5 Ways to Get Free TV Exposure for Your Small Business

Try these strategies for connecting with journalists and making yourself newsworthy.
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Generating free TV exposure for your small business could lead to foot traffic, web traffic or both. (Photo: MSSA/Shutterstock)

Every small business wants TV publicity, but few have the resources to hire public relations consultants and marketing firms to reach out to the media for them. That means you’ll have to do it yourself, pitching journalists stories and making connections with reporters to get on air.

If you’re navigating the media world for your small business on your own, use these five strategies for getting free TV exposure.

Reach out to local media

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“Figure out one way to make yourself newsworthy every month that you pitch to media.” -Christina Daves (Photo: Christina Daves)

According to Christina Daves, a publicity consultant for small businesses and author of “PR for Anyone: 100+ Plus Ways to Easily Create Buzz for your Business,” one of the first and most crucial steps to getting free airtime is making connections with your local media.

“Pick up the phone and send an email,” she said. “It really is that easy. Your local and regional stations, newspapers and magazines love to cover local stories.” Daves tells clients to search LinkedIn, Muck Rack (an online database for journalists) and social media for reporters you want to reach out to, or call the station ask to be transferred to the appropriate person. If you’re reaching out via email, make the subject line short and enticing.

Before you contact TV reporters and other outlets, know what they cover. Watch the channel or read the newspaper or magazine you want to be in. “You have to know what that program does and how you can fit yourself into that,” said Daves.

Of course, you’ll need to have something to say when you call or email. Share some news, or offer yourself as an expert on specific topics for future stories.

Gary Frisch, founder of Swordfish Communications, a PR company that works with small businesses, advised paying attention to the national news with an eye for stories about which you could offer expert commentary.

For example, if your business deals with say, cybersecurity, make yourself available for an interview after a big hack, as one of Frisch’s clients did. If Christmas is coming, see if local media need snippets from local business owners.

“It could be seasonal or tied in with current events,” Frisch said. “If your company has good advice for consumers, share it in a news release or offer to do an interview on the subject.”

Make yourself newsworthy

To give media outlets a good reason to cover your business, make yourself newsworthy.

Daves suggests businesses embrace “nontraditional calendars” such as food holidays, Small Business Saturday, Small Business Week (starting April 30, 2017), and other odd “holidays” with in-store events.

Or offer to go on-air to do cooking demonstrations and product roundups. If you’re celebrating a milestone anniversary, such as a decade in business, give local journalists a heads-up.

“Figure out one way to make yourself newsworthy every month that you pitch to media,” Daves said.

Sign up for HARO

To get some traction with national news outlets, Daves tells clients to sign up (for free) as a source for Help a Reporter Out, a resource for journalists. Once you’re registered as a source, you can respond to queries from national outlets looking for experts and businesses to comment on specific topics.

Daves built her small business this way. She invented a medical cast product but had very little money for advertising and publicity. She used HARO to get coverage in more than 50 news outlets in a year, and she appeared on shows such as “The Dr. Oz Show” and “Steve Harvey.”

Give talks

Another way to get the media’s attention as an expert is to give talks in your community, noted Daves. Sign up for speaking engagement with your local chamber of commerce, Rotary clubs, small business associations and national conferences held in your city. No speech is too small.

“You’re speaking for free but you’re getting out there and getting exposure,” Daves said.

Host a charity event

In a 2013 survey, Nielsen found that 50 percent of consumers around the world would pay more to buy something from a company that gives back to society, communities and charities.

Hosting a charity event, whether it’s a canned food drive or a dog adoption day, or partnering with popular philanthropic groups in your community (from local branches of Habitat for Humanity to scouting troops) are win-wins for small businesses. Not only can these partnerships attract local media, they can also attract future customers to your store.

Frisch said events work well for attracting TV media in particular because they are so visual. “If you’re hosting an event involving children or animals, that’s a great visual,” he said. “If you can provide access to cameras where they don’t normally get to go, that can also be compelling for a TV station.”

But be sure to spread the word in well in advance to make the event successful and get local and regional media there.

“If you don’t tell them, they’re not going to go,” said Daves. “So it’s important to know who that right person is at a station.” In media, as in business, it’s all about networking.

Tell a human story

TV networks and other media love human interest stories. According to Frisch, participating in these stories can bring positive exposure for your business even if they’re not directly related to your product or service.

“Maybe it’s something about the way you compensate or incentivize employees or build morale,” he said. “Maybe it’s the adversity you’ve experienced going up against ‘the big guys’ and how you’ve overcome it, or a challenge you surmounted to bring your new product or service to market. Find that story of conflict and pitch it to news producers.”

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