How to promote your business using the media to get free publicity
By Lew Nason
Insurance Pro Shop
How much easier would it be to get people to respond to your ads, to set an appointment with you or to close a sale if the prospect already knows about you, respects you and the work that you do?
If you would like that to happen, then seek free local publicity.
Work to become the local expert that reporters contact whenever there is a newsworthy insurance or financial story. Introduce yourself and your agency to the business and consumer editors of your local newspaper, TV and radio stations.
Send out a one-page fact sheet. Include brief information about your firm's background, areas of expertise, size and the names of people to contact (a bio-sketch with a black and white photo of each person). Then follow up with a phone call. To keep your agency's name in front of the editors, use every reasonable opportunity to send them a press release.
Promoting business on a budget
Well-planned promotional activities are just as important to small businesses (agents and agencies) as they are to huge multi-national firms. Theoretically, the only difference is in the scale.
A common misconception is that very large organizations have the advantage of endless funds that allow them to employ the services of a permanent pool of planning and monitoring experts. Therefore, so the thinking goes, they can mount huge, expensive campaigns that produce amazing results and gain saturation coverage.
The fact is that most such organizations stick to a marketing budget that is strictly limited to a percentage of sales, be it 10 percent, 20 percent or more, depending on the business. Using a percentage of sales to determine the marketing funding allocation is good. You should do the same.
The truth is that you have all the advantages. You are close to your market. But, probably most important, you are approachable and can work at becoming known and respected within your local community or target market. That means being respected for what you know or can do and for what you actually do.
Every business professional should allocate a certain amount of time to self-promotion. This is especially true for self-employed people because they need to make their public aware of their products or services at the lowest possible cost. The best way to achieve this is by promoting yourself. So don't be shy. Customers or clients must know about a business or product line before they can even think about buying. Their interest is sparked by stories centered around people — and that includes you.
Here’s some quick ideas:
News events: When you launch a new product, that's news. When you take on a new associate, that's news. When you hire new staff, that's news. When your business, or, better still, you personally, receive an award from a civic or professional group, that's news. Selling an unusual product line is news. When you are a guest on a local talk show that's news. Speaking at a public gathering is news. You need to be promoting your workshop or seminar constantly; it’s news. This means sending out public service announcements to all the radio stations, TV stations, magazines and newspapers in your area. They're going to promote it for free, so why not.
Don't underestimate the media's hunger for news. You would be surprised at just what they can spin a story around.
If you don't have any news to report to the local media, create some. Perhaps you could sponsor an award or open a free advice center? Provided it has some news value, the media's job is to report it. Just make sure it has some validity. If you try to hoodwink the media into reporting a non-story it could rebound on you. The day might arrive when you are the key player in some big event and they don't even give you a mention.
Nothing can bring you more favorably to the attention of the media than some form of community service. You should strive to be a good citizen, volunteer for community causes and make sure it gets noticed.
Write articles: Get yourself published in every local media source. If you need ideas, rewrite the articles in our client newsletters or rewrite an article from the web.
Be sure to include your byline and offer a free report in everything you do.
Forget about being someone who never blows her own trumpet, if that is what you're normally like. This is your business and your living. If you operate a service that would be appreciated by a needy local charity or nursing home, then offer it free of charge, even if it's only for a limited time.