(Part II of The ONE Thing You Must Do to Get Publicity for Your Small Business)
If you are in a technical field or one involving highly specialized knowledge — such as accounting or engineering –- it can be challenging to interest the traditional media in your business.
Consumer media are only interested in stories that are relevant to the average person. If it takes you longer than 30 seconds to explain your pitch to a reporter, it’s unlikely that your story will make it onto the 6 p.m. news. But with creativity and a little work, any business can create a newsworthy story that will result in tons of publicity.
The secret to getting massive amounts of publicity is to create a special event or adopt a cause. While donating to your community chest or cancer drive are rewards unto themselves and may get your company a mention in the organization’s newsletter, they will not produce significant media attention. To gain media interest:
• Either develop your own cause rather than participating in established organizations or create a unique fundraiser to benefit an existing cause;
• Create an event or cause that logically relates to your business;
• Put a face on your event or cause that provides the media a person –- rather than a business or group –- on whom to focus.
Here’s an example.
In January, Kevin Dolan and his son Sean started Ascendgence LLC, an internet marketing business offering sophisticated tactical search engine optimization and viral marketing campaigns. “We needed to do a campaign that we could use as a case study to market and showcase the capabilities of our fledging enterprise,” Kevin writes on his site.
Sean, who had been involved with volunteer work through his church and scouting, came up with the idea to help the homeless – but not in an expected way. The Dolans set up a web site, www.PimpThisBum.com, that focuses on the life of 37-year-old homeless man Tim Edwards and his friends John and Bobby who live on the streets of Houston, Texas. The site features YouTube videos of the men, a live web-cam, a “PimpThisBum” online store, a wish list and an appeal for donations using PayPal.
In addition to several hundred individual donations ranging from 45 cents to $300, Sunray Treatment and Recovery, a drug and alcohol treatment facility, has donated a “scholarship” valued at $22,800 for Tim and John, and Southwest Airlines has contributed airfare to the facility in Seattle.
Within a short time, the site was drawing huge media play on TV, radio, Web sites and in print. It was featured by NBC New York, Fox News, Click2Houston.com, Rachel Ray, the Associated Press and The Houston Chronicle.
The Dolans are interviewed in a number of the stories, but more importantly, they have smartly chronicled all the coverage on www.PimpThisBum.com, which is actually hosted on their company Web site at http://www.ascendgence.com/pimpthisbum/index.aspx. The domain name clearly, yet subtly, associates the business with the project.
So why does this project warrant such great publicity when many other good deeds with a much larger impact so unnoticed?
• It puts a face on a problem. Tim Edwards is a real person who we can see and hear. We can identify with him. He doesn’t seem that different from one of us. Focusing on ONE person to leverage a huge social problem is far more effective than a generic fundraising project for the faceless “homeless.”
“We knew that the came campaign with a sincere appeal, and a website like ‘helpthehomeless.com,’ would be ignored,” Dolan says. “The homeless are invisible people … people don’t like to discuss, or even recognize the homeless.”
• The domain name – PimpThisBum – is edgy. It’s a bit funny and a little controversial.
“We knew that if we insulted people’s sensitivity or appealed to their humor – on a subject as sensitive as this, we would get their attention,” says Dolan. “Then when they came to the site to see what a horrible thing or funny thing we were doing, they would see a warm, funny, sensitive, intelligent homeless human being.”
• The scope of the project inspires us to believe that individuals and small businesses can make a difference. While philanthropists such as Bill and Melinda Gates can have a huge impact on global problems through the millions they contribute to charities, their generosity can make average donors feel insignificant. But a project such as this shows that each of us can change the world – or at least a little corner of it. It makes us feel good about doing good.
The Dolons’ project is a terrific example of how a high-tech, difficult-to-explain business can grab tons of media love with a simple, well-executed idea. Go pimp your own cause!