Free publicity is one of the single best ways for businesses to promote themselves. It is particularly attractive to new businesses and solo-preneurs with a limited marketing budget, but publicity is a powerful marketing method for more established businesses as well. Since the publication of Jay Conrad Levinson’s “Guerrilla Marketing” many marketers and business owners are aware of how effective this form of marketing can be.
It is important to note that the fact that free publicity doesn’t cost anything does not mean that it is necessarily lower quality. In fact free publicity can be much more effective than paid advertising. Studies have shown that people are becoming increasingly able to “tune out” advertisements. When reading a newspaper their eyes will naturally go to the articles and skip over the advertisements. Technology, such as Tivo and online ad blockers, has also made it easier for consumers to block out paid advertising messages. This means that if you want to get in front of your potential audience then free publicity may be the best way for you to do it.
Here are five great ways for you to get your message out to the public using free publicity:
1. Hold Classes and Seminars
As a business owner you have expertise in a your particular industry. A great way to attract buyers into your business is to run a special event where you offer education classes. For example, if you were running a bakery you might offer a free evening class on baking cakes or if you were a financial adviser you could offer a free seminar on the basics of financial management.
You can even profit directly from these events. Charge for admission or for products you sell at the back of the room. If you don’t want to deal with taking registrations and other hassles of hosting classes, consider offering them through a sponsoring organization. I have taught classes at Leisure Learning Unlimited in Houston for many years. They publish a catalog, handle registrations and even provide a place to hold the class. Offering classes through a sponsor also makes it easier to take them on the road. It can be hard to do all the legwork for a class in a distant city, but if all you have to do is show up and present, it is easy to take your message to people in other cities.
Although it may be easier to get publicity for a free event than one that charges a fee, many local media will publish event notices. Plus, when you send press releases about the training you offer, you build your expert reputation. After all, if you are the person at the front of the room, you must be an expert, right?
2. Hold a Contest
People love the opportunity to win something and so contests are a great way to build up a lot of buzz quickly around your business. You can use your own product or service as the prize or you can offer to make a charitable donation of the winners choice. People who miss out on winning your product or service may also choose to buy as a result of the competition.
You can get publicity through media releases about your contest. Another way is to get bloggers writing about your contest. You can contact bloggers directly, or submit a notice about your contest to Blogger LinkUp.
3. Write a Column
Another great way to get publicity and to establish yourself as an expert is to write a newspaper column. People buy from people that they trust and so if you are giving weekly advice on topics of interest to your market, then you will be perceived as being that expert. Typically at the bottom of your column you will be able to include bio information to promote your business.
You can offer your column for free or a small fee to local newspapers, both in your area and across the country. This is called self-syndication. Or you can submit samples and a proposal to one of the major syndicates. The odds are against you when it comes to working with the large syndicates, but if they chose to syndicate your column you can get exposure in hundreds or thousands of publications.
Also consider syndicating your column online to websites and blogs. Many sites are looking for good content, and if you can provide interesting and well-written content on a weekly or monthly schedule, they will want to feature you. Or, just publish a column at one large site, such as the Huffington Post.
4. Piggyback on a News Story
Getting publicity can be difficult. But if you can join your own story to that of an existing hot topic in the media it will be much easier. For example when Blue Fire Poker were setting up their new training business they challenged President Obama to a game of poker for one million dollars. Debate about whether poker should be legal or not, and whether is was mostly skill or luck, was a hot topic at the time. Thus the media were quick to pick up on the challenge and the site received a lot of free publicity.
When a story is hot, everyone is looking for a new angle. If the story sticks around for a while, everyone starts to get tired of it, including the media who are covering it. Come up with a new approach and you can get publicity.
This is especially effective if you can come up with a local angle on a national or international story. Local media love to cover the big stories, but they want to show how it affects people in their local area. If you can tie a national or international story to local concerns, you can get coverage.
5. Demonstrate Your Product
Another way to get free publicity and attention for your product is to hold a free demonstration. Showing people how to use your product will not only bring in potentially interested buyers it will also help to familiarize them with the product. One buying objection with technical products is that people are afraid they won’t be able to use it. By holding a demonstration you can help them to overcome this fear while getting a lot of free publicity at the same time.
While in-person demonstrations are effective, another possibility is to pitch an on-air demonstration of your product to a morning show or talk show. Or post online videos showing your product in use. (Think “Will it blend?”)
Remember the opportunities for free publicity are only limited by your imagination. If you think creatively and you are proud of your product or service then limited funds will not stand in your way.