Thursday, October 31, 2002

Reaching the image oriented

Q: BusinessWeek just identified Apria's board as one of the best in the country. The AARC just gave Apria's director of respiratory services the most prestigious award in the market. How do I compete against that?

A: Large companies certainly have the advantage of being recognized as leaders in their industry and have the opportunity to engage in significant public relations activities. As the owner or manager of a smaller company, it is important to assess the important of these "image" activities in your market. The first question that I would ask is, "is it important to your customers that your name be in the newspaper?" If it is important to them, then they may very well be image-oriented customers. Image customers are attracted to companies that have a strong brand name and reputation. They seek out the credibility that is associated with public relations activities such as those Apria has developed. About a third of customers are interested in image activities in general. If these are important, then you can certainly stir up your own public relations activities by getting your name on local TV, radio shows and newspapers. One idea is to create a "news desk" for home medical services. Contact the local media and let them know you will answer questions about homecare services. Create a story for them to publish and stay in contact with them. If you can't write, bring in a writer or public relations firm to help you with these efforts. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and the louder you squeak, the more attention your company will get.

Alison Cherney is president of Cherney & Associates in Brentwood, Tenn. Reach her at (615) 776-3399.