How To Get National Exposure
For Your Business Or Service

by Tom Egelhoff

For most small businesses the likelihood of showing up in the Wall Street Journal or Inc. Magazine is pretty remote. But it's not impossible. Before we tackle national exposure, let's quickly review local exposure.

Once More, The Small Town Has The Advantage

In big cities, news of local interest has to compete with news from the entire world. In small towns, including small neighborhoods in big cities, local newspapers are often the only real source of news in the community. A local school board race that would be ignored by a major newspaper would be covered extensively by a small or neighborhood paper.

We all try to keep up with national and international events that shape the world. However, in the day to day operation of small business in small towns, the rest of the world hardly exists. Yes, I know that from time to time the price of sugar, rubber or some other import in a foreign land can affect local small businesses, but for the most part small business exists within its own defined geographic boundaries.

So, testing local newspaper, radio, direct mail and TV, if affordable, are going to be your best bets for small town exposure to your customers. It's often easier to get news releases into local papers than national ones because the people making the decision are your neighbors. People you know who have a vested interest in your success.

How Does National Exposure Happen?

In many cases national exposure happens by accident. Someone is talking about your product or service to someone else and that person has the ear of a major publication or electronic media.

In other cases the business person took a chance and contacted the media with a press release at the right time with the right message.

Sometimes the exposure can be negative. Consumer Reports found and ranked your product dead last in a comparison test. Are you ready for the negative as well as the positive?

Where Do You Start?

The best place to start is with yourself. Is there something about your product or service that is "newsworthy?" If there is, the best place to take that information is to your own industry.

Almost any industry you can name will have some kind of national association tied to it. These associations will have trade magazines, journals or at the very least, a newsletter. You can find a listing of trade magazines in "The Encyclopedia of Periodicals" at your local library.

How Do Professional PR Agencies Do It?

Professional Public Relations firms know who and how to contact the necessary people to insure the best chance of your news release being picked up for a story. How do they keep track of all the newspapers, magazines and journals?

Your local library should have a copy of the (SRDS) Standard Rate and Data Service Directory. Listings like "Business Publications" will list hundreds of magazines and newspapers you can contact with your story. If you need a listing of newspapers and magazines immediately, or you are outside the US, click here. For talk radio stations, click here.

Two other sources are, "Bacon's Publicity Checker" and "The Editor & Publisher International Yearbook." These two are not always available in small town libraries but might be brought in by request. Check with your local librarian.

Do The Research

What is being printed about your industry now? Do you know? One way to find out is to contract a "clipping service." Clipping services read everything. They clip out articles about subjects you have specified. Along with the articles they will commonly attach, the media circulation, the date it ran, and the name of the media.

This can give you a good handle on what is of interest to readers about your industry.

Don't Forget The Local Media

If you are fortunate enough to be featured in national media, don't forget to let the local media know about it. Small towns love it when locals make the "big time."

Also be sure to let employees know about your national exposure. It will add to their self-esteem that they are working with a company with national or international recognition.

Don't forget important contacts of your business. We have more confidence when we think we are dealing with a major player. It's OK to blow your own horn about your success.

The Last Word On Exposure

There may come a time in your business when you need to hire a PR firm. This usually happens because something negative is happening in your business. Lack of sales or some other catastrophe has sent business into a downward spiral. The PR firms job is to pull you out.

In the event that this happens, make sure you arm the PR people with everything they need to do the job. Don't hold back any negatives about the company. Sooner or later the media will discover the negatives and you will find yourself in worse shape than before.

Public Relations is a business of persistence. Keep sending the information out. If you really have a worthwhile product or service, someone will eventually see it and you're on your way.

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