Getting Free Publicity for your Small Business

By Will Dylan

clip_image002Imagine turning on the 6:00 pm news and seeing your business featured in a story about a current trend that your customers need to know about. Or opening the newspaper and seeing your name in print in a positive story about your business. Thousands and thousands of people would see this positive media coverage and immediately view you as a trusted business because you’ve been featured positively in the media.

Now imagine that this coverage was absolutely free.

It happens every single day to small business owners just like you. They share an idea with a reporter who takes an interest in the story, and that leads to tens of thousands of dollars worth of free publicity for their business.

Here are some of the principles you need to understand to start getting free publicity for your small business:

Reporters are in the Idea Business

The 6:00 pm news is an hour long every night, whether or not anything meaningful actually happened that day. Reporters are constantly on the lookout for the next idea that will help them put a story together to fill the newscast, especially when they are short on time and information. They need ideas that they can turn into stories of interest for their viewers and readers.

Reporters get many of their ideas from business owners like you

Every day, most reporters attend an editorial meeting with their boss to discuss the stories that will appear on the news that day. Some are obvious –a major police announcement or a popular celebrity in town will definitely be on the list. But reporters also need to bring their own ideas to the meeting to fill days when the news isn’t as plentiful (especially Sundays). Often, they get those ideas from business owners who point out a trend, or a new product, or an emerging problem affecting viewers and readers.

You are an "Expert"

Don’t assume that you can’t be featured in a media story because you don’t like public speaking or you haven’t been in business that long. It doesn’t matter as much as you think. If you own a bicycle shop, you are an expert on bicycles. If you own a bakery that makes cakes, you are an expert on baking in general, cakes for special occasions, what’s hot in birthday cakes for kids, and so on.

Want coverage? Give reporters some good ideas!

What’s new in bicycles this year? What do people need to know about cleaning their BBQ in the spring? What are the three things homeowners can do to have the best lawn in the neighbourhood this year?

These aren’t earth shattering, life-changing stories, but I'll bet you’ve seen them all on the news, haven’t you? Look for trends, new ideas, problems that your product solves and so on. Send an email or call a local reporter to outline the issue. Naturally, you should offer yourself as a contact point for more information.

Watch the news for clues 

Watch your local news tonight and count the number of business owners who get free publicity for their small businesses. Then look at the stories they’re featured in. Like the examples above, you’ll find that most stories aren’t rocket science – they simply bring information to viewers about something new or different that they might not have been aware of. The business owner usually contributes a few comments, lets the camera crew into their place of business for some background footage (often called “b-roll”) and the reporter does the rest.

If they can do it, so can you. The next time you see a small business owner on TV getting coverage, think about the ideas they’ve put forward to a reporter to make it happen. Then apply the fundamentals of those ideas to your business and seek out opportunities to get valuable, free publicity.


Will Dylan helps small business owners drive free publicity and leverage cost-effective marketing strategies to drive results. He offers one of the Web's most popular, no-charge ebooks on small business marketing.

By Adam

June 29, 2010