How to get free publicity

How to get free publicity – tell a story

Years ago when I was a professional layabout and would-be novelist back in Yorkshire, and earning the odd crust writing for magazines and newspapers, I learned the value of a good story.

One day I invented “The World Ferret Legging Champion” and earned so much from the stories I sold that I could spend the next six months bumming around Europe.

Ferret Legging?

I read a brief in the local weekly (a brief is what newspapers call a story that’s only a paragraph or two) about an old man called Reg who entertained some people at an old folks home concert by pulling a ferret out of his trousers and they voted him the star of the show.

So I tracked him down and discovered that he kept the ferrets to help him hunt for rabbits because he couldn’t afford to buy meat for the table. And he told me that in winter he used to keep the ferrets down his trousers to stop them freezing to
death.

I figured there was some sort of story in this, and did a piece on him for the local county magazine. But the pictures of the ferrets popping out of his trousers were so amazing that I knew I could sell them all over the place if I could come up with a good angle. After a further chat he told me that as far as he knew, he was the only person in the world who kept ferrets down his trousers.

There was my story. If he was the only person doing it, then he must automatically be the world champion. I talked him into throwing down a “can you keep ferrets down your trousers longer than this man” challenge, and rewrote my story to make it more sensational.

It got big spreads in the English tabloids, and Reg was flown around the world to demonstrate his ferret legging skills.

What does this mean for you and your internet business?

Well let me tell you another little story first.

Arriving in Australia with no media contacts and my portfolio and clippings still in transit, I talked (well wrote) myself into a job handling the publicity for a big charity that looked after the concerns of disabled athletes.

In reality I spent most of my time writing persuasive begging letters to wealthy business people  ( A skill I’m grateful I learnt now that I’m marketing online ).

But one day I was given the task of promoting a new lightweight wheelchair to the media.

Now I couldn’t get very excited about this – I felt sure that it would just make a paragraph or two in some of the local papers, but on the whole be ignored by the tv crowd.

But that’s before I talked with the designer, a local paraplegic. “I tell you,”he said, “this wheelchairs special. I’ve been wheelchair racing for five years and building my own
wheels, and it’s all come together here. I’ve shaved nearly 20 seconds off my time.”

So I wrote up an enthusiastic release and mailed it off. Response – zilch!

Then I had a bit of a brainwave. Let’s get the world wheelchair racing champion to race in it. Let’s make, or create, the news rather than waiting for it to happen.

An airline kindly flew the world champion in, the big athletics stadium lent us their track, and the world champion kindly broke his record in front of the tv crews.

It made a big splash in the Australian media, and got us the publicity we were after.

Publicity = dollars, whether you’re a charity or in business.

So what does all this mean for you and your online business?

New web sites aren’t news anymore. You might get a column inch somewhere.

Editors are looking for stories. Give them a story and they’ll give you the publicity that will bring you sales.

Don’t be boring with your press releases. They’ll get tossed into the trash can.

Come up with a great attention grabbing angle and headline. If the headline isn’t snappy you’ve lost them already

If your first press releases doesn’t achieve results, have a re-think. What’s *your* story? Is there something different about you or your background? Did you used to be a nuclear physicist and now you’re selling soft toys on the web? Were you once convicted of murder and now you’re selling books about serial killers? Were you the world’s biggest failure at school and now you’re well on your way to your first or second million?

You get the drift. Come up some something that grabs the attention of editors and journalists. And you’ll get all the free publicity you can handle.