When a colleague first suggested that I could use traditional media outlets as a way to market my new small business and myself as an expert in my field, I was doubtful. In my mind, traditional media was for big-time newsmakers and household names. Besides, access to traditional media seemed unattainable, remote and maybe even downright impossible.

What I learned was that there are open doors to communicating with media, and simple yet effective ways to let them know about your small business and what you have to offer as an expert.

Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

HARO is a service meant to connect media professionals doing research on a story with the people, like you, who can provide field-specific information on their topic.

They come from newspapers, magazines, TV shows and online publications to ask questions about health, finance, relationships, entertainment and more. Their queries are collected into an easy-to-read digest and published via email up to three times a day.

It is free to register as a “source” for HARO, and easy to reply to individual, relevant queries you might find in the email digest. The HARO philosophy is that “Everyone’s an expert at something,” and I have fought past my own doubts and insecurities to discover that is true. Responses I’ve sent to HARO queries have developed into valuable media relationships and positive experiences for me and my brand.

Your Local Newspaper’s Website

Most newspapers now have online versions of their content, and may in some cases offer even more coverage online for local happenings. Take a quick tour of your local newspaper’s website, and look for links to community news and opportunities to call in or email news of your own.

Of course, you must have news to share. Consider partnering with a local school or charity for a fundraiser; offer a free class to the community; or sponsor a special event at your location. Think of something creative you can do within your circle of influence and then package it in a way that makes an interesting story.

Write and Distribute Your Own Press Release

This may be perhaps the most complicated of the suggestions here –- and the one which might require a financial investment -– but writing and distributing your own press release can be a valuable resource for connecting with traditional media.

First, writing and distributing a press release is based on the same prerequisite for contacting your newspaper: you need to have something to say. Is your small business catering to an under-served segment of your community? Have you overcome great obstacles or an unlikely background to start your small business? Are you doing something unique within your community, or partnering with another local organization for social good? Develop an angle that is compelling, and then prepare to share the news.

There are many resources online for helping you write and distribute a press release. You’ll have to study your options and decide on the best course of action. And remember, there is no guarantee your press release will motivate a traditional media outlet to pick up the story and contact you for more information, but they won’t know your story unless you tell it to them.

If you are a member of the Bonfire Community, download our How to Write a Press Release guide in the Small Business Library.

It’s been a pleasant surprise to me how accessible traditional media can be to the small business owner. I’ve had great opportunities to tell my story and connect with a previously untapped client base, just through appearances and mentions in different media outlets. What I’ve learned is that with a bit of time, research and creativity, any small business owner can use traditional media to help build their brand.

Image credit: a_kartha

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