Ten ways to generate free publicity

How to generate free publicity for your business

Publicity is a great way to raise the profile of your small business. In a world of viral marketing and social media, how can small firms take advantage of the many free or cheap ways to promote their business? Clare Bullock investigates

  1. Focus your coverage. Choose carefully exactly what you want to cover and your target media. Whether it's the launch of a new product, a significant anniversary or a competition win, make sure it is relevant to the readership of your targeted media platform.
  2. Use social media. Social media is an excellent way to build relationships with your customers and encourage word-of-mouth publicity. Building a loyal following on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn can pay dividends when those followers help to spread the word about your business.
  3. Viral marketing. Whether it's a YouTube video with thousands of views, or a photo that is tweeted and retweeted, if your promotional material goes viral it can give your public profile a huge boost. There is no magic formula in viral marketing - but something quirky, interesting and funny is more likely to capture people's imaginations.
  4. Write a great press release. Press releases are not just for journalists – don’t forget to add them to the news section of your website and link to them from your social media accounts. Ensure you have an eye-catching headline and a strong opening paragraph before getting into the details.
  5. Get back to basics. Journalists want to write about something that is newsworthy, genuinely interesting and which will appeal to their readership. Make sure you provide them with a compelling story, the facts, data and quotes to back it up and give them a great picture. If your story is linked to a hot topic, has a connection to famous people or places, is controversial or amusing, even better.
  6. Publish customer reviews on your website. Glowing customer feedback is worth its weight in gold. Publishing reviews can help turn browsers into buyers – testimonials can give reassurance and provide answers to common queries. Your response to reviews also demonstrates your appreciation for constructive feedback and shows how you deal with customer complaints effectively.
  7. Go for gold. Winning an award is a fantastic way to get publicity. Not only does it showcase your talent and boost your reputation. Award ceremonies are also a great place to network and are usually covered by trade or local press. Many awards are free to enter. Look for one that is well respected in your industry and is likely to generate press coverage.
  8. Get philanthropic. You could get involved with a local charity to increase your standing in the community. Offer to speak at industry events or to write a column for a trade magazine or website.
  9. Dealing with bad publicity. Not all free publicity is beneficial. One negative comment can undo months of hard work. If a customer complains, contact them directly with a full apology and suggested solution. If you see negative and anonymous comments online, respond honestly in the same forum, explaining the situation from your perspective. Do not ignore negative feedback or bad publicity - it may be the first thing a prospective customer sees if they decide to search for you online.
  10. Keep it in perspective. Publicity is a great way to increase footfall but don't neglect other aspects of your business in a bid to boost your profile. If you are spending a lot of time and energy on PR without much success, sit back and work out another strategy.
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