Why You Should Seek Publicity For Your Small Business : It’s unfortunate but true that many small businesses have a “leave me alone and let me do my thing.” They do not seek or receive attention from outsiders, especially if those outsiders are the media, the government, or some kind of consumer or advocacy group.
It’s the classic direct approach: “Maybe if I ignore them, maybe they’ll go away.” There may come a time when the market will tolerate this kind of extreme independence. But that time has passed.
Today’s market is no longer just competitive, but hypercompetitive! The shelves and shelves of our stores and malls are stocked with dozens of “me too” products. Bankers now sell insurance and insurance sellers now offer CDs. A single “mega-dealer” might carry a dozen or more car brands, and literally hundreds of car and truck models on a single square block.
It looks like every major intersection along the highway should now have at least two truck stops scattered around the corner from each other, with a fast food stall or two nearby. Have you ever wanted to see the day when hospitals would advertise on billboards and television, such as soft drinks or fast food?
A recurring theme that you will find again and again in my book—because I think it matters! — is that in this complex competitive environment it is important for you, as a small business to differentiate yourself as much as possible from your competitors.
Positive publicity is one of the most powerful, yet underutilized promotional tools available to small businesses and organizations to help achieve that goal. Why should my small business, agency or group seek positive media coverage? Is it really worth all the time and hassle? Here are a dozen very good reasons why you should generate as much profitable publicity as possible for your business, agency, or group:
1. It is simply a smart investment of dollars and cents in the future of your business or organization (read that as survival). Whether you measure your “profit” in terms of dollars remaining after expenses are paid or in terms of more contributions, more members or more clients served, promoting the name and activities of your business or organization is no longer an option “it will become a chore. . good if”; This is essential for your survival!
Every positive article or photo published in the daily newspaper, every profitable one-minute clip in the afternoon news, every free mention in some special newsletter or magazine is FREE! Of course, it may take a little staff time, some duplication and postage costs. But you don’t have to spend a lot of money for the same number of column inches in the newspaper or the same amount of time on TV news if you pay for it like advertising.
For example, a half-page ad, which has roughly the same amount of newspaper space as a good-sized feature story, would likely cost $500 to $600 in a small town daily, perhaps $1,500 in a mid-market newspaper, and as much as $3,000 or $5,000. in medium-sized newspapers. major metropolitan newspapers.
If you had to pay for a minute of news on late-night news TV like a commercial, that would earn you $200 to $250 in the small market, $500 to $1,000 or more in the mid-market, and $2,500 to $4,000 in the mid-market. big market. urban market.
State and local tourism promotion agencies generally spend a large part of their budget writing and submitting their own news releases and bringing writers and travel editors on so-called “introductory tours” (known as “fams”) to produce articles and feature stories about attractions. . state or local territory.
Yes, they run paid advertising from time to time in certain media, but this is usually only a small part of their promotion budget. A state tourism agency I know does charge vs return their publicity efforts. For years, the bureau kept a record of the articles and TV features that emerged as a result of its efforts; it is estimated that there is about a 4 to 1 benefit to cost ratio.
In other words, if the tourism bureau had paid for the “free” editorial space and viewing hours it received, such as advertising, it would have cost four times as much as it spent on press releases, media equipment, and “fams.” tour. That’s not a bad return on investment.
2. You get more “bang for the buck” in terms of audience attention with editorial coverage. This is a kind of corollary to number 1, opposite sides of the same coin; only here the focus is on the attention of the audience rather than on the dollars spent.
What I suggest is that on an inch-to-inch basis (using print media) or minute-to-minute (using electronic media), you will get more reader or viewer attention from free editorial space or time than you will get. . the same amount of paid advertising space or time.
In other words, they — whoever you’re trying to reach — will be much more likely to actually see, and more importantly, pay attention to your message if you can get it across through positive mentions in the newspapers or on TV news broadcasts from they. through paid advertising in the same medium.
Think for a moment about how you read newspapers and magazines, or how you watch television or listen to the radio. If you’re like most people, you read most of the articles (or at least the headlines) in the newspapers but at the same time, skip the ads. That is, unless you’re specifically looking for something.
For example, say you need tires so you are looking for an ad from someone who is having a tire sale; You think that you need a new sports coat and you see that your favorite store has announced the arrival of a new spring; only then you see the ad.
Or you watch TV news with interest but grab a newspaper and read a few paragraphs or chat with your partner or head to the kitchen (or bathroom) or just press the mute button during a commercial! Sound familiar?
I know of a small specialty garden tool manufacturer who has tried to show ads in various gardening magazines, but finds that he or she gets two, three or more times the number of responses, in terms of inquiries or actual orders, from just one mention. in one of the magazine’s new product columns. the same one.
