of all sizes spend a significant chunk of change attracting attention to
their services or products.
Large companies are able to spend huge amounts
on advertising and PR campaigns, though they love free publicity as much
as anyone. But small and mid-sized businesses need to target their marketing dollars
wisely to get as much bang as possible for every buck.
For smaller businesses, free publicity may well be the difference between
failing, merely surviving, or shooting for the moon. Even for larger
companies, obtaining free positive publicity can mean success in a
fiercely competitive market.
The public is overwhelmed by thousands of advertising messages. Free
publicity in the form of print or broadcast articles about your company,
its executives or staff members, or its products and services can attract
the attention of potential customers in a way that one more ad just can't.
PR professionals are always coming up with clever ideas for getting their
clients noticed, especially in the form of free and powerful publicity.
Keep in mind that your goal is to attract the public's attention in a way
that will draw them to your door and keep them coming back. The public is
your current and potential customer base, and public relations is all
about reaching them in a way that will encourage both sales and customer
A major purpose of PR is to place media articles about you and your
business in local, national, and trade publications. Such articles lend
your business credibility in the eyes of the public and position you as
experts in the field. People often think about using a product or service
for the first time after reading an article about it in a newspaper or a
magazine. Another function of such publicity is to create an appealing
image for your company, to encourage customer identification and loyalty.
Local Media Exposure
Marketing experts now advise that the trading area for most businesses
consists of consumers within a 10-minute drive of their store. Even most
national companies, especially franchises, exist for consumers primarily
as local businesses. In other words, local media exposure is one of the
most valuable forms of advertising available.
Instead of spending all of your marketing budget on expensive advertising
programs, look for ways to win free publicity from local media exposure.
Because your business is local, it is not at all difficult to make it
newsworthy at the local level.
The most obvious way to do that is to take advantage of the fact that most
local newspapers have a business section that routinely reports on events
and activities that you will be engaging in just in the normal course of
* Grand Openings
* Expansions New hires
* Special Events
* Community service involvement
Any of these can be translated into a news story that frames your business
in an appealing light and attracts customers to your door.
But let's face it, to reach most potential customers you need to get off
the business page. Here are a few tips for creating a local buzz for your
business by helping local newspapers and TV and radio shows see your
company as a story.
Don't Underestimate the Power of the Press Release
The press release is the PR workhorse. Carefully targeted, well-written
press releases save reporters time and trouble by creating newsworthy
angles about a business that media can use to fill column inches or
airtime. There are many opportunities for sending out press releases, and
new opportunities can always be created:
* New products and services
* Contests and promotions
* Awards or industry recognition
* New hires and promotions
* Grand openings and open houses
* Speaking engagements
* Involvement with local charity events, fund-raisers,
or local community
* Results of interesting or controversial customer
If you or your PR/marketing specialist has developed a relationship with
reporters, then it becomes even easier to get your press releases the
attention you want. One way to establish such a relationship is to
consistently provide them with stories they can use. In other words, don't
just send out press releases-create stories. Once you've got that
relationship with a reporter, editor, newscaster, or talk show host, he or
she will be especially receptive to your press releases.
So how do you create the stories that will build such relationships? Let
me count the ways! Actually, let me count just a few ways for now, with a
promise of many more in the future.
Think Feature Article
Feature stories are particularly useful in bringing your business to the
attention of potential customers, especially since many feature stories
are accompanied by full-color photographs! All you have to do is identify
a human-interest angle that will attract the attention of the average
newspaper reader. Especially for small and mid-sized local businesses,
company owners and executives are real people and members of the
community. A human angle featuring an executive or even a regular staff
member is easy to come up with.
For example, most local papers have a "Home & Garden"
section. If someone in the company has a house with unusual architectural
features, or a particularly serene or spectacular garden, then a
full-color feature on that person can be pitched to the lifestyle editor
of the paper. If the business provides a service, a feature on a customer
(or even an owner) who has achieved remarkable results using that service
can attract customers who also need or want such a service.
Let's say you are the owner of one of those new specialty franchise gyms
that cater to older, heavier women. Most owners of these gyms purchased
their franchise after having been paying members themselves. Besides
seeing great potential for growth in that market, a lot of the women who
own such franchises are also excited about the results they achieved as
Imagine a feature article, complete with before and after pictures, of the
owner or one or more of her most successful clients. There would be a
stampede to her door!
This is what inevitably happens when a local newspaper runs an article on
the opening of a local franchise for new fads, like, for example, the one
for "hot yoga" that has swept the country over the last couple
of years. The topic itself is newsworthy because it is unusual, and there
are so many potential human-interest angles to it. Here are some
businesses that provide ready-made human-interest angles. This list should
get you thinking about how your business can be similarly positioned:
* "Hot yoga"
* A new kind of gym for older, heavier women who don't
want to share space
with gorgeous young hard body
* A dog daycare that offers "enrichment"
programs rather than just kenneling
* A restaurant or store featuring a type of cuisine or
product new to the local
area (especially if the food or product has an
exotic or ethnic angle)
* A seamstress that offers only one type of service,
with a promise of
super-fast results ("Just Hems")
During the 1970s, a woman in a college town in the Midwest put herself
through college and graduate school by typing papers and manuscripts for
other people. (This was in the days before word processors made everyone
an expert typist.) She placed one brief, inexpensive ad in the university
newspaper: Damned good typing. A friend of hers contacted the newspaper to
call their attention to that ad, and the paper did a feature story on her.
After the story broke, people lined up around the block for her typing
Find the angle-then pitch it.
Call the Radio Station and the Local TV Station
Again, the point is that your business, your executives, your staff, and
your customers are members of the community. Sometimes they are very
prominent members of the community, whose actions are newsworthy for that
reason. But even if the individual is not prominent, that does not mean he
or she is not newsworthy. Local broadcast media need to fill airtime just
as print media need to fill column inches.
When pitching a story to broadcast media, you have to consider their
particular needs. An executive or staff member who does not speak well in
public might still serve nicely as the subject of a newspaper feature
article with photographs. But for a radio interview or a spot on the local
newscast, you want to put your best speakers forward. If you are going for
television coverage, you also have to think about how to "give good
One way to make a speaker appealing to the broadcast media is to position
him or her as an expert, whether on a topic directly related to your
business or on a topic of general interest to the media. Of course, you
still need to find the angle that makes the "story" newsworthy
or appealing from a human interest angle.
For the human interest angle, think kids, pets, old people, charity,
community service, hobbies-the list is endless.
Here's just one example. There has been a recent movement to offer classes
in sign language to normal-hearing infants and toddlers and their parents.
Imagine a story on your local newscast--with charming video of babies
signing for milk or a kiss from Mommy--that features a staff member taking
the class with her own baby.
If she reads up enough on the subject, she can speak on TV and radio
programs (and, of course, to provide quotes for feature articles with cute
photos), she can also offer to speak to parent groups in the area, as well
as groups that are concerned with issues of child development and early
childhood education, not to mention groups that deal with the deaf or with
training sign language interpreters.
Once she is in the public eye, she
can make sure the name and product or service of the business she works
for is also mentioned in every talk or interview she gives. Even better,
the business itself could sponsor baby sign language classes for its staff
and the community. Imagine the flurry of publicity that could produce with
just a few phone calls to local print and broadcast media outlets.
These are just a few examples of ways to drum up positive free publicity
for your business.
is part of SSPR Public Relations Online Marketing Team.
Geoff is skilled in online PR, social media marketing and Internet
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