Be Your Own Public Relations (Part 1)

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Howard Scott |

Ingenuity, community involvement, and make ’em laugh

PEMBROKE, Mass. — Companies hire public relations (PR) companies to obtain publicity, to build community goodwill.

Fees easily run in the thousands of dollars, even for solo-employee firms. Certainly, that is more than you want to spend.

But, with a little ingenuity, you could be your own PR agency. And nary would any money flow out of your coffers.

Yes, it is another hat you would wear, but the derived benefits in terms of greater recognition could be well worth the effort.

PR POWER

It is information offered to the public which gets your name out there. Done repeatedly, your company identity becomes well-known. Done really effectively, you’ll become the brand, as Kleenex® is the name generally used for tissue.

When someone moves into town, and asks about good dry cleaners, your name will pop up first.

When an occasional user needs to use a dry cleaner, they will think of you.

When a disgruntled customer of another dry cleaner becomes fed up and decides to try someone else, they will select you as their cleaner.

When someone decides to go to work for a dry cleaner, they will approach you first.

When a supplier wants to offer a deal to the leading dry cleaner in a market, they will come to you.

Name recognition counts.

PR TOOLS

The first tool is local newspapers, be they daily or weekly.

Although newspaper subscriptions are down, it is still one of the best ways to connect to the consumer.

Newspapers have to fill pages — five or 50, day after day. It is always a challenge to fill the newspaper with news that balances roughly 50/50 with ads. When a newspaper has excess ads, they will expand the number of pages.

With this expansion, the newspaper needs more new stories. The kingpin of this nexus is the reporter(s). Reporters fill the pages with news. And at many papers, the reporter is also the photographer.

The key for you is to befriend a reporter. Get to know her or his needs. Offer to meet a reporter for coffee. Read up and become familiar with their newspaper. Note the types of articles they publish.

One good way to establish a personal relationship with a reporter is to provide a finished story about your dry cleaner along with a photograph. Perhaps you are celebrating your fifth anniversary. Write up a piece describing your first five years. Be positive. Have some human interest.

For example, you opened the business the day your wife gave birth to your first child. So whenever you celebrate your son’s birthday, you know it’s the business’ birthday.

Or you were always called a fussy perfectionist, even as a kid, and that’s exactly why your business has grown 35% a year — because you are so focused on getting clothes cleaned and so committed to making your operation the best it can be.

Or you work closely with your staffers, and you’ve made them into excellent employees by constantly preaching the gospel of work.

All these scenarios are hooks, which gives the stories vital human interest.

For the photograph, have your staff stand in front of the store, centered around the company truck.

If you use the birth of your child as part of the story, have a baby picture in hand, or your son or daughter on your shoulders.

If you use the story about great staffers, have these staffers wear crowns. This connects the photo to the story.

E-mail this story and photo to the reporter. Grant the reporter permission to change the wording any way they want, or to make any changes that will improve the story. Also, grant the flexibility of publishing.

This makes the reporter’s life easy. There is an edited story to pop in whenever there is space to fill.

When the story is published, send a note of thanks. From now on, you can send stories or ideas, not too often, but maybe a small story three times a year.

Subjects might include:

  • That you purchased an environmentally friendly cleaning machine that uses an alternative to perc.
  • How your route man arrived just in time to take a customer to the hospital to have her baby.
  • Why your customer, a mother of 10 and grandmother of 28, has been named your “Unsung Hero,” with her picture hanging on your wall.
  • That three staffers went to New York to take a course on environmental dry cleaning.
  • Why you ran a silly-job-title contest for all the drycleaning staffers.

This steady stream of human-interest material will be excellent PR.

Readers will come to expect when they see your cleaner’s name related to something a little out of the ordinary, something that celebrates humanity, hopefully with grace and humor.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.

About the author

Howard Scott

Industry Writer and Drycleaning Consultant

Howard Scott is a former business owner, longtime industry writer and drycleaning consultant. He welcomes questions and comments and can be reached by writing Howard Scott, Dancing Hill, Pembroke, MA 02359; by calling 781-293-9027; or via e-mail at dancinghill@gmail.com.

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