3. It makes sense to build your “goodwill bank account” with the media and the community. If it is true that we have entered a new era of competitive market economy, it may not be correct to say that we are also entering a new era of conflict in our organizational and personal relationships.
Individuals and organizations seem willing to sue one another easily. Advocacy and special interest groups, with their “before you” confrontational approach to everything, thrive in the dandelion field. The Internet is easily the world’s most powerful medium of word of mouth (read it as a “rumor factory”), where anyone can say whatever they want about another person, and oftentimes they do.
Legislators announced a law that spans 1,000 pages. or more And regulatory agencies publish thick, highly technical manuals and regulations nearly every day. And, of course, the media seems happy to report on corporate scandals and controversial issues.
What appears to be emerging is a new expectation of corporate and institutional accountability from society. Perhaps the long-term impact of Watergate, Three Mile Island, and, more recently, Enron and Worldcomm, where there is a perception that the politicians or companies involved are less open and honest in their dealings with the public and the media. .
This perception contrasts especially with the public attitude that strongly supported Johnson & Johnson after the company tackled the Tylenol vandalism case in 1982.
It seems clear that if that hasn’t already happened, we are surely nearing the end of times when even small local businesses or organizations can get away with a “leave me alone to do my job” attitude towards the community and the media. .
Sooner or later, every business will likely need something from the community: a zoning change to build a new building, a difference in marking regulations, a city (or county or state) economic development grant (or loan guarantees) to create more jobs, long-term leases. . to use city property for storage purposes, permits to cut new sidewalks, or extensions to roads or alleys to improve access to the property.
All of these “needs” involve an approval process that almost always includes a public hearing, with opportunities for interested or affected parties to have their say. Very often the “word” takes the form of fierce opposition and is completely unexpected.
Now, I’m not suggesting that a regular positive publicity program for your business will guarantee that you will never face environmental opposition to your request to zoning the property so you can build additions to your building or that some local advocacy group will never issue a critical statement. . to the media who find errors in your policies or procedures.
However, what I highly recommend is that a diligently executed publicity program that regularly generates favorable coverage in the media is like establishing good bank accounts with the public, media, local governments and even regulators.
Even if it can’t completely avoid a given controversy – and, anyway, how do you know if it does? – it may mean that you will at least get less hostile, and perhaps even favorable, treatment in the media, which in turn means less harsh treatment in the court of public opinion.
4. You just deserve more media coverage. As a business or organization that engages people and engages with the community, you only have the right to more space or airtime than you may currently receive. This is part of the fundamental openness of the democratic process.
The fact is, most businesses or organizations don’t get their fair share of media coverage; usually because they don’t bother telling the media about the interesting and newsworthy things they do.
When I was a newspaper reporter, I always looked forward to doing feature articles about local businesses for the traditional end of year special section — we called it the “progress edition.” I am constantly amazed at the many interesting and previously untold story ideas I find in almost every business or organization I visit.
When I would tell people in business, “That’s a great story! How come you never told anyone about it?” they would look at me in disbelief and reply, “Well, we never thought anyone would be interested.”
I think it’s probably one of those “can’t see the forest for the trees” stuff. As a business or organization that engages in day-to-day activities, there doesn’t seem to be anything strange or interesting about these activities. You take it for granted that if you get used to your activity, so will everyone else.
In reality, however, most small businesses and organizations have multiple reasons for submitting news releases, a topic we will explore in more detail in the following chapter.
5. Free! For small businesses that are often capital-poor, free publicity available through the media may be the only way they can reach the public. Charles A. Hillestad, who with his wife, owns the Queen Anne Inn, said he used “bold” public relations to help launch a ten-room bed and breakfast operation near downtown Denver, Colorado, according to an article in Marketing News.
Hillestad has mentioned her stay in prestigious publications such as the New York Times, as well as in Inc., Elle, and Bridal Guide magazines. Among the various “tricks” he uses to generate free publicity is submitting articles about lodging to magazines outside the travel industry.
For example, by tailoring articles to each magazine’s specific editorial approach, such as focusing on vintage inns for vintage magazines, or sharing some lodging recipes with food publications.
6. More trustworthy (and easier to remember). Even if your business can afford and use paid advertising as a promotional tool, you should still make the most of publicity. Why? Because people believe more in what they read in the editorial columns of a newspaper or magazine and in what they hear from TV or radio commentators than in paid advertising.
News is more trusted than advertising. Everyone “knows” that most ads are just bullshit and hype (read that’s an exaggeration, if not a total lie). And everyone “knows” that if you read it in the newspaper or see it on TV, the news that someone (more or less) has checked it and, therefore, is (more or less) the “truth”.
