Generating Your Own Publicity

Have you been plastering web pages and newspapers with huge ads, but received no response? Do you feel that the world needs to know about your business, but don’t know where to start? We live in cash-pressed times and advertising no longer has the effect it once had. But you can still target potential customers in an engaging way, by making yourself newsworthy to media outlets.

The received wisdom in marketing is that you must know your audience in order to reach them effectively. But when approaching media outlets, the journalist is your first audience. And what they’re looking for is news, a handy, bite sized news item that will fill space. It’s time to drop the marketing speak and ask yourself what’s new or special about your business.

Journalists and editors receive dozens of emails every day, with businesses clamouring for attention. They’re not going to be interested in the fact that you are doing an offer of 20% off wedding dresses for the month of September. But they will be interested in the fact that you are Ireland’s only stockist of a particularly beautiful range of dresses.

If you’ve won an award, are bringing in a new product line or expanding your business, centre your press release on that. If you have a less tangible offering, or you feel that your business isn’t much different to others in the field, why not set yourself up as an expert. Centre your press release on your field of expertise, whether it’s business coaching, IT or website development. Offer advice and tips. You are bound to have skills that no-one else has in quite the same way. That way, your press release won’t be just an extended plug, it will offer your audience something of value, beyond self-promotion.

The next decision to make is where to send it to. Media outlets related to your industry may be interested in specialist advice or new developments. If you’re a new business, there are a lot of slots in the media profiling people who are beating the recession by developing innovative products and services. And local newspapers are always keen to support new businesses. They rely heavily on advertising, but if you’ve won an award or have a significant new development, you’ll make it onto the news or business pages.

You can create a general press release and draw up a list of places to send it. But if you’re particularly keen on being included in a specific publication or programme, it’s worth studying it carefully to see where your business fits and creating a press release which is specifically tailored to that publication. Your press release is a template; you can tweak it to suit the needs of whichever publication you send it to.

I’ve touched on the importance of angles in a previous blog entry (The Write Angle). Once you’ve identified the angle that’s likely to be of interest, hit journalists with it straight away, in the subject line of your email, in the headlines and in the first paragraph. Take the trouble to find out the editor’s first name and write them a brief note, explaining why you’ve chosen to approach their publication or programme. Then include the press release in the body of the email, so they’re not searching for it.

This is a slower method of gaining publicity than advertising. It can take time for editors to get to your press release and they can get lost in the pile. If you’re particularly keen to be featured, it’s worth giving the editor a call or a follow-up email to see if they got it. Also, the editor may not use your press release immediately, but months later, they may call you for a quote. For example, if you sent in a press release about your new website-creation system, you may be quoted in an article about how to build the perfect website.

If you are featured in the media, the publicity you gather will be subtle but potent. People’s interest will be piqued by what you’re offering and they may mention that they saw an item about you to their friends. You’re generating word-of-mouth buzz for your business on a wider scale. You’re telling your audience a story about your business and if it’s a compelling enough story, they’ll be keen to sample what you have to offer.

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