Cara Good

Article Summary:

How to get free publicity for any size of company or organization.

How To Get Free Publicity

If you think PR is only for big companies, think again. Let me show you how PR is a tool that any company should use to grow and differentiate.

The term “public relations” typically refers to specific communications strategies designed to achieve business goals. The most common use of PR is to:

  • Increase a company’s profile in the local business community
  • Heighten awareness of a company’s product and service offerings among prospect
  • Help a company develop a distinct and favorable identity in the marketplace

An effective public relations campaign can increase demand for your products and services, generate leads, and even play an invaluable role in employee recruitment and retention. Many companies have discovered the valuable role public relations can play in their company’s marketing effort. They have used PR techniques to establish a prominent position in their local business communities, develop relationships with prospects and referral sources, and gain visibility in local and regional newspapers, trade publications, and even national business magazines.

Savvy companies employ a variety of public relations strategies to enhance the company’s brand identity and market its products and services. For example, these companies constantly seek coverage in the trade and business media, and senior executives or founders frequently speak at industry conferences. You can use these same techniques to help your business grow. As with all marketing activities, public relations is most effective when it is carefully integrated into an overall business plan. Leveraging media relationships locally is one of the easiest ways to gain national exposure.

Before trying to use public relations tactics to raise your company’s profile or achieve other goals, you should answer some basic questions about your business:

  • Who are we? What do we do? How does that benefit our customers? What makes us unique or special?
  • What are our primary near- and long-term business goals? What are some of the obstacles that could prevent us from achieving those goals?
  • How would we like to be perceived? Is our desired image realistic? What kind of reputation would we like to have?
  • Who are our most important target audiences, current customers, prospects, referral sources, or potential employees? What are their primary interests, needs or concerns?
  • What messages would we like to communicate to these audiences? Can we support these messages?

Once you define how you want to be perceived, identify the people who can influence your success, and articulate your messages, you are ready to plan your public relations campaign. One of the most common and effective public relations disciplines is publicity. That is, getting your name in print. Every enterprise -- whether a one-person start up or publicly traded corporation -- should implement a basic publicity program.

The following are step-by-step guidelines for establishing a cost-effective program.

First, you need to build a media database.
Dozens of publications may be suitable targets for your publicity campaign. Your first step is to identify those publications that reach prospective customers and other key audiences. These could include the business section of your local newspaper, the chamber of commerce newsletter or industry trade publications, such as your city’s business journal. Ask around to find out what your target audience reads. Pay attention to publications in the reception areas of your customers and prospects.
Once you have identified the most suitable media, become familiar with the editors and reporters who cover topics relevant to your business. When you read an article that relates to your business, note the name of the journalist who wrote it. Check the publication’s masthead, which provides the names (and usually the telephone numbers and e-mail addresses) of editors and reporters. In addition, many publications have a Web page where you can find information about their readership, editorial policies, deadlines, key contacts, and the best ways to reach them. Armed with this information, you can create a targeted media database that will become the foundation of your publicity program. Consider your media database a living document — it needs to be updated regularly. Its value is determined by the freshness and relevance of the information it contains. If possible, add notes or comments after speaking with a reporter or seeing a particularly relevant article so you can build a record on key journalists.

Second, you need to develop relationships with key media.
You should identify “tier one” journalists — those high-priority editors and reporters who know you and your business, who follow your market, and who may want to keep in touch with what you’re doing — even if it isn’t breaking news at the moment. PR relies heavily on establishing and maintaining relationships — knowing an editor you can e-mail or call, who, in turn, will call on you when an expert opinion is needed for an article. The relationship is reciprocal, and the press, if handled in an open and professional manner, can be your friend. Journalists, writers and editors generally cover news and write feature articles. A news editor wants what is hot and new, and he wants it before anyone else. A feature writer likes to identify a topic or trend and find a new twist or angle to examine. The feature writer, who usually works on a deadline determined by an editor, typically will have more time to interview sources and gather research for the article. As you build your media relationships, you can become the expert the writer calls to get a perspective, more information, and/or quotes for their story. Gaining interview requests requires having a positive relationship with the editor or reporter — another reason for responding to an editor’s call promptly. Sources who quickly respond with useful, credible information or quotes generally obtain the highest profile in the press.

Third, tell the media about the positive accomplishments of your company by issuing news releases.
These brief written announcements of company news are a simple and effective way of delivering your messages to the media, and through the media to other audiences. Have a plan to announce all company news — new products or services, success in landing a big customer or contract, award wins, community involvement, executive appointments or promotions, and company expansions. One of the major benefits of regularly distributing news releases is that it enables you to get your company name in front of an editor on a consistent basis. While every news release may not garner editorial coverage, they can help establish your presence with an editor. For example, an editor looking for a particular information source may call you for an interview or background information simply because they recall seeing your company’s news releases. However, don’t overdo it. If you overload an editor with announcements that are not newsworthy, he or she may eventually discard all of your materials unopened.

Finally, once you get your name in print you will want to maximize your successful publicity efforts by obtaining reprints from the publication to include in your press kits and marketing materials.
Publications require permission for reprints and often charge reprint fees. Some publications also insist on printing the reprints themselves, and charge by quantity and color. Be sure that the publication’s logo is on the top of the reprint to add credibility, and that your company’s name, address, phone, Web site address and FAX information is at the bottom.

Cara Good is the co-founder and president of WunderMarx Inc., a fast-growing international public relations, marketing and branding firm representing some of the world's most innovative technologies and ideas. She has been quoted and featured in numerous articles on entrepreneurialism, public relations and marketing, and speaks frequently on these topics. For more information visit www.wundermarx.com

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