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Friday, 7 August 2009

Friday Guest Blog: The secret of free publicity

by George Dearsley, Avante Media

Would you ask someone to build you a house who had never laid a brick? Of course not.

Yet in 1995 a company entered the financial services market for the first time with a personal equity plan and took £75m worth of investments from customers, the largest share in the industry.

That company was Virgin and people trusted Richard Branson with their money because they believed he was a winner, despite no financial track record.

Branson’s enviable brand loyalty owed much to his clever manipulation of the media and businesses of all sizes, even the smallest, can learn from his success.

Statistics that show the public has increasingly less faith in the media obscure a powerful truth. Visibility and recognition are the keys to marketing your product and service.
And the beauty is that if you are media savvy and invest a little time you can achieve incredible results without spending a penny.

The trouble is most people, including businessmen and women, fear the media. They remember how one inappropriate joke cost Gerald Ratner £500m. They wince as Jeremy Paxman puts yet another MP through the Newsnight wringer. Yet every day, lower down the media food chain, legions of hard-pressed print and broadcast journalists struggle to fill acres of newsprint and miles of audio or video tape with material that will interest their own “customers”. They need stories, they need interviews and they need expert knowledge.

So one simple way of promoting your business is to become a perceived “thought leader” in your field of expertise. Note the word “perceived”. You don’t have to be the best or the biggest. You just need a story and you have to tell it simply and with passion. If you do, you will be invited back.

This was the way American Suze Orman catapulted herself from waitress to multi-millionairess. Born on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, in 1951 to poor Russian-Jewish immigrants, bad stock market investments later caused her to lose the 50,000 dollars a customer loaned her to start a restaurant. Angry and unable to repay the debt, she trained as a stockbroker and became a financial planner. What differentiated her from tens of thousands of similar advisors is she began to write books and articles. She was soon noticed by TV and radio producers and the exposure they gave her helped to quickly build a 32m dollar fortune.

The technological revolution means that there are now many more ways to reach your target customers than traditional routes of newspapers, radio and TV. But you can alert so called “mainstream” media to websites and blogs that contain good content, video or podcasts.

Exactly how you identify your story and then make it sing, maybe I’ll explain another day. For the moment remember that editorial is 10 times more powerful than advertorial. “You’ve got to be in it to win it” was the slogan used by The Sun years ago to launch a major competition. And so have you. Journalists feed off what they see and read in other media.

Look at what happened to Guy Goma, the out of work computer technician who went for a BBC job interview, blundered into the studio and was wrongly interviewed about an IT lawsuit. He went on a media merry-go-round which included appearances on GMTV and CNN and talks about a Hollywood movie. And he didn’t even know what he was talking about!

Relive the moment that shot him to fame here

That’s the power of the media.

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