Media Myth Busters

We want to set the record straight on the realities of media and public relations.

#1 If you call the media with a story they are going to send you right to the ad department.

One of the biggest fears that small business owners tend to have about approaching the media is that they don’t want to seem pesky. If you have a newsworthy story to tell, the media will be happy to hear from you. While it’s common to lack confidence in your unique story and its value to the wider community, journalists want to hear stories that impact and inspire their readers, viewers and listeners. When you come forward with a tip or press release properly packaged to get their attention, they will respond positively. It’s in their best interests to serve their community with topical, relevant news. If you send a release and you are routed over to the ads department, don’t give in and buy an ad unless you need the guaranteed coverage. That just means you need to review your story angle and try again.

#2 One story will change my business.

One story will seldom be enough to create immediate or lasting changes in the buying habits of your customers. One story on its own may lead to some interest and perhaps additional sales, but pinning your hopes on publicity bailing you out of a spiral with one stroke will set you up for disappointment. You can’t count on one push of publicity effort to be enough for your needs. Knowing that from the start could have saved many a small business owner from disillusionment in the publicity game.

Publicity-seeking is not a one-shot activity. Even if coverage is achieved with your first attempts, you’ll want to continue to create good relationships with local media and seek additional coverage as relevant and newsworthy moments happen in your business. The reason for this continual effort is that, like all marketing approaches, consistency and repetition will yield better results and provide you with more long-term leverage.

Media coverage works to define your brand and express your expertise and leadership in the marketplace. It’s not a path to instant fame and fortune, but continual practice and refinement does bring powerful results to those who choose to pursue it. Good coverage that is well targeted is never a wasted investment, and more often than not, will bring about a higher return on investment than many of the most common tactics used by small business owners – including local newspaper advertising.

#3 It’s expensive to hire a publicist and generating publicity is too hard to do on your own.

Contrary to widely held perceptions, publicity is not expensive to tap into. This is particularly true when working with small PR companies that focus locally and regionally (versus large national and international agencies). It’s not difficult to find a professional publicist who specializes in small business publicity at extremely affordable rates.

Since what’s considered “extremely affordable” can vary depending on your personal concept of money, a professional local publicist specializing in small businesses serving will cost you less than the price of one full-page ad in your local newspaper – unless you live in a town of less than 10,000. Your publicist won’t get you coverage every month, and shouldn’t promise to, but they will work on your behalf to maximize your chances of coverage and help you leverage your paid marketing expenses.

For business owners that can’t manage to swallow a publicity budget (and for those who simply prefer the do-it-yourself approach) it’s not difficult to tap into existing resources for the support and help you need to learn and apply the best practices. An elementary education in PR through Internet and library resources will cost between nothing (except your time) and a couple of hundred dollars. It’s simply a matter of knowing where to look. And, don’t worry, there are plenty of signposts that will point you in the right direction –many do-it-yourself enthusiasts offer a critique of the services you’ll be looking into.

PR Dos & Don’ts in the weeks to come… stay tuned.