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How To Get Free Publicity For Your Business
Would you like to expand the volume of
your business? You can let thousands of people know about your
service, your store, or your new products without paying a penny.
Whether you want to make more sales, or get an offer on television,
you can broaden the scope of your clients by free publicity.
You don't have to climb a flagpole or hire a dancing bear
to attract attention and sales. In fact, with just a telephone
and follow up letters and flyers, you can be making much more
money than you are.
What product or business are you involved with that needs
more clients or customers? You might have a neighborhood store,
or you might be seeking exposure for a celebrity or politician.
Maybe you have a new invention that you can't get marketed
or a recently released line of designer furniture that you
want to increase sales on.
How are you presently getting to customers? You may be advertising
in newspapers and magazines or trade journals. Or you may
be relying on a distribution agreement to retail the products
your plant manufactures.
Perhaps you're an author depending on a publishing house
to promote your book, but it seems to be waning. Or you could
be a young comic, trying to get some more acts to further
Regardless of your business or enterprise, free publicity
is available to you. And you don't need any particular background
or training to do it. What you do need is the belief in yourself
and your product and the diligence and perseverance to continue
when one idea doesn't pan out.
Take a look at the variety of types of publicity. Whether
you want a local increase in sales, or national fame, free
publicity is available to you.
WHAT IS PUBLICITY?
Publicity is making something known to the public, spreading
information to the general-local or national-market. It is
information with a news value used to attract public attention
or support. Everybody use publicity. Politicians, manufacturers,
celebrities-even the Detroit car makers-use publicity to further
their causes and gain attention.
And publicity isn't limited to large organizations. Small
committees and enterprises use the local newspapers to publicize
events and endeavors.
Publicity differs from advertising because it is free. Although
some groups or individuals do trade tickets or services for
free mention in publications, generally publicity is newsworthy
copy that a publication produces.
Publicity is a form of promotion, although promoting a product
or service may require other efforts that cost the company
money. Godd publicity is one of the best ways to let people
know you have a worthwhile business.
KNOW YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE
In order to gain publicity, you have to be totally familiar
with the product, service or business that you are promoting.
If it is your own product, you are the best one to describe
the benefits and features. If you want to publicize something
else, talk to everyone involved to et the facts and details.
Consider the radius of your market. If you have a local business
such as a retail store or service shop, most of your customers
are from the surrounding five miles. If you are located in
a large city, you may have a larger radius, but at the same
time, there may be stiffer competition.
Your enterprise might be regional or statewide and your clients
may come from hundreds of miles-either in person or by telephone-to
use your services. And, if you are a large manufacturer, your
clients and customers may come from the entire United States-or
you may have a worldwide audience.
Profile your customers. Who are they and what do they do?
If you have a service, how often is this service used? If
you have a product, is it something that is bought again and
again, or is it a lifetime purchase?
How much do your customers pay for your products and are
you competitive with the other manufacturers of the same products?
If you have an unusual product, are you reaching the widest
audience you can?
SURVEY THE MARKET
What do the customers want? Sometimes, the least expensive
price is not the most important element. With today's packaging,
many customers expect and will pay for things elaborately
packaged. Where do these people go to buy your products? Are
they sold at retail outlets or through trade publications
or magazines? Or, are they special items available from mail
order or from certain regions of the nation or the world?
Finally, why do your customers buy this particular service
or product, or use the particular business you have? An architectural
design studio produces blueprints for architects to construct
buildings for homeowners and industry. But your product may
be aimed at a less precise group of people, somewhat hard
You can discover what consumers want from surveys. You can
get copies of surveys from special companies that conduct
surveys, or you can do your own. The best place to conduct
a survey is at a trade show for your product. You might run
a drawing and ask people to fill in information. You can have
cards printed with boxes to check easily so people will spend
the time to answer your questions.
Manufacturers use surveys with warranties. Appliance makers
often include a few questions along with the warranty that
the consumer sends back.
Most major manufacturers have their own teams of product
testing. Toy makers bring in children and watch their reactions.
