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Thursday, January 04, 2007

How to obtain great publicity for your business

Point 2 -- What makes a great story?

One of the cardinal rules of marketing is to answer the WIIFM (What's in it for me?) question, from the perspective of your clients and prospective clients. The same issue applies at a magnified level when you are seeking media publicity.

Most publications, websites and radio or television stations will be happy to provide you with a puffy business profile for you -- if you pay them. Of course, this can be very expensive and not terribly effective advertising. You and your employees may care about your business, but who else does? The answer is, not many, except as it provides something of value (or on the negative side, of cost) to them.

Since the media business depends on advertising revenue for its survival, it is doubly careful about giving positive publicity that could be seen as self-serving to businesses. (This is partly why non-profits and community groups have an edge in the publicity realm; there are also ideological and point-of-view biases of working journalists, who are usually younger and more left than right-leaning in their political perspectives.)

Nevertheless, these issues are not insurmountable barriers -- the important thing is to look beyond your own interests, to those of the media for which you are seeking publicity, and ultimately, their readers (who, if you are planning things correctly, are likely to be your clients or their influencers).

Here are some ideas on routes to media publicity

The charity give-away
You have seen I'm sure the smiling faces with the big cheque. These pictures run in community newspapers and in charity 'house organs'. I'm not a big fan of this type of publicity but it should not be underrated -- especially if, for example, the board of directors of the charity you are supporting also contains senior decision-makers among your potential clients.

The creative (or big) charity give-away
You can certainly 'buy' publicity by making a really large contribution -- something big enough to bankrupt most smaller businesses! Creativity is of course more complex. A homebuilder might negotiate with a hosptial lottery to provide a dream home as a prize give-away; perhaps selling the house to the lottery at a below-market price. The house, located in a subdivision the builder is marketing, is then used as a show-home for several months while the lottery is running. The builder receives good publicity and of course many visitors from potential purchasers. Perhaps you can arrange a different but relevant give-away within the business sector you are serving.

Your article/column in business and trade journals
I think this is the most effective form of publicity for professional services and consultants. You need to write creative, original content, of relevance to publication's readers. If you aren't a natural writer, you can hire someone to put your words into a cohesive form. Note you should not use canned material here -- editors can see through this stuff and will either reject it or invite you to publish it as a boxed ad. Consider also if appropriate developing a podcast or visual message using the new media technologies.

Contribute to relevant internet forums and discussion groups
If you can be seen as an expert among experts in higher level forums and discussion groups, youwill achieve an enhanced reputation (and receive calls and emails directly), but an indirect benefit is that mainstream media reporters monitor the forums these days and you are more likely to be called to comment on relevant topics.

Tomorrow I'll discuss the uses (and limits) of the News Release.

Please feel free to phone me at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or email

This week I learned belatedly with sadness about the death of Gary Coull. We were university peers -- working on the student newspaper The Ubyssey, with summer and part-time jobs at the Vancouver Province newspaper. When we graduated, we set out to see the world -- in different directions. Gary went to the middle east and Asia, settling in Hong Kong where, he grew from a start as a reporter to becoming a highly successful investment banker/broker.

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His memorial website is

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