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How to Get Publicity for Your Small Business

Artful feeding of the media and a little self-promotion can help bring in customers

posted by Gwen Moran, March 6, 2012 More by this author

low angle view of multiple microphones

Gwen Moran is a small business authority and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Plans.


low angle view of multiple microphones
It's not hard to get publicity for your small business for free.
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Eva Rosenberg, aka the “TaxMama," is quoted often in media outlets ranging from the sublime (The Wall Street Journal) to the sometimes ridiculous (The National Enquirer). That visibility has brought hundreds of clients to her tax preparation business in Irvine, Calif. But Rosenberg’s status as a go-to source is no accident. She works hard to get quoted, sending journalists grabby press releases and story ideas. And her clever courting of the media landed Rosenberg a tax tips column in the local paper.
 
Even if your dreams of being the next James Taylor or Glenn Close have fallen by the wayside, you can take cues from the publicists who propel people to stardom to pump up publicity and attention for your company, the way Rosenberg has. With the explosion of websites, blogs and social media outlets, there are more avenues than ever to get your business noticed.

Here are six ways to do it:
 
Find the right targets. Become a close student of the media. Identify outlets that publish stories relating to what you do and learn which types of stories work best for each outlet.

Then find out whom to approach. If you want to appear in print or online, do some digging to determine the reporter or editor who covers the field you’re pitching. You can simply call the publication or website and ask who that is plus contact information for him or her. For the email address, you can also check the Contact Us section of the company’s site, or conduct a search engine query, typing in the name of the individual followed by the word "email."

You might also track down writers through LinkedIn or Twitter and send them messages through those social media sites.

Pitch time-sensitive stories. Rosenberg always gives her pitches a timely angle, such as year-end tax tips in December. When relevant news breaks — a tax law takes effect, for example — she jumps into action, sending emails that offer her up as a source who can decipher, in plain English, how taxpayers will be affected.
 
When you combine helpful information with expert credentials, you have a winning formula to become a source for articles journalists will write and an expert on TV or radio.
 
Write it yourself. Try getting your own pieces published on websites and blogs as well as in trade publications and local newspapers, noting your business and expertise. Some bloggers welcome guest posts by knowledgeable experts.

Use the same targeting methods as above to find the right editor or blogger. Then send a message via social media explaining your credentials and offering yourself as someone who could write about a timely topic of interest. Don't submit the whole article; just the core concept.
 
Find journalists who need expert sources for their articles. Several matchmaking websites connect journalists with expert sources, including business owners. The journalists post the type of expertise they’re seeking; the site’s subscribers respond, offering themselves as authorities. HelpaReporter.com, which is free of charge, is one of the largest and best known. Reporterconnection.com is also free. PRLeads.com costs $99 per month, but also offers marketing help and support.
 
Develop a social media following. Chances are you probably already use Twitter and Facebook to promote your business. But if not, it’s time to start. By regularly passing along lively content, you can build a following and position yourself as someone in the know.
 
The key to building a social media following is regularly posting content that will engage your target audience (as opposed to telling them what you ate for lunch) and sharing the content of others who do the same. The online tools HootSuite and TweetDeck let you schedule posts in advance so you can program them to go out at a particular day and time.
 
Many journalists look for sources on LinkedIn and Twitter. And you never know who’s going to follow you – Maria Shriver and Timothy Hutton follow me on Twitter. Perhaps they’re small business champions, too.
 
Speak! You’ve no doubt heard the old chestnut that death is the only thing people fear more than public speaking. But giving lectures and seminars isn’t so tough when you love your topic. Rosenberg hooked up with a local speaker’s bureau to book engagements at Irvine-area conferences, and that has further raised her profile.
 
There are plenty of opportunities to share your knowledge, from conventions to local Chamber of Commerce meetings. Some offer a small honorarium of about $100, but large conferences can pay upwards of $2,500. Highly sought-after speakers command fees as high as $25,000. You can also turn your speeches into articles or story ideas for the media.
 
To polish your stage presence and get ideas on ways to snag speaking engagements, check out the websites of Toastmaster’s International and the National Speakers Association. Both provide substantial free resources for aspiring speakers.
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