Advertising is expensive. First, there is the cost of the ad itself, which can run several hundred grand in top national media. Second, there is the cost of staying in the public eye. Even a full-page ad or minute-long TV spot is unlikely to generate much interest unless it is run numerous times in the same media outlet -- thus multiplying the cost of the ad. Third, to increase the odds of getting noticed by a target market, the ad needs to appear simultaneously, in multiple media outlets.
Cha-ching! It all adds up to a lot of cash.
In addition, chances are that you most need to advertise when you have the least amount of business, which also happens to be when you have the least amount of funds available to advertise. Been there, done that? Fortunately there are two alternatives to advertising: getting published and getting featured in media.
Get Published in Media
If you are a business owner, chances are that you are more or less of an expert in your field. If you run an organic vegan restaurant, for example, it is likely that can guide people on eating nutrient-dense foods and that you can share a fab recipe or twelve. Similarly, if you are a business coach, it is likely that you can guide entrepreneurs in establishing a rock-solid business infrastructure and that you can teach effective sales strategies.
So approach the appropriate media outlets about writing articles for them on topic. If you are an expert in nutrition, approach the foodie magazines. If you are an expert in business, approach the business magazines. In addition, no matter what your area of expertise, approach your local newspapers and magazines. Community newspapers, for example, are always more apt to take a chance on new writers than are mainstream national ones.
If you have never published before, consider blogging to establish your voice and writing chops. In addition, start with the smaller outlets, then step-ladder your way up to the bigger ones. Create a media page on your website, and feature each of your clips as they are published. In addition, be sure to include your latest and greatest publishing accomplishments in your professional bio, which will be featured in each of your published articles.
Get Featured in Media
The difference between advertising and being featured in media is that in the former case, anyone with some cash can do it, and in the latter case, you need to attract editors and producers. Shooting off a press release about your business services or accomplishments is a total snooze, no matter how cool your business may be. Creating a community event, however, is another story altogether -- or rather, is a story, period.
I'm going to be blunt: No editor or producer cares that you are a massage therapist, no matter how phenomenal a massage therapist you may be. If, however, you are a massage therapist offering free oncology massages to low income women with breast cancer, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month; if you are partnering with the oncology clinic of a local hospital to offer these massages; and if you have a local oncologist or gynecologist sharing breast cancer prevention and early detection tips for women, as the kickoff to an afternoon of free massage, you have a media story.
Here is another scenario of piling on news hooks, using the organic vegan restaurant example: First, choose a holiday. Editors and producers are always on the lookout for fresh angles on holiday stories. Second, create an original recipe for that holiday, and give it a funky name. Editors and producers love to eat and are always on the lookout for new dishes in their town, plus a funky name helps get their attention. Third, teach a cooking class the week before the holiday, demonstrating how to make this new dish. Then you not only have a new dish, but you have a community event. Fourth, offer a discount for those ordering the dish on the holiday. This perk will score you another holiday festivity point.
Not too long ago, I actually worked with an organic vegan restaurant owner seeking media attention, and I guided her through these four exact steps. As a result, she got coverage by every mainstream media outlet in town -- ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, the daily paper, the weekly paper, and the two local magazines. The formula works, and it can be applied to any situation. It just requires stepping outside the mindset of what you want (media) and stepping into the mindset of what the media wants (awesome stories) and what the community wants (educational and entertaining events).
More important than keeping advertising costs down, getting published and getting featured in media gives you the endorsement of the press, which in turn raises your credentials and serves as a foothold for building your platform. In addition, once you are featured in a top media outlet, you get to have that top media outlet listed in your bio for the rest of your life.
And that is priceless.