Generating Publicity for Your Online Business

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* Promoting Your Website: Generating Publicity for Your Online Business
Posted Nov 02, 2003 - 08:00 AM
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Pillars of Internet Marketing

Home / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12 / Chapter 13 / Chapter 14 / Chapter 15 / Chapter 16

Chapter 12: Public Relations
Generating Publicity for Your Online Business.

Public relations: Public relations (PR) encompass a variety of marketing tactics that strengthen your credibility, enhance your image, develop goodwill or influence public opinion. These tactics, such as speeches, special events, newsletters (see Chapter 10, eNewsletters), annual reports and news releases, are targeted to a media audience. PR involves communicating who you are, what you do, why you do it, and how that is important or makes a difference. Public relations is also associated with low cost "exposure"; for, if you can get on a talk show, create media "buzz" around a special event, or get an article or press release published, the total cost of doing so is pennies on the dollar compared to getting comparable exposure with traditional advertising. Also, PR, since it is less commercial and more editorial in nature, tends to be received with a higher degree of credibility. Public Relations is basically, however, anything you do to create publicity. I tend to think companies overspend on advertising and under spend on PR. For the purpose of this discussion, I am going to limit the talk of public relations to Press Releases and Feature Articles.

Press Releases: A press release can be the single most effective tool for informing the public about a specific issue or subject matter that is central to your company or business. It can also make the difference in whether an event succeeds. Proper preparation and timing is essential for the press release to be effective. A press release can be used as an advertising tool to attract attention or participation with interested parties. A press release can also be used to keep the public informed about issues of community-wide concern. Generally, press releases are directed toward media facilities, such as newspapers and radio or TV stations that have the capability to disseminate the information to the public. The key to getting a press release published is proper format, tying your product, service or company into something interesting, and sending it to the right media contacts. 

If you are serious about using press releases to promote your business, I suggest (unless you already have the skill) using a third party company to write your press release. This generally costs a few hundred dollars. I also, would recommend having a PR company send out your press release, rather than you sending them out. There are hundreds of lists for sale out there of media contacts to send to, however, it is very, very difficult to find up-to-date ones and it is better to use a company that maintains an updated database of media contacts with whom they have a relationship with. There are a couple of firms that I like, but you may find others. These are eNews Release, Market Wire, PR Web, Xpress and PR Newswire.  I like Xpress and PR Newswire the best.

For more information on how to write press releases and get free publicity, I recommend the Get Free Publicity Program. Another tip is to look for trade magazines in your industry that have a “what’s new” section (Popular Mechanics is a perfect example) and submit a brief paragraph about your product (follow the format you see in their publication). The magazines want to publish this information for you at no charge because it provides them content, and they also want to get you to become an advertiser. They are willing to give you a “freebie” to show what kind of response you can get by advertising with them. Also, note: You may want to use a “news clipping” service to monitor where and when your press releases are published. I recommend Tracer Lock. You can also use this service for competitive intelligence.  

Feature Articles: A feature article is an excellent publicity tool. Basically, your write a 1-2 page article on a topic that you are competent in and that is representative of your business or customer. You then target journals and magazines (trade journals are the best) in your particular industry, or an industry that caters to your customers, and submit a feature article. Editors readily accept submissions because they constantly need content for their publications. However, to be successful, you must keep two things in mind. First, never say you are submitting the article on behalf of a company. This will immediately get the article turned down (you have placed the editor in an ethical dilemma if he or she knowingly publishes an article with commercial interest – wink, wink – you get my drift). So, do not submit the article on company letterhead, through company email, nor with your business card or company contact info. Second, you cannot mention a product by name in a feature article, but you can list your product or service in the signature file allowed by most trade journals for submitters of articles. To see an example of what would qualify as a feature article with a signature file, send a blank email to, 8thingstoConsider2@sendfree.com This process works, trust me! I used it to get more than one dozen feature articles placed in the last year. These are two page spreads in magazines and trade journals going out to 50,000-400,000 readers and it didn’t cost me a dime (except the time to write and cost of submitting). How much would a two-page ad cost you with that same readership? Try about $20,000-$75,000. Not bad! 

The toughest part about feature articles is writing the article, especially if you are not gifted in writing. If you are, great. If you aren’t, don’t worry. Find someone in your company, a friend, a relative, a colleague that can write and have them write the article. There is no law about using ghostwriters. The second challenge to feature articles is finding and targeting publications to submit your article to. The crème de la crème tool for finding journals to target is Media Finder. Media Finder is a database of editors, and their editorial calendars. An editorial calendar is that publications “theme” for that month and is published the year ahead (for example, January’s issue will focus on web hosting, February’s on web design, etc. .). What is unique, and awesome, about Media Finder, is Editors actually post “article wanted ads.” So you go through and do a search for “web hosting” and find all the editors who are requesting a freelance article on web hosting. The drawback to Media Finder is it is an online database with a pretty hefty monthly access fee -- worth it if you really plan to focus on PR. Another great Media Directory is News Directory. Here, you can find lists of journals and magazines on any topic, who the editor is, and what their contact information is. Click Press is also a very handy media contact list that you download for a one-time, small fee. And last, but not least, Publicity Directory, will also help you locate trade journals and media. If price is an issue, your local library has these directories as well, but they can’t be checked out (must be read or copied in the library). 

Summary:
In essence, advertising is what you pay for; publicity, created by a PR campaign, is what you pray for. As you can see, even though Press Releases and Feature Articles are mainly offline, they represent a way to reach the offline market -- even on a low budget -- and can be used to drive online ventures. This chapter only scratches the surface in illustrating the power of PR campaigns to generate publicity for your company and does not train you on the art of generating publicity. You can expect about twenty to one-hundred new customers per press release or feature article, if you have done a good job in copywriting and targeted the right media. For an excellent overview and resources, I highly recommend the book Public Relations for Dummies.

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