Free Publicity Secrets

Free Publicity Secrets

It really isn't that hard to get plenty of free publicity. The real secret is understanding how the media thinks, and finding ways to provide what they're looking for.

You may know my now-famous publicity story. I really sold the Brooklyn Bridge. And people from around the world lined up to buy a piece of it. You can read the whole story at

It's been close to 20 years and people still remember that story. Not because I was a great person, or because I had done some wonderfully noble thing. It became news because it was worth listening to. People wanted to know who that guy was who was selling the Brooklyn Bridge. Reporters showed up from around the world to talk to me.

That's the power of publicity!

With a little imagination, you can get them to line up to talk to you, as well. Actually, you'll need a bit more than a little imagination. You'll have to understand how the media works.

The media balances precariously between two sides of a fence. On one side they're saddled with the responsibility of coming up with stories that will develop loyal listeners and readers.

On the other side of that fence, the media is busy selling advertising. They want to offer you a ride that exposes your message to their listeners or readers. For a fee, they'll let you advertise your message right up there where millions are bound to see it.

The problem most would be-promoters have is that they don't know how to differentiate between the two. They lose track of that thin line between advertising and news. They let their ego and sales pitches get in the way of possible news stories.

A friend of mine used to be an editor for a major Southern California magazine. He jokes about the large percentage of press releases he got that obviously had missed this point altogether - releases with headlines like,

"Tom Smith Promoted to Sales Manager for Arco Industries".

To put it bluntly, who cares? Tom, his mother, children and wife might, but a newspaper can hardly stay in business selling 4 copies.

My friend would hand these releases over to the advertising department who would call Tom Smith and probably sell him an ad by explaining how great it would look to the world if Tom Smith's picture was on the corner of a full page ad for Arco Industries.

If you can find ways to offer the newsroom something to write about, you're well on your way to sitting safely on the right side of that fence. If talk show hosts can see the value of having you tell your story, you'll be a valued guest anywhere you go. And you'd get all that great advertising for free.

Here are a few ideas that will help you make your stories newsworthy:

  1. Associate yourself with a worthwhile cause. Host the walkathon for disadvantaged children (promoting it as the "Jones Auto Shop walkathon for disadvantaged children". You'll qualify for Public Service Announcements (PSA's). They're the free advertising all media is required to give to charitable organizations.

  2. Do something outrageous or incredible. My Brooklyn Bridge publicity stunt qualifies as one of these. Everybody wanted a piece of the bridge. It was outrageous.

    How about making the worlds largest teddy bear? Or for that matter, doing anything that qualifies for Guinness' Book of World Records or Ripley's Believe it or Not. These are neat stories that make people stop and take notice - stories like the ones Marty Weiser dreamed up.

    Marty was a press agent hired to help promote the premier of the movie "Blazing Saddles". If you remember, it was a spoof on real westerns. Weiser had to come up with a way to make the world notice the movie was on its way. He had to create news. He did it by staging a full out Hollywood Movie premier for horses.

    He ran an ad in the L.A. Times inviting horses (and their friends) to a drive in theater where the movie would be shown before it hit the theaters. Weiser later admitted he was so nervous about having the stunt turn out to be a flop that he went around the area putting posters on trees and benches. The press loved it. And so did the locals. More than 250 horseback riding Los Angelinos came up to the drive in (that was carefully picked out because of it's proximity to several larger stables). It made national news and all 7 larger Los Angeles stations had crews out there to cover it. Just because it was outrageous.

  3. Demonstrate an Altruistic Motivation. We all love people who do things for the right reasons.

    Most of us aren't too impressed when we read about someone who fought their way up to their first million. But there's a guy in Tucson, AZ who owns a lumber yard. The front of his business is fenced in by a tall chain link fence.

    Several years ago he officially announced that he was going to open his gate at night so the local homeless people would be able to sleep under the overhang in front of his business. A bunch of them showed up, the neighbors complained, city council almost buckled under pressure from the "more fortunate" and the entire Southwestern United States came running in defense of a guy who cared for others.

    Articles appeared in larger papers where he was quoted as saying he had learned a long time ago that he didn't have to check up on those guys. Not only were they careful not to leave a mess, but if, by chance, he had forgotten to put something in place, he could always count on finding his parking lot carefully picked up and in order. As soon as the neighbors started complaining, the homeless officially announced that they would "sneak out of the area" as early as they could in the mornings, so as not to become an eyesore.

    It's one of those heartwarming stories we all love to hear. I'm sure he didn't do it to get publicity, which is precisely why he did.

  4. Become a Character. Matthew Lesko does that. He dresses in weird clothing and talks like a fool. And we all love to hear him. From his home in New York City, he's a favorite "fill in" on most of the national talk shows any time a guest fails to appear. And he's selling government grants! What could possibly be more boring? Nobody wants to hear about that stuff, not unless Matthew Lesko wants to tell us.

    Richard Simmons and Susan Powter found ways to make dieting and exercise exciting. If you can find ways to become a character, you've automatically found a way to sneak your shoe into the proverbial doorway of newsrooms around the country.

Of course, if you're planning to promote your business to the media, you must go to my web site at I show you the basics of writing a good press release and offer some advice on what you should and shouldn't do if you're looking to get noticed. If you really want to do it right, you must get my complete do-it-yourself course on how to get free publicity using press releases. You can find out about that at:

It's about stepping out of the box. No, actually, it's about jumping boldly out of the box in a way that'll make the world stop and take note. With a little imagination you can easily think of ways to become a news story that will have reporters knocking on your door.

Want to learn more about the enormous benefits of publicity and how they can help you? Just click on the links on the right side of this page.

Paul Hartunian, Box 43596, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043 - (973)857-4142

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