Local small businesses need publicity too, even with a non-existent budget. The good news is, branding opportunities are abundant both online and offline. All you need is to write and tell engaging stories. And if you think you can’t write, don’t be too hard on yourself. New technologies can make a huge difference.

In this article, we’ll discuss the opportunities for small and local businesses to get their names out there without spending a dime. Also, we’ll touch on the tools you’d need to polish your writing.

First things first: Locate local print publications and online web sites to target.

Create an Excel spreadsheet that includes its publication or site name, URL, contact person’s name, e-mail, submission guidelines URL (if any), submission date, and publish date.

What kinds of publications or blogs do you need to target? Those that are read by the people who would buy your products. For instance, if you own a flower shop, think of the people who are likely to purchase flowers. They could be any adult, who reads parenting magazines, business blogs, self-empowerment sites, and others. Thus, don’t limit on the types of publications or sites to write for. Start by locating publication directories, like this one by the Parenting Media Association.

Second, read and study each targeted publication or web site carefully.

Make sure that you grasp their readers’ personas, the topics covered, and whether they accept guest writers or guest bloggers. Many publications rely solely on their in-house writers without accepting any freelance or guest articles.

By “persona,” it refers to the fictionalized character of the targeted audience. For instance, a local parenting magazine’s buyer personas include with-partner parents, single parents, or adoptive parents whose child may or may not have autism. Based on each persona, you can select various topics for multiple articles.

Third, find a unique angle for an article that hasn’t been covered previously.

Don’t think about “sprinkling” your business’s name throughout the piece. You don’t want to write about your business at all. Remember that. You only write about what you know and think, including about your skills, knowledge, and experiences as an entrepreneur, a parent, a flower designer, an art graduate, a carpenter hobbyist, etc.

You’ll include your business name in the byline section at the end of the article. That’s how you’ll be able to generate web traffic, walk-in traffic, and overall brand reputation. Readers will see you as someone who shares knowledge with others, not as someone who’s tooting your own horn. The more often your works get published and your name mentioned, the more likely readers would remember you and your business.

Fourth, write the article in an easy-to-digest and straightforward how-to format.

Writer’s Digest has 6 easy steps for you as a starting point: decide on a topic, address the readers’ needs, include statistics or quotes, edit the draft, every step must be explicitly described and thoroughly, and repeat the process with other articles.

Use a Grade 8 reading level, based on The Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, to ensure that 80% of your readers can understand. Readable IO and Hemingway apps are designed to check reading levels.

Fifth, edit the article professionally and make sure there are no identical wordings elsewhere that might result in plagiarism suspicion.

For this purpose, you can use professional grammar and plagiarism check apps like ProWritingAid, from which you can also learn a lot about writing.

This editing app checks for grammar, style, punctuation, overused words, cliches, and redundancies, stick sentences, repeated words, sentence length, pronouns used, transitions used or missing, consistency (US or UK English), pacing, dialogue tags, readability, abstract and vague words, thesaurus check, diction used, alliterations used, homonyms used, corporate wording, acronym used, complex words used, eloquence, house style, plagiarism, and a combination of multiple checks chosen. Thus, it works as if a human editor were around, which would save you at least $30 an hour.

In conclusion, no matter how small your business is, you can heighten your brand’s reputation simply by sharing your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and stories. Tell stories as if you were talking to an educated group of friends in online and offline publications. By letting yourself shine in writing, your business would also receive the branding exposure it needs.

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Jennifer Xue is an award-winning author, columnist, digital strategist, and serial entrepreneur based in Northern California. Her byline has appeared in Forbes, Fortune, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Business.com, Business2Community, Addicted2Success, Good Men Project, and others. She is the author of White Paper Writing for Business (BookBoon, 2016). Her blog is JenniferXue.com and Twitter @jenxuewrites.

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