Few business owners, if any, were prepared for the impact the current economic downturn would have on their bottom lines. As a result, companies of all sizes have had to cut back or close their doors completely as sales and contracts have dried up. However, with careful planning companies can leverage the power of the media to get high-impact, free publicity which could bring a burst of new business.
I am consistently amazed at how few business owners really understand how easy it is to make the media work for them. Small- to mid-sized businesses especially tend to think that having a publicity/marketing plan is too costly or too difficult. Nothing could be further from the truth.
By creating a basic publicity plan and learning a few simple media relations strategies, these same businesses can wind up featured on the cover of their local papers or getting free airtime on radio and TV which can lead to significantly more business, fast.
Most media pros will agree that good publicity is far more valuable than advertising. Therefore let me offer 5 reasons a publicity plan is vital to any business:
1. First and foremost, a plan helps you set goals.
If yours is one of the businesses which has seen a sharp decrease in sales, you may decide that launching a publicity campaign will help you reach your goal of increasing traffic by reminding your audience of the high-level of value and customer service your company provides or by giving away free iPods to loyal customers. The key is to be clear about your goals and objectives before launching a publicity plan and be realistic about the expected outcome.
2. Publicity planning also helps you identify specific journalists at specific media outlets who can most effectively help you reach your market.
In your planning, you will begin to learn the names of the journalists who cover business, consumer affairs, lifestyle, sports etc. Eventually you’ll figure out exactly who to go to with your story idea. This helps you build media relationships, which could put your business at the forefront of any story that could result from that initial contact–thus, free publicity.
3. Keeping track of what media you’ve been in contact with is another plus to having a publicity plan.
This allows you to follow up appropriately. When you decide to launch a publicity campaign, you will be sending information directly to the writers whose articles you read and sometimes the reporters whose stories you watch on TV. They get tons of ‘publicity queries’ everyday, so following up with them directly is important. This dramatically increases your chances of getting free publicity.
4. Additionally, a plan shows that you value your audience and are serious about strategically delivering your message to them.
For example, you may decide to send out a news release once a month about your company’s new product, service or promotional campaign. The more they see, hear and read about what you’re doing the more your audience will like, know and trust you. Business 101 teaches that this strategy directly impacts sales.
5. Lastly, a publicity strategy helps you position yourself as an expert or an industry leader.
As you get more media coverage, your peers, your target market and other media outlets will begin to respect you and you will get more publicity, more brand awareness, more loyalty and ultimately more business.