Now, I realize that both statements are oversimplifying, but I would also suggest that it is our general reaction to news and advertising that is quite accurate.
What’s more, news articles are generally easier to remember. My friends Xochi (pronounced so-chee) and Mitch Pannell opened their flower and gift shop a few years ago. Just as their opening date drew near and they were eagerly anticipating the arrival of their inventory, UPS went on strike.
With their opening just days away and their shelves nearly empty of gift items, Xochi called the local newspaper, who came over and snapped a photo of the couple looking anxiously out their storefront window hoping to see a UPS truck. The photo appeared on the newspaper’s business page under a headline that said “Where’s UPS?” What’s interesting about this little anecdote is that now, years later, people are still mentioning the photo.
7. You can definitely “sell” with publicity. Sales promotion is not limited to paid advertising. I return to tourism agencies, and, by extension, the entire hospitality industry, mentioned earlier, as classic examples of what I mean. Just see how effectively they have used positive publicity as their main selling tool over the years.
Make no mistake, all the quirky feature articles about fun places to visit in travel magazines, and all the good restaurant reviews in the newspapers are sure to sell you on those places as a must-visit.
What’s more sales-oriented than a direct mail catalog? Most often it is nothing but a promotion like advertisement for some company product, right? But check out the catalog of Patagonia, a hugely successful home for outdoor clothing and gear.
You’ll find page after page of “articles” written by staff members and customers about their adventurous trips in which they used their Patagonia clothing and equipment, rather than more conventional photos or images accompanied by product descriptions and prices. The Patagonia catalog is avidly read and closely guarded, more like a precious magazine than just a mail order catalog.
8. Publicity can even generate income. More than one organization has succeeded in converting its free distribution newsletter, originally published as a means of public relations or promotion, into a paid subscription. This has been a very successful approach in the health and wellness industry.
In addition, it is always possible to compile a collection of articles that you create and initially distribute as news releases to generate free publicity into pamphlets or booklets and market them. For example, this might work well for a primary business, such as a hardware store or home center. Finally, sometimes you can even get paid to write articles for magazines or journals, especially if you have a unique skill set to offer (see item 12 below).
9. Regular exposure in the media legitimizes your business. As previously mentioned, there is a subtle but very real perception that people have that if something is in the paper or on TV, it must be important. The media themselves encourage and promote this attitude because it makes their role seem more important, more necessary.
If your name appears regularly in a positive way in the media, it helps pave the way for when your business goes to the bank for expansion loans. Regular mentions in the media tell the public, “We are here to stay. We are neighbors who contribute to the economic well-being of society. We are not the quick nightwear that is here today and gone tomorrow.” regularly add to your prestige, your credibility, your status.
10. It can help you recruit good employees. You might think this item should be included under the latter, but it actually deserves a stand-alone status as it will become even more important in the years to come. Demographic and lifestyle changes suggest that there will be an increasing shortage of skilled and experienced workers in various fields.
So when you run your ad in the classifieds section or post a job to an online job bulletin board for the people you need to hire to thrive and thrive, what’s their reaction? Will they remember reading and hearing positive things about your company and therefore thinking, “Yeah, that would be a good place to work.
You can get ahead there; they always seem to be promoting people. They seem to be interested in their employees. Don’t they? I see? something in the paper about the new training program they just launched?” Or will their reaction be something like, “Why would I want to work there? I’ve never heard of them.”
11. You can do it yourself. If you don’t have a background in marketing and promotion work, successfully generating profitable exposure through news releases is easier to do on your own than through paid advertising. Paid advertising campaigns, especially if they involve highly competitive markets and widespread use of mass media (especially TV), require a great deal of sophistication to be effective. With publicity, you can “delete” a basic news release and still catch the attention of a reporter or editor.
12. You can be the “source” of the media. Finally, developing relationships with the media in the same way is a good idea to develop other types of friendships in the community. Today’s buzzword for this is “network.” In fact, writers and reporters are always on the lookout for “sources,” especially at the local level.
For most journalists, especially at the local level, nine out of ten “sources” are people in a specialized field they know and trust and they ask for background information to help them understand the complex issues they are reporting on.
In many cases, the “source” is quoted directly, thus having another positive influence on the business or organization to which the source is affiliated. However, even if you are not quoted directly in the story, think about the significant influence you can have on the way the media reports information that is important to your field.
Publicity is free or the cost is very low, especially compared to paid advertising. Publicity is a very powerful promotional tool, perhaps even more powerful than advertising. Your competitors may not use publicity as a major part of their promotional program, because few small businesses do.
And publicity is relatively easy to achieve, in fact, with the right approach, the media will most likely do most of the work for you. With all these advantages, how could you not pay attention to implementing a more proactive publicity program?