Creating and maintaining awareness is integral to building your business. Paid advertising can be expensive and is only one way to get your message out to customers. Proactive public and media relations activities also will help create your community image, increase interest and generate traffic.
Here are some easily employed public and media relations tips and tools that will help increase your visibility, generate balloon awareness, set the record straight and remind the public how balloons can make every event and celebration much more vibrant, memorable and enjoyable.
Develop a Media List
There are more media outlets in your community than ever before and each is looking for information and news that will be of interest to their audiences your customers. Make lists of:
- All the weekly and monthly newspapers serving your community. Most likely there are more than you realize and theres a good chance some of your best targets are those distributed free. Check your local phone book. Call and get the names of the lifestyle and feature editors and reporters; direct your information to these individuals.
- All the local television stations and cable systems serving your community. Call and get the names of the producers of the local lifestyle and special interest shows (usually aired during weekdays at noon and on Sundays). Also get the names of the assignment editors and the lifestyle reporters. Direct all your information to these specific individuals.
- All radio stations that have news directors. If you advertise on radio stations featuring a morning drive news/talk format, they may have an interest in carrying newsworthy and informational messages free-of-charge in the form of an interview or soft news story.
- All the regional and national trade publications. Send photos and descriptions of interesting designs and sculptures to flower, party and balloon industry newsletters and magazines. Call first to determine the editors names as well as interest, deadlines and other requirements.
- All the local civic organizations. Get involved in their weekly programs and annual events. If they have newsletters, visit with the editors and arrange to provide them with some ready-to-print information.
Getting Information to the Media
Although fax and Internet e-mail technology heavily influence todays information flow, most editors, assignment directors and reporters still initially prefer to receive information via regular mail. Draft a one-page letter that captures the news value of your information and get to them while the informations hot.
(For example: TBC sent a simple alert to newspaper feature editors around the country about story ideas associated with Halloween balloon decorations. More than 60 newspapers expressed interest in the idea and followed-up with local retailers.)
- Editors, assignment directors and reporters dont have much use for a story that readers and viewers cant immediately relate to. Youve got to find a compelling local angle or hook to hang your news on. Tie-in with holidays, local events and especially local people. More importantly, humanize your story. Emphasize the unusual ways people express themselves with balloons. Provide value-added insider information consumers will appreciate and use.
- Dont shy away from controversial issues use the issue position papers provided in this kit to help the local media provide balanced and accurate information to your customers.
- Call the editor, assignment director or reporter within a few days after sending your letter. This call should be made by 10 a.m. Theres a good chance youll reach voice-mail. Regardless, be prepared to pitch your storys compelling uniqueness or news value in three minutes or less. If theres interest, immediately follow up by faxing your original letter and then make yourself readily available to provide more detailed supporting information, demonstrations or pictures. (The key is to make the reporters job flow as easy as possible.)
- If theres no apparent interest, dont fold your tent, just yet. Ask what kind of lifestyle information theyre looking for and how your story pitch could be improved. Follow-up with a note and your business card. Then contact them perhaps seasonally with sharp new story ideas that will interest their readers/viewers your potential customers.
Special Events Can Generate Media Attention
Do you design in-store special events or promotions that only reach walk-in traffic? Expand your communications reach by adding an unusual element or a creative twist that may also capture the medias attention.
- Involve a local elected official or celebrity
- Consider high-profile charitable tie-ins
- Create marketing alliances with other organizations or companies that can help you create newsworthy events but dont rely on them to get your news out
- Do something off-beat and humorous that showcases your balloons and creative services
- Conduct creative seminars and community workshops publicize them in your newspapers weekly calendar sections
- Notify the media with an advance news release
Responding to Media Inquiries
By definition the news media is prone to inquiry and fact gathering. Dont be intimidated by a reporters questions. Always be forthright, but remember youre under no obligation to disclose how much business you do, or how many balloons you sell.
If youre approached with questions pertaining to health concerns, human and animal safety or environmental issues, you can:
- Provide the reporter with the position information papers provided in this Retailers Public Communications Kit
- Use TBCs Hotline, 800-233-8887, to obtain access to no-cost, media relations experts who will provide immediate assistance.
Sample News Release
Sample Newspaper Opinion Page Piece