Free advertising. Sound good? Great. That’s what publicity is.
Every time you are mentioned in a paper, book or magazine or appear on the radio or on TV, that promotion equals advertising for you and what you do.
Think about the value of buying a full-page ad in a newspaper. Depending on the circulation of a paper, the median cost for an interior, full-page, B&W ad may be worth anywhere from around $5,000 to $23,000. If you pitch a great story, which allows you to promote what you do, you may get a full-page article. That article acts like an ad promoting whatever you spoke about and it didn’t cost you anything but the time and effort it took to land the promotion.
Years ago I was on Good Morning Orlando, on the local Fox affiliate. They ran a piece about me in about six segments, adding up to over 14 minutes of screen time. That’s the same as 28 thirty-second commercials. What’s the value in that? Tens of thousands of dollars.
The trick to getting publicity is to find a story, or a hook, about what your subject and pitch that story without it sounding like you are just promoting yourself. I’ve done this a lot over the years. I’ve been on covers of national papers, on major networks, dozens or radio shows and more. The publicity has led to clients, deals and even a contract for one of my TV shows.
Years ago Kidscreen Magazine ran an article about my series Timmy’s Lessons In Nature. Joel Andryc, what was an executive at Fox Family at the time, saw the article and was intrigued by our character. He flew to Orlando and offered us a deal for the series.
You can do it too. I’ve outlined the steps to help you get more publicity.
11 Steps to Getting Free Publicity
1. What’s the story?
Look at what you’re doing and find a story around it that will be of interest to the viewers/listeners of the media you are targeting. Not every idea works for every media.
Example: Fox Networks’ Good Morning Orlando looks for great visuals about local events. I pitched a piece about a national animation I was producing locally for a large national project using motion capture technology.
2. Do you have a hook?
What’s the main element of your story that will catch their attention and the attention of their viewers/listeners.
The hook for the Fox pitch above was to suggest putting the reporter into the mocap suit, so he could animate a character live. That landed me 14 minutes of segments on Fox.
3. Include great art
Most media, except for radio, are visual mediums. They are always looking for great visuals, which they use to promote and fill their media.
What’s better than real-time animation and a guy in a crazy electronic outfit?
4. Write a great press release
Remember to focus on the story, not an obvious ad for you. Editors smell self-promotion a mile away and run from it. Look at relevant articles and copy their format. If you don’t feel comfortable writing a full press release, just write an outline with the most important elements and describe the art you have to go along with it.
When Elizabeth Taylor died, I remembered that my wife has a connection to her and we have unpublished photos of her. That was news and the hook was that my wife, a local Orlando entertainment business owner, had a connection to a movie icon. I didn’t need a full press release. I just offered the details and images and the local business paper picked it up and wrote the article.
5. Write an article
I have written well over 100 articles for newspapers and magazines. Regardless of what I write about, my byline promotes me and my businesses. You are also seen as an expert when your articles see print and everyone likes to work with popular experts.
You’re reading these articles I write, aren’t you?
6. Make personal calls/contact
You should make it your job to get to know the producers, editors and publishers of media you will want to be in. Introduce yourself. Write them letters telling them you are a local expert on some subject.
For the Elizabeth Taylor article I called my friend who is the managing editor at the Orlando Business Journal. It’s always easier to pitch to a friend.
7. Enlist help
Other people are likely to have media contacts that you don’t. Syndicates can also be a great help for getting your press release about your strip, or anything dealing with you or your strip, to thousands of papers.
I wrote up a release about Mason Mastroianni, Mick Mastroianni and their B.C. comic strip and how they over the writing and drawing the strip when Johnny Hart, their grandfather, passed away. I asked the creators' to help and they edited the release and sent it to thousands of papers I didn’t have a connection to.
8. Post on blogs
Become a member of blogs that deal with your subject and make contributions.
Make sure you post substantive info on blogs. If you only post obvious ads for yourself, people will ignore you. If you post great info, people will search out what you do and what you offer.
9. Post to online press companies
If you have a full press release, you can submit it along with relevant images to a number online press companies. Some offer limited exposure for little or no cost and greater exposure for larger payments.
www.PRweb.com  – Basic service is $80 per news release
www.PRleap.com  – Basic service is $49 per news release
www.PrNewsWire.com  - $129 and up per release
www.ArticlesSubmissionService.com  - $12 per article
www.PrLog.org  – Free
www.OpenPR.com  – Free
www.i-newswire.com  – Free
http://e-zinearticles.com  – Free
10. Be known as a local expert
When a news story hits, producers and editors try to find local experts to comment.
I have contacted local news producers about using me as their local animation expert. When Disney had to recall their home video release of The Rescuers because of inappropriate images designed into a few frames of the movie, three networks interviewed me on their newscasts. The interview promoted both me and my animation studio.
11. Follow up
Producers of morning shows and news programs are always rushing last minute. It’s easy for your idea to get pushed aside. If you are promoting an upcoming event, constant and nice reminders help.
I held a press event for a 3D stereoscopic shoot I was producing at Universal Studios. I started telling the news producers of it five days in advance. I reminded them a few times leading up to the event. I had also called our local representative, Steve Precourt, and he showed up. The morning of the event I called each network a couple of times and told them we had a local politician also attending. My constant follow-up landed us on two newscasts, including the six o’clock NBC News.
To learn about publicity, I hired a publicist to teach me and then I attended the National Publicity Summit (www.NationalPublicitySummit.com ) in NY.
A good publicist can help you with finding great stories, creating hooks and spreading your story. They will talk to you about the many things you do and try to tie what you do to a location, event, date or something that is current in the press.
Getting a lot of publicity does take work. You have to plan it properly, but the benefits are worth it.
So don’t just sit there…get started! I look forward to seeing in the press.
Mark Simon is a 25-year pro in the entertainment industry as a producer, director, writer and lecturer, with nearly 3,000 production credits. He has also landed over 25 deals for his own TV shows. His books include Storyboards: Motion In Art, Producing Independent 2D Character Animation and the Facial Expressions series of photo reference books. He also offers free TV Pitch Training online at www.Television-Training.com  .