Book publishers have people look at covers and decide which
they'd buy. Even the car manufacturers run surveys and opinion
testing on style and pricing.
Before you seek publicity or even advertise, KNOW YOUR PRODUCT.
Be familiar with the people who buy your product or service,
and have a full understanding of the general competition and
the full scope of marketability.
WHERE TO PUBLICIZE
Depending on your product, you have a full gamut of possibilities
for advertising without paying - free publicity. Deciding
on the type of media is as important as knowing your product
and the people who buy.
As a manufacturer, you want to let retailers know of your
product. The trade magazines would be a good place for new
products and comparisons of product reliability.
If you want to publicize directly to the general public national
publications, metropolitan newspapers and Sunday supplements
are ways to tap into the market.
For a local enterprise - either a profitable business or
a charity or community service - the local newspapers are
the best places for free publicity.
Once your product or news is of national importance, the
television and radio can be good sources of publicity. Even
the local public stations produce interesting shows about
local people and products.
For international significance, the newspaper syndicates
and wire services provide the publicity you'll need.
Don't go for the biggest first; move up to the larger markets.
Start with the local news, then expand as your product interest
MAKE IT NEWSWORTHY
In order to qualify for publicity, your information must
be newsworthy. Anything published in the newspapers, magazines
or trade journals must be important to readers - either as
information for an event, or interesting insights in the industry.
You may have a new product or product line that can be publicized
in magazines. If not, you need to come up with unique angles
to get the publicity you seek.
An unusual background for the inventor of the product or
owner of the manufacturing plant may make good news for the
Or you may need to come up with fresh ideas for your service.
For example, a short item about famous people using the service
is noteworthy, or an unusual combination in the owner's biography
may make a good story.
Some businesses produce literature that points out facts
of the particular industry - either historical or contemporary.
For example, a television news feature was done on a group
of companies that check the quality of houses for interested
buyers. Or, a pamphlet on cutting costs on building an addition
onto your house is a natural for a construction company.
YOUR BEST ANGLE
What is unusual about your product or service that can become
newsworthy? Even if nothing stands out at first, you'll find
you can think of several angles that are worthwhile from a
What about anecdotes? Failure stories can be as entertaining
as success tales. How people have trouble getting their businesses
off the ground can be newsworthy.
And don't forget simple endurance. A business that's been
profitable for twenty-five years is a sure bet for local newspapers.
If you want to publicize an event, consider the radius of
the participants. A national trade convention should receive
national interest in the magazines and publications geared
towards that particular industry. More local events can be
publicized in metropolitan newspapers. The most local neighborhood
events can be publicized by flyers and notices, or through
Look for common trends in your product or service. Think
often about what makes it different from the other thousands
of products and services. Make lists List the features of
what you want to publicize; list the people who use the product
or service; list why people use it.
What do you come up with? Do more young people use it? Do
more women, or members of special groups? You may use an angle
of publicizing a person not in our typical consumer group
purchasing or using your product or service.
The most important consideration in choosing an angle is
to make your item newsworthy, so the editor of the publication
will print it.
Whether you are sending products, press kits, or news releases,
the most important element in getting them publicized is to
send it to the right person. If it doesn't reach that person's
desk, it may well end up in the wastebasket.
When you decide on the media market you want to publicize
in, contact the people who will make it happen. On a local
level, a small town newspaper will have a features editor,
or a specific person who takes care of the notice you want
to place. Call up the publication and get that person's name.
Speak briefly and say you'll send in a notice.
A larger metropolitan newspaper is a busy place. Consider
the section you'll want your story to appear in. Many newspapers
have entertainment, travel, business, sports, food sections.
Contact that editor.
Editors rarely have time to talk to strangers soliciting
publicity, so you might try talking to the assistant. Speak
briefly, introduce yourself, and say you'll send in a news
For a radio message, contact the program director, or assistant.
Make enough telephone calls to be sure you have the correct
name of the person to send your release to.
Television programming directors may be more difficult to
reach; use perseverance. With active pursuit, you can get
your message through to anyone.
