What person knows the most about what is happening at your store? You!
It is your responsibility to create news about your store — don’t wait for others to do this for you. Being proactive with the local newspapers to generate news coverage on your store is an excellent way to get third-party endorsement. Many of the editors — and in particular, the beat reporters — are constantly looking for news stories on area businesses. It’s up to you to entice them. Feeding them with ongoing news and information regarding your store helps establish a relationship that they will appreciate.
Positive relationships with the media not only keep you top-of-mind with newspaper writers and the community, but also creates a bond in the event you need to mitigate any negative situation regarding your store in the future. Get to know your local newspaper editors, beat writers, DJs, newscasters, etc. so that you can continually feed them with news items regarding employee promotions, product and service launches, and other key newsworthy tidbits about your store.
While this may not translate into immediate sales, it can reduce your ad expenditures. Establishing a positive, proactive relationship with the local media will enhance the chance that they run news items about your store at no cost to you. This type of news is well-received by the public and keeps your store relevant in the community. For every mention that you receive in the local media, that’s one less ad that needs to placed.
Plan on creating one news item per quarter at a minimum that you can send to all of the media. These news items can range from announcing a new product launch or service — or it can be a smaller news story, such as a new store manager announcement.
Create Your Media Contact List: Identify all of the smaller daily and weekly papers that service your 3-mile trade area, as well as local radio stations, magazines, and TV stations. Make it a point to visit each of these media outlets and introduce yourself and your store to them for future reference. Bring a free sample and information on your brand; your contact information; and your store. Establishing a relationship in advance of a need is a terrific way to stay top-of-mind with the local media. This will serve you in getting positive news into the paper and perhaps avoid negative news printed if that should ever occur.
Make Your Employees Star-Worthy: Our employees often were raised in the communities in which they work. As they begin to progress through their careers, peer recognition can be more important than monetary gains. If an employee was recently promoted at your business, why not announce this growth to the community with a one-paragraph press release? The employee feels recognized, their family feels proud and your business is held in high-esteem in the community for “promoting one of their own.” It is a pretty simple way to accomplish goals on many fronts.
Celebrate Mile Posts: When is your anniversary? You probably had to think about that for a bit before you added up the years that you have been in business. Imagine how difficult it would be for others to know how long you have been in business. It is entirely on you to remind and announce customers of key mileposts in your business. These mile posts help add credibility to your place of business by blurting “we are still in business!!”
Be A Good Community Citizen: Pick a charity and create events to generate awareness and/or funds for that local charity at your business and promote this through the media. The media is often the mouthpiece for the community and they like nothing better than having a “feel good” story about a local charity tie-in at a business. Create a photo-op at your business to jump start the charity event and at the end when you present a check to the organization. The charity wins, your business gets foot traffic and the media has a nice story to counter the negative stories that they often publish.
Create A “Call-to-Action”: Every one loves a deal and writing a news story tying in a promotion at your store – especially if it is a charity or mile post – will garner a look from the local media. Be succinct in message and avoid being to “advertising-like”, but rather create more of a public service announcement for better results. The media may pick up your announcement if it is a slow news day as a way of “filling content”. The more credibility you establish with the media in advance, the greater chance of your material being printed.
It is surprising how few small businesses spend the time to cultivate media relationships. The media is constantly on the lookout for news and having a pipeline of sources only makes their jobs easier. In most cases, it is the squeaky wheel that gets the oil and a steady stream of news from your business will establish this pipeline for the media.
John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc., a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries. With more than 20 years of senior-level experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers and Grand Opening Manual for Retailers, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.