If you want to attract customers locally, you could pay for an advert in your local newspaper or radio station. But getting editorial coverage has more credibility and far greater impact with potential customers. Follow these steps to get into your local media.
- Do your research. Get to know your local media, including newspapers, magazines and radio stations. Find out who they reach, how their content varies from day to day and section by section and, crucially, learn what their deadlines are. You should also note the names of writers, editors and broadcasters who produce material that might appeal to your customers.
- Network. Becoming an active member of your local Chambers of Commerce or any other business groups that will increase your prominence. Go for committee positions, offer to speak at events, look after stalls at conferences. Maximise your chances of meeting your local media and being approached for a quote.
- Approach local journalists. Introduce yourself to your local business reporters if you see them at an event. Offer to show them round, introduce them to key people or provide background information for a story. Be friendly, but don't be pushy.
- Feed stories to reporters. If you have involvement in a local business issue, offer your opinion or write a letter to the newspaper or magazine. If a newsworthy event occurs that relates to your business, let reporters know about it. You could even offer to contribute a regular column or comment answering readers' queries or offering an opinion on local business issues.
- Learn to write newsworthy press releases. Journalists respond to well-written and informative press releases. Give them a clear, descriptive headline that tells the story, use non-technical language and write copy that explains the benefits of your offering to local customers. Always include a quote, background notes, contact details and a good quality photo.
- Exploit natural PR opportunities. If it is your firm's tenth anniversary, if you have just served your 10,000th customer, if you have won an award or a big contract, then tell your local media. Success stories are very attractive to readers and listeners - they would rather hear these than a sales pitch.
- Create PR opportunities. You could also manufacture PR opportunities. You could, for example, team up with your local newspaper or radio station to run a competition with a prize that relates to your business - such as a year's supply of your product, a meal for two at your restaurant, and so on. Maximise publicity by tying it in with other events, such as Valentine's Day or the launch of a new offer.
- Get involved in the local community. You can generate PR by supporting local events and organisations. This could range from taking a stall at a local fete or show to sponsoring a sports team (with your name on their shirt). Let the press know of your involvement and see if they can send a reporter - otherwise send them a report of an event afterwards.
- Take part in fundraising activities. Organising char'ity events or encouraging your employees to take part in unusual or impressive fundraising can reap dividends in editorial coverage. If a member of your staff has canoed down the Amazon for the Rainforest Alliance, for example, make sure you send photos, a full report and make your employee available for interview.
- Review your efforts. Consider which of your initiatives have generated worthwhile publicity and continue to create more opportunities in that vein. There's a high degree of trial and error involved - you won't necessarily get full page coverage every week, but you will increase your connections and raise your profile. And that is definitely good for business.
For more guidance and advice on creating and exploiting PR opportunities, see the Resources box right.