Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Getting Some Ink

One of the most common questions I get from small business owners is how to get publicity for their product or company. Assuming that most of them do not have the funds to put a large public relations firm on retainer, I usually advise them to do their own publicity or hire a freelancer.

Publicity consulting has become a popular freelance job in recent years, particularly for work-at-home mothers who previously worked at high-powered PR agencies and still have media contacts and savvy. Freelancers charge hourly rates in the $50 to $100 range, depending on what region of the country you're in.

Going it alone requires some research. Here are some places to start: Guerrilla Marketing, a book and website by Jay Conrad Levinson; The Publicity Hound and How to be Your Own Publicist by Jessica Hatchigan.

Once you've got an idea of how publicity works, write a press release about your company. Make it timely and newsworthy - not just an announcement saying that you have opened for business or hired a new vice president. Another way to structure your press release is to create some buzz, maybe over an event you are holding or a breakthrough in your industry you can tout.

Keep press releases short, usually one to one-and-a-half pages. Use the “inverted pyramid” news style, in which the most important information is up front, followed by the next most important piece and ending with the least important information, typically background on your company. Include the five W’s and an H: who, what, when, where, why and how.

Most important, include a contact name and phone number (usually two phone numbers, a work number and a cell phone number), Web site address and e-mail address. Your contact person – you or a key employee - must be accessible to speak to the media about your firm.

What do you do with your press release once you've got it written? I'll address that all-important information in an upcoming post.

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