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Ask How To Get Some Free Press

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By | May 26, 2012

Dear Toolkit,

Our new business can't afford much advertising just yet. Do you have any suggestions as to how we might get our message out to the public without spending big bucks?

New in Nevada

Dear New,

Advertising is when you tell everybody about yourself and it almost always costs something. What you need is publicity--which is when someone else tells everybody about you. And that's almost always free.

Press releases. Press releases, if you make them newsworthy, can lead not only to great free publicity but to valuable reprints you can use in your ad efforts. For example, a simple story about your business and its product or service can be written up and sent to editors of local newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations. If the subject is of sufficient interest to editors, you may even be interviewed for a feature story.

Free samples. If your product is appropriate, you may also send some free samples along with your press release. A restaurant, for example, might catch some editorial attention with a box of donuts or a dessert specialty.

Niche media. The best places for a small business to get free publicity are in the niche media area--school papers, shoppers, local cable channels and local radio stations. Prospective media outlet names and addresses may be only as far away as the local telephone book Yellow Pages.

Read the publications or listen to the broadcasts you're thinking of targeting. Become thoroughly familiar with their style and see how your story might fit in. Tie your story to a current event or use an angle, such as a survey you've taken or a contest you're running, to hook the editor's interest.

Try to deliver the story to a specific editor or beat reporter who might have a special interest in what you have to say. Make your presentation brief and attractive and as distinctive as possible. Reporters are deluged with publicity and you need to give them a reason to choose your item over all the others vying for their attention. Follow up with a phone call. Or use e-mail if that's an option. Offer to become a news source. Reporters are always looking for knowledgeable, quotable people to use as sources.

Even when your new company becomes big and successful, publicity will still provide benefits beyond those offered by plain advertising. When that day comes, you can use Bacon's Media Directory, the public relations bible that lists every publication known to mankind and lists specific editors and beat reporters, to target a wider range of outlets.

Whether you choose a local school newsletter or a media giant, the trick is to make your story interesting. Become a media critic and read stories about other businesses with a keen eye for what you find appealing--or boring--and build a model for your next press release.

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