Michelle Tennant, international publicist and chief creative officer at Wasabi Publicity says there are three types of publicity. The two you can control are owned media, which is your website or social media accounts, and paid media, which is your paid advertising. You receive the third type, earned media, when you catch the attention of a media outlet, and it brings credibility to your business because it’s like a third-party endorsement. We spoke to Tennant about how small-business owners can get earned media publicity, and she suggests three primary methods.
1. Get Your Business Featured in a Story
”When you’re featured in a newspaper or on TV, people believe they can trust you and do business with you,” Tennant says. “After all, if the TV and paper trust you, so should they.” Businesses such as restaurants, nonprofits, doctors, accountants, and tax experts are more apt to get this type of publicity. If your business ties into breaking news topics, holiday shopping, or tourism, you should also approach the media with a pitch.
To do that, she says, you should first read a writer’s work, and then contact that person and explain why you like it. Let the writer know why a story about your business might be relevant. You could suggest a success profile, a news or event tie-in, or offer yourself as an expert in a question-and-answer of story on a hot topic. For instance, Tennant says if you own a home-repair business and a hurricane is in the news, that’s an appropriate tie-in to get your business featured in a story.
Tennant says she once advised a coffee shop owner to contact the business editor at his local newspaper because his shop was located on a historic spot. He did, and he also had a high school student paint a mural on a wall about the history of the location. The next Sunday, his business landed on the front page.
Once the story is published, it’s important to post, share, and tweet it. Many people forget to leverage their business’s earned media coverage, she says, but it can generate even more excitement, so be sure to share it widely.
2. Be Quoted as an Expert Source
When the media trusts a business owner enough to quote the owner as an expert source, consumers tend to trust that person, too. It’s called the halo effect, says Tennant. Just like a halo on a saint, people tend to think positively about business owners who are identified as experts in the media.
Tennant says you should make yourself available to the media and let them know about your expertise. You can contact them via social media, a phone call, in writing, or register with HARO or PitchRate, which connects media professionals with experts. Be sure to display and relay the media coverage, too. If you own a retail store, display it on the wall, and feature it on your website. “If the media is using you as a source in their news stories, nine times out of 10, customers will deem you as credible,” says Tennant.
3. Author an Article or Guest Blog
Another way to reinforce your credibility is to author bylined articles or guest blogs about your area of expertise. Tennant says consumers don’t tend to differentiate between staff-written articles and those that outside experts contribute, so both can build credibility for your business. In this type of article, you’ll be allowed to promote your business in the byline or a short author bio and give readers a way to contact you. For instance, Tennant grew a children’s party business when she was in college by penning articles about children’s activities and publishing them in local magazines. Parents would read the articles and contact her to book parties.
You should approach bloggers who write about your area of expertise, or contact your local or regional magazines and ask them if they accept bylined articles. Tennant says it’s as easy as a phone call, and many of these magazines love it when experts from their area write stories for them. If you don’t feel comfortable writing these pieces yourself, Tennant recommends that you find a professional writer on LinkedIn, or a site like Elance, to write it for you.
Finally, Tennant says to remember that credibility for your business rather than sales should be the goal of publicity. If sales come from it, you should consider yourself lucky, but your ultimate goal should be a story you can share online and off to help boost customers’ trust in you and your business.