An independent shoe store sets up a grill, table and condiments beside its front door every Saturday and, at no charge, lets local non-profit groups conduct brat and burger sales. It’s become a tradition that not only creates favorable publicity and profits for the store, but benefits the community as well.
A small grocery store has slot boxes by the front door. (The wall looks like a birdhouse condo.) Under each slot is the name of a community-service organization. People can deposit their grocery receipts into the slot of their favorite organization as they leave the store. Each quarter, the storeowner donates one percent of every receipt to the designated organizations. This simple program has made the store the busiest in the area.
A consultant and website designer for the financial services industry creates sites for industry organizations at no charge. Each website contains his company’s name and contact information. He is so busy as a result that he does no other advertising.
The owner of a computer store offers free classes to seniors every month on the premises. More than half become loyal customers.
Many companies spend a fortune on advertising, but ignore the incredible – and often free – value of promoting themselves through public relations activities. And, yes, even if you’re not a PR guru, you can make your business and/or yourself a household name, and dramatically increase your business in the process.
Public relations is nothing more than a “series of specific actions designed to help the public relate in a positive way to a business organization,” says PR expert Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, author of Become Famous, Then Rich: How to Promote Yourself and Your Business (Dearborn Financial Services Publishing, 1983.) “It does this by aggressively providing high visibility to the organization or individual and by projecting positive images and messages,” Hensley told TFE.
Following are excerpts from the interview:
INGRISANO: How valuable is PR to a business?
HENSLEY: It is priceless. The public endorses people and businesses of high visibility. Arnold Swartzenegger is not an accountant, an attorney, a previously elected public figure, yet because of his incredible name recognition, he was voted in as Governor of California.
There are better public orators than Rev. Billy Graham, but because of his newspaper columns, books and televised crusades, he is the most successful preacher who ever lived.
As your name or that of your business begins to appear in the media, you will be surprised at how people look at you as an expert.
INGRISANO: What about bad publicity; in other words, negative news?
HENSLEY: It doesn’t seem to matter. Henry Ford used to say, “I don’t care what you say about me so long as you spell Ford correctly.” He had discovered that even bad publicity was “good” publicity because being famous always proved beneficial in the long run.
INGRISANO: What are some ways small businesses can promote themselves?
HENSLEY: First, send a steady flow of short press releases to area media to get free publicity regarding hirings, promotions, mergers, new products, open houses, branch office openings, special research, community service, conventions attended, and sales. Press releases are not ads; they are serious announcements. Fill-in-the-blank press releases can be found in PR books for the novice.
(Author’s note: If you are not a writer, contact your local newspaper or trade publication and ask if they would like to cover a business story. Or request the name of a reporter with whom you can work on a free-lance basis. Better yet, contact me at email@example.com, and I’ll crank out a press release that sizzles.)
INGRISANO What else can readers do to generate excitement about their business?
HENSLEY: Create newsworthy “stunts.” When I was at Manchester College (as director of public relations), I arranged for 675 students to stand in our parade grounds in a formation that spelled BRAIN POWER. I had an airplane fly over and snap photos that we later gave to the media. They are always looking for unique and interesting stories.
The Marine Corp every year dresses its troops in uniforms and has them collect “Toys for Tots.” This generates great PR for the Corp.
Other PR ideas that can help promote your business:
· Volunteer: Join your local Lions Club or Chamber of Commerce and get involved in community service. Work for the organization and forget about business. However, every member with whom you serve is a potential customer, and people in the community will remember that you are taking the time to get involved in a good cause. (And don’t forget the press release.)
· Commit your business to fundraising. Donate X percent of sales for a week to cancer research. Use your business as a collection site for the local food pantry. Donate your old computer to the homeless shelter. Find a cause in which you believe. (And don’t forget the press release.)
· Do your own newsletter that keeps customers and prospects informed about your company. Be sure to send copies to the media.
Be creative. Look for opportunities. Make a list of ideas and then try one or two. It won’t be long before you find one that clicks…and you may be surprised how your prestige and profits grow.
Need help creating your materials? Let me know. As a marketing strategist, it’s what I do for a living. So, work hard, make money, have fun. — JRIngrisano (The Freestyle Entrepreneur.com)
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