Public Relations is one of the most under-utilized and powerfully effective marketing tools available to any small business. Properly used, PR can do for free what you pay to do in advertising. That is: get attention, boost your business image, increase market awareness, attract new customers and generate sales.
Smart PR works with and complements your advertising/marketing mix. It becomes an integral component of promoting your business. One of the most valuable facets of PR for contractors and other industry professionals is attracting local media to do a story on your company, your services or you. This “coup” can be worth thousands of dollars in TV, radio or print exposure – without costing you a cent. However, if you don’t know the “ropes” of understanding, attracting and working with the media, you may miss the gold mine of PR possibilities you’re sitting on. Here are Six Savvy Rules for putting the media to work for you – in helping to build your business success.
1) THINK LIKE AN EDITOR OR REPORTER:
Whether it’s TV, radio, newspapers or magazines, the number one question facing editors and reporters on a daily basis is “What will my viewers/readers want to know about?” Generally that translates into IS IT NEWSWORTHY? Your job, therefore, is to think like a reporter when proposing a PR story and make sure the “hook” or angle you take is of newsworthy interest to their readers/listeners/viewers.
What’s considered NEWS? Anything NEW regarding services, products, employees, benefits, location, etc. Being the FIRST or LAST to do something. Sharing SUCCESS: awards, prizes, sales records or other industry recognition. Rally around a CAUSE for or CRUSADE against something: theft prevention techniques, fraud detection, insurance problems, letter-writing campaigns, etc. Set a RECORD for doing it better, faster, cheaper, etc. Reverse a TREND: unusual service available, unique approach to pricing, uncommon business hours. PIGGY-BACK on a national or local news event: from hurricane damage and blizzards to business conventions, the circus – even political campaigns and more, with creative thinking, opportunities to tie-in a sale or service abound. And one of the biggest winners of all… tap into the power of EST: provide the friendliest, easiest, lightest, strongest, cleanest, smallest, funniest, healthiest or any other ______EST product or service on the market… and you’ll make NEWS.
2) GET INVOLVED WITH CHARITIES AND LOCAL EVENTS:
Community service organizations like Kiwanis and Rotary, religious groups and charities of all kinds regularly sponsor special events to raise funds and promote their cause. These can include dinners, picnics, parties, auctions, sporting events and more, giving you a broad range of opportunities to get involved. Whether you donate a product or service as a gift or prize, volunteer your time or facilities, or sponsor the event with a direct donation, your participation is newsworthy. Make sure your business is recognized in the event’s promotional material, program schedules, press releases, etc. The more natural the tie-in, the easier to build PR recognition.
For examples, many exterior siding specialists team up with siding manufacturers on behalf of Habitat For Humanity. Frequently the manufacturer donates the siding and the contractor donates his manpower to help build a new house for a needy family. Both the local newspapers and TV stations love to pick up on these stories, giving credit and interviews to the businesses. In addition to receiving a thank you plaque from the community, the contractors usually enjoyed a substantial boost in business that year.
3) TIMING IS EVERYTHING:
When something is “hot” in the news, that’s the time to approach the media with a related story. Is an unusually colored house being talked about in your community? Take a photo and call the newspaper or TV station with a story about how to save money using the newest “app” in your industry.
National and regional consumer publications often use editorial calendars to announce specific themes for upcoming issues – remodeling, vacation get-aways, fashion news, technology updates, etc. Call or write for that calendar. Then target an issue well in advance and prepare a press release on your newsworthy contribution to that subject.
Sometimes your timing can be a pure accident of good luck. One medium-sized homebuilder who had repeatedly tried to get media attention in his region once again called his local TV station for an interview segment on the Noon news. He was not aware that just that morning there was a big story on the wire services about national housing starts going down the past quarter. The TV news producer was very interested in this builder’s opinion and perspective for the local community and invited him to be interviewed the very next day.
4) COOPERATE/COORDINATE WITH OTHER PROFESSIONALS
Your reach, focus and budget can dramatically expand if you consider linking up with specialists in complementary professions. For example talk to interior decorators, landscape architects and designers, contractors specializing in windows, fences, swimming pools and other related areas. Team up in creating special models, community events, turn-key packages, co-op marketing materials or other vehicles for promoting each of your businesses to the same market demographics.
5) OFFER FREE SEMINARS
If you have any level of communication skills, promoting a free seminar can be a valuable way of attracting new clients. Here, too, you can team up with other complementary businesses in your field to offer tips, techniques and tools for exterior and interior renovations, room additions, new home construction and other possibilities. Libraries, community centers, schools, clubhouses, chambers of commerce and other facilities are often available for these events at no or low cost.
If speaking, or providing a demonstration with slides, overheads and the like, isn’t your bag, try sponsoring someone else to do the program. You can provide attractive brochures that sell your services – and perhaps a special promotional offer for customers who respond promptly.
6) BE PERSISTENT:
The biggest reason public relations fails is failure to persist. Don’t be discouraged if you’re turned down once, twice, even four times or more. When you do hit with an idea, the return is worth the effort. Often, repetitive contact with editors and reporters will keep you in mind so when a related subject comes to their attention, YOU will be the first resource they call for information and interviews. If an idea doesn’t sell, rethink your approach or “hook” and pitch the story again from a different angle. Remember to think “newsworthy” and keep trying. Persistence and dependability are your primary attributes for PR success. So stop sitting on that gold mine of opportunities and get up and share your business with the world.