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It doesn’t matter if you own a home service business or a company that serves the industry through software or products, your goal is the same — stand out in a crowded and competitive marketplace.
Sometimes, though, the phone doesn’t ring, no matter how hard you try. That’s when it’s especially important to get your name and face in front of the public. The only way to catch the attention of customers or decision-makers is to be visible.
Gaining this visibility means catching the attention of newspapers, broadcast media and trade publications or gaining traction on social media. Earning this attention is not a matter of luck. It’s both an art and a science. A thorough public relations strategy aimed at the goal of earning coverage can help boost your market presence over the long-term.
Finding a hook
Studies show that earning media coverage is a tremendously powerful marketing tool — even more effective than buying advertising. After all, anyone can buy an ad. But getting media attention means your company stands out.
So, how can your company gain this coverage? By paying attention to current events, fads and changing consumer tastes, you can find topics that can be used to pique the interest of both journalists and the public.
Journalists are always looking for good stories and they always have deadlines to meet. Make it easier for them to do their jobs by offering them relevant and current topics for story opportunities.
Finding these topics is easy enough. There is always something going on in the world. It could be natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, drought or blizzards or holidays, new fads, good causes and notable events.
During a heat wave, for example, an HVAC contractor could talk about the best way to maintain home cooling systems or publicize its charitable effort to provide air-conditioning units to the elderly or animal shelters.
Recognizing the increasing importance of environmental sustainability to consumers, a plumbing business owner could introduce himself to media outlets as an expert on green plumbing or provide advice on earth-friendly drain-cleaning products.
For example, a spokesman for Brooklyn-based Petri Plumbing offered advice on cold-weather plumbing problems during a television news segment about a winter storm in New York City. (View video at https://bit.ly/2D2ceoD.)
Always be prepared
One advantage of finding the right topic to catch the attention of a journalist: an impromptu interview opportunity on TV news or with a newspaper reporter. One definite disadvantage, however, to this is that you might only have minutes or hours to get ready.
Before pitching topical ideas to the news media, you have to be ready to face the interview process. This means to be prepared and have answers ready. Being prepared means less chance of awkward silences or rushed and confusing delivery. Also, pay attention to your body language. It’s not just what you say that matters but how you say it. You don’t want to come across as nervous or untrustworthy.
In this example, note that Ted Puzio of Southern Trust Home Services in Roanoke, Virginia, a veteran of many video segments, is calm and prepared during an interview about how to improve a home’s water usage as the school year begins. (View the segment at https://bit.ly/2xpHcAP.)
Your company doesn’t always have to depend on the media to get the word out. Posting videos on social media can be a route to publicity and even viral success. These videos don’t have to be professional productions. They can be quickly filmed with a cell phone.
Just remember that shorter videos are best. Studies show that most viewers only watch 10 seconds or less of videos. Make the most of every second. Be engaging from the start. Don’t forget to smile.
On Earth Day, 128 Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electric posted this YouTube video on how consumers can reduce their carbon footprints (https://bit.ly/2xf3KVE).
Once you score media coverage for a current event, it’s time to make maximum use of it. You should be ready to push it to all your social media channels. Be ready to hit LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to share the news. Post links to the interviews or articles. Thank the media outlet or publication that gave you the opportunity and don’t forget to tag them. Journalists like to feel appreciated. Leave them with a good impression and you might hear from them again the next time they need a timely and topical story.
Leverage the social media connections of your employees. Facebook continues to change algorithms controlling what shows up in the news feeds of individual users. Set up a “share team” of employees who will share the media coverage and videos your company posts to social media on their personal accounts. This will boost the number of people you can potentially reach.
Remember to use social media best practices. To increase the reach of your posts, don’t be afraid to use popular hashtags and keywords. Research the best times to post to gain maximum visibility. However, don’t resort to tactics such as trying to buy likes or using clickbait headlines to try to get eyes on your content. Facebook is on the lookout for such behavior and will punish it.
It may sound like a lot of work to keep on top of current events and consistently reach out to the media via local news outlets and industry trade publications. And, truthfully, it can be. As a business owner, you have to determine how much time and effort you can dedicate to securing interviews instead of concentrating on the daily tasks of running and growing your company.
A cost-effective way to enact a strong public-relations strategy — that can gain your business the visibility it deserves — is by partnering with a home services PR agency. An experienced team can work toward gaining you those opportunities and then maximize the benefits of the coverage once it is secured.
Heather Ripley is CEO of Ripley PR, a global public relations agency specializing in home service and building trades. For additional information, visit www.ripleypr.com.