10 steps to effective publicity without paying to advertise

Rolled magazineSmall businesses often work on a limited budget with limited human resources. So how can you market your wares without crippling your bottom line?

1. Think very carefully before paying for advertising space. Editorial space or air time can be far more valuable to you due to its authenticity, and can be achieved at low cost by employing intelligent strategies.

2. Don’t be intimidated by the media. PR agencies are simply agents between you and the journalists or researchers who may be interested in your story. Communicating with your target media outlets isn’t rocket science. You can do it without buying PR services, which can be expensive.

3. Make sure you have a story to tell that will captivate your audience. If you’re a new enterprise, your first story will be along the lines of, hey, here we are offering a brand new product/service … If you’re an existing business, you need to find ongoing news stories. These could relate to new innovations, but if you’re stuck for news, talk to your customers – each of them will have a story about how your product/service helped them. Take a look at What’s Your Backstory? for more ideas.

4. You may need to engage the services of a professional journalist to write your news release, or you may be able to write your own. If you’re doing it yourself, be sure to precis the essential story in the first paragraph so busy editors or researchers can make a quick decision about whether to read on. And keep the release to no more than two pages. See Tips for Kick-Butt News Releases.

5. Always supply good quality, compelling photos with lots of impact, which tell the story in a way that will engage your target audience. This may take some thought, time and advice from a photographer – but the time and cost investment will pay off, and you’ll have a set of images for your website and other publicity material. For more advice on this, see How to Get Publicity Photos in Newspapers and Magazines, and on TV.

6. Target your media contacts intelligently. Decide which papers, magazines, radio programs are likely to reach your audience most effectively, and pitch directly to them. Show them that you have an understanding of their requirements – the types of stories they like to run and any relevance in terms of timing.

7. Go for it! Send out your release with clear contact details for those who want further information and images. If possible send thumbnails of your photos with your press release and ask them to let you know which images they would like to receive in print resolution (usually 300 dpi, size as).

8. Call each outlet the following day to make sure the release reached the right person and to check whether any further information or images are needed. Keep the call short and sweet – unless they want to engage you in a longer conversation. This will help to bring you to their attention. Keep a note of any contact names that come up for future use. See How to Follow up a News Release

9. Don’t lose confidence if you don’t get too many bites first time around. Keep brainstorming new stories, keep an eye on the kinds of stories that your target media outlets are publishing or airing, and look for a fit. A one-off release won’t be enough – keep the stories coming, but make sure they’re damn good stories or your targets will begin to tune out.

10. When you do get coverage, make quality copies of the article to use as publicity material. Or upload it onto your website. The media outlet may be willing to supply you with a pdf of the article, which will give you better quality than scanning. And don’t forget to celebrate!