Business Tips: Getting Publicity

There are two major ways to increase your sales.  One is to get more customers.  The second is to get the ones you have spending more (either more often or for more money per sale).

Both methods rely on your customers, or potential customers, knowing who you are, where you are and what you do.

Of course, you can advertise but it is expensive and, oftentimes, not as effective as you would wish.  One of the best ways to get known is to get some publicity – radio, TV or press coverage – about your business.  Rather than investing your hard earned dollars in  standard name, rank and serial number advertising, why not try to get some publicity for your business.  Publicity can work gangbusters for you, especially if you couple it with some well prepared and targeted direct mail or a novel advertising campaign.

The reason it works so well is that it is, in effect, an endorsement by someone else of your business.  Coupling it with either direct mail or advertising works even better because your audience will start to recognise your name  – and that’s called building “Profile”.

You’ll recognise that many well known companies spend money building profile for their products.  Why?  Because the higher the profile the more they sell! It can work for you too!

But just how do you go about getting publicity?  And where should you target?

Let’s, firstly, look at publicity in the press.

Before you decide what publications to target, take a long, hard look at your markets.  Where are they?  What do they read?  Are they based locally or do your customers live all over the state, country or world?  If they are local, the local paper, local newsletters or local magazines are a great place to start.  If they aren’t local, look for the publications that they would commonly read, for example, magazines, newsletters, industry or trade journals.  Look further afield too.  If you have affiliations with other businesses, are their customers yours?  Or could you create some?  If so, do they have a newsletter you could use?

For example, if they are mothers, try  women’s magazines, school magazines or newsletters, mother and child newspapers or parent focussed, neighbourhood or special interest groups, hairdressers, boutiques, supermarkets, gyms.  Do your customers typically belong to a certain demographic – socio-economic group, locality, age range, gender?  If so, ask yourself what those people would read and you’ll have a good list to start with.

Next, get copies of the relevant publications and look at how the articles are written.  Are they formal or informal?  Chatty or serious?  Do they include quotes from people or are they just information pieces?  Look at the style of the pieces and then write your article in exactly the same way as the journalists for the publications do – that’s right, imitate them.  If a piece fits the publication’s style, you’ll have a much better chance of them using yours because it’s easy for them.  They don’t have to re-write it.

Remember, journalists get swamped with press releases and media releases daily so they tend to think that the news will come to them.  Take advantage of that – write something that is newsworthy and send it to them.  The more interesting it is the more chance you have that they’ll use it.

Which brings us to your subject.  I’m afraid that “look at us, we’re really good” just won’t cut it.  You have to have a novel angle.  Here are some ideas:

  • Do a weekly advice column on your specialised topic.
  • Tell a story about a new product or service you’ve developed and why it’s sensational news.
  • Promote your businesses birthday with prizes, competitions and special events.  Invite everyone to attend.
  • Comment on a topic in the news which relates to your field of specialty.
  • Have an open day and invite everyone (including the journalists) to attend.  Tell of the fun to be expected (and well in advance to maximise the chance of coverage).
  • Tell a story about something special you’ve done for a client or  charity or offer to do something e.g. donate a percentage of sales on a particular day.
  • Offer free tip sheets or booklets that have something to do with your product or service.  Ask readers to phone for one.  (Great for building your database too!)
  • Tell of a function you have or will speak at.  Outline the benefits of the information attendees will learn at the function or of an offer they’ll get by attending it.
  • Have a try and buy day or open day at your business where people can get free or discounted products or services (great for “fire saling” old stock).
  • Advertise a “theme” day – St. Valentines, St. Patrick’s, first day of Spring, Back to school, Christmas, Halloween, Melbourne Cup are just some suggestions.  The crazier you make it, the more likely the publication will cover it.
  • Run a competition for your readers – or their children (kids love colouring competitions).  Have a great prize for the winner.

Remember, humour is a great seller.  If you do something mad (and everyone should from time to time), tell everyone about it.

When you submit your article to a newspaper or journal, keep it simple with white background and black text.  Use double spacing and wide margins.  Use your letterhead or include your name and address at the top.  Head the page “Press Release” and put the date for release or “For Immediate Release” (underlined) if the story can be used straight away.

At the bottom put “For More Information Contact” and a contact name and telephone number – both during and after working hours (remember journalists work all sorts of crazy hours.  If they want to interview you, they may need to contact you after hours).

Always remember to attach a photograph illustrating the story (make it interesting not a portrait) – you’ll need to ask whether black and whites or coloured ones are preferred – and label it with a caption.  Again, look at the type of captions that are used and try to imitate them.

