho.


Public relations is a critical tool but not a magical one. It takes consistent long-term effort to build and maintain positive brand perception. Understanding why SMEs need public relations and what it entails is the first step to identifying the benefits PR provide to SMEs and what these small companies should do.

In Part 2 and 3 of the series, we share the benefits of PR and tell the story of building a compelling brand personality through the personification of friendship.