Score free publicity

Written by Karen Kelly

If you’re like many small business owners, you know advertising is important, but you don’t think you can afford it. Luckily, you don’t need to drop thousands of dollars to get noticed. All it takes is a little ingenuity.

Martin Wales, president of Customer Catcher, a Toronto-based consulting firm that helps companies use their existing resources to attract new clients, says the best way to get free advertising is through the media. “Somebody writing about you is sometimes stronger than placing an ad,” says Wales. “There’s a perception that if you’re in the media, you’ve been selected from amongst hundreds.”

Why don’t companies take advantage of media outlets more often? Lack of knowledge and resources, says Wales. Business owners often don’t know where to start.

Here are Wales’ top tips for getting your company in the news:

  1. Get quoted. “This is the simplest one of all,” says Wales. With all your industry knowledge, your time in the trenches and your niche product, you have a lot to offer writers and editors. Simply make yourself accessible. List your expertise in media source guides (see, for example) and get involved in networking events or associations. “I always tell reporters or columnists when I meet them that I’m available [for an interview],” says Wales.
  2. Fill voids. Online publishers like to keep their sites updated, which means they’re frequently pressed for new material. Similarly, small industry or trade magazines are always hungry for stories to fill their pages. Draw up a quick tip list, checklist, Q&A or case study, then fire it off in a press release to the appropriate editors. (Here are tips on how to write a press release.)
  3. Write an article. Whether it’s due to lack of time or poor writing skills, some CEOs resist trying to formulate an article. One hint from Wales: “If you’re going to write it, then speak it, and then transcribe it.” Still not convinced you can write? Consider hiring a freelance writer (check, for example). Rates are highly negotiable.

Read other pointers on How To contribute to your business success!

© 2003 Karen Kelly

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