Community Relations Tactics for Small Businesses

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As a small business owner, feeling part of your community is an important facet of establishing your roots and investing in your future success. Anything you do to intentionally nurture positive community relationships is considered part of your community relations strategy. When you are intentional about these efforts, they can help you build a positive reputation for integrity while also strengthening your bottom line.

Understanding Community Relations

Community relations includes anything and everything your business does to establish beneficial relationships in your community. Ideally, these efforts align with your business's mission and vision to help nurture the reputation that you are a company that genuinely cares about the community.

For instance, if you sell women's clothing, you might volunteer in a local body-positive fashion show. If you are a restaurant, you might offer a free meal to homeless members of your community.

Why Community Relations Matters

Community relations helps establish your reputation in the community where you live so that when people think of a caring business, they'll think of you over your competition. Your employees will feel like their work has a purpose, that their contributions matter to the greater good and that you actually care about them and the community.

Community relations initiatives like sponsoring a sports team or setting up a table at a local fair can also have the side benefit of providing free advertising for your business.

Building Community Relations

Building community relations is about more than deciding to do good things in the community in the spur of the moment. Develop a solid plan by considering the following:

  • Start from your vision and mission.
  • Keep your contributions within your budget.
  • Include volunteer opportunities as part of your strategy.
  • Connect with people you already know who are doing good things in the community.
  • Build relationships with local nonprofit organizations. 

Community Relations Ideas

When you are just starting out, avoid biting off more than you can chew with your community relations initiatives because it can harm your reputation if you repeatedly back out of commitments. As a small business, you might not yet be able to give 20% of your profits to something about which you really care, but you can start to make a difference by doing simple things:

  • Participate in a local 5k for a cause that matters to your business.
  • Serve at the local homeless shelter.
  • Offer microloans to others looking to start small businesses.
  • Volunteer to help build houses.
  • Sponsor a local sports team. 
  • Donate a basket to a nonprofit silent auction.
  • Sponsor a table at a charity gala.
  • Offer free cold water during a summer event.

Remember to integrate what you are doing into your online presence and remember that a larger community relations budget does not always equal a greater impact.

Creating Community Relations Jobs

If your business has grown to the point where you have no personal bandwidth to keep up with your company's community relations strategy, it might be time to seek outside help. You can create room for community relations jobs in your budget in order to move a responsibility off your plate and have a bigger community impact all at once. Any of these professionals could be hired on your payroll or as contracted employees.

You might start by hiring an outside community relations specialist to serve as a consultant who analyzes your business and creates a community relations strategy that fits your budget, mission and vision.

When you need a larger community relations department, a community relations coordinator or community relations manager can put together a team to handle all community, stakeholder and volunteer communications. This team puts your community relations strategy into action by managing every detail, forging community connections and ensuring nothing gets lost in the shuffle.