Is There 'Free' Advertising for Small Businesses?From time to time I get asked, “how can I get some ‘free advertising’ for my company?”

After more than 20 years in public relations, I’ve grown accustomed to the fact that very few people understand what I do and generally equate it with “free advertising.”  The years of therapy aside, and without getting into a debate on the true definitions of public relations, publicity, promotion or free advertising, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to answer that question is as easy as 1, 2 and 3.

  1. Develop compelling messages for the appropriate audiences. – “Compelling” and “appropriate” go together like macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly and Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble.  Can’t have one without the other – one person’s “wow, that is relevant” can very well be another person’s “not so interesting.”  Talking about “How To Cut Down Your Heating Bill” to a bunch of people in Dallas, during the summer, isn’t going to cut it.
  2. It really is about them – The art of developing a compelling message comes down to your ability to tie what you do into something that is timely and affects your audience’s heart, head or wallet.  For example, your compelling message could take the form of tips.  Let’s say you are in auto repairs.  It is summer-time and you live in a part of the country where the temperature is routinely hitting 100 degrees.  Here is the “Five Ways to Make Sure Your Car Stays Cool When the Temperature Tops 100.” Or, its spring break – –   “Five Things You Need To Do To Your Car So You Don’t Breakdown during Spring Break.”
  3. Where are they watching – So, we have our compelling message for our appropriate audience.  Now what?  Well, how can you get your message to them? Really can be in many forms: Facebook, Twitter, your website, blog, YouTube, etc. , all of which would benefit with SEO to help in pushing your content to the front of Google searches.

The more compelling content you provide the more likes, visits and clicks you will receive as individuals learn about and share your expertise. One very important aspect about the content is to not make it too “salesy” or self-serving — doing so will only turn off those individuals who are looking for information, not a sales-pitch.

Your distribution of content shouldn’t end here.  Is your appropriate audience watching the local morning show? Listening to drive time radio?  Reading local newspaper website? Go to their local sites and send your content to the appropriate producer or reporter, many of whom will be listed – with their emails – on the sites. The press will see first-hand what you think, and for those who post video, how you act in-front of a camera.

It is one thing for your appropriate audience to read your blog, the true power of third-party credibility comes into play when the local morning show anchor from NBC affiliate is asking you how his or her viewers can save money on car maintenance costs during the summer months.

There you have it. Tips on how to utilize public relations tactics to get your company publicity… okay, fine; otherwise known as free advertising… sigh…

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