Literally hundreds of millions of dollars in sales are generated mostly by the “stealth” marketing tactics of publicity. That’s a huge return on investment because publicity is free.

That’s right — no charge. None. You can’t buy it. Think about that. Hundreds of millions of dollars in sales generated for free.

Publicity can’t replace direct-response advertising as a way to generate leads, but it can certainly increase your company’s name recognition, image and brand, and it can serve as a powerful reinforcement to your customers.


The perks of publicity

Publicity sells. It boosts images and is deemed real. It gets through the skeptical filter of paid advertising and is regarded to be three times as valuable in credibility alone. Here are other benefits of publicity.

Credibility. If the media writes an article about you or your contracting business, it boosts your image.

Differentiation. There are dozens of contractor choices in your town. How many are positively featured in the news? What impact would that have if you were? Last question: How many contractors can earn this spot? Right again: one. And if it’s not you, it’s going to be someone else — your competition.

Expertise. If you get quoted about energy savings, water heaters, insulation and carbon monoxide, guess what? You are now an authority. I like the word “anoint” because that is what the media is doing to your reputation.

TOMA recognition. No one knows when you’ll be needed, right? But we do know that you won’t be called if you’re unknown. Therefore, increased presence is an increase in top-of-mind awareness, period.

Customer confidence. Customers feel good when “their” contractor is in the news. Like when a movie or book you liked gets a positive review or a restaurant you enjoy gets a “best of” ranking. Same thing here. People want reassurance of their choices. What better way (without blowing your own horn) than for them to see you mentioned in the media? It reaffirms that they really do have an expert attending to their needs.

Coworker confidence. Everyone wants to be on a winning team. Media attention reminds your employees they’re on this team. If the media coverage includes them, so much the better. They get a chance to show off their knowledge and expertise, and your company gets to bask in the limelight as the employer. And, as you’d imagine, those “other” company employees see the same thing and the best ones gravitate toward the winning team, too.

Let me point out that publicity is not, as many of you have expressed, accidental, lucky or coincidental. Hear me on this: Publicity is as engineered as a flame chamber and about twice as hot.


Myths and truths about getting publicity

My friend and publicity expert Tom Peric let me interview him for our coaching club. He shared a list of publicity myths, two of which are worth getting over right now.

Myth: You must have contacts and experience. “Baloney,” says Peric, who has landed radio, television and newspaper spots as a complete stranger to that media. Further, his clients were unknowns, which he says can occasionally be an advantage.

“I tell some of my contractor clients to just call the media and tell them you’re a ‘first-timer’. They’ll open more doors with that than I can as a so-called seasoned veteran.”

Myth: You need a gimmick to get exposure. “What you need,” Peric reminded me, “is something interesting. To me, the contracting business is too serious for gimmickry and stunts. Just be informative.”

When industry-related news is in the air, make sure you’re who reporters think of when they need a comment. If the story is about rising energy costs, for instance, you can offer simple steps for keeping your house energy efficient. If the story is about scam artists, you can offer important insight into finding a reliable contractor. These are both very hot topics every single year.

The resounding truth about publicity and media releases is that you cannot “promote” your company flagrantly. Let this be done by your mere presence. In other words, let the fact you’re being interviewed or quoted be enough. The biggest failure with media releases is that if it even sounds like an ad for your company, they’re going to put an ad rep on the phone with you.


Class in session

Another publicity approach is to extend your expertise to the classroom. There are four ways to focus this: to the public (through colleges or continuing education classes), to the local technical school (hopefully attracting top talent in the process), to home shows inviting the public and the media to attend an informative session, and through open houses for the same reasons as above (and, well, to show off).

This could be a workshop or demonstration on a “home improvement” or “do-it-yourself” topic. One way to get an idea of response is to ask people to pre-register, even though you can still accept walk-ins.

An open house will let prospects and media see day-to-day operations and reinforce your service mission. It’s also a good idea to give them something they can take home with them — a paperweight or refrigerator magnet, discount coupon or whatever. Just remember, it’s not a time for selling — it’s a time for welcoming. Once they feel welcome, buying follows.


The bottom line

Making your name in the news will also improve your ad results. You get the additional “bounce” of being known, and that aids your ad results. Look at all the celebrity endorsements, famous newsmakers in business and celebrity status among business leaders.