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Saturday, January 06, 2007

How to obtain great publicity for your business

Point 4 -- Finding the story angle

Yesterday, a demolition contractor from Raleigh, NC called me. He wanted information about advertising rates in Triangle Construction News. I engaged in a conversation with him, not to sell him advertising, but to find out what would best meet his needs.

He told me his business was still quite small, though he had invested upwards of $1 million in capital equipment. He had just won some contracts to demolish unoccupied houses, some used as 'crack houses'. Although not a black person himself, he had partnered with a minority contractor who lost his original business in some messy litigation with a former partner. He didn't want huge jobs, but wanted steady and solid work.

We explored what would work best for him.

If I just 'followed rote', I could have encouraged him to spend $2,500 or $3,000 on a year-long advertising contract, helped him with his ad design, and then moved on to the next client. But that is not the way I like doing business. My goal is to ensure that our clients get real value for their money, and I knew there were other things he needed to do first.

Clearly networking and word of mouth contacts are the best approach, esepecially since there is a relatively finite group of people/organizations who will hire local demolition contractors on a regular basis. Since he has an interest and some existing markets in residential demolition, I encouraged him to join the local homebuilders' association, in this case the Home Builders' Association of Raleigh-Wake County. Members of the National Home Builders' Association and the Canadian Home Builders' Association (CHBA) adhere to the motto: "Be a member -- Do business with a member" and I can assure you from first hand experience and reports from business colleagues that these mottos are observed in practice if you observe the most basic networking rules and principals. (I'll cover networking more extensively in future blogs). Dues are $500 a year approximately in Raleigh.

I then suggested to the demolition contractor that he needed a web page, and proper email address, and told him how to do this for $500 or less.

Finally, I suggested he would benefit from publicity in the media. And here, the art of finding the right angle for the story became most apparent. I dismissed the idea of writing about the legal conflict between the two former partners -- besides the cost of handling such a story (lots of legal review necessary), it is of interest really only to the parties directly involved.

The 'minority owned contractor' angle has some relevance, including the interracial partnership, but again, this is not a story in itself and might be seen the wrong way by some people. Racial issues are complex -- especially the underrreported tensions between Blacks and Hispanics -- and some people might take a cynical view of the White/Black partnership.

But what about a human interest story about the demolition process itself -- maybe alluding to the social good of demolishing crack houses and so on. We could look at the safety issues, risks, and challenges in tearing down crack houses and the like. Seems like an interesting and socially responsible story to me -- one with enough visual interest for local television relevance, and with enough substance for the local newspaper.

I then suggested that we do a special advertising feature in Triangle Construction News. I would write it, it would cost about $1,500, and we would use this writing as the basis for communication with other media.

We are going to do business. The contractor would give us about the same amount of money as he would for a conventional ad, but is getting a whole lot more value. That is the best way to ensure repeat clients, of course.

In summary:

The best story is something that will interest the larger community and not cause legal tensions or misinterpretations. Good media publicity is far more than just issuing press releases or buying ads and hoping for the best.

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This posting on the Strumpette site: "Though Shall Not Buy Media People a Meal" offers an interesting and important perspective on how to work with members of the Press. Generally mainstream journalists cannot be 'bribed' and the lower-level ones who take the freebies are really not effective. Professional Public Relations consultants can be worth their weight in gold, but you need to know what you are doing in hiring them.

Mark Buckshon can be reached by phone at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or by email at

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