14 ways to gain free publicity

Some ideas are so powerful they generate publicity year after year after year. In my 15-year career in the media, I’ve seen variations of these come up time and time again, resulting in free publicity for the businesses behind the story. The following might encourage journalists to cover your business.

  1. Be the first, newest, oldest, biggest, smallest, etc. Journalists get sent a constant stream of ‘average’ all day long – make sure you’re superior.
  2. Introduce something new or improved. Make it clear why it’s better and focus on key benefits or problems it solves.
  3. Mark the passage of time. Being in business for ten years (quite an achievement), for example, can be enough to secure media coverage, especially if you are organising newsworthy celebratory events.
  4. Announce a new member of your team. Doesn’t have to be anyone senior, although the more senior the better. Why are they special? Pinpoint the thing that made them the right person for the job and publicise that. Draw attention to noteworthy aspects of their career.
  5. Win an award. It’s why many businesses enter them in the first place. Find out what trade, local, regional or national awards your business can enter and get your entry forms in. You’ve got to be in it to win it.
  6. Attract a new major client – the bigger the better. And don’t shy away from boasting about it; get quotes from them if possible. News of big contracts can help to attract others.
  7. React to a current event. Give your opinion on something happening in the news nationally or locally that’s relevant to you and your business. Spotting a trend and commenting on it is highly recommended.
  8. Provide good comment. Years of experience in your industry could make you an expert. Journalists and readers appreciate experts’ opinion. Be available to comment when journalists need good quotes.
  9. Give away freebies. If you have a product, give it away (providing that is cost-effective, of course). Use it to drive traffic from the newspaper, magazine or website to your website. Arranging an exclusive deal with one media outlet might get you more coverage over a longer period.
  10. Write articles for free. Share your expertise and help a newspaper or magazine fill column inches with thought-provoking new content. Don’t agonise too much about making sure the copy is grammatically perfect, sub-editors will usually sort out any errors. But make sure you provide insight and engage with interesting facts.
  11. Survey your customers. Find out what they think about specific issues. Ask enough people about an interesting enough topic and the media won’t be able to resist. Polls are always popular with journalists and their readers.
  12. Help a charity. Don’t just give cash, either – it’s dull and predictable (cheque presentation photos in particular are a relic of the 1980s). Instead, give your time or products. Better still – use your staff and resources to do something that will aid a worthy cause.
  13. Do something differently. Journalists love to write about pioneers. That’s why entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Stelios and James Dyson have become household names. Break the mould and lead the way, but make sure you provide customers with additional value and benefits they cannot access elsewhere.
  14. Stage a publicity stunt. It’s a tried and tested method, but your idea must be fresh, fun, exciting and highly visual (as well as legal and proper, of course), otherwise you won’t get the publicity you seek.

Further reading

Find more articles, videos and tools in the Resources box on the right.