Every business owner knows the value of PR. It helps your ideal customer understand what you do and find you when they want your service or product. But most business owners don’t have a background in public relations nor do they have the budget for a professional PR agency.
The good news is you don’t need to break the bank to garner good publicity for your business. If you’re willing to commit a little time and ingenuity, you can promote your company effectively and build your reputation as a business leader.
Here are eight simple steps you can take, on your own, to promote your business, book or service.
You don’t have to break the bank to take advantage of the power of good PR. You just need a plan.
- Write an advice article. This is a great way to demonstrate your expertise and attract exactly the type of readers who will be most interested in what you do. At the same time, you’ll be providing valuable content for the newspaper, magazine or website running your article. Choose an outlet with a large online following and read their current content. Ask yourself what value you can bring to their readers. Here are just a few examples:A car dealer could write a feature titled “The six point spring cleaning checklist for car owners.” A flooring store owner might educate readers about new, renewable options such as bamboo. The owner of a closet organizing company could highlight growing trend in home wine cellars. Real Estate people might feature “8 Must Do Home Repairs For Maximum Resale Revenue.” Remember – your knowledge is valuable to others. Share it and gain visibility.
- Run contests or giveaways. Bring new customers to your website or store and showcase your newest products or services. The prizes don’t need to be expensive and the more closely aligned they are with your core offerings, the more likely you are to attract the attention of your ideal customer. Doctors might provide free cholesterol screenings during heart health month. A floral shop owner might consider a June Bridal Bouquet contest or giveaway. A personal consultation from a life coach or a resume coach is sure to attract attention now. A bakery might give away a dozen cookies a month for a year. You don’t have to give away a free car to everyone on Oprah to create buzz for your business in your community. People hear about your business and sample your product through contests and giveaways – and more importantly, they introduce you to their friends while sharing their excitement about your contest. Winners can become your best brand evangelists, telling countless others about you long after the giveaway has ended.
- Create a sale or promotion with a twist: The Ben & Jerry’s in Gainesville, Florida won a national award, and free publicity in local newspapers, for it’s “BJs in Your PJs” promotion a few years ago. Every Sunday night for four hours they offered discounted ice cream sundaes and shakes to anyone who came in wearing pajamas. All those people standing outside their store in their PJs was a great attention-getter. A local Dunkin’ Donuts in Pennsylvania put up signage asking patrons to vote with their donut purchases, selling blue sprinkled donuts and red sprinkled donuts in the run up to an election. They announced the sales winner in a press release and garnered a lot of free PR for their fun campaign and increased sales as well.
- Sponsor events: Let a local charity use your business location for an event or offer your products or services as fund-raising prizes. Sponsor or host a walk, a race, a bake sale, a food and wine tasting, a lecture by a well-known speaker–all of these could garner press attention. Having your company name and logo front and center in community events will build awareness and engender positive feelings about you and your business.
- Speak Out: Organizations ranging from the Rotary Club to local businesses, colleges, charities and professional men and women’s groups are looking for interesting speakers. Volunteer a few times and soon you could develop a reputation as the “go-to” person for entertaining talks on subjects such as “five things we can do right now to protect our environment,” (a great way to promote a lawn service company’s chemical-free care package) or “how to stage a house for a quick sale” (Realtors, you know these tips by heart) or “using social media to connect with customers” (on trend and invaluable to any customer-centric business).
- Serve as an expert: The media is always looking for people who can speak knowledgably on issues. If you’re an expert in your field, let the radio stations and newspapers know. Write an opinion page (Op Ed) feature on a topic that can educate people and submit it to your local paper, magazine or website. Write letters to the editors when you have something to add to a conversation in the news. Tax preparers can talk about the tax benefits of installing solar equipment. A doctor can interpret the latest scientific study for the non-medical public. Make yourself known. Become a thought leader in your community.
- Be prolific. The key to inexpensive publicity is to engage with your community. You can promote yourself and your business by being caring, knowledgeable and accessible. By sharing your expertise, you’ll develop a passionate base of customers who will refer you to their friends. After all, word-of-mouth is really the Holy Grail of publicity and promotion.
- Be visible: You wouldn’t have a business with an unpublished phone number, nor would you set up shop and keep the address of your store a secret. The same goes for your online presence. Consumers check Google and social media. They check Facebook to learn more about your business. They go to YouTube when they have a “how-to” question. They visit your website when they are ready to make a purchase. Make sure you clearly communicate your business offerings. And, don’t forget that a billion people are on Facebook. You and your business need to be there too. Post daily specials, holiday promotions, fun facts about your community and share information and links from other sources that will be of interest to your customers. Create your own free YouTube Channel and post weekly “how-to” videos or fun messages about why the special of the week is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Think of YouTube as the cheapest television advertising you’ll ever find. Other social networks might be a perfect fit for your business, too. Take a look at Instagram, Pinterest, and even LinkedIn. Think about your product or service and ask yourself which social network is most enjoyable for your ideal customer. That’s where you need to be visible.
Public relations is the art of helping people find you, understand what you offer and giving them a reason to try you out. These eight simple ideas for free or low-cost publicity can be implemented by any business owner, author, service provider or marketer.