Every business needs to promote themselves. Startups especially can die before even getting off the ground if nobody knows they exist. If you’re a new business, however, you likely have a small (sometimes very small) advertising budget. So, you ask, how can I get my business into the public eye?
According to Business Insider, the companies with the largest advertising budgets were AT&T at $3.3 billion and Proctor & Gamble at $4.6 billion. Those companies, and others like them, can afford extravagant advertising and media play. Most startups and small businesses start out with budgets far different than the heavy hitters, which is why it is vital to understand how you can get free or cheap media coverage and publicity.
Newspapers and magazines continue to be the primary medium with which most people get their news. Even though the print medium has taken a hit in recent years, most companies provide online versions of their printed material. What that means, is that getting media coverage can have tremendous benefits for your company simply because of the number of people you can reach.
Yes, you can simply take out an ad in the local paper, but most readers will skip right over it. Not only will you have to pay for this ad, sometimes very handsomely, you will also see little return. Appearing in an article, however, can jumpstart your business in ways you never thought possible considering your small budget.
There are several things you can do to increase your chances of obtaining free media coverage. The following tips may not be relevant for all businesses, especially those in smaller cities that have one or two major newspapers, but it is highly likely that you will find a few that can help.
Understand what niche/angle is appropriate for you
All forms of media are not the same. Understanding where your business might strike a chord with readers is essential before you pitch the newspaper or magazine. For instance, an article about a ladies clothing store would not be appropriate in a Popular Mechanics magazine. Although that is an extreme example, the premise fits regardless.
Understand who should receive your pitch
If you are trying to entice a journalist to write a story about you, there is no need (and no benefit) in contacting a paper’s editor. It is always best to go to the source, as they say. In most instances, that means you should contact the journalist first. If the paper is large, there may be several journalists on staff. Do your research to find out which one deals with topics that are similar to your business.
Utilize email instead of the phone
Journalists are very busy people and often not at their desks. You will have a much easier time reaching one if you use email as opposed to the phone. An email can be read and saved for future consideration. A phone call cannot.
Create a media page for your business
Even before you pitch your business as an article idea, create a media page that highlights the uniqueness of your business. You can include descriptions of special products or services, your logo, images, headshots, etc. You are more likely to obtain the media coverage you want if you can make it easy for the journalist. Remember, although your business is the most important thing to you, it will not be for the journalist.
Host special events and invite the media
If you are having a product launch party or open house for your business, be sure to invite the media. This would be an instant when you could also invite the editor or other leaders at the newspaper or magazine you are targeting. Be sure to introduce yourself to any and all guests. Nothing will offend a journalist or editor more than being invited and then ignored.
Attend community events and be philanthropic
Getting yourself and your business into the public eye should be priority number one. Most communities have a myriad of events that you can attend and even sponsor. The more you become a part of your community, the quicker your name will spread.
The biggest thing you can do for your company is simply highlight that which makes you unique. Not only will a newspaper not cover a business that is similar to other businesses in the community, you will not have much with which to entice customers. Virtually every business has something that makes them unique. Figure out what that is for your business and shine a spotlight on it.
Some of the most successful businesses in the nation are those that understand how to get the most out of free publicity. The New York Times recently released the findings of a study about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. They estimated that Trump has purchased approximately $10 million in advertising, but he has also utilized over $2.8 billion in free publicity. Whether you like Trump or not, the fact that he has cornered the market on free publicity is impressive.
Obviously, you cannot expect even a fraction of that $2.8 billion figure. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t maximize your free publicity opportunities in the following ways:
Utilize social media
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and many others are great ways for you to publicize your company for free. Maintaining a constant presence on the social media platforms of your choice can quickly spread your business name to thousands (if not tens of thousands) of people. Best of all, social media is free.
Connect with bloggers
There are many avenues you can use to connect to bloggers. One of the biggest sources of business-related blogs is LinkedIn. Connecting to bloggers or entering a conversation about your particular industry can quickly build up your network of contacts. Understanding how then to leverage these contacts will help you climb the industry ladder.
Offer to be a guest blogger
Most newspapers and magazines are continually looking for new voices. Contact the editor of your target publications and pitch yourself as a business expert. Yes, this is the time to contact the editor; journalists won’t be able to help you in this regard.
You don’t need a million-dollar advertising budget to get your business name out into your industry and your community. By utilizing a few tips and best practices, you can maximize your efforts (and your budget) and create free media coverage and publicity for your business. It may take some footwork on your part, but the results will be well worth it.