By all means, use news releases to toot your own horn

Craig Hall
Craig Hall

Nearly every time I go on an advertising sales call, two things come to the forefront. First, almost every potential client — and worse, almost every current or past client — asks the same thing. “How do I get a story in your paper?” That makes my brain go back to an adage I read years ago: A business owner is uniquely unqualified to market their own products and services.

Before readers get up in arms in thinking I’m insulting the very clients I’m attempting to bring on board or businesses owners in general, please know this: I’m as guilty as anyone. Just like the landscaper with the bad lawn, carpenter with cabinets falling apart or doctor who lets himself get sick, this newspaper owner who sells advertising for a living lets his marketing slide year after year. My reason is pretty much the same as everyone else: I’m too caught up with the myriad activities and problems involved in running a business to fully recognize all the opportunities I’m missing.

But I can fix it. As they say, admitting the problem is where the healing — or in this case, promoting — begins.

Why are business owners so uniquely unqualified to market their products and services? They care too much about what they’re doing, which comes with being the be-all, know-all and end-all expert of what they’re doing. Consequently, owners miss opportunities to talk about their businesses.

Owners do this for two reasons. The first is the misconception that because their business is second nature in their everyday lives, it must be second nature to everyone. It isn’t. How do I know? It’s in the humility I feel each time I tell people, “I own the Business Times” and I see the glazed-over look in their eyes. The Business Times has only been published in the Grand Valley for 25 years, so it’s natural everyone knows about the paper. Guess what? They don’t. And that’s on me.

The second part of this equation is business owners simply don’t know how to get the word out about what they do even though they see, read and hear examples of competitors and other businesses doing it every day. And no, this isn’t about advertising — although all businesses should advertise. A great example happens in nearly every appointment as we peruse the Business Times while talking about advertising.

It’s then I’m asked, “How much does it cost for me to get a story in your paper?” People are shocked when I tell them these items in the paper are free and all they need to do is submit a news release. That answer is typically followed with, “Well how do I do that?” or “I don’t know how to write one.” Well, here’s my answer to those: Cheat. In other words, read other news releases and write what those folks write. Pay attention to the last paragraph, where you get to talk about you, your business and its history as well as tell people how to find out more about your operation and get in touch with you.

Here’s why. Remember when I mentioned no one knows more about your business than you? That’s also a good thing. Look at it this way. When you’re pitching potential clients, think about how excited and animated you are as you talk to them — how you tell them how you can help them with their needs like no one else. Write your press release in the same manner. There’s a reason folks on the radio, television or print are talking about other businesses.

At the Business Times, we publish nearly every local news release we receive. Yes, some are ads are disguised as news releases and we won’t publish those. Expect a call from me to run your ad. But the other news releases almost always find their way into the paper. And the really good news releases? They often lead to cover stories.

Think about it. If you could find a free way to promote your business, product or employees — yes, employees love these as well and are a very important customer — to the entire Grand Valley you’d do it, wouldn’t you? Well, I’m saying you should.

So get your contact list ready of every media outlet in the Grand Valley. Tell your story to them every time you feel it’s newsworthy and follow up. You might be amazed to discover how willing the media is to tell your stories.

Here’s another adage: People love to read about people they know doing great things. Yes, I made that up, but I also publish these stories twice a month.

You have a great story to tell. Tell it.

Craig Hall has worked as sales manager and publisher of the Business Times since 2000. Over the years, his newspaper has published thousands of stories about businesses all over the Grand Valley while also helping businesses succeed through quality advertising and promotion through public relations. To talk more with Craig about how you can benefit your business, contact him at 778-8864 or publisher@thebusinesstimes.com.