No doubt about it, word of mouth is still the best public relations tool going. However, the millennial advancements of social media and the web are by far the best bang for your buck when crafting a PR plan. PR stands for Public Relations and as a small business owner if you’re not engaging in social media or using the many free to low-cost services offered on the web, you’re doing yourself a terrible disservice. There are truly a multitude of easy do-it-yourself PR tools available. First, you can promote your business starting with your local newspaper. Nowadays, most people read their news online and business owners have many options to use on-line media outlets including posting events, photos, or videos in the Events section. Most on-line news outlets offer this service free of charge. And when your content is posted, you or your customers can share it using social media. You could also write your own news articles and many local news website will post your story with links to social media (so the reader can comment or share). Second, depending on your type of business, it is wise to explore which social media platform is best for your business. To keep your brand in the spotlight, you can use a variety of #hash tags (formerly known as the pound-sign) that are “trending” in your business world. Also, Twitter is snappy, fast-paced and with rapid-fire responses it can gain you a lot of attention. However, a Facebook page is the most practical way to interface with customers. You can use #hash tags in Facebook, which has so many features that many businesses are using it to serve as their web page rather than owning a separate web site. And not being on Facebook is like not being in the Yellow Pages back in the day. Third, there’s power in personal networking. In the age of social media networking, don’t lose sight of mastering the art of working a room. U.S. News and World Report Money suggest personal networking as an opportunity for you to sell yourself in a genuine way that leaves a lasting impression. With this in mind, join an online “Meet-Up” group specific to your area of business. From personal to professional, at www.meetup.com, groups are located in over 45,000 cities spread across the United States and have attracted over 15 million people. Joining a Meet Up group that caters to your line of business is a great way to grow your customer base because you can connect with like-minded people. Finally, another PR marketing tool to keep your customers engaged is to use an email service that also promotes social media engagement, such as Constant Contact, I-Contact, or Vertical Response. Many offer free do-it-yourself eBlast templates that allow small business owners to use their brand assets. If your customer list grows, you might incur a nominal fee (i.e. $19.00 per 1,000 emails) but it is worth it to connect directly with your customers. The rewards are plentiful when you gain sales or your customers recognize your brand and share it with their circle of friends and colleagues. Using these services, you can regularly offer specials or launch new products, and all of them offer options to link to your social media accounts. Customers, who receive your eBlast, may “get social” and share it. When thinking about PR, keep in mind the power of social media and web-based promotions is something to consistently include in your marketing planning.
In February 2014, Cortez was appointed to the Board of Trustees of William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ. She also serves on the boards of the Workforce Investment Board of Passaic County, and Visions Academy Charter School in Newark, and as President of the Board of the Boys and Girls Club of Paterson and Passaic. Cortez is the chairperson for the North Jersey Federal Credit Union Foundation and assistant treasurer for Executive Women of NJ. She has volunteered for numerous organizations including La Casa De Don Pedro, the March of Dimes, Eva’s Village in Paterson and the American Cancer Society. As the first Latina CEO of a credit union in New Jersey, Cortez has been honored by NJ Biz magazine, which named her one of the “Best 50 Women in Business” in New Jersey. Other awards include: the North Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce, 2010 Star Award in Business, the 2010 Salute to the Policy Makers Award from Executive Women of NJ, and the 2012 Women of Achievement Award from the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey.