I once asked a great client about what he was doing to build credibility and increase his visibility in the community his company served.
He said, “We’ve sponsored a giant community carnival. One of our many giveaways was free ice cream and along with that we gave folks discount coupons for our services. It was great! It was a big hit for the community who loved our supporting them and it 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. So no one was proactively working on all the planning and execution required so it of course 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 and check in with them at a weekly meeting to make sure progress is being made consistently.
The next step is if you are doing all these good deeds, it’s more than okay to make sure you get some publicity for it!
First, decide what you want out of the publicity. Do you just 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.
Next, make sure you’ve done some homework to understand where your customers hang out because you won’t be able to be everywhere.
Ex: 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:
- 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 make sure their furnace is in tip top shape for the season. If they use your quote or spot, congratulations, more people will know about you and you’ll have earned their “third party” endorsement as an expert in your field. If you have a great hands-on training center you can even invite the media to come there to do the spot.
- Become known as a company that looks out for the community it serves:
The media is interested in things that will make their audience or the community smarter, richer, or happier. Things my clients have done include wearing 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 video,) donating, an A/C 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.
Note: If it’s visually interesting and a lot of people will be attending, even better. (Think photo and video opportunities.)
Note: The Owner of the company should make and own the connections with the media. You can have other people do the research, but you have to be the one to make the call and/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 to do a free tune-up or inspection at the producer’s home as long as it doesn’t violate their company policy.
Resist the urge to take a buckshot vs. a rifle shot approach to this. You really want to focus on participating in or creating 3 to 5 key events per year.
Getting media coverage is just one way to raise your profile in the community. Another one is strategic use of social media.
- Engage on Social Media:
For example, most communities have dedicated Facebook pages that function as a huge referral network for the people 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 also have clients who get good results from doing spots on TikTok, but it goes back to knowing where your audience is hanging out. The other thing is, you can’t delegate this—you have to be the face of it, and you have to be consistent, so take that into consideration before you dive in.
- 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 back, which the parent’s 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 have also had good results from placing ads in the Church bulletin and offering promotions to the parishioners.