Master showman PT Barnum said, “A terrible thing happens without publicity … NOTHING!” Whether you’re a one-person road show or a major corporation, you need people to know about you. Publicity is your best friend if used well and is a terrible waste if ignored. Publicity is the most overlooked marketing tool and also the least expensive, least risky..
Publicity, public relations, and advertising
Publicity is free media exposure for your product or service. Public relations (PR) is the overall planning and strategy for dealing with the media. Advertising is paying to promote your product or service. Say, for example, you have a lemonade stand. Your PR strategy is to use word of mouth to promote your product. With the little extra money you have, you hire your brother to post flyers (advertising). In the mean time, a thirsty runner with no money jogs by and you give her a cool drink on the house. Because she’s the editor of your local paper, the next day your lemonade stand is prominently displayed on the front page. Business booms. That’s publicity.
Publicity is the art of convincing others to sing your praises for you at the same time you’re singing your own praises. You and others team up to tell the world who you are, what you do, and why it is so important. If the public doesn’t hear about you or your product or service, as Barnum pointed out, nothing will happen.
With advertising, those who purchase your service or product are your target customers. In publicity, the media is your target customer. One customer sold on your service or product equals one sale. One media representative sold can result in thousands of sales.
Guerrillas are business operators who substitute time, energy, and imagination for money. Guerrillas measure their performance on profits, not sales; they place primary importance on how many relationships they build not on how much money they make. They realize that they can enjoy the present while creating a sustainable future.
Five things you can do to become a guerrilla publicist on a shoestring budget
1. Know who you are; know what you want; sing your praises often
Know who you are. You are the product regardless of what product or service you provide. People trust the familiar and if they are familiar with you, they will be more likely to purchase your product or service. For this to happen, you must know and believe in yourself, your products, or your services.
Position yourself as an expert by persistently selling yourself. This is most easily accomplished with a ten to fifteen second sound bite that proclaims precisely who you are, what you do, and why you make a difference. Succinct statements make a powerful impression and gets people’s attention. Be ready to explain exactly how your product or service will benefit your listener.
Know what you want. Opportunities won’t just come knocking on your door; you have to make them happen! Luck is made by having a clear purpose, achievable goals, and by taking consistent and persistent action. Publicity starts from within. Clearly identify your purpose and objectives and lay out a precise plan on how you will achieve those objectives. Capitalize on your strengths to meet precisely the right people at the right time.
Sing your praises often. The most obvious signs of your expertise are that your customers keep coming back, pay what you charge, and recommend you to others. Ask for a written or verbal testimonial then broadcast that testimonial everywhere you can. If you’re doing a seminar or workshop, ask people who’ve heard you before to share their experiences publicly. If you’re good, you’ll get good publicity.
However, that’s where self-promotion can be tricky. One bad experience can ruin your reputation, so you’d better consistently deliver on your promises. Self-promotion based on assumptions, exaggerations, or lies will bury you at the speed of the Internet.
2. Build relationships from your heart day and night with a targeted market
Your relationships are your most valuable asset. Because you’re in business for the long haul, your best business will come from your best relationships. When building relationships, think in terms of:
- Campaigns, not ads
- Careers, instead of jobs
- Decades, rather than days, months, or years
You do business with the people who have taken the time to get to know you, understand your needs, and provide you what you need even before you think you need it! Remembering that the media is your customer, take the “concierge approach” to building relationships with them. Offer information, sources, access to your contacts, and fresh stories and ideas. Thank them more than they thank you and always give them more than they expect. Your appreciation will always be welcome and will pay you big dividends.
Take every opportunity to say who you are, what you do, and how what you do can help others. Don’t be shy about making yourself highly visible. In fact, you’d be well served by building your entire marketing plan around publicity. Begin your campaign months in advance of the introduction of your product or service and blitz the media with persistence.
All your relationships are built on trust. Say what you mean and mean what you say. You must truly believe in whatever you publicize. Believe with all your heart that:
- What you’re promoting will change the world
- Your promoting it will make a difference
- You know more about it than virtually anyone else
3. Play the numbers game, and play it well
The relationships you build with the media are mutually beneficial. The media constantly needs fresh information and they look for people like you to provide it. Expect, but don’t be discouraged by disappointment and rejection. The media sees thousands of press releases and notes every day. Here’s a few ways you can make the numbers game work for you:
Press releases: the best part about free publicity. The media wants and expects press releases. Send them hot relevant stories and they’ll love you. They can publish your press release in part or whole. Radio and TV producers are reached through your headline, while print publishers may actually read your press release. Compose lively, one-line headlines that will make them continue reading. Use subheadings or bulleted items to provide snapshot information at a glance.
Media lists: your gateway to the stars. Media lists are databases containing information about the people and organizations that can help promote you. Start your own media list manually including the names of every person who is even remotely associated with the media. Gather media information from online services (more reliable than print) and keep them up-to-date.
Follow up, follow up, follow up. Contact your media list – often and consistently. Take initiative by striking early and often. Be a persistent- but in a warm, friendly way. The key is to always follow up and capitalize on any news developments, keeping your name on top.
Media kits: when less is more. Media kits are ideal as a way to follow a press release. Once you’ve generated some interest have a kit ready to go. Include everything they want to know: your company history, personal biography, a list of suggested questions, articles, brochures, a quality photo, endorsements and testimonials, and even a few giveaways.
4. Be prepared for anything
Identify your and your business’ uniqueness and find some special slant that will get the media’s attention. Whatever it is, it must be relevant to the media’s audience; otherwise they’ll ignore it and you.
Once you have your unique slant and several variations, promote yourself and your message early, forcefully, and fast. Convey enthusiasm in every facet of your message. Assume you’ve got no more than ten seconds to convince the media. Then, be prepared for anything. The slant you took may not be the slant they use. If you know your stuff, you can wing it, and the media will appreciate your flexibility. Practice your interviews from every angle and when the time comes, take command of the interview and stay relaxed.
5. Get yourself out there
The best publicity often happens in the most unexpected places. Guerrilla publicity is a multi-faceted approach. It’s not just about press releases or media contacts. Get yourself out there by:
- Conduct live or teleconference seminars
- Get published (articles or your own book)
- Create a web site
- Have an e-mail newsletter
- Join Internet communities
- Use online publicity forums
- Create joint ventures
Summing it up
Now is the time to take action. You can plan all year, but as Einstein said, “Nothing happens until something moves.” Make publicity a mindset in your life. Always look for ways to publicize yourself and opportunities will appear. Take the time to establish your credibility and build for the long run. Finally, make the most of every chance encounter and every media contact. Your preparedness will pay off with free publicity and more customers at your little lemonade stand than you ever imagined.