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Riddell: Publicity is free

John Ridell writes a business column and a fun, Zoomer-Boomer outdoor column for the Sky-Hi News.

John Ridell writes a business column and a fun, Zoomer-Boomer outdoor column for the Sky-Hi News.

Small businesses are always starving for cash. While every owner/entrepreneur will attest to the benefits of advertising, most will also attest to their view of this cost as similar to getting blood out of the proverbial turnip. And, if and when funds are spent, it is certainly with a high degree of disdain with an accompanying high level of doubt.

The challenge then becomes to find some type of program that has good effect with minimal cost. A defined publicity process is just such a program. A marketing textbook definition of publicity states that it is “a nonpersonal stimulation of demand for a product, service, or business unit by planting commercially significant news about it in a published medium or obtaining favorable presentation of it upon radio, TV, or stage that is not paid for by the sponsor.” (Marketing Management, Philip Kotler).

In addition, publicity has the benefits of high credibility, it reaches around normal sales defenses, and it brings a certain measure of atmosphere for a company or product. All of this great and wonderful exposure at a very insignificant cost.

If this publicity thing is such a great deal, why aren’t more companies actively pursuing it?

I think that if you were to talk to most newspaper business editors, I think that they would tell you they feel as if every company in the world is besieging them with press releases. Many small businesses, unfortunately, devote little time to this pursuit mainly because they do not have an idea of what this “pursuit” means.

While local newspapers are always looking for a local slant, they have the right to expect to receive a professionally done press kit or press release. Current word processing software such as MS Word has built in templates for such releases. The structure of the release itself needs to be an exercise in clarity and brevity. The release needs to be delivered to the appropriate individual, and subsequently followed up by an email and a telephone call. The latter provides the opportunity for the business editor to ask any questions needed to clarify any information. Finally, this entire exercise needs to be repeated as conditions dictate.

In other words, these press releases are part and parcel of an overall publicity process.

Other components of this process would include such activities as public speaking opportunities, roundtable/forum discussions, and seminar participation. In all of these, the cost of participation is that of preparation and time to do. While no one has enough time, most small business owners/leaders can usually squeeze out a few extra minutes a bit easier than they can squeeze out a few extra dollars (for advertising).

If you should decide to initiate a publicity program, please keep one thing in mind:

newspapers and magazines are under no obligation to run your announcements.

As with most things in business, a good relationship goes a long way. Do yourself a favor, take your friendly business editor out for a cup of coffee. Just don’t spend too much on the coffee.

Following a successful international business career, John Riddell turned his attention to small business/entrepreneurial pursuits that included corporate turn-arounds, start-ups, teaching, authoring business and sports columns and serving as VP for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce directing its Center for Entrepreneurial Growth.