By Andy Shearer
When I speak to crowds about authority marketing—the proven practice of strategically and intentionally establishing yourself as an expert in your field in order to grow your business—one area I focus on is how to create and secure publicity and media.
Generally what I hear from many people—especially law firms, dental offices and financial planning companies—is that publicity is not a viable tactic for them. It’s time consuming, too unreliable, or their businesses just don’t translate well to the mass media. They couldn’t be more wrong. Media is still one of the most effective ways of introducing yourself to an audience.
Take Dr. Darold Opp, a dentist who has a practice in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Dr. Opp wanted to attract more patients, so in 2008 he created the town’s annual Smile Palooza Festival, which attracted local media. He says, “I became a celebrity in the community.” People outside of Aberdeen may not know who he is, but that doesn’t matter. When people in Aberdeen think “dentist,” they think Dr. Opp, and he has capitalized that into a multi-million-dollar practice.
Dr. Opp understood one thing: You don’t need to be wildly famous—just famous enough to the people who will pay for your service. And the first step to doing that is figuring out where to reach these people.
So how do you do that? I have a novel idea: Ask them. Talk to trusted clients about what papers they read, what blogs they follow, what radio they listen to. All the Facebook algorithms and marketing software in the world can’t replace a simple conversation. And once you have that information comes the fun part. Here are a handful of ways to get your name in front of potential customers.
1. Respond to breaking news
Is there something going on in the world—a trend, a news event—for which you can provide an expert opinion? Contact the local newspaper or radio station and offer yourself as an expert commentator with advice and perspective their audience would find valuable.
2. Partner with local media
Reach out to your local media to offer your services free-of-charge to their audience. Ask for 15 minutes once a week on your local radio station to answer call-in questions from listeners, or suggest a weekly column in the paper to keep readers up-to-date in your field.
3. Create an open-house or community event
Design an event for the community. It can be a party like Dr. Opp’s or something closer to what you do: free tax filing, for example. Offer a free hands-on workshop or seminar. Don’t forget to invite the press!
4. Get involved with a local charity
Don’t just give cash; give your time or product. Sponsor a 5K. Build a house with Habitat for Humanity. Clean up a local park. Do something different that will help a local charity. It’s even better if the charity is relevant to your business.
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5. Create a scholarship program
Fund a college scholarship for students studying in your field. A photo of you giving an oversized check to a student is as old as publicity itself, but it’s a tried-and-true winner.
6. Perform a stunt
Sure they’re silly, but they can work. The Miss America pageant was created as a publicity stunt to attract tourists to Atlantic City; the 70-year-old Pillsbury Bake-Off was intended to be a one-time event. Be creative. Try to set a world record relevant to your business: the biggest, the most. A publicity classic but the media loves it.
7. Make friends
Don’t wait until you want something from your local media before you approach them. Introduce yourself with no strings attached. Schedule a desk-side chat or a quick coffee. Send them a thank you if they mention you. Sincere outreach and civility goes a long way.
It’s been proven that publicity is actually a more effective business generator than advertising, by a factor of almost 90%, according to a Nielsen study. Customers feel if an objective third party—a newspaper, website, radio—is featuring your company, you must be doing something right. It’s a crucial part of creating your authority and growing your business. The best part is that it can be both fun and cheap, if not downright free!