Make sure your release has no spelling or typographical errors.  Use short sentences and paragraphs and make it positive and full of impact. Tell them high up what the release is about and why it’s newsworthy.

You’ve now got your press release done, where do you send it and how do you send it?

Editors are generally the ones to choose or sign off on story topics but many journalists have to pitch ideas so target both.

Email has become the norm but sending something by post can be a refreshing occurrence for some media pro’s. Consider the topic, whether you want to send anything along with the release like a CD of high-res images, samples, etc, how timely the topic is, and so on. Also, consider how many emails you receive in 24 hours – editors and journalists receive a huge amount of emails and to stand out from the pack can be difficult. If you are going to send your releases by email, be very descriptive in the subject line and consider the time of day you send it so it isn’t buried amongst the hundreds of emails they receive every day.

Remember that you won’t always get coverage simply by submitting an article or release.  It depends on a number of things – how many other articles they have, what’s current and newsworthy, if they have space to fill, how newsworthy you are and, unfortunately, whether you’re a current advertiser as many smaller publications tend to favour their financial supporters.

It’s really a numbers game – the more you submit, the more likely you are to get coverage. But don’t inundate journalists with releases they have no interest in. Take the time to do a bit of research about the topics they cover before sending them your release.

If there are reporters who regularly cover your area of interest, consider giving them a quick call sometime outside of their deadline zones (ie, the end of the day) to ask what kind of news they’re most interested in, how they like to receive press releases, if they accept high-resolution photos, if there is a certain time of day/week that is best to contact them, how they’d prefer to be contacted (phone, email, etc) and so on. Some might give you the brush off but others will appreciate you taking the time to find out how best to pitch stories to them – it’s considerate. It also gives you a chance to introduce yourself so when you do send them releases you may get their attention faster.

Also, the more novel you are the more you’ll get noticed.  Try sending your press material with something noticeable attached.  We’ve sent things out with coffee beans, confetti, toy cars, matches and chocolate bars.   We’ve heard of others that have been delivered with champagne, rulers, talcum powder – even a case of fresh lobsters!!

Of course, it should be something that has relevance to your article or to your product or service – however its sole purpose is to get you noticed.

Remember that the press is not the only place you can get free publicity, there’s TV and radio too.  Think about what your target market does, watches or reads and then attack them with interesting, tantalising stories about you.

The rules are pretty much the same for TV and radio as for the press – but it is harder to get coverage so your “gee whiz” factor has to be very high.

To get radio and especially TV coverage, you’ll have to pull out all stops to be noticed – so start thinking right outside the square.  If you’re having problems coming up with something, get some friends, or even clients, along to an evening, put on dinner or drinks and really brainstorm how and what you can do and say to be different.

Here’s some that have worked for us and clients and colleagues of ours:

1.    A driving school had coverage on A Current Affair after submitting articles about retraining of older drivers.
2.    Two-part story on a small business show after the director published a book about business marketing (and sent them a copy).
3.    Radio talkback show after sending the same book.
4.    Appearances on all major talk shows (Midday, Good Morning Australia, Today, etc) after the owner of a pub published a book on the facts and fiction of the Melbourne Cup.
5.    A consulting company now gets monthly articles in Business Magazine after offering consulting as prizes in a competition.
6.    Food retailer got a daily radio appearance running a competition and offering prizes for the best turkey impersonation at Xmas.
7.    Wholesaler got full page free newspaper coverage (and highest sales day ever!!) for a “everyone invited” open day at his business.

Bear in mind that, should a TV or radio producer pick up your story, they’ll probably want to interview you.  Make sure you prepare well (you only have one chance – do it well and you’ll oftentimes be invited back!), dress the part, and be able to get your message across quickly and clearly.  TV “grabs” can be as short as 7 seconds so learn to be succinct.

You see, it’s not that hard – it just takes a little imagination!  So go to it!  Here’s your action plan:

  • Make a list of your customer or potential customer demographics or common traits.
  • Think about what publications and other media outlets they read, listen to or look at.
  • List them and find out their deadline times.
  • Brainstorm a novel theme, story or promotion for your business.
  • Write (or get a professional copywriter) to write several media releases about it.
  • Have photographs taken – black and white
  • Submit your packages just prior to the deadline date.
  • Send media releases on different subjects and themes regularly.

Remember, it’s a numbers game.  The more you’re seen the better the chance you have to get known, but make sure it’s quality content and targeted to the right audience.  If you’re good at it you might become someone’s “industry expert” and that can pretty much guarantee you regular coverage.

So get writing and submit them!  We hope to see your face in the press soon!

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