Small Business Tips

Free publicity for your business

Dayna Steele

When I owned The Space Store, people could not get over the fact I was always featured in media stories from print to television to radio almost weekly. Many figured it was because I had come from that world and had so many contacts. But even then, it was a lot of publicity. And, yes, it was all free.

With the number of media outlets in the world today, as well as bloggers and podcasters by the thousands, you and your business could easily pick up some of this free attention.

Here are a few easy steps to get started:

Target the audience

Do a bit of research and figure out where your customers are consuming media. Is it a favorite podcast, or do they read news sites? Because there is so much to choose from, start by targeting 20 places you would like to be mentioned or, even better, featured.

Remember, it’s essential to choose the outlets your customers consume, not the ones you consume. Bonus points if they are the same.

The Space Store customers read space reporters, watched space broadcasts, and were early adopters of space websites.

Consume their favorites

Start to follow, consume, read, share, post, and retweet the media outlets you have targeted. Do your homework. What sort of stories do they usually produce?

When it comes time later to pitch something, you want to make sure it makes sense. Don’t waste a reporter’s time. They remember that stuff.

I started to make a list of all the local space reporters in Houston. I then added a few national reporters, as well as the very few website emails I could find at the time.

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Introduce yourself

Begin to reach out to media individuals and introduce yourself and your service or product. Start with an introduction, a sort of “just wanted to say hello” kind of thing, “I enjoy your work” or “I liked your piece on….”.

The ask will come later. And odds are they may come to you first when they need to create some content that you are perfect for.

At The Space Store, I reached out to my list of space media, introduced myself, told them what we sold, our location, and how to reach me. Above all, I encouraged them to call me if they ever needed anything space-related or any help in my hometown of Houston. It helped me begin to create relationships with different space media.

Be relevant

Now that you have followed specific media outlets and writers, you should start to see where your story would fit, if at all. You don’t want to pitch a story that has nothing to do with a site or is not the writer’s subject matter. The more specific you can be, the better your chances of getting some coverage.

NASA Public Affairs was notorious for not returning reporters’ calls or giving them access to onsite locations to photograph or shoot a story. So, we hired an artist to paint a 3-D moonscape on our store floor and put up a giant moon scene on the wall (of course, we also sold this …). I sent a picture of this visual to every reporter on my list along with my mobile phone AND home number. I invited them to call anytime they needed a backdrop for a story.

Target special dates and events

Media content is often created around select dates in history or current events. What ideas can you pitch to your new media friends that are relevant to these things? Reporters and writers are always looking for that angle. And, they love it when you find it for them.

We put together a list of important space dates such as Apollo moon landings, the first woman to fly on a Space Shuttle, and so much more. When an important date was coming up, we would reach out to our reporter list and remind them we had the visual at the store – the patch, the flight suit, the space food – whatever it was that they could use to highlight the date or event.

It takes a bit of work but once done, it is easy to get free publicity. You can send all the impersonal mass press releases you want, but if you want coverage, do the work, and it will come your way.

PS: Sign up for a free HARO (Help A Reporter Out) account. It’s a great way to start finding relevant press for your industry.

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