Once you’ve developed a great product or service, you still need to find a way to communicate about that product to the public. Without public awareness of what you can provide, how will anyone know to use it? You need to get your name out there, and make sure that people know who you are and what you do. Publicity is critical to success, particularly for a small business that doesn’t have the luxury of throwing millions of dollars at a Super Bowl ad.

But even there, you might encounter difficulties. After all, you might not be able to afford hiring an expensive public relations firm to handle publicity for your company. Small businesses in particular need to take advantage of free local publicity as a way to develop a public image without breaking the budget. But how do you get free local publicity?

Find Local News Angles

The best weapon in your arsenal when looking for free local publicity is the press release. A few short paragraphs can turn into a whole news story in the local paper or on local radio and television stations. The first place you can take advantage of is a local business news section, which will give some coverage to events such as openings, hires, and special promotions. While you can certainly start there, you’ll want to move out beyond the business section and get consistent publicity through general local news. But it won’t come without effort and thought. After all, media outlets get stacks of press releases sent out for that purpose, and many of them are completely ignored. You need to find a way to make yours stand out from the pack.

A successful press release won’t be just about a product; media members are smart, and they can recognize the difference between an advertisement and a news story. You have to find something newsworthy that’s related to your product, something that meets the journalist’s needs as well as your own. Perhaps you’re giving a public speech, and the media might be interested in covering the event. Or maybe a new survey about your product produced intriguing results that would surprise readers. Maybe you’ve even won some awards or are expanding your services or offering new products—these are the kinds of news angles that the media can take and turn into a news story that brings you free publicity.

But you don’t just have to settle for news stories. You can think big, and aim for feature stories that occupy prime real estate in media coverage, with color photos in the newspaper and video or audio clips on television and radio. To do this, you need to find good human interest angles. Has someone had incredible success using your product or service? The media might be interested in writing about that person, providing publicity for your company as the source of their success. Or if your business is a local example of a larger national trend, it can become a great feature story that allows the reporters to talk about the trend at large while using your business as the specific example. An employee with an interesting hobby, a unique advertising strategy—the possibilities are limitless if you take the time to find a good local news angle.

Relationships

You have to be proactive about publicity, because it’s not going to just come to you on its own. An important step you can take is to cultivate local relationships in your community. Develop relationships with both community leaders as well as local media outlets. More than just a face-to-face networking opportunity, participating in community events such as fundraisers, charity events, and social events with other local leaders will get your name out there in coverage of those events, not only letting people know who you are but also creating a positive image.

Meanwhile, developing real relationships with local media outlets will help you in your quest. A way to cultivate this kind of relationship is to be a consistent source of usable news stories. Remember that the relationship should meet both parties’ needs. If you’re able to provide quality news stories that meet the media’s needs, then they’ll be more interested in your press releases and in using you as a source, creating a mutually beneficial bond. Become someone that reporters trust to send interesting information their way, and you can even become someone they’ll turn to as an expert in your field when they need to get quotes and information for other news stories. So don’t just blindly send out press releases, but take the time to talk to reporters and media members and get to know them, and let them get to know you.


Turn It Into Sales

You need to make sure the publicity you’re getting is actually directing people towards your business. Make sure that all the necessary information is provided, such as who your company is, what you provide, and how customers can find and contact you. And connect with media outlets that will actually help your business. The best place to be is in your local media market, since the majority of business is probably coming from local customers, and so you need to meet them where they are. Your stories need to be in the papers they read and on the stations they watch and listen to. Trade magazines in your field are also a good place to go, since their readership is more likely to be interested in what you’re providing. You want relationships that are worth having, so that your time and effort is dedicated to channels that will give you the benefits you need. If you take the time to find news angles related to your business and cultivate relationships in media channels that will direct you to your customers and your customers in turn to you, you can successfully take advantage of the opportunities afforded to you by free local publicity.