Small Business Owners Need to Tell Their Brand’s Story All the Time

When PR News approached us to speak with Maxwell Ryan, founder of, about the impact PR has on his business, we were thrilled. Naturally, we know how important it is for our clients to have PR, but then again…that’s our business. Here’s the feature – let us know what you think.

Posted in: Q&ASocial Media • By Jamar Hudson, PR News

Successfully running a small business takes time, effort and, of course, an effective plan. Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, CEO of Apartment Therapy, knows this firsthand. Having launched Apartment Therapy in 2004, Gillingham-Ryan has seen his business—which provides resources on making homes more beautiful, organized and healthy, and which depends on ad sales and integrated partnerships for revenue—transform into a well-known brand with the help of social media and an effective PR strategy.In this Q&A, Gillingham-Ryan shares tips for small business owners and communicators.

PR News: What PR advice would you give to someone who’s starting their own small business?

Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan: I would say you need to get rolling early and be your own PR machine. You have to realize that part of the challenge is telling your story all the time. Telling that story needs to be done at every point—on your Web site, in the “about us” section especially. Personalization right up front is a big deal. E-mail is a huge, powerful way to get your story and news to all of your customers. Giving your readers the ability to subscribe is a powerful way to connect with them. It’s a much more personal challenge, but it’s a must.

PR News: You work with an outside PR firm. How has that helped Apartment Therapy?

Gillingham-Ryan: We started working with a PR firm, The Brooks Group, in December 2011. We knew we were strong, but what we wanted to do was find the places where we needed to grow and connect with new readers. We realized we had great content and happenings that were not publicized outside of the site. We found ways to connect. We handed over our calendar and I was amazed at how quickly and how many opportunities we had.

PR News: How big a role does social media play in your business’ PR plan?

Gillingham-Ryan: It’s hugely important. You can’t underestimate it at all. For us as a media business, we publish everything on our site to Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.  We are a young organization. We rely on being very intimate with our readers. We don’t have a lot of rules. Our strategy is to remain relevant, and it’s really good for us to get our name out there through social media.

PR News: What is a common PR mistake made by small businesses?

Gillingham-Ryan: Not being authentic. The biggest thing that we have focused on is that we have to be authentic when speaking to our readers. We can’t manufacture events or news.

PR News: What role does your team play when working with your PR agency?

Gillingham-Ryan: It’s all of the above. They are lining up interviews or phone interviews in reference to something that I am asked to respond to. We try to schedule everything in a weekly calendar, and throughout the week there are constant e-mails. We talk every day—multiple times a day—and see each other once every two weeks. The biggest surprise to me was how our PR team helped increased our site traffic numbers, which is how we make money.  We really wanted to lift our site to make it more of a lifestyle site for readers. With their help, I was able to see them make the calls and set up interviews, which freed me up to do what I like to do.

Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson