How To Get Free (or Low-Cost) Publicity for Your Small Business

How To Get Free (or Low-Cost) Publicity for Your Small Business

If you sell it, they won’t necessarily come.

Unless potential customers know you’re there, it doesn’t really matter how great your product or service is. But advertising can rip a company’s already-thin budget to shreds.

Cheer up!

You don’t have to spend a fortune to make yourself known.

7 Easy Ways to Get Free Publicity For Your Small Business

There are a number of tried-and-true ways you can get attention that cost little or nothing at all.

1. Write Your Own News Releases

News releases are used to inform the media (both print and broadcast) of what’s happening at your company.

A news release might announce your opening, your new marketing manager, the expansion for which you just broke ground or an award your company has won.

Writing a news release isn’t tough.

Basically, you start with the most important information (called the lead), fill in the details and end with a brief description of what your company does. You must include your name and a phone number where you can be contacted during business hours. Type it — double-spaced — and mail, fax or e-mail it to the media.

If you need help, pick up a book on basic news-copy or public relations writing. Or, see if a business colleague or school teacher will write it for you for a modest fee.

2. Speak Up

If you’re an expert — or at least know a bit more about a particular subject than the average person — and your stomach doesn’t turn to jelly when you’re standing behind a podium, offer your services as a speaker at meetings of local clubs, community groups and professional associations.

Generally, the best time to send out letters announcing your availability (include a brief description of the topic or topics on which you can speak) is mid- to late summer, when these organizations generally begin putting together their programs for the upcoming year.

Keep in mind that your listeners want information, not a commercial for your company.

But it’s perfectly acceptable for you to bring a supply of business cards, brochures or other printed information about your company for members of the audience to pick up.

Once you’ve been booked, ask the organization if they’ll be sending a news release announcing your presentation. If the answer is no, write it yourself.

3. Be an Author

Try contacting local newspapers to see if they’re interested in a weekly or monthly column or a single story on a particular subject on which you’re knowledgeable.

Is financial planning your strong suit?

Consider a column telling readers how to make their money work for them. Are you a florist?

Explain how to make unique arrangements or how to make flowers last longer.

Here, too, don’t blow your own horn; your byline and a brief explanation of who you are at the end of the column or story are all the publicity you need.

4. Teach

Vocational high schools, community colleges and universities are always on the lookout for instructors who can share their expertise with students in a seminar or class.

Once again, ditch the hard sell, but you can bring business cards and brochures.

And if the sponsoring organization isn’t planning to send a news release announcing the seminar or class, take matters into your own hands.

5. Go with the Pros

In all likelihood, there’s a professional association for your field of expertise or industry.

Find yours and get involved; volunteer to head committees or serve as an officer. Then, send a news release announcing the slate of officers or describing a project your committee is working on.

A side benefit: You’ll be networking with professional colleagues who may need your services (or know somebody who does).

6. Give a Scholarship

It doesn’t have to be a lot of money; even $100 will help cover books.

Of course, you’ll send a news release announcing the winner. Then, you can follow that student’s academic career. Every time he or she does something newsworthy (makes the Dean’s List, joins a sorority, etc.), send another release.

Somewhere in there, of course, you’ll note that the student is a recipient of a scholarship from your company.

Find a good cause.

Sponsor a community event that benefits a pet charity — a race, a bowling tournament, whatever. To cut costs, consider joining forces with another company or community organization to co-sponsor the event.

Of course, you’ll incur some costs for prizes, publicity and the like, but the fact that your company’s name is on everything is invaluable.

Check with your accountant; there can be tax advantages in these types of contributions.

7. Start a Newsletter

Although newsletters can be costly, the rewards they can bring can be substantial.

Effective newsletters can be as brief as a single page. There’s no upper limit on length, but few readers want to wade through pages and pages of copy. They can be mailed as often as weekly or as infrequently as once a quarter.

What goes in a newsletter?

Just about anything goes, except a sales pitch. Consider including how-to tips related to your industry, news of what’s happening at your company and/or a profile of a valued customer.

Mail your newsletter to current and potential customers and to the media. Often, an article in a company newsletter sparks an idea for a bigger story when seen by an editor.

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