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Use Publicity to Increase Your Profits

By Pam Lontos

Why is it that one company can charge and receive hundreds of dollars for a particular product or service while another equally reliable company has trouble charging half as much for a product or service that is just as good or even better? Why are certain companies “household” names, yet others who have been in business just as long have a limited following at best? The difference is that the well-known businesses have mastered their ability to gain publicity exposure through the print media, and they use it to build their business at every available opportunity.

As a business owner or company leader, you know how important it is to sell not only your products or services, but also your company’s business image. As a result, you develop product support material, you train your employees on customer service techniques, you build relationships inside your industry, and you create your own unique marketplace standing. Beyond those basics, however, you need to cultivate the media’s publicity as a vital part of your organizational activities. That’s why getting featured or quoted in as many magazines and e-zines as possible is vital to a company’s success.

But how can a small or medium-sized business attract an editor or reporter’s attention the same way the big, multi-billion dollar corporate giants do? How can the average business owner become the expert source quoted or the subject of a full feature article? The following suggestions will help you break in to the print media world.

Call as many editors as possible: Have you ever read a newspaper or magazine article and seen a competitor quoted within the pages? Did you then ask yourself, “How did this company get the magazine to call them?” Many people mistakenly believe that editors and reporters seek out business leaders to quote as expert sources. In reality, either the business people themselves, their office, or a good PR firm initiated that publicity.

The fact is that you will have to make the first contact with every newspaper, journal, magazine, or e-zine you wish to appear in. While the thought of calling an editor or reporter directly can be intimidating, you must remember that by doing so, you are helping them. Publications need new material every week or month. You can stand out over the other people by making contact with those who direct the publication’s content.

You can locate the print outlets to contact through Bacon’s and Burrell’s Media Directories. Combined, they have over 25,000 print publications listed. Each book costs several hundred dollars, but you may be able to locate a copy in your library. You can also find the contact information of main magazines in a book called Writer’s Markets. It’s smaller, much more reasonably priced, and available at any bookstore.

Ask key questions: Once you get an editor or reporter on the phone, you must ask key questions in order to make your pitch more compelling. The biggest mistake many business owners or leaders make when they call an editor is that they tout all their experience and how wonderful their company’s products or services are. They then talk about all the articles they could write for that publication or all the ways they could be cited as sources in future articles. This is an immediate turn-off. Realize that an editor or reporter only cares about one thing: their readers. They want specific information that will best serve their audience. So instead of telling them all about your company, first learn about their readers and their needs.

Some good questions to begin with are “What are your readers looking for?” “What are you looking for?” and “What’s the specific focus of your publication?” Answers to these basic questions will help you fine-tune your pitch to best suit their readers’ needs. Find out who reads the column or publication. Is the audience male or female? Business people or hobbyists? Managers or lower level employees? Discover who the target is.

For example, if your company sells computer hardware and software products, there are undoubtedly plenty of people on your staff who know about computer trends and who have insider tips for using the computer more efficiently. However, the information you or your employees will give will vary depending on whether you’re speaking to IT professionals, home business owners, college students, or home computer users. When you know key details about the publication’s audience, you can think of your topic from the intended reader’s perspective and pitch the appropriate article idea. When you approach editors from their reader’s point of view, you’ll hear them say, “Thank goodness you called. Our readers are going to love this story.” The bottom line: They don’t care about you; they care about their readers.

Do it for the PR, not the money: Finally, when you talk with an editor, be sure to let him or her know that you’d like to exchange the fee for writing the article for a byline that includes some contact information and/or mention of your company. Remember, you’re not trying to be a writer; you simply want some publicity. Create a short byline that states who you are (name and title), what your company does, and how to contact you. Make it short enough so the editor won’t feel a need to cut it.

The same applies when you’re being interviewed by a national publication. Say to the writer who’s interviewing you, “Could you please mention that our company is based in _______?” or “Could you please mention our company’s name?” This enables people to find you so they can inquire about your products and services.

Getting published and quoted in print publications is the key to promoting any successful business. You can either do it yourself or hire a PR firm. By implementing the above suggestions into your publicity efforts, you can gain the recognition that leads to increased sales and higher profits. Before you know it, you’ll be the company of choice for all your customers’ needs.

Read other articles and learn more about Pam Lontos.

[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis. Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and requirements.]

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