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Author and USA TODAY columnist Rhonda Abrams on How Brands Can Support Small Business

Author and USA TODAY columnist Rhonda Abrams not only writes about entrepreneurship, she lives it as President and Chief Entrepreneur of PlanningShop, a publishing company creating content for small businesses

Her newest book, The Sh*t’s Hit the Fan…Now What?! offers 99 actionable tips for small business success. We sat down with her to talk about the challenges facing small businesses coming out of the pandemic and how brands can best support them, how PR pros can break through with the media on small business topics, and the important role PR can play in helping small businesses succeed.

Following is part one of our two-part blog series:

Q: You interact with so many small businesses…what is top of mind for them now?

A: This is a real time of transition. There are so many different experiences of small businesses that came out of the pandemic, you have to be careful not to characterize them in any one way. Many are doing quite well and others are hanging on by a thread and having to reinvent themselves every single day. It’s really sector by sector. Even those that might have done well through the pandemic were faced with constantly shifting demands. I’m friends with a grocery store owner, for instance, who talked to me about his struggles with inventory and keeping up with rule changes from the state that change weekly.

Q: As things start to open up, has the experience helped build muscle? What is top of mind for them now?

A: I think people that have come out on the other side feel a little more confident that they can sustain and grow their business. But they are also tired, whether they are working hard and had a good year or whether they are working hard to reinvent themselves. I was talking to a restaurant manager recently who said he is ‘slammed.’ That’s a good thing, right? But he said he has had no peace – he has a 9-month-old at home he hardly ever sees because he spends so much time constantly having to reinvent and re-establish and move things and deal with employees. There’s a level of exhaustion that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Q: As big brands think about how they support small businesses, how should they approach not painting them all with one brush?

A: You’re honest with them and say that you’re a partner with them. Whatever they are going through, you are on their side. You know, when I first started working with small businesses, no big corporations thought there was a small business market. They had consumer divisions and business divisions. It wasn’t until the dot-com era that the idea emerged that there could be products and services specifically for small business.

As Access well knows, Intuit QuickBooks was one of the first companies to figure it out. It is one of the very few longtime companies that has small business in its DNA. It’s why I’ve been a huge supporter of theirs for more than 20 years.

Q: What changed?

A: The internet created a situation where you could do targeted marketing and create channels that people could see and identify with. That changed the whole game. Before, it was too expensive to market to small businesses in the way you’d market to bigger businesses and consumers. You could reach consumers through television or magazine advertising, and you could get earned media in magazines or newspapers. But there wasn’t really a small business media.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our blog series with Rhonda Abrams!