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    How do I get publicity for my store?

    Q: "How do I get publicity for my store?"

    A: " The key is making sure you know what a good story looks like to a reporter. I'm having an anniversary is not news. You moved is not news. But how you used new tools to reach your customer is news. Unless you have an angle before you pitch the media, it will probably fall on deaf ears.

    Here's how I got publicity for a client...

    I had done a business makeover for Mike Sheldrake with Polly's Gourmet Coffee in Long Beach. If you've seen me live, you know I tell that story a lot. Well, we had great success, business went up 50% the first year, 40% over the next.

    I got a story in the local, what we would call the free rags, the ones that you get for free at coffee houses. We then got a story in the local newspaper. By then I wanted to get the word out and I realized that this could be the one that makes my business. I just called up the New York Times in the middle of July and I said, "Would you be interested in a story about how the little guy beats the big guy?" And they said, "We would." And we talked.

    And in July of 1999, they sent out Joel Kotkin, who is now a fellow and an economics professor and a great writer. After he interviewed me, it was many months and I didn't hear him back. I was speaking in Manhattan exactly 19 years ago. I went downstairs from the hotel, grabbed a New York Times. I flipped it over and there's a picture of me and Mike and on the inside is this story, "Helping The Little Guy Fight The Big Guy." And this is the story that made my business. Mind you, this was the top of the business page on a Sunday publication.

    In fact, in the actual clipping, which I couldn't find for you today, it says, "The Category Killer Killer." And that was me. And it was talking about how I had done this job and it made me feel great. But I wanted to you to think about that today. First off, I just want to share with you that that was an amazing time but there's a lot of risks involved. I had self-doubt about how to proceed. Should I email or call? Will someone just notice me or blow me off? And I just said, "Screw it, I'm just going to do this." And I called them and look what ended up happening.

    I'm sure there are many of you, "I don't want to put myself out there. I don't want them to twist my words." I can tell you on the other side of that is an awful lot of opportunity, an awful lot of the release of really great hope. 

    So many of you don't do anything with your PR. You don't really toot your own horn. You just expect people are going to find you and it doesn't work that way. Look, I am a retail expert, you've seen me in the last six or eight months. I've been in an awful lot of publications and websites and media because they want to hear what I have to say. Make no mistake that doesn't just happen, I have to actively go out and do that but it's so easy. The media are a content factory they have to manage. Do you get that? They need stories.

    So if you're not willing to come up and say, "Hey, we're doing this new thing with Facebook." "Hey, we're finding a new way to use technology to communicate with our customers." "Hey, we're offering this new service." "Hi, we're using online retail sales training to do a better job of attracting new customers and competing against online retailers." When you don't provide that to your local papers then what they're going to default to is retail apocalypse and whoever is closing stores and probably another story about Sears. Remember Sears and Sears and Sears, and then, of course, it piggybacks onto an Amazon and Amazon and Amazon.

    You can control the dialogue but you're still holding back. You're like, "Oh, I don't want to really share what my sales might be or my increases. I've got to be afraid."

    And the problem with that is that media are looking for content. They don't know you're there, you don't get your name out there and then some writer talks about how bad brick and mortar is.

    That's how the retail apocalypse was last year because no one was controlling the dialogue. None of you guys are out there like, "Hey, we're doing great." Or, "Hey, we're trying these new things." Or, "We're adding a new building due to increased demand." "Or, We've bought another competitor and we're going to join forces and this is what we're going to do."

    You don't tell these hopeful stories. So what do they default to?

    See also, How to Attract Customers and Increase Your Store Foot Traffic

    They can find the story of another hardware store, 100 years old. The family tried but they couldn't compete with Amazon and the hard luck story writes itself. I hope that little bit of a rant gets you to thinking because ultimately, you are about as successful as you are determined to be successful.

    And on this day when I can look back at that and think, wow, I can't imagine I did that. I just called up. I don't know if I could do that again the New York Times. But I have other stories about I pitch to the media regularly. 

    3 steps how to get publicity:

    1. Have a story
    2. Have something newsworthy that you're doing based on your success and your customers.
    3. Pitch it to you local media with one simple hook that begins, "Would you be interested in how..."


    If at first you don't succeed, keep at it because you too may end hitting it big publicizing your store, attracting customers and selling more. But you have to start...

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