How to Get the Word Out

Check out these tips to garner free publicity for your business.

The Pro

Joan Stewart
Title: President
Company: The Publicity Hound in Port Washington, WI

Publicity expert Joan Stewart works with small-business owners, nonprofits and organizations looking for free publicity in traditional and social media. She helps them establish their credibility, enhance their reputation, position themselves as experts, sell more products and services and promote a favorite cause or issue, all without a publicist.

Pursue Opportunities for Publicity
“Free publicity is more credible than paid ads. If you see a quarter-page ad in the back of a magazine for a law firm, you know they paid to be there. But if there’s a profile on them in that same issue, that has more credibility. People figure if they aren’t credible, they wouldn’t be on the cover. When you reach out to media, focus on niche and local. Don’t go for a major daily like USA Today, which has a super-general audience and too much noise. It’s also difficult to get into. Go for niche blogs and podcasts – they have loyal audiences because not many people are covering the topics they’re interested in.”

Be Deliberate in Self-Promotion
“Deliver a customized pitch to a couple outlets at a time with a formal press release. Don’t send the same one to 70 outlets, because they all serve different audiences. Maybe you have a new CEO, president or partnership, or you’re moving into a new geographic area, or you have a new line of products and services, or you’re shifting into new markets. If an outlet serves a niche market and you have a way to solve a common problem, that’s a great way to get attention.”

Combine Traditional and Social Media
“Traditional media used to be the only way to get attention. If your news wasn’t picked up, you were out of luck. The only other option was to buy an ad. Today, traditional is less relevant because of social media, but it’s still important to rely on both. Look for special sections in a publication, and how they’re tied into niche topics. If you have a story that fits in, they might be interested. Here’s a golden tip: Call the advertising department at an outlet and ask for the editorial calendar. It’s for the benefit of paid advertisers, but that calendar will let you know when you should be contacting the outlet with different types of stories.”

Pick and Choose Your Social
“You don’t have to be on every platform. It’s too hard to maintain. You have to decide what would work best for you and your audience and then you can use your presence to establish your credibility. Pinterest is a good one for distributors because it’s visual and people often have their credit cards in their hand so they’re ready to buy. YouTube is another one. Do a few 2-minute videos and you can pull in tons of traffic. You could even have guest bloggers review the products you sell.”

Get on Journalists’ Radar
“Find reporters who cover topics you can speak to, then follow them, share their content and tag them. If a member of the media does interview you, share the link, thank the writer and tag them. This puts their work in front of your audience. Join special interest groups in LinkedIn and Facebook and share your news there. These groups have really loyal followers. If you push it just on your news feed, it gets lost. Only about 2% of your followers will see it.”

Reporting In

Joan Stewart offers three tips for working with reporters.

Do your research. “Don’t pitch to any reporters unless you’ve researched them for at least 10 minutes. Google is your best friend. Find out what else he or she has written, and mention its relevance to your story in your pitch. You’ll get major brownie points.”

Be flexible. “Ask, ‘How can I help you?’ and then listen. You might be surprised. If they say, ‘Can I have your mobile number so I can ask you a question afterhours?’ say ‘Yes!’”

Tell them what you know. “Let them know the areas in which you’re a subject matter expert, so if they have a story coming up, you’ll be on their list of contacts.”

Read This!
Author Andrew Chow’s handbook offers 50 strategies for small- and medium-sized businesses to generate publicity. Chow counters common misconceptions about garnering press and emphasizes the importance of it in order to enhance public perception of a company and brand. Find it here