Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Generate Free Publicity for your business

For all the families working for themselves, I introduce to you Sue Papadoulis, here she gives you advice on doing your own pr:-

If you’ve already launched your own business, or are about to, there are some easy and effective public relations and promotional strategies you can employ to generate free media coverage.

1. Try public relations strategies before committing any money to advertising 

A first-hand recommendation from a journalist can inspire potential customers significantly more than a paid advertisement. A positive story in the media represents a trust-worthy source of information about your product. A consumer is much more inclined to try it if it comes with third- party endorsement. It gives them a sense of safety – that someone else has already tried it out and enjoyed it. If your product or service is featured in the media it may also fall into the category of a ‘must-have’ product.

2. Learn how to think like a journalist 

The biggest secret to generating free publicity is to think like a journalist.

If you can hone your mind to think like a journalist you’ll master the art of generating tens of thousands of dollars worth of free publicity. This is done by taking an objective look at your business and coming up with a newsworthy story angle that will interest the media.

A journalist will only respond to you if what you’re providing makes their life easier. They are endlessly harassed by public relations people and business owners wanting coverage. If you can provide a good story that is of interest to their audience, and submit the material in such a way that is simple to understand and well written, then they will happily return your calls, maintain regular contact and become very interested in your products.

3. Separate real news about your business from promotional-speak 

When preparing a media release or any other written material for the media, don’t get caught up in marketing speak and clichés. It’s not enough to simply copy content from a brochure or your web site. Write a media release in the same manner as a news article.

If you’re not a good writer, hire someone to write a media release for you. A well written media release can achieve publicity, while a poorly written one is likely to be discarded.

The proof of a well written media release is when you read your media release word for word as a news story in a paper or magazine.

4. Match your target audience to the media outlet’s target audience 

It’s no use pitching a story about a new financial planning product to a hit music radio station that reaches teenagers.

Make a list of media outlets that your consumers read, watch or listen to. Familiarise yourself with these outlets and determine which segments would be interested in a story about your product, and then investigate the journalists who write for these sections. For example, if you’re selling a health product find out if your local paper has a regular health section and who edits it then send your information specifically to that person.

Consider trade magazines or business association publications and newsletters that relate specifically to your industry. These reach a niche market and may be much more effective than mass market publications where you’re fighting for space with other businesses from a range of industries.

5. Find a newsworthy angle that is of real interest to the media outlet’s audience 

Newsworthy angles relating to home-based businesses could include the launch of your business, the development of a new product, or a major achievement such as an award, a jump in sales, a new web site and the like. But, what if your business has been running for a while, there are no new products and you haven’t reached any major milestone recently? I can guarantee there will still be newsworthy angles you haven’t considered.

Begin by coming up with some major topics that interest consumers in your target market. In general, consumers and many mainstream media outlets are most commonly interested in the following key subjects: health issues, lifestyle (travel, charities, children/babies/families, holidays, beauty, clothing, fashion), education, personal lives (love, romance, sex) and money (how to make it, keep it, protect it). How can you generate a story angle that fits into one of these categories and relates to your product?

Think about trends – what’s in the news right now? Are environmental issues, carbon emissions, the economy, interest rates, teenage drinking, or cosmetic surgery making headlines? Can you offer a comment on any of these issues and relate it back to your product?

For example, I had a client who was a financial planner. She promoted herself as offering:

A wide range of products 
Great service 
Great value for money

There is nothing newsworthy in this information so it would be of no interest to a journalist. After some probing, I also discovered she offered:

- A mortgage reduction program in which participants signed up for a 12 month course from which they could be sacked if they didn’t follow her advice.

- A home budget program which applied a business budgeting model to a household.

These two programs would be of interest to a journalist if they were packaged in the right way. I promoted the mortgage reduction program as a “Budget Boot Camp” to beat the “Home Mortgage Blues”. The media release caught the attention of the major Sunday newspaper and a local radio program both of which interviewed my client and ran the story. A local television station saw the newspaper report and also picked up the story.

6. Be concise and consistent

Writing a media release or submitting material to a media outlet shouldn’t be seen as a one-off activity. Regular and consistent contact will develop your image as a reliable media source and will ensure journalists take note of you and your business.

It’s therefore important not to include every element of your business in a single media release. You are more likely to receive ongoing media coverage if you provide one news angle per release and make the copy short, sharp and concise. Come up with 12 angles for the year and send out a media release per month. Even if you don’t score coverage immediately, a journalist will begin to notice that you’re being consistent, creative and innovative – and they will eventually respond.

7. Send media material that matches the outlet

Many media outlets run long features, as well as short news pages. Determine which area you want to target and write the copy accordingly. Your target media outlet may regularly run lists such as a column of Top 5’s (for example, a city’s Top 5 places for breakfast, Top 5 baby web sites etc), or new product items. Count how many words feature in these lists and then write your information in the same way. If a journalist can simply copy what you’ve provided for use in their own format it makes their life easier, which is one of the biggest factors in securing media coverage.

8. Make a great pitch 
Many media outlets prefer email contact but there are rules to follow when making an e-pitch. In the body of the email include a personalised greeting (“Dear Jane”, rather than “To Whom It May Concern” or nothing at all), your story angle and where it fits into the media outlet (such as a new product section), details about the product, and a call to action for the journalist (would the journalist like a sample or set up a time for interview?).

When sending a media release, copy the text into the body of the email. Never send an attachment as they won’t be opened. In fact, some media organisation firewalls prevent attachments from being received.

If you’re contacting the media by email you’ll also need to maintain a database of email addresses.

9. A professional approach 

Approaching the media needn’t be an intimidating proposition. You need to be armed with a well-written media release featuring a great news angle, and a professional outlook that is centred on helping the journalist (this is a very important point – treat them as you would your very best customer).

When contacting a journalist be sure you know your angle, have plenty of back up information, have images to provide (or be available for photographs to be taken of you), and consider your timing. Think about if it’s a convenient time for a journalist to take your call. A major pitfall is calling right on deadline – you can expect zero response if you pick the wrong time. For example, it’s never wise to contact a radio newsroom in the last 10 minutes before each hour as the news bulletin approaches.

It’s also important to always be on hand to provide additional information as soon as it’s requested. It may be the case that the journalist has left the story to the last minute and if you’re not available to help meet the deadline, they will simply find someone else who can.

10. Develop an ongoing relationship 

Once you’ve made a media contact, it’s important to keep the flow of information and communication going. It doesn’t mean hounding the journalist every day, but simply keeping them regularly informed about product updates and developments. This may be as simple as sending a monthly media release or asking a journalist if they would like to be added to your database to receive a regular e-newsletter.

You know you’ve succeeded when you become a regular reference and contact point for the media. Establishing a solid relationship with a journalist is a win-win. They access relevant and reliable information, and you reap the benefits of ongoing media coverage. Remember my financial planning client? By following my advice on how to approach the media and behave professionally, she now has a regular weekly radio spot. She’s become the station’s expert on the topic and is regularly contacted for her views on financial matters. Once you’re viewed by the media as an expert in your field, you can expect consumers will also see you that way.

© 2008 Home Biz Chicks
Online entrepreneur Sue Papadoulis publishes the popular e-newsletter Smart Biz Chicks. If you’re ready to jump-start your home business to make more money and have more fun and free time, get your FREE tips now at

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