Q: I've just started a homebased carpet-cleaning business. How can I get some free publicity in my community?
A: Carpets to computers, potato chips to microchips--whatever kind of business you're in, you need to think about the wonderful world of public relations. PR simply means getting public visibility for your product, service or solution in the geographic area where your business operates. For instance, if James R. Entrepreneur hires a big-name PR firm that happens to land him an interview on the Oprah Winfrey Show, it may give his ego a big boost. But if his local prospects happen to miss the show, he's missed the boat and the business!
Here's a list of "the least you need to know" when it comes to effective PR:
- Write down the goals of your PR program. In other words, what results are you looking for? The announcement of a new business, a new product, a recent accomplishment or a philanthropic endeavor?
- Identify the "whom" and "where" of the individuals you're wanting to reach. This includes age group, annual income and profession, as well as the geographics of where they reside, play, shop and work.
- Identify the media that this group of would-be prospects would normally read, watch and be exposed to. Compile a list of magazines, newspapers, radio and TV programming. Identify the associations and organizations that they belong to and participate in.
- Write (or have someone write for you) a short press release that explains what your business does better than anyone else in your area of expertise or what you want to announce.
- Write down on three index cards what your three most powerful benefits are if someone were to use your products, services and solutions. You'll need this when you talk to anyone from the media.
- Consider going online to www.bacons.com and purchasing the media contact list that applies to your product, marketplace, demographics and geographic territory of your target audience. Note: Bacon's has it all: print, radio and TV. If you'd like, for a small fee, they will actually send your press material out to the media list you specify! I love one-stop shops, don't you?
- Go to the library and find the Directory of Associations. Use it to pick the associations and organizations that most of your potential prospects probably belong to. For example, if you have a product for refinishing and protecting furniture, then the American Furniture Builders Association may make sense.
- Write or have written for you a short 800- to 1,000-word article on a topic that you are an expert on that directly relates to your product, service and/or solution.
- Send your press release to the contacts on your list, which you either purchased from Bacon's or compiled at the library. Wait five business days and then call the recipients of your press release. Have your index cards handy so you can put your best foot forward and get the contact interested in what you've got to offer. If you don't make contact, leave a voice-mail message. Just make sure you follow up--the key here is to be persistent in an appropriate way.
- As you're following up on your press release, you'll also need to send your article out to the associations and organizations you identified in step 7. Here again you'll need to call and follow up.
According to experts, you should be prepared to endure seven attempts to make contact with media representatives in print, radio and TV. You will notice, however, that if you take the time and energy to spend a little of your hard-earned cash on PR, your business will grow and prosper during the times when others are merely surviving.
Tony Parinello is the author of the bestselling book Selling to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer. For additional information on his speeches and his newest book, Secrets of VITO, call (800) 777-VITO or visit www.sellingtovito.com.
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.