Friend and colleague, Lynette Viviani, President of Viviani Associates PR, has counciled many medium and large-sized businesses on how to navigate some tricky PR waters.  She recently offered this great advice on how to play to your strengths and look for new business opportunities in some unlikely places.   I suggest that anyone interested in supplementing their degree in business take a look at her advice:

1) Recognize your value:  Working for one client for an extended period of time tends to dilute the client’s– and your own — perception of the value of your services. What one client learns to take for granted, other clients in related industries will love to have and will consider very valuable. I heard Mika Brzezinski make this point about knowing your value in an interview about her new book, “All Things at Once,” in which she discusses getting fired. It is so true.

2) Stick to your knitting:   Concentrate your business development efforts in industries that you know well and in which you offer value that differentiates you from the new kids on the block. Stay tuned into your target industries and on top of all the news. Be a news hound in general because all industries today are inter-related. Keeping up with trends is critical.

3) Look for problems and offer solutions:   I landed one big client because I saw the company being portrayed in an extremely negative light in my local newspaper. I sent the story and a note about how I could help directly to the CEO. I continued to follow the issue over the following weeks and continued to offer assistance. One day I got a call from that CEO’s communications manager that the local team wanted to meet me.  We had the meeting and then nothing. Then, about a month later, the company had a crisis in the Midwest and the CEO said, “Let’s call that PR lady who sent me those emails.” That was nearly three years ago and I have been handling media relations and crisis management for this company ever since.

4) Offer free samples:   The key to online and in-person communications these days is to share information. Give free advice and the recipients who value it will come back for more on a paying basis. Example, Vertical Response, one of the big email marketing companies like Constant Contact, has offered to promote customers who will give away sample services. I’ve volunteered to research, write and pitch a news release and will be featured in the company’s July newsletter.

5) Use “we” not “you”:   When you approach a new business prospect, discuss his or her issues in the first person. Say what “we” can do to reach “our” goals — not what “you” can do to reach “your” customers and achieve “your” goals. Talk as if you already have the client and that you’re already a member of the team. It’s the philosophy put forth in “The Secret” a book that was big about three years ago but that I just got around to reading last month. See where you want to be and act like you’re already there!

Lynette will be  a panelist on the upcoming WCBS Small Business Breakfast on March 25, 2010 in Mahwah, NJ.  Click here for details.