The easiest connection for promoting a new product is with
the editors of trade magazines or with national magazines
that have a new products section, You may want to send a sample,
or at least a photograph or drawing of the product. And, you
need to incluae all pertinent facts and features.
Magazine editors can also be difficult to reach-but try.
If you can speak directly to the person who handles new products,
try it. If not, be sure to contact the person who does handle
the feature angle that you have chosen.
As soon as you've contacted the right person to use your
material, send it out immediately. If you have arranged a
personal appointment, follow up with a short note that confirms
the date and time.
A few days after you send out your materials, call that person
again. Simply ask if the information was received; don't push
for a commitment to run the release. By pointing attention
to the materials, you have a better chance.
News releases, also called press releases, are the most important
selling tool of publicity. The release must capture the editor's
attention, be precise and easy to read.
A news release can go to just one newspaper or many publications
at once. It can be a community notice about an organization's
library sale or an international insight into inflation.
The same standard form is used for every type of news, whether
an executive promotion in the trade magazines, or a local
event such as an author signing books at a neighborhood bookstore.
If you want your notice to get into a special edition of
a publication, be aware of the deadlines. Sunday news editions
generally have more readers than the daily editions. Find
out when your release must be received at the editor's desk.
Never mix publicity with advertising. If your newspaper features
specific businesses in special industry supplements, you may
be chosen because you advertise. But otherwise, editors frown
on any releases that merely imitate advertising and are not
Don't embarrass yourself by sending anything that is not
worthy of being printed in the publication as news. Not only
will your release be thrown away, but you wil destroy any
chance you had for subsequent releases with that editor.
WRITING THE RELEASE
Keep the news release to one page. Type it clearly on white
bond paper, double spaced, and never send it with typographical
errors. Since the release might be published exactly as it
is received, be sure the copy is professional and worthy of
At the top left, put your name and address and the phone
number you can be reached at during business hours. In full
capital letters at the right, type, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,
PLEASE or for release on or after a certain date.
Use a headline appropriate to the event or topic, and keep
it short - just like newspaper headings. Capitalize the letters
and underline the headline.
Start the copy with a dateline, which is the city and date.
Then write the rest within a few paragraphs. Include the important
information in the standard who, what, when and where. Use
good English, but don't run on with unimportant adjectives
or boring information. You can capitalize the first letters
of important events such as Public Auction or the name of
your new product.
If you have a release to send to many publications at the
same time, have it printed by photo offset so the copy is
clear and looks original.
Include a personal letter to the editor. Be cordial, but
keep it short. If your product is convenient to mail, you
may include a sample if the editor is amenable.
Watch the publications and clip the printed publicity yourself.
Never ask the publication to send you a copy.
You can publicize your service or product with a pamphlet
or booklet. Topical subjects such as saving energy or cutting
costs are always newsworthy. Naming new trends or buying habits
can equally be publicized.
Take a look at the magazines and trade journals in your area
of endeavor. Are there special sections for interesting tidbits
of the industry? Maybe there's a section for new products,
or even a section that compares products.
Does your product or service have something special that
competitors don't? Maybe yours is the best - and -best' is
newsworthy. Does yours have the longest resiliency, or is
it made from the best materials? Maybe your service is noted
for complete satisfaction or reliability.
These aspects are especially important for the big manufacturers.
Trade journals cater to the special industries, and those
in the trade always want to consider the best product investment
- especially when spending thousands of dollars.
An oil company sends out free booklets on maintaining your
car; a travel agent prints a brochure on the most beautiful
vacation spots; a dry cleaners gives out a flyer on getting
out stains as soon as they happen.
What promotional literature can you tie into your business?
And it doesn't need to be product oriented. Some large companies
produce tips on employee relations or benefits. Many print
their own newsworthy in-house publications .
Any special message booklet is a public service and is worthy
of free publicity. Some interesting information can make a
good feature if followed up by a reporter. Or you may write
your own feature for magazines.
You can get your literature designed and printed by a local
printer at minimum cost. Don't go for an elaborate four-color
booklet unless you can afford to. Consider what you can get
at the least expense and then work from there. From a small
investment, you may get thousands of dollars worth of free
Always include the name and address ad business number of
your enterprise on the brochure, and offer copies for the
general public as a free give-away or as a bonus for services.
