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Getting free publicity can be simple. In fact, the reason many businesses get it wrong is they try to overcomplicate things. Ever heard of KISS? It stands for ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’. No offence! It’s a phrase that could almost have been invented for PR (press or public relations). When trying to get free publicity, here are my five tips which I hope will prove useful:

1 Tailor your story to the audience

Journalists are focused on their audience. If the people for whom they are creating content want to know about a specific subject, that’s what they will write about. If you seek publicity for something else, they won’t be interested. You need to understand exactly what your target audience is interested in and make your story fit. Get that right and it becomes much easier to persuade journalists to write about you.

2 Be different

It’s the best way to capture a journalist’s attention. Your story must be packed with ‘standoutability’ (a made-up word that sums it up perfectly). Journalists get hundreds of press releases and story suggestions every day. If yours are the same as the rest, they’ll go the same way – in the bin.

3 Become an expert

If journalists recognise you as an expert in your field, they’ll turn to you first for comment, time and time again. And that means your customers will know you’re an expert, too. Incidentally, it doesn’t necessarily matter if you are a true expert; what matters more is who positions themselves that way first to journalists and their audience.

4 Make journalists’ jobs easier

Most press releases sent to journalists go straight in the bin (these days they simply hit the delete key, often without even opening an emailed release). Largely, it’s because the people who write them don’t understand what journalists are looking for. Once a journalist becomes interested in your business/story, make sure you give them what they ask for – information, quotes, photographs, etc – and do it quickly. You can lose media attention as quickly as you attracted it if you don’t make the journalist’s job as easy as you can.

5 Generate creative ideas for stories

If all you’ve got is a run-of-the-mill story, forget it – why would a journalist want to write about you? You’ve got to use your imagination. You must be creative and seek to generate stories that inspire and sustain interest. Find interesting angles where possible.

Journalists are desperate for great stories. This presents nothing but opportunity for you and your business. I look forward to reading about your business soon.

  • The first 500 Start Up Donut Blog readers can get a free copy of Paul Green’s book – PR Success Made Easy – here.

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On the roller-coaster ride of running one’s own business, I used to think that having a fantastic product would be enough. As you know, this is far from the truth. This probably accounts for the 1% inspiration bit.

As I have discussed before, everyone expects you to be an expert in your business and in a small business, if you are on a shoe string and a one-man band, this means being an expert in everything. Is this the perspiration bit? The 24/7, never switching off, always being on task? Reading the paper on a Sunday looking for relevant articles, checking emails late at night when it’s quiet, cooking, etc..? I think the perspiration bit is also connected with the resilience of taking the failures as lessons to be learned, to stand up after falling, to get on with it and persevere when things may not be as rosy as one would wish for.

But we are in the 21st century and I would add another element. Yes, you had your 1% inspiration in your great idea and you are working really hard, which is your 99% perspiration. What about the communication bit? I think this changes the 1%+99% equation. Nowadays, entrepreneurs are required to twitter, to tell their story, to shout out their values and they are also allowed, and indeed expected, to drive their enterprises ethically. Green issues, fair trade, sustainability…

I think this is a great time to be an entrepreneur because it’s become the norm to have ideas and to communicate them effectively. I’m starting to learn how to communicate with people out there about what I’m trying to do – introduce new adventurous flavours of food that come from local growers and those who are far away, who share my passion for great food and respect for the environment and people. 21st century communication media – what a great opportunity to relate with possible customers and, hopefully, make a difference.

You can find out more about Marcela on the new interactive business website www.inafishbowl.com

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1 Base the business on something you enjoy – when your hobby/passion/skill becomes your full-time job, it never really feels like work.

2 Write a plan – prepare a basic business plan to set out your vision, describe your market and explain how you propose to reach out and sell to that market. Include sound financials and review the plan every six months or so.

3 Find dedicated space – create space in your house that is your workspace. When in that space, family and friends should know you’re in business mode, plus, you can walk away at the end of the working day. Invest in a good desk and chair, because you’ll be spending quite a bit of time at and in them.

4 Create a professional front door – when customers come calling, be sure they’re met with a professional welcome. This applies from the way you answer calls, to your website, company stationery and even the places in which you choose to meet clients.

5 Make the most of social media – tools such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have been warmly embraced by the home business community. They are free to use and act as business development channel and a virtual water cooler for the moments when you miss the banter of an out-of-home office.

6 Become an expert – set yourself up as an expert in your field by blogging/tweeting about the subject, writing a report, publishing a book or hosting an event. Being an expert gives credibility and with that, comes customers.

