If you're trying to promote your store, but you don't have a big advertising budget, relax. There are lots of ways to get in front of the audience you want to reach by using free publicity. Here are tips that will boost your publicity efforts and help you finally get noticed.
1. Tie your story ideas to the holidays. Here are some examples: Gourmet gift baskets that make the best Christmas gifts. Bookstores that are doing special programs that tie into Mother’s Day. Health food stores that can explain how to create a vegetarian meal for Thanksgiving.
2. Call the advertising department of every newspaper and magazine you want to get into and ask for a copy of their editorial calendar. It’s a free listing of all the special topics and special sections coming up during the calendar year. It will tip you off to sections where your story idea would be a good fit, so you can query the editor weeks and even months ahead.
3. Invite a reporter from your local newspaper or magazine for coffee or lunch. Instead of asking, “Will you write about me?” a better question is “How can I help you?” Offer yourself as a resource in your area of expertise. Talk about trends you are seeing in your store.
4. Consider starting your own television show on your cable TV station’s community access channel. A floral shop can do a program on how to create dried flower arrangements. The station can rent you the camera equipment for a nominal fee. Air time is free. Produce one show or an entire series of programs. Call your cable company for details.
5. Build a network of other retailers in your area. Agree informally that you will refer reporters to each other whenever they call and want your views on a topic on which you all could comment, such as a new sales tax increase.
6. Write how-to articles such as this one for newsletters published by groups in your community, or for newsletters read by audiences who buy your products or services. Be sure the last paragraph tells readers how to contact you.
7. Don’t forget newspaper and magazine columnists. They’re always hungry for fresh ideas. Keep in touch with them and feed them ideas regularly.
8. Get on your local TV news and the morning TV news feature shows. Tie your product, service, cause or issue to a breaking news event. Pitch yourself as the local angle to a national story. Or suggest a feature story with great visuals.
9. Write articles for electronic magazines and include a paragraph of information at the end that leads readers to your web site.
10. Contact your trade association and ask them to refer reporters to you. Many reporters who don’t know where to find sources on a particular topic start by calling trade associations.
11. Always refer to yourself as an “expert” in your marketing materials, at your web site, in information that explains your workshops, in your introductions during public speaking engagements, and in your media kit. The media always seek out experts and interview them.
12. Pitch stories about your product, service, cause or issue that tie into the weather. Weather stories are mandatory at most media outlets, and newspapers and TV stations, in particular, are always looking for fresh angles that tie into today's and tomorrow's forecast.
13. Pitch story ideas about your business to the reporter who covers the retail beat for your local business journal or business magazine.