When you don't have a specific news release or a special
booklet to publicize your enterprise, you may solicit publicity
with a letter to the editor of the section that suits your
Rather than providing complete information, suggest the practicality
and timeliness of a feature or article on your business or
the owner of the business. Some people or organizations are
famous in their own right and start side businesses or enterprises.
For example, celebrities open restaurants or community theaters;
financiers donate art collections; a local orphanage may raise
a phenomenal amount of money for a special cause.
A pitch letter is a highly motivating letter to get the editor
interested in the topic that will benefit your cause. Type
it on letterhead and send it personally to the editor. You
might call in advance and use it as a follow up.
Get right to the point. Present the topic and the angle immediately.
Then, support the worthiness with some poignant information
concerning the topic.
Send copies of local publicity if you're building to a national
level, or send copies of other news features that relate directly
to your person or product.
Don't deluge the editor with too many clippings or an overload
of information. A few choice tidbits will suffice to get that
person's interest in doing a feature.
Close your letter with a mention of calling that person and
then follow up with a telephone call a few days later.
USE YOUR TELEPHONE
The most important tool to the publicist is the telephone.
People who make their livelihoods with publicity make calls
all day long. And persistence is the greatest attribute.
Whether you use a hard-sell or a soft-sell approach on the
phone, it's a great way to make and keep contact with important
people. Just one phone call may seal up a lifetime business
relationship with someone who will provide you with thousands
of dollars worth of free publicity.
A telephone call is the most efficient means of reaching
somebody, introducing yourself and your desires, and firming
up a contact for follow through. Don't be afraid of calling
people and don't be shy in asserting yourself.
If you have a clear idea about your product or service and
believe in what you're selling, your tone of voice will be
the best selling feature. Know your facts and present them
If you are working for a specific person or trying to get
a meeting for the owner of Your company, know when you can
set up an appointment and settle on it immediately. Don't
forget business lunches - a great way to sell yourself or
your product in a relaxed atmosphere. Follow up with a memo
that same day to confirm the date and time of the meeting.
When you meet with rejection, don't take it to heart - there
are so many ways you can make solid connections that a few
no's shouldn't stop you.
Some trade journals have specific columns written by a reporter
that run weekly or monthly. If you have a newsworthy item
for a column, you can build up a working rapport with the
writer and supply material from time to time.
The entertainment trade papers have daily columns that keep
celebrities in the limelight. Metropolitan newspapers run
daily columns that mention politicians. And industry publications
have columns that pertain to a certain aspect of your enterprise.
When you write a column release, copy the style of the writer
and use the format of the news release. Instead of for immediate
release, type in capital letters, for exclusive release to
the name of the person.
Use your imagination when you write the column release, and
don't get discouraged if it's passed by. Keep building relationships
with the columnists and you'll get your news publicized.
The press kit is made up to publicize celebrities or new
products or a product line. They may be put together for a
trade show or convention, or a press conference.
Generally, a press kit includes a biography of the person
who is being publicized or the inventor or the head of the
company. A news release is included and a photograph or drawing
with a caption is attached.
Copies of news stories and newspaper clippings are enclosed-anything
pertinent to the item you want publicized. An entertainer's
schedule might be included if it's a conference about a tour.
The press kit is usually in a folder or envelope and is handy
to send to publications or for press conferences or to give
information to the local media.
A bio of a personality - whether a famous celebrity or the
president of your company - is fact, not hype. It usually
is included in press kits for background information only;
it's not meant for release.
Although important information concerning the person's career
should be included, make it informative and interesting to
read. Many editors or reporters will use that information
in a news story or feature.
It should be single spaced, and never make it more than two
pages - even if the person deserves a full book.
Regardless of the scope of your news, photographs are an
asset. If you are looking for extra publicity for a politician
after a town meeting, include a photo of the person with your
New products alwavs deserve to be seen. Whether it is a full
expensive professional shot later used for advertising, or
a simple black and white photo, it should be clear and uncluttered
with extraneous objects.
