Great Business Ideas: Generate Publicity in Your Community

Great Ideas for your Small Business: Generate Publicity in Your Community

Most small business owners, at least at first, can’t afford to hire a professional public relations person. But you don’t need expensive consultants to attract publicity. You can do it yourself if you do some- thing noteworthy—and then focus on obtaining coverage by your hometown newspaper, radio, or television station. One of the best ways to generate publicity for your company is to do something positive for the community.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Sponsor a 5 or 10k run for your favorite charity. Print up tee- shirts for the runners. Put your company logo on everything from the paper cups to the signs along the route.
  • Collect food or clothing for the homeless or a local shelter. Offer your customers a discount for participating in your charity campaign.
  • Create a scholarship. Even $500 will make a big difference to a disadvantaged student.
  • Create a photo opportunity by planting trees along a street, in front of your store, or in an unattractive part of town.
  • Help organize a community flower or vegetable garden. If you have a parcel of land, offer it for public use.
  • Organize a merchants’ neighborhood crime-watch program. Hold the meetings in your store or office.
  • Offer your conference room for community meetings. Then every time the paper lists the meeting schedule, your company is mentioned.
  • Join with a local paint store to sponsor a graffiti paint-out campaign. Organize volunteers from several community groups to increase involvement.

Community service is ideal for local television news coverage, especially if you hold an event on a weekend. Community projects will merit at least a paragraph or two in your local newspaper. Local television stations are always looking for visual stories involving people doing something positive for the community.

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Once you decide on a project, draft a press release two weeks before the event. Send it on company letterhead to the editors of local newspapers and the assignment editors of the nearby television and radio stations.

Follow up a few days later with a brief phone call. Try not to call any news organization in the late afternoon. Most morning newspapers are edited and put together from 3 PM to 7 PM. Your best chance of reaching an editor is between 10:30 AM and noon. Take advantage of voice mail and leave a detailed message. You want to be persistent without being a pest. Television stations are more apt to assign stories to reporters on a daily basis.

But realize that if something more newsworthy happens, such as a crime, fire, or flood, your neighborhood cleanup story will never make it to the 11 o’clock news. You might also invite your local station or paper to participate in your event as a media sponsor. This takes more time and effort, but it may be worth it. Be sure to involve all your employees and their families in your event.