While various economic forecasts call for a positive economic environment ahead, even in hard-hit New York City, now it is vital for small and midsize businesses to put their names in front of potential customers who are finally ready to open their wallets.
Public relations is a great way to do that. Unlike advertising, in which you buy newspaper or magazine ads or airtime, PR gets your name out there “for free”. The catch? You must interest reporters in writing news stories about your company. It’s much cheaper than advertising – and more credible, as your company’s name is embedded in the news. But how do you interest the media in covering you? The only real drawback is that—unlike advertising—you are not guaranteed media placement through your PR efforts.
Here are five ways to get your company’s name into the press in a positive way so those customers choose your company’s products and services rather than those of competitors.
1. Find a news hook. A news hook is that aspect of your company, products or services that is somehow related to the news of the day. In the New York area, your small business will have to aggressively compete for attention. Why should the media cover you? Find a connection between you and what’s in the headlines. For example, if you are publicizing a medical practice, be prepared to talk about the top medical stories of the day: SARS, Botox and the like. If you are publicizing a law practice, be prepared to discuss Wall Street law breaking or high-profile criminal cases such as Michael Jackson or Kobe Bryant.
2. Master the unusual. If there is truly no connection between your business, product or service and the news, ask yourself what about your business is so unusual, so counterintuitive that it might interest a reporter in a busy Manhattan newsroom to cover it.
An example of a local company that capitalized on a unique aspect of its product to win news coverage is the Washington-Jefferson Hotel on West 51st Street in Manhattan, a client of our firm.
A deluxe, full-service hotel, the Washington-Jefferson has gracious, well-appointed rooms -- that are unusually small but affordable. In fact, by our calculation, the rooms are the smallest luxury hotel rooms in the world. Working closely with the hotel's management, our firm launched a press campaign touting the recent renovation of the Washington-Jefferson's rooms -- including the smallest luxury hotel rooms in the world.
The story ran on the front page of the Life Section of USA TODAY -- and later on CNN, Fox News, in The Washington Post and elsewhere. To this day, travelers call the Washington-Jefferson and say, "Book me into the smallest hotel room." On many nights, the hotel is sold out.
3. Awards. Virtually every industry – from dry cleaning to management consulting – bestows an award to the best companies in the sector. Typically, an industry association hands out the honors. Learn about your industry’s top honor and pursue the nomination process. Winning an award is newsworthy. Certainly, you or your PR firm would issue a press release about it. The trade press and possibly the general business press may report your win. Further, industry awards lend your company credibility and make customers feel they are dealing with a strong player. And it never hurts to have a trophy or plaque in your place of business when potential clients or customers pay you a visit.
4. Do good. By visibly backing a worthy cause, your firm can not only serve the public good, but also garner positive press attention if the cause is newsworthy or unusual – or if the level of your support is generous. Consider sponsoring a charitable event in and around your business district to attract new consumers. The charitable sponsorship may be a one-time deal, or repetitive, but the likely positive media coverage and overall respect people will gain for your company for your good deeds will not be soon forgotten.
5. Consider engaging a public relations professional to advise you. (See Picking a Public Relations Firm.) The right firm will design and implement a PR strategy that emphasizes the uniquely newsworthy and compelling aspects of your business. The plan should be aimed to grow your firm’s positive name recognition among your target customers via media exposure, and it should increase customers’ positive inclination toward you. But whether you engage a PR firm or not, the ideas mentioned above and principles of PR are the same.
Providing large agency experience, with a results driven touch, clients
include The Christian Coalition of America, Israel Ministry of Tourism,
Tzell Travel, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group, and a variety of other leading companies and organizations (including The New York Enterprise Report). He held senior managerial positions with a number of New York's top PR agencies, prior to forming 5W Public Relations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.