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How to Generate Free Publicity for Your Product, Service, or Cause


One of the most misunderstood and most underutilized promotional tools available to small businesses and organizations is FREE PUBLICITY.

Every business, no matter how large or small, can effectively use free publicity to enhance its image, increase sales and profits, generate sales leads, expand distribution, and promote customer goodwill. All of these benefits can be gained for nothing more than a small investment ot time, paper, envelopes, and postage. And...with the addition of new e-mail based media release services...even the paper, envelopes and postage can be eliminated.

Most new businesses start out on the proverbial shoestring budget. There never seems to be enough money available to do needed advertising.

Professional marketing assistance seems like an unaffordable dream, and there is always "one more piece of equipment" that needs to be purchased.

Add-in other concerns, and it's no surprise that marketing and promotion end up last on the long list of perceived needs. They should be among the first!

A well-executed and on-going publicity program can dramatically improve your chances of success in the marketplace. Whatever you want to achieve promotionally...you'll accomplish it faster and less expensively with a knowledge of the publicity game. You can generate high volumes of traffic to your web site, increase direct sales, generate qualified sales leads, shorten your selling cycle, enhance your image, and boost your cash flow, with free publicity!

Free publicty is the perfect promotional tool for start-up companies. Why? Because it's:

==> cheap...

==> & available.

While I can't make an expert publicist out of you in one short article, I will give you the basic tools you need to get started with your own publicity program and a resource list to enable you to expand your success and build your knowledge base. Let's get started...

WHAT IS PUBLICITY?

Publicity is NEWS. News about your company, its products or services, its personnel, etc. Anything that has a legitimate news angle will probably find a number of editors eager to publish it for you...free.

Why are editors willing to do this? It's their job! Editors are charged with the responsibility of filling up page after page of space or, (in the case of radio or television, minutes of time) with information that is timely and useful to their readers or listening/viewing audience. Theirs is a formidable task, performed under the constant pressure of deadlines. Your news release helps editors do their job.

It's important, however, to differentiate a legitimate news story from what should be paid advertising.

To acomplish this, editors typically ask themselves two questions when reading your press release:

* Who cares?

* Who already knows?

If the answer to the first question is "a large number of my readers or listeners", and the answer to the second question is "very few", then your release stands an excellent chance of publication.

Remembering the old axiom of "Nothing is older than yesterdays news", it also becomes obvious that your news release must be timely. In other words, the news must, in fact, be new.

THE TOOLS OF PUBLICITY...

The principle tools of publicity are:

* News Release

* Press Kit

* Press Conference

* Feature Story

* Letters to the Editor

* Media Lists/Selection

The news release is the most useful (and most used) form of communicating news to the media. When coupled with a well-selected media list, the simple news release is a very powerful tool that you can start using today.

THE NEWS RELEASE...

Your release (news story) should typed, double-spaced, with wide margins on one side of 81/2" x 11" plain white paper (or letterhead). Never hand-write a news release.

Keep it simple. Follow the standard news story format of Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How, and you can't go wrong. Use simple sentences (seven words or less). Use short paragraphs (seven sentences or less).

Use as many simple single-syllable words as possible. Remember, you're trying to convey news...not impress William F. Buckley. Omit the superlatives. Words such as best, greatest, finest, unique, one-of-a-kind, and highest quality don't belong in news releases.

Don't say anything you can't back up with facts.

Your news release will generally fit on one sheet of paper...rarely more than two. If you have more than 400 to 500 words (roughly two pages of double-spaced copy), you should probably rewrite the release.

If necessary, editors will cut your release to fit available space. Your story will be cut from the bottom up, so make sure you tell the most important details in the first paragraph or two.

The editor has no obligation to run your news release. Your release will be judged on it's own merits. If it meets the standards of publication...(Who Cares?--Who Knows?), and space is available, your release will probably be published.

You should keep in mind that one of your long-term goals is good media relations. Accordingly, you should never complain to an editor if he or she does not use a particular release. Keep submitting good releases, and you'll get your share of free space.

FORMAT IS IMPORTANT...

Savvy publicity seekers make sure that their news releases look professional. The following layout formula will serve you well: Make a special form with the heading "NEWS RELEASE" prominently printed at the top, along with your company name and address.

In the upper left corner print "FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:". Fill in the appropriate contact information and telephone, fax, e-mail, url, etc.

Drop down three lines and print "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE" next to the right hand margin.

Drop down two inches and type your story headline in all capital letters.

Drop down three spaces and begin the body copy of your release at the left-hand margin as follows: "(Your Town, State--Date)"xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx..."

End your release by centering "(-----30-----)" or "(----end----)" three or four lines after the last line of the story.

MEDIA SELECTION...

The slant of your news story will dictate the media selection. If you are a local retailer serving a limited goegraphical area, your media list will include all of the appropriate newspapers, radio stations, television stations, magazines, community web sites, etc. serving your market area. Your release would be written to a general consumer audience.

On the other hand, if you are a small manufacturer selling specialized equipment nationally, your media list would be targeted to industry trade publications, newsletters, trade associations, and other relevant trade outlets and business media. Your release would be written for a more focused audience of end users and trade press editors (in the hope of a possible feature article).

In all cases, releases should be customized to the target audience so that the editor will quickly see the news value to his or her readers or listeners.

DISTRIBUTION OF YOUR RELEASE...

There are now several means of distribution of your news release: (1) Regular Mail, (2) Electronic Mail (e-mail), (3)Fax, 4.Distribution Services. You can get f`ree distribution online at www.PRWeb.com. You might want to do a search online using the phrase "free news release distribution".

If mailed, always mail your news releases by first class mail. Address them, whenever possible, to the editor...by name. If you don't know the editor's name, check the publications masthead or call the publication and ask. You may also want to check current media guides (see "Resources") at your local library...usually found in the reference section.

A word of caution. Media people change jobs often, and media guides may not be up-to-date.

If you are unable to identify the proper person, you can simply mail to "Editor", but this is the least desirable alternative.

DO IT NOW...AND DO IT OFTEN...

What is the key to being effective with a publicity program? Start using the skills you have just learned...right NOW! Don't worry if you feel a certain lack of confidence. You'll only gain confidence by writing a few news releases an distributing them. You'll be amazed at how easy it becomes once you've written a few.

If you consistently turn out at least one good news story each and every week, you'll probably have to double your trips to the bank to deposit the increased sales and profits that come your way through FREE PUBLICITY!

Copyright 2005 Thom Reece

Thom Reece is CEO of Online Marketing Resource Center [http://www.E-ComProfits.com] and publisher of "Thom Reece's Web Marketing Strategies & Techniques Newsletter". You may subscribe free at: http://www.WMSTDirect.com, mailto:thom@e-comprofits.com


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