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FastTrac, Kauffman Foundation

Besides paid advertising, you can get the word out about your business through publicity. Publicity is known as "free advertising" because the media publishes stories or notices about businesses, products, or services at no cost.

Feature Story

One way to stimulate publicity is to be featured in news stories or other media coverage. You can contact newspapers, magazines, radio, and television stations to learn their guidelines for submitting ideas for stories. By building relationships with programmers and editors, you might be interviewed or profiled on shows and in publications as an expert in your industry. Many publications might also accept interesting or educational articles that you or someone from your company writes.

If you are trying to use publicity to gain awareness about your business, be prepared to present an interesting angle or fact about your business's uniqueness. Programmers and editors look for information that is timely, important, and interesting to a large segment of their audience.

Press Releases

Another way to make publicity work for you is to submit press releases on a regular basis to local and regional media sources. Press releases should be as short as possible. Most editors and media representatives prefer them to be no more than one page. Examples of press releases can be found on the Internet or in books that focus on publicity or public relations.

Media sources are most interested in press releases that create news angles such as those that feature these components:

  • Controversial issues
  • New trends
  • Shock value or hard-to-believe facts
  • Links to current local, regional, or national news
  • Celebrity or well-known personalities
  • Timeliness

Your work is not finished when you send a press release. Follow up with a phone call or e-mail. Don't give up if your first effort does not result in a story. It may take several attempts to get coverage. If nothing results, ask an editor or reporter for suggestions.

Community Recognition

Other ways you can gain positive publicity are by sponsoring an award or community event or donating your product or service as a prize for a local charity. This recognition is a subliminal way of marketing your business and helps to provide visibility for the charity or cause you sponsor.


Publicity is about learning to make your own noise in the marketplace. Another way to create awareness and excitement about your business is to stage a contest. You can create the title of the contest, develop a theme, establish categories for entries, and offer awards or prizes to the winners. For example, if you are a Web site designer you could stage a "Worst Web Site" contest and set the criteria for winning. The winner would get a gift certificate towards a new Web site. You or a celebrity panel would be the judges.

By staging a contest, you can generate publicity from various media sources, be interviewed about the winning entries, and position yourself as the expert in the area. The contest is another reason to create press releases-for the contest, the winners, sponsors, and your business.

Contests do not have to be conducted on a large scale. If you own a restaurant, youcan ask customers to place a business card in a bowl for a chance to win a free lunch. You can hold monthly drawings and contact winners by mail or phone. Offering this type of contest also helps you collect contact information from customers to use in future promotions.

© 2007 Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. All rights reserved.

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