How to Advertise Your Business for Free

George Carlin, an American humorist and actor said, "The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity". You may have a fabulous product or service but, unless the potential buyers know about it, you will not make a killing in the market place.

You need to attract attention. If you are running a business you need to be both a caterpillar and a butterfly!

What is Publicity - and is it ever bad?

The dictionary definition is along the lines of "the deliberate attempt to manage the public's perception of a subject". In this media mad age we have all become aware of the devaluation of publicity by the cynical manipulation of our public perceptions.

The contestants in Big Brother become celebrities by virtue of simply being on T.V. for hours every day and have no intrinsic value or talent. The idea that worthless individuals or products can be sold to us simply by massive amounts of publicity makes us wary.

But if you have a product and service which is genuine and valuable you need publicity to bring it to the attention of your customers, and in a positive light. If you have a legitimate need for publicity where can you get it? And do you need to pay for it?

Creating Newsworthy Stories

If you want to appear in your local paper or on your local, or even national, radio or TV station, you can do it by buying advertising. However, people don't trust advertising, believing them to be biased and full of misleading information.

If you can get yourself an editorial, written by an unbiased reporter, this will carry much more weight. You can do this by sponsoring local sports events or charities or by creating an interesting and newsworthy story based around your business. Perhaps you sell sand to Saudi Arabia or coals to Newcastle? Humour and creativity are a must when creating a story worthy of free media publicity.

A young friend of mine promoted her design business by holding a clog-dancing class in the town center one Saturday afternoon, when the place was thronged with shoppers. The local paper rushed a photographer down and later she was interviewed on local TV as the 'clog dancing designer'.

If you do get involved in a charity don't just write a cheque. It's too anonymous and boring. Offer your services for free (thereby advertising your services too) or arrange a money raising event. My own translation agency offered a free translation of an Asylum Team website, for a charity who addressed the needs of asylum seekers to the region. The launch of the site took place at the Town Hall, with the Mayor and a famous comedian from the area, and we were given a vast amount of free publicity for our kind donation.

Other ideas to generate free publicity

You can make yourself interesting to the media by doing a whole host of activities including:

  • Create a new service or company unique to the area
  • Offer something for free
  • Offer to run a course at your local school or college
  • Employ lots of local people or provide job opportunities for students if you have a University or college in your town
  • Promote a record breaking attempt linked to your business
  • Create an award and present it yearly to a worthy recipient
  • Offer to be a guest speaker at your local business community events and conferences.
  • Offer your services or goods to famous people. Most celebrities walking down the reed carpet on Oscar night are wearing borrowed jewellery or clothing.

Make Better Press releases

If you are serious about getting media attention on a regular basis it will be worth training either yourself or a member of staff to write regular press releases. Maybe you have a talented writer on your staff already who just needs a little encouragement or training? A good press release will avoid meaningless superlatives (We are great!) and sales jargon. Try to connect your story to current national or local news events and structure it in a clear and entertaining way.

There are many "how to" articles on the Internet on writing effective press releases, which could get you started.