Everyone agrees that small businesses need to get a steady supply of new prospects into the pipeline if they want to get more customers so they can stay in business and make bigger profits. The question is: How can small businesses get the largest number of prospects for the least amount of time and money?
That answer has always been publicity. Publicity is the least expensive form of marketing, especially compared to print or TV advertising. Now, in the age of the Internet, people are wondering if publicity is still the best way to get new clients, especially with other performance-based advertising metrics available, like Google pay-per-click ads, banner ads and sponsorships, to name a few.
Surprisingly, the best result is still publicity. Why? Well, first, when the media writes about you, you get implied endorsement. That means people believe and trust the media. If they write about you, interview you and print materials about you, then you must be trustworthy. With advertising, there’s a lower level of trust. As President Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.” People gravitate to those the media deems trustworthy. So, if you can get your company name printed in the media, you can bask in the reflected glory of their good name.
What are the benefits you receive with publicity?
- Branding. When the media writes about you, you can brag about it to your clients and your prospects. You can post the information on your Web site so new prospects can see you are a big player. Having media branding helps you stand out from competitors. You can also use your media credentials on your Web site, in your printed marketing materials, in proposals and at trade shows.
- Prospecting. When people read about you in the media, they will go to your Web site and check out your credentials and your services. Your Web site should contain a way to capture these new leads. A popular tactic is to offer them a newsletter, white paper, special report or webinar recording in exchange for their contact information. This is a great way to build a list of prospects.
- Credibility. You and your competitors have at least one thing in common: you all claim to be the best! How is a prospect going to determine who is the best? One factor might be that you have been quoted in the media but your competitor has not.
- Search engine optimization. Today, when people search for vendors, the first place they look for information is the search engines. If your Web site ranks high in the search engines, people will find you, and you will have a chance to compete for their business. If you rank low in the search engines, people will never find you. One way to be found is to be written up in the media. If a link to your Web site is included in an article, for instance, this will help your ranking in the search engines. Even if the article mentions your company name or product, there’s a chance that Google will index that as well so people can find your company more easily.
How can you gain access to the media?
- Contact them. You can purchase a list of reporters who write about your industry or your local market. Then, contact them by phone, or e-mail your story idea to them. This is the bread and butter of what a PR firm does.
- Send press releases. A press release is a promotional message that contains newsworthy information about a company, like a new product or service. A press release can also be an informational piece about trends in the industry, surveys and reports, or ideas on how to do something better. Distributing press releases to reporters, for example, can help your company be viewed as a thought leader in the industry. If reporters like the message, they may write an article based on your information. If you put the press release on your Web site, your prospects and clients will also be impressed with your knowledge. Search engines can index your press release, so if a prospect is looking for that kind of information, they might visit your site to learn more about your company. You may be wondering how the Internet is changing the role of publicity today. Like everything else in life, the Internet is a game-changer for small businesses that want publicity.In the old days, you had only one option to get publicity—convince reporters to write about you. If they did, your message would be seen by millions of consumers or people who read the business press. If they didn’t, you were doomed to oblivion, or you would have to spend millions on advertising. Now you can reach consumers and B2B prospects directly with a variety of tools. Let’s look at a few.
- Contact the media. As previously mentioned, you must reach out to those in the media so they can tell their online audiences. Also, anytime you are written about in the media, your company’s Web site position on Google and other search engines will be affected. The media is still an important player on the Internet.
- Write and distribute a press release. But not exactly as you did before. First, send it to the media. Then, post it to your Web site so the search engines can index it. This will also improve your search engine rankings. To further help the rankings, you will want to add keywords that people are searching for. This is another way to get listed properly and highly in the search engines. For example, if your company specializes in accounting, you may want to put a link under the word “accounting” to your homepage or to your specific page for accounting services. You can do this for all of your major product or service offerings. This is known as adding an “anchor text” and you can ask your webmaster or search Google for more information about this.
- Use new media tools. The Internet features many new ways to reach reporters and prospects. These tools include creating a blog where you can post press releases, articles, product updates, thoughts about news items, and much, much more.
- Capitalize social media. I could fill an entire article about tactics and strategies for social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. All of these services give you a chance to spread your messages about your products, services and thought leadership. Your messages can go directly to your clients, as well as reporters who want to follow your company or your industry. You can also proactively search for key reporters who cover your field and start a relationship with them by reading their articles and commenting on them. Reporters are always looking for quality contacts and you may become a trusted source for them.
- Create a video. Anyone can produce a short, simple video about a new product or service and post it to You- Tube, a blog or Web site (or all three). Video is becoming an important way for people to find information. In fact, some reports say that YouTube is the second-largest search engine, right behind Google. It makes sense due to the popularity of television and movies. People want to see and hear from the companies producing the products and services they use. That being said, video should be part of your media toolkit to attract attention.
- LinkedIn. Post your slideshows to LinkedIn. This is a great way for prospects to discover what your company is thinking. Very few people do this, so you will be seen as a leader when you do.
Remember: Reporters are always looking for new information and they use search engines and social media, just like your prospects do. You need to be there. If you are not on the web—and highly visible—you will never be found by the media or your customers.
What do you do with the media attention once you receive it?
Just like the proverbial tree that falls in the forest, if no one is around, will it make a sound? You cannot simply get publicity and let it sit there. You need to promote your good news to your prospects, your clients and your former clients, as well as to joint venture partners, your employees and even your banker! They can all be influenced positively by publicity in ways that help you make more sales and become more profitable.
Here are 10 ways to promote your publicity:
- Tweet a link to an article about your company. I do this for my clients when they tell me about their publicity via PR LEADS. I use a provocative title to get attention. Here’s an example: Need writing tips for a job application? @prleads client Diane L. Samuels gets publicity on Monster.com.Notice how I use the keyword “publicity” so anyone looking for “publicity” on Twitter will see this post. Use your own keywords as well so more people will find your links.
- Post the link on your LinkedIn profile.
- Post the link to relevant groups on LinkedIn (the keyword here being “relevant”). Don’t post it in places containing people who don’t care. Also, don’t say, “I’m quoted here” and post the link. Tell people what they can learn by reading the article. Your focus should be on sharing information and not appearing self-promotional.
- Send the link and article to your prospects, clients and followers via e-mail.
- Post the link and the article to your blog.
- Frame the article and hang it in your waiting area. Consider highlighting your quotes and name in yellow so they stand out from the rest of the article. The highlighting will focus a reader’s attention directly on your quote.
- Copy the article and print it in your sales or marketing kit. The media gives you credibility that is unmatched. Use it.
- Include the article in your book proposal. Book acquisition editors want to know that you can create publicity for the book. Show them you can and you’re more likely to get a contract and a larger advance.
- Create a list of headlines of articles in which you were quoted and post that to your Web site. Include live links to the articles. Reporters and prospects will be impressed that you have so many media hits.
- Use the front page of your Web site to let the world know you have been quoted. Too many clients get publicity and hide it! Let the first impression people have of you be from the media.
Envision your company featured on Web sites like CNBC.com, CBS MarketWatch, Reuters or by the top trade magazine in your industry. What would that mean for your business? Imagine the looks on the faces of your family, friends, clients and your competitors. Well, this is happening to other business owners just like you. They are reaching thousands of reporters and millions of consumers both online and offline. If you want to grow your business, you need the power of publicity to drive more traffic to your Web site where you can begin the process of converting prospects to customers.