The Magic of Free Promotion: Worth the Time and Effort

depositphotos_26653227_m-2015Every business owner knows, without good promotion the best product in the world won’t get to customers. The challenge is getting your message to interested people. Advertising is one tried and true way of bringing in new customers. Advertising; however, is expensive, and your budget might not support spending so much. So, as a business owner, what can you do to reach a large audience quickly and affordably?

Publicity is an attractive way to reach out to your target market and increase your profile. Positive media coverage is a gift to businesses. That’s why big corporations spend millions on publicity. The good news is that done correctly getting publicity is free. The question is, how do you get the media interested. The following step by step instructions will guide you as you begin connecting with and benefiting from the media.

Step 1. Define How You’re Different Than Your Competition

Employment experts talk a lot about the elevator speech, which is a short statement that allows you to explain quickly who you are and what makes you stand out to prospective employers. The same principle applies to your business. Write out a statement, no more than a few sentences that will tell people what your business has to offer and why you’re better than the competition

Step 2. Set Specific Goals

After writing your statement, develop a list of what you want to accomplish by gaining publicity. Prioritize six objectives and remember to be very concrete and set deadlines. Two examples include gaining more brand recognition in your community and attracting more visitors to your location (physical or virtual).

Step 3. Identify Your Target Market

You define customers by many criteria. Age, gender, buying habits, occupation, income level, geography, and cultural norms. Include anything you can think of that would define the customers who would find value in what you offer. For example, you generally wouldn’t market yachts to factory workers, and you wouldn’t waste your time offering a book on shopping on a budget to the country club set. You need to understand who your potential customers are before you try to reach them. That brings you to step number four.

Step 4. List of Relevant Media Organizations

Create a list of all the media outlets in your local area. Radio and TV, newspapers, magazines, and any others you deem appropriate. Separate and prioritize them by relevance, high, medium, and low and add contact information. Get the names, numbers, email, and other contact information of local reporters, editors, and DJs. You can find most of this is found on their website. Learn who covers what within your industry. Your goal is creating a list of everyone who has influence or decision-making authority about which stories to cover. Make the list as comprehensive as possible. The project will take some effort because lots of research is required; however, the results will serve you well.

Step 5. Develop Relationships with the Media

Building productive media relationships are identical to building any business relationship. The key is focusing on the needs of the people who you can help you. You want attention to your company; they want attention for their publication. Media organizations are always on the hunt for stories that will interest their audience. Your task is getting to know the key players, gaining their respect, and understanding how they work. Ask about their deadlines and the type of stories they seek. Prove with your actions that you can provide, or help them find, good quality content. Placing your focus on them will motivate them to help you. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when working with media people.

  • Remember they are people, just like you
  • Know what they are writing about
  • Read and comment on their work
  • Act with respect
  • Ask what they need
  • Respond to their needs
  • Act Professionally and reliably. Deliver on your promises
  • Keep requests on a realistic level.
  • Most of all become a go-to resource for good ideas and good content.

Step 6. Creating Stories to Pitch

Sometimes, as in the case of a new product, you have a great story to share, and if the new product is groundbreaking, for example, the iPad, it will be relatively easy to get attention. Usually small businesses or startups have to create story angles that pique media interest. Other ideas for stories include events that your planning, important charities you support, expanding with another location, and anything substantive and positive. It is vital that your content is of interest to the media and your customers. Do not waste your contact’s or your customer’s time with fluff. Remember some of the tips from the previous step. Know what reporters are working on, ask what they need, respond to their needs.

Step 7.  How to Pitch Stories

Why is one pitch effective when others quickly find their way into the gone-forever file? What is the difference? The following tips on how to pitch a story to the press are a composite of advice from experts in the public relations field added to reporter’s opinions on what works for them. Some of the items are repeats of previous information, but you will benefit from considering them again.

1.Get specific with who you pitch and make sure they are a good fit for the story. Don’t pitch a story about women’s clothing to a reporter who covers organic produce.

  1. Always read the work of the person you are pitching. Read it carefully and thoroughly so you understand what interests them. Pitch them stories that add value to the original line of thought. Describe how your story will add that value to writer and the readers.
  2. Don’t sell your company, sell the story. The story provides no value unless it helps the cause of the writer, the publication, and especially the readers. Your message will come through but only if they publish the story.
  3. Always act with respect. Sometimes the answer is no. Accept it and move on to pitch another day. Don’t give up easy. Be prepared to offer evidence that proves the value of your story, but don’t get angry and try to bully your way to success.
  4. Be succinct. Don’t go into the whole life story of the company. Get right to the point, say thank you, exchange a few pleasantries, and excuse yourself with the promise to check back at an agreed upon time.
  5. Don’t lie about your reasons for the story. Be honest and upfront at all times. Act with respect.
  6. Resist the temptation of becoming a pest. Call once, email once, or pitch once and then let it go for a respectful period before following up; however, please do follow up. You run the risk of losing many opportunities if you forget to follow up or if you follow late. You’ve worked hard to get to this point, don’t lose your coverage now.

New Media Options to Promote Your Business

So far the focus has been traditional media options, but the world has changed rapidly in the last few decades. Traditional methods are not the only, nor some would argue the best, choice for businesses trying to get the word out.

Social Media has become a way of life, particularly for younger generations. Staying connected with these sites is something you must take advantage of as a business owner. To augment your website, you should have business pages on social sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. These options are an excellent way to explain to people who you are and what you do. Make a habit of posting business related material every day and remember to keep the material relevant to your customer’s needs and interests.

Email lists have become a very useful tool for growing businesses. You inform people about the latest industry trends by sending out a monthly or weekly newsletter. Often these newsletters will contain a call to action that will result in increased sales. Again, like with traditional media, if you create content that provides value for customers they will share that information. Over time, your email list will grow. Some e-commerce businesses operate primarily off of these lists.

Learn to promote your business visually on social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram. Sharing images, video, and other graphic representations are great ways to drive traffic to your website, or customers to your physical location.

YouTube and other video sharing sites are easy and free. Every computer or mobile device comes equipped with camera’s that produce good quality video. Star in your commercials or grab your most adventurous employees and get them ready for their close up. Or just explain what you have to offer and invite people over for a visit. Have fun with it and keep in mind all the catch phrases you’ve heard over the years. You might have one go viral create a new trend.

Take action to ensure your website is mobile friendly. Statistically, more people buy from their mobile device than from their computer. That trend will undoubtedly continue for the foreseeable future.

Tie everything together. Your social media sites, video sharing sites, website, stories in the press, email newsletters, all of it should list information about finding the others. Make sure when people get to one part of your coverage they will find out how to get to all the parts. See you in the media.

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