Tips for Getting Free Publicity for Your Shop or Business

A few ideas for generating news coverage that brings traffic to your store or show table.

Advertising is expensive. Often worthwhile, but expensive. No matter if it’s a small newspaper ad, a radio spot or :30 commercial on your local cable company, paying for attention is a prerequisite for generating interest in what you have to sell.

Store owners or serious sports card and memorabilia dealers want to stand out from the crowd, perhaps entice new customers to become regulars and keep their business–and their bottom line– growing.

There are, however, ways to generate publicity for your business that don’t involve an advertising budget. The easiest and most effective way to get a wide audience to sample what you’re offering is to generate some media attention through a story in the newspaper, a visit with your local radio station or even an interview on your nearest television station(s).

But just calling them up and telling them to come and do a story on your business isn’t the way to do it. Hundreds or thousands of people have businesses, many of them just as unique as yours. The editor or reporter will see you’re simply looking for free publicity and likely turn you back over to their sales departments.

What the media wants is something relevant. Something that’s newsworthy. Determining how that can involve you…and executing a plan to convince them to take the key.

Keep in mind that a news outlet’s basic function Their business is telling readers, listeners or viewers what’s going on in the world. Your world as a sports card shop or dealer is part of that but many dealers don’t realize it.

The best way to invite them to talk to you is to sell yourself as an expert. You know the business inside and out. You’re accessible, affable, willing to do an interview and ready to become the source for their story.

So what’s the story? The best way to answer that is to be aware of the stories you’re hearing about on the news. Are you in an area where the NFL is popular? As the opening game approaches, the media in NFL cities are desperate for fresh angles. They’ve heard the starting quarterback and coach talk about the year ahead ad nauseum. Pitch them a story about how collectors are flocking to your shop in anticipation of investing in the 2006 rookie of the year. Some collectors believe it’ll be Reggie Bush and are buying his cards en masse. Others have A.J. Hawk in mind. Still others believe it’s a player no one’s talking about.

Tiger Woods’ hot streak offers another possibility if you carry golf products. Monday is typically a slow news day. If your Tiger rookie cards or memorabilia is selling well or if it’s gone up in price since his roll, you might consider a quick e-mail to your local sports director telling him so. It will make for a great ‘local angle’ on a national story–something news managers love.

Pitch the story in a short press release or letter, addressed to the assignment desk or news director. Be armed with the statistics you may have on box or pack sales, increases in your sales from July to August, etc. The more impressive you sound, the better your chances of success. Unusual or funny stories that go along with the memorabilia are also of interest to the mainstream press. If you’re contacting them in regard to a story that isn’t likely to be of interest for more than a day, however, remember that media outlets have daily deadlines. A brief phone call, e-mail or fax, then, is the best way to proceed. Start by simply saying "if you’re looking for a different angle on the ___ story, I may have something for you." Then offer up just a sentence or two about what you can add to their coverage. One outlet may turn you down, but don’t be discouraged. Try another. If none are interested, be polite and try again the next time but don’t be a weekly pest.

The fact that some dealers trade with others across the country to stock up on local players is another angle. It’s sort of ‘old fashioned trading’ kicked up a notch. The recent story about phony Brett Favre autographs sold in Wisconsin should have spurred dealers across the region who know how to spot fakes and deal in the real thing, to offer their knowledge.

Certain events or anniversaries provide interesting sidebars for media looking for different angles in order to set themselves apart from the competition and give their newscasts or papers a different look. We have the expertise to share their relevance. Some examples:

*World Series/Series items you may have for sale

*Opening of hockey season/unusual hockey items

*Super Bowl/Super Bowl memorabilia

Topical stories such as Barry Bonds can provide an angle as well. Love him or not, Bonds is a story. If you can share your expertise on Bonds memorabilia, it gives reporters another route on this ongoing story.

People seem to be spending more money than ever on sports collectibles. Business editors led to believe the hobby is dying may find it interesting that your store is actually flourishing and why. Again, be prepared to back it up with accurate, true facts. The worst thing you can do is lie or pad the truth. If you’re caught, no one in the media will trust you again and you’ll lose your status as the local collectibles expert.

If you’re in tune with the top sports stories of the day, and are quick to respond by offering yourself and your business to the media, you may find yourself in the spotlight. And that’s good for business.