In tough economic times like these, marketing budgets for small businesses have been steadily shrinking. For little or no cost, business owners and marketing executives can still get their sales messages to the public with an inventive approach to getting publicity. Some experts say that good publicity may be more effective in producing sales than good advertising. The following article lists tips for getting a newsworthy story about your business into numerous forms of media including print, broadcast, internet and social media. (For ways to market your small business, read 7 Popular Marketing Techniques For Small Businesses.)

Making the Headlines
Keep in mind, for a story about your company to get media exposure it must be newsworthy. A newsworthy story is not an advertisement masquerading as news. A story about how tasty the food is at your restaurant is not news. A story about the new fall line of clothing at your retail store is not news. If you send such stories to any of the news media, the material will not be published or broadcast.

If you send stories about the following you've got a good chance of seeing the news reported, with your company at the heart of the story. The list cites just a few ideas for getting publicity. The more inventive you are, the more opportunities you'll create to get free press.

If you write the stories yourself without professional assistance, that's called a press release. Remember these key points. Describe the event or activity briefly. Indicate the time for which it is scheduled. Include the address, phone number, website address and the name of a specific person to contact for more details. Limit the release to one page. For a newspaper story, send the release to the city editor or the feature editor. Get a name if possible. If you're sending the release to a TV station, mail it or email it to the assignment editor. Follow the same procedure if you're sending the release to an internet outlet.

Here are nine tips on newsworthy events, activities or ideas that may get you free publicity.

Promotions or Retirements
When an independently-owned store, restaurant or other business establishment is well-known in a neighborhood and the owner retires and the owner's daughter, son or someone else takes over operations, it's news. The city and or neighborhood newspapers may run the story. Mention in the release the same high standards of quality and service will continue under the new stewardship. This will assure loyal customers that nothing will materially change.

New Products or Services
Stories about new and unique products or services offered at your business often get good media coverage. People are constantly looking for products to improve their lives. By promoting new products and services it can bring more customers to your business. In addition to sending a request to your local station, sending a sample of your new product will help you land a news spot.

Renovating your business establishment with new fixtures and decor is a newsworthy story for local media if the changes are extensive and unique. You should send photos with the news release.

Company sponsorship or participation in a charity event or fundraising effort can help to project the image of your firm and its owner-management team as civic-minded and philanthropic. It can also bring in new clients by making your business available to a diverse demographic.

Scholarship Programs
A company program to fund college or university scholarships will polish the firm's image and create good will within the community. Scholarships also send a strong message that your company has an interest in the future of the community.

Product Demonstrations
Announce an in-store demonstration of new high-tech products, such as a Kindle, iPad or smartphone. This is newsworthy and will draw traffic to your store, including lots of potential new customers who may have never been to your establishment previously. It can also answer common questions potential buyers may have.

Free Services
Announce a program of free services for seniors, children, veterans or any special group of people to build traffic and introduce potential new customers to a business. By announcing free services you are not only promoting through the media, but it is a great opportunity to create a buzz about your service and create more advertising through word of mouth.

Create a contest related to your business. If you own and manage a restaurant or bakery, offer a cash reward or a charitable donation for the best recipe. You can build traffic and attract newcomers by having entrants pick up a blank entry form at your establishment. Creative thinkers can cook up a contest or promotion for almost any business. A clothing store may conduct a used clothing drive for a charitable donation and offer discounts on new clothing for every pound of old clothing donated.

Special Events
Tax preparers or accountants can offer a one-day seminar on tax tips and how to avoid an audit. Auto repair shops, a difficult business to promote, can offer classes in handling emergency road situations. Brake failure and navigating through extreme weather are worthwhile topics. For inventive thinkers, the possibilities are endless.

The Bottom Line
The media has an insatiable appetite for news. The news cycle runs around the clock, seven days a week and editors must fill the space and time of their respective mediums. A newsworthy story about your business has a very good chance of running, and thus generating repeat business and new business as a result of free publicity. (To learn more, check out Public Relations: Offering Businesses A Competitive Advantage.)

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