by Jim Du Molin
It doesn’t take a marketing genius to realize that getting your name in the local paper could be good for business (as long as you’re not making headlines for a scandal!). But perhaps you’re not sure what you do that’s newsworthy. Well, the bar is sometimes a lot lower than you might think – it just takes one small good deed, at the right place and the right time. And it doesn’t hurt to have a photographer nearby.
Dr. Tom Davis, a dentist in Binghamton, NY, made news in his local paper after he stopped to help a neighbor whose car was stuck in the snow. He was driving home when he saw a woman spinning her tires in vain, her small sedan no match for the pile of snow it was perched atop. So Dr. Davis called two assistants, grabbed a shovel, and helped the woman extricate her car. When a local reporter with a camera happened upon the scene, the simple favor became a newsworthy act. Now everyone who reads the Binghamton paper knows what a great guy Dr. Davis is. Not bad for free publicity, huh?
But let’s say no reporters stumble upon you in your most heroic moment. Have no fear! It doesn’t take a lot of work on your part to get yourself and your practice in the news – and that’s free publicity. Let’s take a moment to look at the power of press releases.
First off, you need to start with some
newsworthy item. Some examples:
- You or your practice has received an award or honor.
- You’ve gotten new equipment or introduced a new service.
- You’ve done or are going to do something for the community: free dental care to local kids, a charitable donation, volunteer work in another country, etc.
- Your practice has moved to a new location.
In creating your press release, think locally. Be sure the text includes your city, state, zip code and possibly county. Remember, most users search the internet to find local products or services. Including information about where you’re located makes the local media more likely to notice and pick up on your story. You’ll also want to send copies of your press release to the local media – they are your friends! You’ll pick up more clients from a spot in your local news than from any national media.
Make sure your press release is long enough to look respectable – that means at least 150 words. In fact, your release can be as long as 500-1000 words (for your reference, this article is about 650 words long). Keep in mind, however, that most news outlets won’t reproduce the whole thing. That’s why most press releases are written in the inverted pyramid format, which means that the most important information is at the beginning of the document. That way, it reads smoothly even if paragraphs are lopped off the bottom. Remember the old adage: who, what, where, when and why.
Finally, if it’s an option, consider scheduling your release in advance. This gives the local media, bloggers and consumers time to read your release and research your practice beforehand. That way, you’ll get more press on the day of the big announcement or more visitors to your event.
Press releases can seem daunting at first, but they’re pretty simple, and they’re a great avenue for publicity. If you’re not sure where to start, see Wikipedia for a good overview of press releases. There are lots of sites for press releases out there (for example, PR News Wire and Business Wire) – a quick Internet search will show you hundreds more. And don’t forget to include the local media – not just newspapers, but TV stations, radio stations, and popular local websites.
Jim Du Molin