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March 25th, 2008
Chamber of Commerce Blog: Publicity for Small Business

By PHYLLIS SNODGRASS
President
San Marcos Chamber of Commerce

Need a publicity boost but you don’t seem to have the money to fund it? Down in the dumps because everyone seems to be getting more publicity than you? Use these free publicity tips and get the word out about your business.

Tie story ideas to the holidays. Example: A bookstore that’s offering a special program for area schoolchildren during “Back To School” shopping season. An accountant who offers tips on how people can steer clear of IRS audits during tax season. A gift shop that packages and delivers specialty gifts via phone orders during the holidays. A car wash who services large numbers of vehicles after a mud storm. There are always newsworthy events that can be tied to business- find yours and self-promote. If you ask for the editorial calendar in magazines and newspapers in your area and check out the special topics and special sections they have coming up you can find the perfect spot for your story.

Invite a business reporter from your local newspaper or magazine for coffee or lunch. Don’t ask him to write about you, ask him “How can I help you?” Offer yourself as a resource in your area of expertise. Or submit a guest column to me – I can always use a break!

Build a network of other small business people in your area. Agree informally that you will refer reporters to each other whenever a reporter is doing a story on a topic in which you all could comment, such as a new sales tax increase. Network, network, network! Join a local LEADS Group (call the chamber for more details) and work regularly with a small group of businesses to build and support each other’s businesses. They will, in turn, help you find additional opportunities to promote your business.

Capitalize on slow news times – these are usually right before or during major holidays. Even big city television stations experience slow times, and the holidays are the worst for them. They have to fill air time – and often the reporters struggle to find content. Goofy promotions, unique products, special guest appearances, all can catch their eye and land you print or air time. Take advantage of these slow times and try to pitch your story.

Evaluate sponsorship and underwriting opportunities carefully. If your goal is merely to support the organization’s cause, and you are not trying to capitalize on the support – you can skip this section. But it you are in a position to donate and want to make the most of your donations, read on. Many businesses seem to choose their sponsorships as if they were randomly shooting darts on a wall. Know what your target audience is and make sure the event or program you are supporting connects you with that audience. Sponsorships are negotiable – and can involve give and take. Perhaps you can trade services. Most organizations will credit you the full retail value of what you donate – hence in-kind donations make a lot of sense for many businesses. A restaurant can donate a portion of the cost or the entire bill when catering an event. A store or business can donate product from their inventory to an auction. A service provider can donate their services. In each case, the donated basis is less than the value of the product or service so you are maximizing your support and minimizing the effect on your pocketbook.

Use your imagination, look at your calendar, network to build your connections and closely evaluate your sponsorship support – by making smart decisions you can stretch your publicity dollars and make an impact on your bottom line. The San Marcos Chamber of Commerce has many opportunities for you to promote your business. For more information on the Chamber and how we can help your bottom line – call today. The San Marcos Chamber of Commerce is FOCUSED on business.

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