(MoneyWatch) Is there such a thing as free publicity? My Dad used to say, "The sun comes up, and the sun goes down, and nothing else is free." In other words, there is a price to be paid for media coverage -- you need to work on being newsworthy.
The next time you are brainstorming ways to create publicity for your product or service, try this checklist of 12 proven news "hooks":
The publicity stunt. Gimmicks still work wonders. For the best results, try to tie in a visual symbol, such as a child or an animal. For instance, Allie's Restaurants had a salad eating contest for charity, pitting an elephant against a team of college frat boys recruited by a local radio station (Elephants eat 150 pounds a day, so it was the pachyderms in a rout.)
- The essay contest. How can you get publicity in 50 words or less? Ask for essays and offer a unique prize. For example, Quick Chek convenience stores garnered publicity with its hockey-themed "Devils Night Out" essay contest, which was tied to a trip to go see the New Jersey Devils play.
- The survey. Use numbers to capture interest. The media love to report numbers, so pick a provocative topic that relates to your positioning and commission a publicity-generating survey. For example, if you like steamy sex conversations over dinner, you're probably single, according to a survey of 300 adults by Sfuzzi restaurants.
- The trend. The media love to report on trends, and they can use all the trend watchers they can get. Wawa convenience stores won media attention with its trend stories about the 133 million Americans who eat outside the home daily and their need for family-sized dinner deals on the commute home.
- The charity. Hitching your publicity wagon to a worthy cause lets you give back to the community that supports you. For example, Wilson Farms convenience stores supported the Variety Kids Telethon by tying in March bread sales, and also backed community hospices by selling paper sunflowers.
- The title sponsor. Tying your name to an event that will get coverage can also get you coverage. For instance, automaker Suzuki used this method to sponsor the first Suzuki Rock'n'Roll Marathon.
- The celebrity. Connecting your brand with a celebrity is a proven way to boost visibility by association. Anthony Pezzo understood that when he linked his Brooklyn car wash with former New York Knicks basketball star Charles Oakley.
- The seasonal. You don't need psychic powers to predict the news. Certain seasonal stories appear with regularity. January is fitness, February is romance, March is college basketball's March Madness, May is moms, June is dads and grads, September is back to school and so on. Station Stores tied the holiday season in with its publicity on sponsorship of a local Parade of Lights.
- The anniversary. Another predictable aspect of media coverage is the anniversary story. Major news events are re-examined one, five, 10, 20, and 25 years later. Create something that ties to the anniversary and spread the word.
- The book. Publishing a book is a great way to open up publicity opportunities. For instance, CEOs from Jack Welch to Bill Gates have garnered publicity by publishing business advice books.
- The scam. This is a special type of advice hook that warns consumers about cons, rip-offs, and pitfalls. When bad news broke about local identify thieves, Wesco convenience stores warned consumers about the risks of credit card fraud, especially at the gas pump.
- The analysis. Borrow some numbers to analyze that relate to your company's market positioning.
Want more? I will cover 15 more proven publicity hooks in an upcoming post.