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I once asked a great client about what he was doing to build credibility and increase his visibility in the community his company served.
“We’ve sponsored a giant community carnival,” he said. “One of our many giveaways was free ice cream; we also gave folks discount coupons for our services. It was great! It was a big hit for the community, who loved our supporting them. The event benefited us as well by generating trackable lead-source quality calls that increased our revenues. A great win-win-win.”
“How’s it working today?” I asked.
He started to laugh and replied, “Well, I hate to admit this, but we don’t do it anymore. No one owned the project. No one was proactively working on all the planning and execution required, so it fell off the to-do list.”
Moral of the story: If you are doing or have done things that you know already work to get you known, give someone ownership of it. Check in with them at a weekly meeting to make sure progress is being made consistently.
If you are doing all these good deeds, it’s more than OK to make sure you get some publicity for it!
First, decide what you want out of the publicity. Do you only want to be known for doing a good deed? Get better known in the community? Network with potential customers? The goal will determine what kind of activities you’ll participate in and how you’ll talk about it to the media.
Second, make sure you’ve done some homework to understand where your customers hang out because you won’t be able to be everywhere. For example, if you know most people watch XYZ channel or listen to XYZ radio, then focus on getting to know people there and don’t worry about the others.
There are four main ways to do this:
1. Position yourself with the local media as an expert. Journalists are always looking for quotes to enhance their stories. For example, if winter is on its way and you’re an HVAC contractor, you want the media to know you can comment on what their audience (aka your potential customers) needs to do to ensure their furnaces are in tip-top shape for the season.
If you have a great hands-on training center, you can invite the media to do the spot there. If they use your quote or spot, congratulations! More people will know about you, and you’ll have earned the station’s third-party endorsement as an expert in your field.
2. Become known as a company looking out for the community it serves. The media is interested in things that will make their audience or the community smarter, richer or happier. My clients have worn company logo t-shirts with their information on the back while volunteering to work on some homes for Habitat for Humanity (and having someone shoot and post a video).
They’ve also donated an air-conditioning system and installation to be auctioned off for a good cause. You can also volunteer services to clean up or plant a community garden, etc.
It’s even better if it’s visually interesting and many people will be attending. (Think photo and video opportunities.)
Note that the company’s owner should make and own the connections with the media. You can have other people do the research, but you must be the one to make the call or send the email. After all, it’s your company and it’s got to be your authentic voice.
Pro tip: Befriend your local news people before you need them. Offer a free tune-up or inspection at the producer’s home — if it doesn’t violate the company’s policy.
Resist the urge to take a buckshot vs. a rifle shot approach to this. You want to focus on participating in or creating three to five key events per year.
Getting media coverage is just one way to raise your profile in the community. Another one is the strategic use of social media.
3. Engage on social media. For example, most communities have dedicated Facebook pages that function as a huge referral network for those who live there. Make sure you are also there and contributing by making helpful referrals to contractors you know and trust and who are willing to do the same for you.
It’s OK to tout your own business if you see someone looking, but it’s more powerful if you have someone else in the community who can recommend you instead!
I have clients who get good results from doing spots on TikTok, but it goes back to knowing where your audience is hanging out. And you can’t delegate this — you have to be the face of it and be consistent, so consider that before diving in.
4. Sponsor local youth sports teams.
Don’t discount the value of sponsoring local youth sports teams. Buying some shirts means there will be 20 kids running around with your company’s name on their backs, which the parents will see and appreciate not only on the field but also at the pizza or ice cream parlor where they’ll go after the game.
My clients also have had good results from placing ads in church bulletins and offering promotions to parishioners.