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Imagine getting tens of thousands of dollars worth of first class advertising for free on a regular basis. If it sounds too good to be true, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. This is the power of publicity and it’s more readily available to you than you might think.

Publicity is a special type of promotion. It occurs whenever your business is profiled in some manner by the media. In a monetary sense, publicity is free. But in addition to its obvious cost effectiveness, it is a tremendously powerful form of promotion. This is because publicity comes as a third party endorsement. This makes it much more believable and valuable than advertising. Used correctly, publicity can be a powerful, yet inexpensive method of promotion.

When engaging the media for potential publicity, don’t treat them as a cheap form of advertising. They do not exist to do your advertising for you, although with any luck that will be the by product. They are looking for stories to attract their customers, not for ways to offer free advertising. Remember, they are businesses themselves and typically rely on advertising dollars as their primary source of revenue. Instead, consider the media from their perspective. Offer them something of genuine value and they will be receptive to it. In other words, offer them something newsworthy.

If you find yourself thinking that there's nothing particularly newsworthy about your business, you are wrong. All businesses participate in newsworthy activities because business is an essential part of our society. The fact is, when something interesting happens concerning your business, many people would actually like to know about it.

The question is, what constitutes something interesting? The answer may not be as dramatic as you think. You may not find your company on the front page of the newspaper every morning, but even small, special interest stories can make great fillers.

Publicity has a potential downside as well, however. The danger comes from it not being completely under your control. This means there's an ever-present possibility (no matter how slight) that it could have a negative effect on your business. Firestone, for example, received a great deal of negative publicity in 2001 when it appeared some of its tires were defective.

The first step is for you and your employees to constantly be on the lookout for newsworthy events within or related to your business. Once you start doing this, it will amaze you how many publicity opportunities pass right under your nose on a regular basis.

Try to identify news items that impact the world outside of your business. If you can identify the relationship between your business and the rest of the world, you will significantly increase your chances for success. If people are concerned about air quality, for example, and you sell a vacuum cleaner that filters out harmful air particles, you might pitch a story about how these types of products make your home a safer place to live.

In addition, try to identify news items that relate to current events. If there is a heat wave going on, for example, and you sell air conditioners, the media might be happy to run a story on the best way to choose and use them. Also, be aware that most news has a finite lifespan, so report on it as soon as it happens. If you hire a new General Manager, for example, it’s only news for a short period of time.

Finding Newsworthy Events in Your Business

Following are some of the places you might find newsworthy events within your business. Check those that apply and note your thoughts in the space that follows.

What's noteworthy about your company right now?

• Have you just changed your company name?

• Is your business under new management or ownership?

• Have you just opened your first franchise?

• Has your business relocated?

• Has your business expanded in some way?

• Have you just completed a major renovation to your store?

What's so great about your products or services?

• Are your products or services unusually safe?

• Are your products or services unusually easy to use?

• Are your products or services unusually fast?

• Are you introducing a new product or service?

• Are you dropping or changing a product or service for safety or ethical reasons?

What is so great about your prices?

• Are prices falling due to lower production costs?

• Are prices falling due to lower material costs?

• Have you found a way to add value to your products or services without increasing your prices?

What is so great about your employees?

• Have you hired a new general manager? How will this affect your business?

• Has someone received a significant promotion for an unusual reason?

• Have your employees gone out of their way to provide outstanding customer service?

• Have your employees taken any new training courses, gone to any clinics/seminars, etc.?

• Has one/some of your employees done something outstanding outside of work?

What is so great about your corporate culture?

• Do your employees enjoy flexible work schedules?

• Do you offer an in-house daycare to support working mothers?

• Do you have unusually low employee turnover? Why?

• Do you offer the highest wages in your industry?

• Do you enjoy an unusually high safety rating for your industry?

• Do you have a working set of corporate values?

What upcoming special events are you planning?

• Are you celebrating a public holiday in a special way?

• Are you celebrating a community event?

• Are you opening a new location with a grand opening celebration?

• Is a celebrity coming to your store to sign autographs or give a presentation?

How does your business give back to society?

• Do your employees help out at the local food bank?

• Does your company support any charities?

• Does your company support education?

How do the latest news headlines relate to your company?

• Do you have any information that will support public safety?

• Do you have any information that will make people more comfortable?

• Do you have any information that will help people save or make money?

• Do you have any information that will help people have fun?

Think up 10 newsworthy publicity stories and list them in the space below. If you are an accountant, for example, you may have some helpful tax saving tips you could put into an article at tax time. This will become an ongoing list and will form part of your Publicity System.