Marketing gold: How to get publicity for your small business

Savvy entrepreneurs are always looking for ways to grow their business without spending a lot of money. As such, they know that getting free publicity is one of the best things they can do.

A story about how great your business is performing, or that cool new product you have, is far more effective than an advertisement or social media post on your own platform.

Why? Because a news story is someone else saying how great your business is doing. Even better: After it runs, it can be posted on your website forever and used in all of your other marketing efforts.

Marketing gold.

I probably get pitched at least 10 times a day from publicists wanting me to write about one of their clients. On average I would say, I will bite at one or two of these pitches a month. That makes for some pretty long odds: 10 pitches a day x 20 business days a month = 200 pitches a month. Two yeses = a 1% success rate.

So how do you get noticed above the din? Let me tell you. It is a four-step process:

1. Come up with a unique angle

As they say, “dog bites man” is not a story, but “man bites dog” is. You need to come up with a unique idea that you think would catch a columnist or a reporter’s eye. No one is in the business of giving you free publicity, but they are in the business of sharing valuable, interesting and good stories.

So that is what you have to give them.

Say for example that you own a scuba dive shop. Your story could be about how you are taking a trip out to explore a recently discovered ship that sunk off the coast. If you offer the writer some history about the ship, you can bet that any story would also include your excursion.

2. Locate the right person

What you don’t want to do is cast a wide net to journalists. That will waste your time, and theirs. Only very few writers, editors or producers will be interested in your story. Ask yourself, who covers your industry, or the story you want to pitch? In the case of the scuba shop, you would want to locate the local writer who covers history or the environment.

You might also consider pitching your trade organization or local, smaller media outlet. They need content too and would be more likely to bite on your hook.

3. Create your pitch

Long ago, publicity seekers were taught to craft a press release that discussed the who, what, where, when, and why of the event or story. Bad idea these days. Most content creators are too busy or otherwise disinterested to read a full-length press release.

Better: Draft a short, snappy, interesting email. Have a great subject line, address it personally to the writer you zeroed-in on (not “Dear sir” or “To whom it may concern” or “Dear editor.”), and make it personal.

If you were writing to me for example, you might say, “Dear Steve – I really enjoy your columns and when you write about innovative startups in general. I thought you would love this story about an entrepreneur who turned a $500 loan into a million dollar business, and how your readers could do the same.”


4. Follow up

People are super busy these days and you may not get an answer right away. It’s OK to follow up, as long as you don’t become a pest.

This plan is not foolproof, but I suggest that it’s your best bet of getting that elusive “tell me more.”


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