8 Ways to Use Local Publicity to Drive Your Business

While scoring a
nice story in BusinessWeek or USA Today is something to
celebrate, there are times when you need to grab attention a bit
closer to home.

If your business draws its clientele from a specific town, city
or region, focusing your energy on getting an elusive national
publicity hit may be overkill, especially when getting publicity
where you need it -- in your home town -- is often so much

Let's look at some techniques you can use to reach potential
customers right where you live, through your local papers, radio
and TV stations.

1) Get to Know Your Business Editor.

Unless you live in a very large city, it should be fairly easy to
get in touch with the business editor at the main newspaper
covering your region. A simple call to introduce yourself and
let the editor know that you have some news to share is a good
start. Remember some of the golden rules of calling a
journalist, though: be respectful of his or her deadline (don't
call an editor in the late afternoon as deadlines approach) and
always start with "is this a good time to talk?" before kicking
into your pitch. In smaller markets, it may even be possible to
develop a personal relationship with a business editor, by
visiting the office or taking the editor to lunch. The bottom
line is this: keeping abreast of local businesses and finding
interesting stories to tell about people in the community is the
essential part of any business editor's job. He'll be thrilled
to hear from you if you can provide something new and fresh in
those areas.

2) Keep the Releases Flowing.

Once you've built a relationship with a business editor, keep it
growing by providing a regular dose of fresh news about your
company. Won an award? Hired a new executive? Investing in some
interesting new equipment? Scored a big new contract? Let the
editor know with a well-written, hype-free release. Don't feel
the need to pump out a release for every little thing but, if
it's something really newsworthy, keeping the editor in the loop
will help spur coverage on a regular basis.

3) Write a Letter to the Editor or an Op-Ed Piece.

If something occurs locally (or even nationally) that relates to
your business, let your voice be heard with a letter to the
editor or a longer "op-ed" opinion piece.

As a businessperson, your opinion matters when the subject
relates to your field of expertise.

Write a Regular Column. Many smaller publications (such as weekly
newspapers) are on the lookout for ongoing, well-crafted content.
You can fill their needs - and promote your business -- by
offering a regular column. Chances are, you've seen features
along the lines of "Ask the Handyman" or perhaps a health column
from a local doctor. Can you create a similar feature that taps
your knowledge or expertise? If so, craft a few sample columns
and present them to the editor of a publication in your area. You
might even suggest that you don't wish to be paid if your contact
information (your web URL, number, etc.) is included with each
column. You'll be providing great no-cost content for the paper
and generating strong local exposure -- and credibility -- for
your business.

4) Conduct a No-Cost Seminar.

Financial planners and real estate pros have known for years that
free seminars are a great way to drum up business and get local
publicity. Try developing a one or two hour seminar in your
field of expertise and offer it to the public. Make it meaty --
it can't simply be a promo pitch. Here's some ideas to get your
creative juices flowing:

* Remodeling company: "Remodeling projects that do the most to
increase your home's value"

* Doctor: "The latest research on extending your life-span --
explained and simplified"

* Stockbroker: "How to retire rich"

Promote your seminar by sending releases to the local media.
Keep your release entirely non-promotional. Highlight your
seminar as a public service, not as a commercial event. (Tip:
have someone videotape your seminar and offer the tape as a free
gift for future potential customers!)

5) Connect with Kids.

Local media outlets always enjoy stories that involve schoolkids.
Offer to visit a local school and talk to the students about an
important topic connected with your business or, better yet,
invite a class to come and visit your place of business. (If you
choose the latter, make sure that your business is somewhat
visual. Kids seeing how sheep get sheared or books get printed
makes for a good visual. A bunch of children standing in an
office looking at accounting tables doesn't.) Craft a release
beforehand -- this one probably works best with features and
lifestyle editors. Suggest that they send a photographer down to
cover the event. Also, it wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the
person at your local school district who handles media relations,
as they may prove very useful in drawing attention.

6) Partner with a Politician.

No matter how hungry you are for good press, I can guarantee
there's someone even hungrier -- an elected official. If you can
team up with a local politician for a charity, educational or
public service program, chances are you won't have to lift a
finger to get coverage. Your friendly representative, state
senator, mayor or council member will gladly work the press to
generate attention. A caveat: if you're going to hook up with a
politician, it's probably best to do it with someone who's not
considered a highly ideological or divisive figure, and try to
keep the topic as noncontroversial as possible. Let common sense
be your guide.

7) Get on the Air.

Radio stations are an underappreciated avenue for publicity.
Spend a few days listening to all the stations that serve your
area and seek opportunities to get on the air. Look for general
interest talk shows, locally-produced news programs and community
affairs programs. When you find something that seems
appropriate, contact the station and ask for the name of the
producer for that particular show or segment. Then, give that
person a call. Tell the producer what you have to offer and why
you'd make a great guest. And here's a bonus radio tip: offer
your products or services as on-air contest prizes for commercial
stations, or as pledge-drive premiums for public radio stations.

8) Make your Website a Local Resource.

Chances are, you've already got a website. Why not devote part
of it to your community? Set up a local message board to
discuss topics relating to your field. Have a local "Ask the
Expert" section where community members can get advice. Provide
local news, sports or weather. Donate part of your site to a
local organization (e.g. offer to post youth soccer scores and
news), donate part of a given day's web-based sales to local
charity. The possibilities are endless, so be creative and, oh
yeah, be sure to tell the local media about what you're doing!

Bill Stoller, the "Publicity Insider", has spent two decades as
one of America's top publicists. Now, through his website, eZine
and subscription newsletter, Free Publicity: The Newsletter for
PR-Hungry Businesses http://www.PublicityInsider.com/freepub.asp,< BR>he's sharing -- for the very first time -- his secrets of scoring
big publicity. For free articles, killer publicity tips and
much, much more, visit Bill's exclusive new site:

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Advance Publications Plans to Outsource Local PD Jobs, Hires PR Firm to Run Interference  Cleveland SceneLocal newspapers like The Plain Dealer provide an incredibly valuable *service* to the community. But it's an unfortunate reality that the local newspaper business ...

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