7 Never stop learning – part of becoming an expert is continually picking up intelligence from those around you. Keep an eye on what others in your industry are doing, read about successful entrepreneurs and tune in to trendspotters so you can prepare for new market opportunities.

8 Get out of the house – attend networking events, work from the local café, sign up to a personal development course. It’s good to get out of the home office, but be sure you can still be contacted and respond via your mobile/laptop/webmail, etc. This is your “road warrior kit”.

9 Do what you do best and outsource the rest – to grow the business, focus on the core product of the company and subcontract non-core tasks (eg admin, accounting, PR, fulfilment, etc) to others.

10 Follow the golden triangle – to keep the business in balance, spend roughly a third of your time on each of three key things: customer care, business development and admin. That way, you’ll have a smooth-running business with happy customers and new income streams on the way.

Emma Jones is Founder of Enterprise Nation the home business website and author of ‘Spare Room Start Up – how to start a business from home’. Emma’s next book – ‘Working 5 to 9 – how to start a business in your spare time’ – will be published in May 2010.

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Bristol Media, the superb network for Bristol’s creative community, recently asked me to put my Marketing Donut hat on, and take part in a panel discussion about how to get your creative business started. I was called in to talk specifically about social media marketing.

The discussion was ‘a game of two halves’. First up, creative people who’d recently started their business were quizzed about their experiences. Then, be-suited business experts commented on what they had heard. Yes, I was in the second group (how times change!)

The roll-call of creative businesses included Glow Creative, The White Balance, Spirit PR, Mobile Pie and Wonky Films and – wow – they were impressive.

Mike Bennett, who hosted the session, kept the discussion moving and covered a lot of ground, including:

  • Why did you decide to go into business for yourself?
  • What obstacles did you need to overcome?
  • Did you have a business plan?
  • What would you do differently if you had your time again?

It was thrilling to hear the enthusiasm and pride this talented group generated as they recalled their first steps in business.

For us ‘experts’ it was rather strange experience as we listened to the disembodied voices of the first live discussion. I sat in a small studio in the company of some very venerable business experts from an accountancy firm, a law firm, Business Link, and SETsquared (hi-tech incubation specialist). And it was great to meet Mark Mason, a highly successful local businessman who has ‘been there and done it’. All of us were caught up in the excitement and drive the new businesses were describing in the studio next door.

The creative start-ups universally felt uncomfortable with the word ‘entrepreneur’, stressing rather that the impetus to set up in business was down to a desire to control who they worked with and what projects they took on.

Yet each and every one had the spark and drive crucial to surviving the first year in business.

What struck me was how the start-ups recognised that networking – in all its forms – was fundamental to their initial marketing. This struck a chord with me as all my recent marketing work has led back, one way or another, to networking. So, I was able to chip in with examples of how Twitter, Ecademy, LinkedIn, and blogs can have business outcomes.

The podcast is 40 minutes in total, and well worth a listen if you are interested in starting a business, or if you support business start-ups.
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Whether your business is large, small, new or been around the block a few times, every penny in your marketing budget has to work hard and give you a return.  Remember though that doors opened through your marketing now may lead you down a profitable path in the future, but not yield a financial return just yet.

Marketing doesn’t have to cost a fortune and there are many effective marketing activities that you can do that won’t cost a penny yet will point you in the right direction to get your business to where you want it to be.  Here goes …

  1. Put yourself in their shoes – where does your target audience go?  do?  read?  listen to?   Don’t waste time and money being where they are not.
  2. What is your USP? – what makes you different from your competitors?  Don’t just be another face in the crowd.
  3. Be an expert – write articles and get them published.  Register on http://www.expertsources.co.uk and http://www.findatvexpert.com.
  4. Sell the sizzle not the steak – highlight the benefits of what you do and not just explain what you do.
  5. Freebies – offer a free consultation/trial session/product.  Let people experience what you will do for them.
  6. Testimonials – if you have happy customers, shout about them.  Third party endorsements are worth their weight in gold.
  7. Case studies – these are expanded testimonials and allow you to show a problem you helped solve.  The media love these.
  8. Social networking – set up profiles on, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, UKBusinessForums, and start connecting.  They’re free.
  9. Network – people buy from people so get out there and meet people.  There are loads of networking groups out there.
  10. E-mail signature – include your contact details and a short sales message or link to something you want to promote at the end of each e-mail.  This can be automated.

The best thing to reduce your marketing spend is to Stop & Think before you commit any money.  There may be a free or cheaper alternative … effective marketing does not have to cost a fortune.

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