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How to Get P.R. for Your Local-Service Business (Part 1)

Local businesses often find themselves operating with lean advertising budgets. This makes finding affordable, quality advertising a challenging task for even the most seasoned marketer. Adding to this challenge is the current climate and how today’s consumers feel about advertising in general.

Consumers today are more cynical than ever before. Only a small percent of them have confidence in traditional advertising methods. Current research shows that less than 14% of consumers trust traditional advertising messages, while over 90% of people still trust in word of mouth or personal recommendations. Consumers view commercials as old fashioned, and they often view them negatively, seeing them as nothing more than just another way companies get richer.

Enter your public relations strategy.

Public relations, often referred to as PR, is a twist on traditional advertising. Public relations is a phrase that simply means: what the media has to say about you. Think of PR as editorial coverage – in newspapers, magazines, publications, radio shows, and even TV shows.

Editorial coverage can be more profitable for you than placing an ad in the same publication. Why? Editorial coverage is seen as much more objective. The publication is freely giving space to feature you or your product because you are worthy of it. In fact, many consumers will view this editorial coverage as an actual endorsement (even though most of the time it is not).

Knowing this makes it easy to see why every business needs to have a good public relations strategy included in their marketing mix. It’s a cost-effective strategy to help you gain more exposure for your business, score more leads, and generate more sales.

Want to get started?

If you own or run a local service business, your best bets are the local press outlets. Start by seeking out as much local press as possible: coverage in local newspapers, area magazines, even neighborhood newsletters and freebie publications. You may also want to consider contacting your local TV news channel or morning show.

Typically, this contact is made by drafting and circulating a press release. A press release is a written statement directed at the news media for the express purpose of announcing something “newsworthy.” Press releases are usually mailed, faxed, or emailed to editors of various news outlets, such as newspapers and magazines (both print and online), radio stations, and TV stations or networks. The goal is to attract favorable media coverage to the person or product mentioned in the press release.

Your press release can talk about any number of things, such as upcoming events, personal promotions, awards or accomplishments, announcements of new products and services, important sales and financial data, and so on. But let’s not fool ourselves…a press release is really a sales pitch to the publication to write a story about your company or product.

Don’t be too pushy

While a press release is essentially a sales pitch to the publication, it is not a sales piece for your product or service. In fact, if you make it sound too “salesy” or self-serving, your press release will end up in the trash. Editors couldn’t care less about promoting your business or helping you make money. Their goal is to find stories that are truly newsworthy or interesting for their audience. It’s your job to find a newsworthy angle about your business that will make editors want to write about you.

Give your press release a catchy headline

The #1 way to move your press release to the top of the pile is to give it a great headline. If your headline fails to grab the editor’s attention, then it’s likely your press release will never see the light of day.

Let’s say you own a company, “Landscapes and Lighting.” Which press release headline do you think will be more appealing to an editor searching for a good story?

Headline #1: “Landscaper Helps Local Homeowners Hang Christmas Decorations In The Off Season”

or …

Headline #2: “Homeowners Win Holiday Lighting Contests Again and Again, Thanks To Local Landscaper”

The correct answer is the second one. While the focus of story #2 is more on homeowners and less on the landscape company, it’s also likely to be more appealing to both the editor and the readers. Yet the net result is the same: the landscaper still comes off as a hero and attracts new customers.

Here are a few more examples comparing self-serving and reader-friendly headlines.

Self-Serving Headline: “Local Entrepreneur Opens Sewing School For Teens”

Reader-Friendly Headline: “Teens Rediscover Lost Art Of Sewing, Save Money In Today’s Tight Economy”

Sure, the second story would focus more about the teens’ experiences, and would only peripherally mention the sewing school, but it would still be a great plug for this local businesswoman. The second headline implies a benefit that the first one doesn’t—that sewing can save you money.

Self-Serving Headline: “Local Cleaning Company Goes Green”

Reader-Friendly Headline: “Local Expert Reveals The Five Best Ways To Safely Clean Your House”

Both of these headlines could involve a story in which the local cleaning company and its unique, green cleaning techniques are quoted or featured. But the second headline is more attractive to editors, because it offers useful information that many environmentally conscious readers would be interested in.

Self-Serving Headline: “Personal Shopper Helps Busy Families Save Time”

Reader-Friendly Headline: “Personal Shopper Reveal 7 Great Gifts You’ve Never Even Thought Of”

Again, the second headline works better because it’s generally more appealing to the public. While the second story may not completely focus on the personal shopper’s business, it is still a great way to plug the services they offer by choosing a newsworthy angle editors will love.

Next time: We’ll discuss some of the basics of writing and submitting a press release.

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