Can you remember the last advertisement you saw on the tv, online, on the side of a bus or on a billboard? If you can, ask yourself what it was about the ad that made you remember it. Was it the aesthetics, its sense of humor, its relevance to your life? If you can’t remember the last ad you saw, don’t feel bad – your memory isn’t to blame. It’s not always easy to recall ads because they usually don’t connect with their audience on an emotional level (well, some do, but most do not). We see so many of them on a daily basis that they all seem to meld into one another.

The objective of advertising is to get the customer to discover or create a need for a product or service, and subsequently consume it. Publicity is quite different. On a more overt level, its objective is not to sell, but to connect with a target audience so that they will consider buying whatever it is that it’s selling. The connection forged between company and customers is the main differentiating factor between advertising and publicity.

Another factor that distinguishes publicity from advertising is that the latter will always cost you whereas the prior can be free. This is a great bonus, especially if you are trying to keep operation costs low or if you are a small business just starting out.

Why is publicity important for your business?

Publicity is important for myriad reasons. It can bring traffic to your website as well to your physical store, if you have one. It can get people talking and creating buzz about your business. Good publicity can tell a story of human interest and can reach a wider audience. Advertisements hone in on a targeted demographic, but publicity can reach all sorts of people as long as your story resonates with them on a deeper level, be that emotional, psychological or intellectual.

What can you do to generate publicity for free?

To get publicity for your business, there are many things that you can do. Firstly, you want your website to contain fresh, fun, informative and credible content that is always up-to-date and accurate. It is not enough to merely create an online presence; you have to maintain it and give it room to evolve with the growing needs of your customer base.

The creation and maintenance of an online presence also includes engaging customers through various social media outlets, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more. Socializing through social media outlets is a way of life for many people, so capitalize on it and start engaging with your customers in new and exciting ways. Facebook is excellent for creating discourse with your customers and sharing exclusive content, like infographics, memes and blog articles; Twitter is useful for announcements, day-to-day goings-on and promotions; Instagram is excellent for sharing photos and videos of your products and services.

Another fantastic way to generate publicity is to look within your business, and uncover your story. It can be any kind of story, like a “creation story” about how your company came to be, a story about how a customer’s life was improved by your service/product offerings, or even a story about how different people are benefiting from your products and services. Try telling a story that people want to hear, that connects with them on a more profound level than straight-forward advertising.

What do you need to consider when generating publicity?

When creating buzz about your business, there are some key points you need to address in your “story”:

  • A “positioning statement”. This is a sentence that positions you relative to your competition. Tell your audience what makes you stand out from the crowd.
  • Your objectives. What do you hope to achieve through publicity?
  • Your target customers. Who are you trying to gain as customers?
  • Your target media. Which medium do you want to use to reach your customers (e.g. newspapers, social media, blog platform, etc…)?
  • Your story angle. What aspect of your business’ story will you be promoting (creation, customer testimonials, etc…)?
  • Your pitch. How will you sell your story?
  • Follow-up. How will you measure your story’s reception and effectiveness with your audience?

Sometimes, the thought of selling your story can be more daunting than selling your product as it takes a step away from the bottom line of making money. Rather, it aims to connect with a potential customer in hopes that they will see value in what you are selling, and transition from reader to customer.