Q: I'm about to have a grand opening event for my antique store, and I want to make the event very successful--something people will tell their friends about. How can I do something exciting and get the word out without spending a lot of money?
A: PR and getting the word out about your business or event does not have to be costly. In fact, a lot of PR can be done for no cost at all. Once you decide there is a newsworthy event or announcement about your business, you need to get the word out. Doing it in the most cost-effective manner possible is key. PR, in fact, can and should help bring revenue in that can be reinvested in other marketing as the business grows.
One of the first things that starts the whole publicity ball rolling for an event, an announcement or any newsworthy situation is a press release. Press releases are a way to communicate with the media, customers, prospects and any others that are affected by your business and media. For the price of a few faxes, e-mails or postage stamps, you have a high probability of getting news about your company published for all to see.
Many times, being a member of a local chamber of commerce or other community organization entitles you to "business after hours," "grand openings" and/or "ribbon cuttings." These are usually benefits of your membership dues and are offered to members at low cost. Often the mayor or other local official will show up to welcome a new business to town (especially when invited). And when the mayor gets involved in an event, there are usually photographers and reporters around representing newspapers and TV and radio programs.
A grand opening event or other occasion where you are inviting others to your business needs to be carefully planned out. Part of the planning can involve offering a guided tour of your facility, no matter how large or small. Be proud and start the relationship-building process by showing others where you hang your hat.
Also as part of the planned event, samples can be offered, demonstrations can be scheduled and your business in operation can be showcased. You will be surprised at how members of the media will turn this into news and somehow feature you in their publications.
Planning for the media is just as important as planning the event. This primarily entails having a press kit available. This can include fact sheets about your business and products, frequently asked questions, any feature articles you may have authored and the like. A copy of the just-released press release should also be part of the kit. Contact information and a business card will allow for any follow-up by the media.
Although not necessary for media exposure, it always help to share with them any promotional items or favors that you will be sharing with customers. You never know whom the media person will pass it on to.
Building relationships with all involved will be what continues your PR. Whether it is current friends and associates talking to their friends and associates, or relationships that you build during the course of doing business, all will be important to spreading positive word-of-mouth comments about your business. This will require showing up at anything and everything and following up on all leads.
PR is more than the event, the tour or your press kit. Everything you say and do is part of your identity and thus part of your relations with the public. The objective is for you and your company to be visible in the public eye on a regular basis. PR that you undertake yourself can be a primary way to grow your business and become known.
Working the PR side of your business takes time and effort. But if you have the energy, passion, desire and drive, you can carry out a very effective campaign that others will talk about time and again.
Alfred J. Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing and PR consultant, direct-mail promotion specialist, principle of marketing consulting firm Marketing Now, and president and owner of The Ink Well, a commercial printing and mailing company in Wheaton, Illinois. Visit his Web sites at http://www.market-for-profits.comand http://www.1-800-inkwell.com, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.
Al Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing and PR consultant and direct-mail promotion specialist. He's also the principle of Market For Profits, a Chicago-based marketing consulting firm. His two latest books, Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days and The Ultimate Guide to Direct Marketing are available at www.entrepreneurpress.com.