Generally for a small business, the black and white glossy
photo is your best bet. Have a professional take the shot
with the product seen in its best light. High contrast photos
are the best for newspapers and magazines. If your product
is mainly light colored, it will stand out on a black background,
and vice versa.
Always have them professionally duplicated and be of the
highest quality. Forget about Polaroid's or anything that
closely resembles amateur work. The editor won't take your
Have them printed on 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 paper and to enclose
a cardboard backing when you send them through the mail with
a news release or a pitch letter.
When you do get coverage from your efforts, clip those pieces
from the publications and exploit them. You may have seen
this done in restaurants. They often enlarge and mount copies
of local restaurant reviews and post them in windows for potential
Good publicity in one form may lead to a wider scope of publicity
in a larger publication. You can use local newspaper clippings
for pitching a feature in a national magazine. And you can
use write-ups in large circulation publications to give credentials
for a television appearance.
Many businesses exploit reviews. Look at the back of books;
they list the quotations from reviewers to promote the product.
And films do that too. How many times have you seen a film
advertised by quotations from famous film reviewers?
What can you do to use the publicity at its best and spread
its effects as widely as possible? Take a look at your metropolitan
newspaper. In the features section, there are often stories
about interesting people and their enterprises. With a little
ingenuity, this coverage can go national.
An obvious way to use good publicity is simply to photocopy
it and send it as a direct mail piece to your customers or
to include it in your brochures. Even a stack of flyers at
the counter can promote your business.
How far do you want to go?
In most cases, you can use the normal media channels to get
the publicity you need for your product or service. And, although
you don't need to come up with schemes to get attention, they
Sometimes promotion departments of manufacturers stage marathon
events or contests with their products - especially with toys
and games. Apparel companies may sponsor athletic races; manufacturers
of motorcycles sponsor races.
Although promotion schemes do cost money to stage, the efforts
usually pay off in a long run with the number of customers
sold on the product.
For local coverage, charity drives and dinners are good ways
to get in the paper. Some enterprises strive for a more national
coverage with special prizes connected to sports events.
If you are clever enough, and there's no big news break that
day, you may get your scheme on television. Even local footage
reaches thousands and thousands of people.
What gimmicks can you think of that will pay off for their
investment? How is your product or service used that it can
commercially be exploited by the news? Can you keep going
with it-making it an annual event, drawing customers from
near and far?
HIRING OTHER PEOPLE
What if you don't want to do the publicity yourself? If your
product or service is a natural for free publicity, you can
hire a company or a person to do your public relations work.
There axe many free lancers in the large cities who have
a number of clients that they publicize. They've already broken
the ice with the editors and the media, so they can get their
If you want to hire someone for a special project, get a
person who has the contacts and who specializes in your product
line. If you're a celebrity, use someone who has a reputation
in the entertainment industry. If you are a manufacturer with
new appliances, likewise consider a person with expertise
in that field.
Check out the person or firm. Talk to other clients and find
out what has been done for them. Have they increased their
sales or public exposure?
Investigate the reputation with people in the media you want
to publicize in, and be sure there is a clean slate with the
local business associations.
Then work efficiently with the person who will handle your
publicity. Communicate effectively and be sure your ideas
are understood. Listen well and absorb any ideas thrown your
way. Between the two of you, you can come up with an excellent
publicity campaign that will make your business boom.
The wonderful thing about free publicity is that you have
nothing to lose. A few phone calls; a few personal letters,
maybe some investment in quick printing news releases. And,
you can reap many times that investment in additional sales
Whether you have an international personality to publicize
or a community barbecue, you can get that information to the
public at little expense.
What is unique about your service or product? Is it the best?
The most used? The longest lasting? Do customers return year
after year? Consider all the angles, then consider again.
Be sure to make solid contacts and be thorough with your
follow-ups. Being polite and efficient will always create
effective business relations. Then exploit your own publicity.
Use it again and again; post it in the store or rewrite it
for more national distribution. Go as far as you can with
And, it doesn't cost you. That is the true joy - with a little
effort and persistence, you can reap great profits from free
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