Looking for new avenues to spread awareness of your small business? Master the basics of publicity with these simple tips and amplify your marketing strategy.

Running a business is hard, and generating word-of-mouth is harder. If you want to compete in today’s market you have to get smart about your marketing strategy.

In order to implement a comprehensive marketing strategy, you have to understand the difference between publicity and advertising. Both are components of a full-fledged marketing strategy Both have the same end goal of promoting your business and increasing sales. In that sense, they’re two heads of the same beast.

There are some subtle yet important differences, though. Advertising is when you pay for space to promote your business. This includes advertising in online spaces such as Google or Facebook, or in print through newspapers and magazines. Publicity is when your business gets exposure and/or media coverage at little to no financial cost from third parties. These third parties can include newspapers, TV, radio, magazines, and even social media and blogs.

Why Is Publicity More Effective Than Advertising?

DIY Publicity Tricks for Your Independent Small Business — Publicity vs. Advertising

Image via stockcreations.

As Helen Woodward, the first female ad exec in the U.S., once said, “Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for.” Advertising is good for exposure, but publicity builds something much harder to attain: public trust.

Every restaurant claims to have the best burger in the world. It’s worth putting it out there on a billboard or on social media, but it’s nowhere near as effective as having a third-party name your business as having one of the “top 10 burgers to try before you die.” Publicity is exposure from editors, journalists, and the general public who have nothing to gain by recommending the burger.

Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing force. In the digital era, it’s easier than ever to get. For instance, a diner may snap a picture of your amazing burger and post it to Instagram before chowing down. Getting attention from a food publication, a reviews site, or local blog amplifies that effect even more. The extra weight a hat tip from an industry expert can give your business should’t be discounted. Below are some tips on how to get that extra bit of special attention.

Become A Source

DIY Publicity Tricks for Your Independent Small Business — Become a Source

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In running a business, you develop a specialized expertise. You can utilize that expertise to gain more visibility for your business. Journalists and editors are constantly on the lookout for sources to help put together stories. Finding good sources is such a tough job that the brilliant folks at Cision put together a platform called Help A Reporter Out.

The concept is simple. Some folks sign up as sources, some folks sign up as reporters. As a source, you’ll get an email in the morning and an email in the evening with a list of stories being worked on that could use a source. If you think you can help, click through.

It’s a best practice in journalism to say where a source is from. So, this a low-key way to get an extra bit of visibility with media audiences your regular advertising efforts might not typically reach.

Become Your Own Publicist

DIY Publicity Tricks for Your Independent Small Business — Become Your Own Publicist

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It’s never been easier to reach editors and writers if you’re willing to apply some elbow grease. Most of them can easily be found on Twitter and LinkedIn. Still, while these are good sources for finding editors and writers, they’re improper messaging platforms. Email remains the most professional, polite way to reach someone at their job.

Many editors and journalists have their email published on their twitter pages or on the media company’s masthead. If you can’t find them that way, find their coworkers who do have their email listed. Most companies employ the same email format for all staff. For example John Smith might be under JSmith@example.com, John.Smith@example.com or, at a smaller company, John@example.com.

If that doesn’t work, technology has your back! Using resources like Anymailfinder, voilanorbert, or hunter, you can just type in someone’s name, where they work, and in no time you’ll have an address you can reach them at.

Now it’s up to you to keep editors abreast of any fun or interesting things happening with your business. Are you running a holiday special that gives to charity? Is there an interesting local marketplace you’re part of?

Editors are hungry for stories and want to connect with their communities and audiences. Think of who your services help, and what kind of publications they might be reading. If you create a list of who you’re trying to reach, you can email them with regular updates. Do this sparingly though. Anything more than once every six weeks can come off as spam.

With regard to the subject line, avoid generic calls to action like “Something of interest” or “Trying to connect.” Go for something more personalized and time-sensitive — something like “Today’s Funny Business” or “Your scoop, Jane.” It’s an art form, and luckily there’s tons of research on it.

Include Photos

DIY Publicity Tricks for Your Independent Small Business — Include Photos

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It’s helpful to include photos in your pitches. Research shows that 65 percent of users prefer emails that are mostly images, compared to 35 percent who prefer text-only. Tweets, Facebook posts, and blogs all receive higher engagement rates when it includes an image. Click-through rates in emails show a similar pattern — but it’s worth noting a little goes a long way.

As a rule of thumb for pitches and marketing efforts, you’ll want to use fewer than three images and include succinct, descriptive copy that explains to recipients why they’re receiving your email. It’s important to cover both visual and textual bases because some email services and plug-ins block photos.

As for the images themselves, make sure they’re high-quality and that they contain content relevant to your business. It’s important to remain on point in all your brand communication, otherwise it sends mixed messages to your audience.

Although your copy and imagery should be able to work separately, don’t shy away from adding copy to your images (e.g. a headline, your Instagram account, a quote from a rave review). Our favorite way to add copy to images is with Shutterstock Editor, a powerful free tool that can make even the prettiest photos a little sharper.

What Are the Costs?

DIY Publicity Tricks for Your Independent Small Business — Evaluate the Costs

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As with everything about running a business, one must consider the cost. The common misconception around publicity is that you don’t pay for it. PR agencies upend that concept. Because it’s so much more effective than advertising, it also carries a heavy price tag.

In the book publishing world, a literary publicist could cost anywhere from $1,500-$6,000 a month. While that price tag may seem scary, don’t worry. The aforementioned tips will help your business side-step those costs. Starts by working an email update into your routine once every two months or so. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get the kind of publicity some people pay top dollar for.

Top image via Dmitry A.