Public Relations: How to Get Publicity
For Your Home-Based Small Business

by Tom Egelhoff

Author Tom Egelhoff Did you know that many of the largest corporations in America started as home-based businesses?

Procter & Gamble, Motorola, and Apple Computers to name just a few.

The point is many people "experiment" with a business at home, part time, while they decide if the business is viable and worth pursuing to a higher level.

Most will give up after only a few months if the business hasn't risen to the level of Microsoft.

But, for those that have decided that the business path they have chosen has potential, the next step is letting as many people as possible to know about it.

That is where publicity comes in.

What is Publicity And How Do You Get It?

The Random-House dictionary defines publicity as,

1. information given out to attract public attention to a person, cause, etc.

2. public notice or attention.

I site the definition for a very specific reason. Note, that nowhere in the definition does it say anything about newspapers, radio or TV finding or contacting you.

According to the definition, you are the one who is supposed to contact them with the information about your business.

In the mid-1980's I worked for a 45 store video chain in San Diego, CA. At that time, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was the first major blockbuster title to be released on video.

It was a major entertainment news event. All the local newspapers, radio and TV stations came down to our headquarters to interview the owner of the chain about the big event.

How did the media find out about this major news event? Simple, We called them and told them it was happening.

They had no idea the release was scheduled. We were on every major station that evening and many people thought we were the only stores that had the movie.

And it was all FREE. Just for a couple of phone calls.

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When Is The Best Time To Start Seeking Publicity?

This is the biggest mistake most small and home-based businesses make. They seek publicity too soon.

When you start a new business there is pressure to see immediate results from your efforts. Most people are not comfortable with "delayed gratification."

You expect to see the money rolling in and when that doesn't happen, panic sets in and you try to "kick start" your business without proper planning.

See Chapter Six of My Book: Marketing Objectives & Strategies in your copy of "How To Market, Advertise and Promote Your Business Or Service In A Small Town."

As badly as I wanted to rush right out and start promoting this website, I had to wait until I had a substantial number of articles written and a secure credit card ordering system in place for my book.

That took some months of work plus the expense of keeping the website up with nothing coming in, but has paid off very well.

You must be prepared to handle any increase in business that might come from your publicity.

Maybe you need to establish a "line of credit" with suppliers if business explodes. Do you have back-up suppliers in the event one can't deliver?

Do you need a certain amount of on-hand inventory? Can you qualify for volume discounts to increase profit margin?

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What Are The Advantages Of Publicity?

Cost: Publicity is usually free. If it isn't totally free, it is cost effective.

Perception of your business by the customer. We tend to remember stories about a business long after we've forgotten their ads.

Credibility: Anyone can buy an ad in the paper. Publicity must be earned. There is the perception that the media doing the story has verified that you are "as advertised" before they do the story.
Where is the best place to publicize your business.

The best place is where your target market will see it. If I own a nightclub with gambling, the chances are pretty good I won't be featured in the church bulletin so I won't try to contact the editor of that media.

Local and regional newspapers, radio and TV stations are where you most likely want to be.

Write a letter to the editors of each of these media introducing yourself and explaining your expertise in your business or industry.

Explain that when events about the industry come up you would be happy to provide the local point of view to the story.

Part two of this scenario is to keep up to date on what's happening in your industry and when a story comes along, alert the media and offer your assistance as the local expert.

I am often contacted for a point of view about small business topics reported by our local papers.

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Make It Easy On The Media

Before you submit any materials to the media, ask what format they prefer. If they want computer discs, what program?

If they use QuarkXpress, as most papers do, and you give them a disc done in Microsoft Publisher (probably the worst possible format), you are going to create additional work for them.

They may not have enough time before deadline to extract and convert your information for publication.

Start well in advance of the date you would like to see the information in print. Don't show up on a Monday morning expecting to see an article on you the following week-end.

It's probably not going to happen unless you are really big news.

The media will work with you as long as you work with them. Try to resist being too demanding. You may not be totally happy with the final copy.

In the case of publicity you will have very little say in the final product. Don't be surprised to find and alternative view of your business or industry in the same article.

The media is not going to run a free ad for you. Accept the exposure you get as a positive step forward in your business efforts.

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How To Convince Them You Are Worthy Of Publicity

In my case it was pretty simple. I could have written an ordinary marketing book that would have been largely ignored by the publishing industry.

Instead I saw a glaring lack of information for business owners in small towns.

There are a ton of books on marketing, a ton of books on small business, but there are none that I can find on small town marketing.

My book is a niche that is also news. And, as I am happily finding, there is a demand for it.

What is it about your business that makes it unique?

See: "How To Make Your Business Unique."

We are all unique in some way and for that very reason our respective businesses are unique. Can you tie your business to a national event?

World Series, Super Bowl, new laws in your area, economic changes in the industry that may affect your town. It's there, you just need to do a little looking.

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The Last Word On Home-Based Publicity

Someone once said even bad publicity is better than no publicity. I'm not sure I totally agree with that but, I will agree that publicity in the right place exposed to the right people is worth it's weight in gold.

Don't try to go too fast. Meet the editors of the various media and try to form a relationship.

It's no secret what you want to do. You want a free ad and they don't want to give it to you...unless you make it newsworthy.

Why would I want to read about your business? What makes you or your product so special? Answer these questions and you're on your way to free publicity.

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