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The Trick to Getting Publicity for Your Business Discover the secret to attracting positive media attention for your company.

By Wendy Keller

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Paul Bradbury

The following excerpt is from Wendy Keller's book Ultimate Guide to Platform Building. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

There are plenty of smart ways to use publicity to build your brand. "Publicity," or "free advertising," is when you or your company is featured in radio, print or television, and you pay nothing for this exposure. What you're about to learn is how to do the work yourself so that you'll get all the benefits of being on media without the extra expense of hiring a publicist. If you don't have a million-dollar ad budget but wish you did, publicity is your ideal solution.

Related: How to Brainstorm Great Content for Your Marketing Plan

In 2015, a quarter-page display ad in The Wall Street Journal would have cost you $67,281.48. But even if you could spare $67,281.48, you also need three lucky things to happen:

  • You need the ad to get noticed by a high percentage of WSJ readers. Most people don't buy a newspaper to look at the ads, so that's your first obstacle.
  • You need for it to be a "slow news day." If your ad randomly comes out on a day when something major happens in your country or on your planet, nobody will be looking at your ad.
  • Ever heard of the adage "Five hits make the sale"? Most of the time, people need to see something at least five times before any piece of marketing actually wriggles into their conscious mind. Lucky you if they remember where they saw your ad, track you down and buy then from you. To achieve five hits in the WSJ, your ad spend needs to be a hefty $336,407.40.

Now, imagine Rick, your ideal customer, is commuting 30 minutes from his home in Brooklyn into Manhattan for work. He has a half hour to amuse himself on the train. Rick opens the WSJ and reads the articles. After all, that's why he bought the paper -- to stay up-to-date on business news. He reads an article that catches his eye. The journalist has quoted you in it, just one sentence, with your name and your company's name. Happily, the journalist chose your best sentence.

Related: 3 Steps to Writing and Promoting an eBook

Rick takes a quick photo of your part of the total article with his cell phone, tosses the paper in the trash as he exits Penn Station and heads to work. He searches online for your company when he gets to work, decides he wants to buy something from you and asks his assistant to set about buying your product or service. Publicity made the sale.

There's a "magic halo effect" that comes from being a media guest. Why? Because the fact that you were smart enough to get interviewed in the media means you must be "somebody." You're given enormous amounts of credibility just by association, because most people lack the courage to even approach journalists. Your ideal customer has likely never even dared to dream that they might someday be interviewed in the media. It seems too lofty. But there you are -- and you paid absolutely nothing for that one sentence that means so much, as opposed to $67,281.48 for that quarter-page WSJ ad that will be ignored by most.

One big media hit can change the rest of your life. I have lots of clients who are authors or speakers who will testify to this. If you've also got a strong, professional-looking website, some ancillary platform components (ebooks, YouTube channel, podcasts etc.) the media hit will be like the tide that raises all ships. When you get publicity, you get eyeballs plus credibility. Credibility equals trust, and people buy from people they trust.

Most people don't realize this, but this is a symbiotic relationship. The really big surprise about using the media to build your platform? They need you just as much as you need them. I invite you to consider what it's like from the journalist's side of the desk.

Journalists have to fill an entire newspaper or broadcast every day with stuff that will intrigue and attract readers or listeners or viewers. Why? Because the more eyeballs the media attracts, the higher its advertising fees and therefore the higher its revenues.

Talk radio hosts have to get someone great on the air every moment they are live because if they don't, they'll end up with "dead air." The producers and the hosts are always looking for great guests -- people they can interview who will entertain their core audience and attract more listeners. The guest may be controversial, right in alignment with the interests of the audience, or the philosophy of the host, but as long as the guests help make it a "good show," the show will flourish. A radio station makes money in direct proportion to how many popular shows they air. This is the same for every newspaper, TV show and magazine that wants to stay in business.

So instead of asking, "Why should they feature me?" a better question is, "Why shouldn't they feature me?" The only thing stopping you is your own doubts. All you'll need is some chutzpah and a few great pitches. Once you get good at this, getting media will become easier for you every time you pitch.

The media is about telling stories. You can be the protagonist, whose individual story is universal, the story of us all.

What if the reason you started your business was to overcome the harsh conditions in which you grew up?

What if the reason you got into selling life insurance is because you heard what happened to your mother's family after your grandfather died without an insurance policy in place?

What if the reason you wrote your self-help book is to make sure no one else ever has to suffer as you did?

What if you fix cars because they were the only happy memory you have of him before your father left?

These kinds of stories evoke emotions in people. When you're bold enough to stand up in the tribe and say, "I believe in this!" or "I hate onions and here's why" or "Our customer Belinda overcame years of depression by using our special herbal formula," you're creating a rallying point of resonance. Others who feel the same will be attracted. Tell your story -- or a customer's -- because all stories are the same.

Related: 10 Tips for Creating Effective Business Videos

To draw your tribe to you -- the people who will love your product, your story, your mission, your service, your work—you must first send up a smoke signal. Your smoke signal is the carefully crafted message that you build and convey through your conscientiously built platform -- radio, TV, print, videos, audios and ebooks.

Wendy Keller

CEO and Founder of Keller Media, Inc.

Wendy Keller is an award-winning former journalist, a respected literary agent, an author, speaker, acclaimed book marketing consultant, and branding expert. She is the author of Ultimate Guide to Platform Building (Entrepreneur Press®, 2016) and got her first job as a newspaper reporter as a 16-year-old college freshman. Since then, Wendy worked for PR Newswire; the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain; as managing editor of Dateline magazine; and as associate publisher of Los Angeles’ then-second-largest Spanish language weekly, La Gaceta. She works with authors, speakers and business experts to help them build and promote their brands. She founded Keller Media, Inc. in 1989.

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