How to Generate Publicity for Your Small Business

In today’s competitive market, a small business can’t afford to be isolated. There are so many other businesses fighting you for the same consumer dollars that owners must constantly seek media attention in order to stay in the public’s eye. And with so much business taking place over the Internet now, a company’s competition might not just be down the street but across the globe as well.

The best way to keep your business on the top of everyone’s mind is through a well-planned publicity campaign. Promoting your business, its products and services and any major company events is imperative whether your company is a start-up or a well-seasoned corporate machine.

A publicity campaign doesn’t take the place of your advertising endeavors-it works alongside them to maximize your impact on the public. Every positive mention of your company in the media, whether it be the local newspaper, the evening news or a pertinent trade magazine, is one more opportunity to gain new customers. And the best thing about it all? Publicity is free!

Every free mention of your business in the media garners you more and more credibility and attention in the eyes of the public. Paid ads are often ignored, but if your business is the focus of an article or a business column, you are able to capture the attention of your target market and make a memorable impression on them. It’s a given that you will get far more attention from a free write-up in the paper than you’d get from an equal amount of paid advertising space.

Your customers will believe news over advertising any day. People have faith in what they read in newspapers or magazines and believe it to be true, but advertising is seen as self-serving and somewhat manipulative. For your audience, a publication’s endorsement of your company is implied whenever they write about you-they believe your story or they wouldn’t have printed it.

Publicity is an opportunity to sell too though. Writing about how your company’s new product has helped people around the world is bound to pique a reader’s interest, leading to increased sales and a higher awareness of your company. Regular, positive attention in the media is a guaranteed way to make your business appear more trustworthy and legitimate in the public’s eyes. And when a reader sees your company promoted in a trusted publication, your company’s perceived value goes way up. People have a perception that if something’s in the paper or on TV, then it must be important and valuable-something to be desired.

The classic way to get publicity for your business is through the press release. It’s a good idea to come up with at least one press release a month and to send it out to as many applicable media outlets as possible. You must make sure that the topic of your press release is actually newsworthy or journalists will quickly recognize your press releases as a waste of their time and simply toss them in the garbage as soon as they arrive.

One of cheapest ways to get your company noticed is to write articles for the magazines, trade journals, web sites and newspapers that your target market reads. The goal here is to get your company’s name printed or mentioned as often as possible wherever your ideal customer will see it. Article writing enables you to position yourself as an expert in your field and a credible source of industry information.

The value of your company increases substantially when the public respects your knowledge and recognizes you as an expert. By publishing an article, you are seen as an expert because your ideas merit publication. And if a trade magazine is willing to devote valuable space to your article, then what you’re saying is automatically seen as important. Publishing articles will also strengthen your competitive advantage-clients look smart when they are able to show others your published articles as justification for selecting your company to work with, instead of one of your competitors. And once your articles are published, you can use them as valuable marketing pieces for sales presentation, direct mail campaigns and web content.

Before you panic and start thinking that you’re not qualified to be considered an expert, relax. Everyone is an expert at something. Dig a bit and you’ll realize that you have a wealth of knowledge and a perspective that is unique to you. Own a software company? Then you’re a technology expert. Own a garage? Then you’re a car care expert. The trick is then to take this knowledge and present it to the world through your publicity efforts. Once the public sees you in print, you are instantly seen as an expert in your field.

Publicity efforts can also be used to make your advertising more effective. You can use favorable quotes from articles written about your company by an outside journalist in your advertisements and on your website. You might even want to frame the whole story and hang it in a prominent part of your company’s reception area, but make sure to get permission from the author first to protect their copyright.

There are plenty of other low-cost publicity generators. You can join and take part in community business groups such as your chamber of commerce, even offering to give a tour of your company to other members as a way to generate interest from outsiders. You can also stage an event to attract the attention of the media. If you own a sporting goods store, arrange to have a sports celebrity to come for an autograph session, for example. Or arrange a tie-in with a local charity event and offer your goods or services as a prize in contest or fund raising endeavor. You’ll get noticed by everyone attending and perhaps mentioned in a newspaper story about the event.

Nothing brings you to public’s eye faster than favorable community service. Offer your product or service for free to deserving charity or volunteer for various community causes. In this information age, people are hungry for advice. This is a good opportunity for you to offer free seminars related to your business to the local community. For example, if you’re a financial planner, hold a seminar about the latest tax changes. If you’re a veterinarian, offer a seminar on caring for puppies or aging pets. With a little creativity, you will be able to come up with several ways to put yourself in the public’s eye for little or no money at all.

If you don’t have the time or the skills needed to run your own publicity campaign, a public relations agency or a publicist can do the work for you. They are experts at generating positive buzz and the fee you’ll pay them is a fraction of what you’d pay for an advertising campaign. Remember-publicity leads to a much better response from your customers than advertising, which is exactly what you need to soar in today’s cut-throat, competitive business world.

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