Boost Your Local Marketing With Traditional Media

Bill Sklodowski | April 2017


When it comes to marketing your local professional practice or business, you may feel like you’ve stepped on to the “social media hamster wheel.” Always the same thing, day after day. Posting, commenting, liking, sharing. Posting, commenting, liking, sharing. Here’s my question: Is all that spinning doing anything for you? Is there any R.O.I. (Return On Investment) for your efforts? Maybe it’s time to give an old idea a new look.

When I worked as a radio “street reporter” in Phoenix, one of my regular assignments was the “man on the street” interview. (Of course nowadays that would be “person on the street,” but this was a long time ago.) There I was, in dress shirt, slacks and office-worthy shoes, out on the blistering streets of Phoenix, talking to others unlucky enough to be out in the midday sun. You have not experienced hot and uncomfortable until you’ve stood on the downtown streets of Phoenix in July, in full-business attire. Ouch!

The idea behind the “man on the street” story is simple: Something big is brewing in Washington, or some other world capital. New laws, taxes, conflicts, etc. Something that could affect the entire country, including my little corner. So out to the streets I go, interviewing people to get the local reaction to the story. It’s a great way to add local flavor to a story that might otherwise have been pretty dull to my Arizona audience.

Introducing the “S.M.E.” … Subject Matter Expert

When I needed a more “expert” opinion, I would often seek out local SME’s. What’s an SME? Subject Matter Expert. Fancy term, eh? Depending on the main subject of the story, we sought out people who could add to the story with insight, expertise and local perspective. Sometimes these were community leaders and politicians, but more often they were local business people and professionals who had some expertise in the subject matter.

How did I find these experts? Well, back in those days, I had something called a phone book. You might remember it. I also had a Rolodex. (Bringing back more memories? Maybe not… Depends on your age.) I kept a running list of people I’d interviewed in the past, people I knew from networking, etc. Medical expert? Got one. Legal question? I know an attorney… Business development issue? No problem…

Not surprisingly, these experts wanted to be my local SME. Being on the radio generated good free publicity for themselves and their business. Lots of it. Media exposure that would have cost hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars to buy through traditional advertising.

Reporters today have it easier. Thanks to the internet, finding an expert on any subject is a simple Google search away. Any reporter in any small town in America can reach out to anyone, anywhere. But here’s the important fact: a local expert is still the preferred interview source… the SME.

Why? Local experts bring a lot of “positives” to radio and TV stations in their area. Being local, they’re more “relatable” to local listeners and viewers. If I see or hear my doctor, attorney, chiropractor or accountant being interviewed, I will absolutely stop and pay attention, compared to some unknown expert from somewhere I don’t care about. Also, when the local expert is interviewed, reporters know that expert will certainly spread the word about his local media appearance – and that helps a radio or TV station’s ratings – always a good thing!

Be the Local SME For Your Business Niche

If you have a local professional practice, or you own a local business, you can take advantage of this need for “local experts” and SME’s. Marketing and advertising today is so, so very crowded and noisy. You already know that. Everyone and their cat is on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The constant barrage of in-your-face (and ears) marketing is crazy. Yet I believe local professionals and business owners can cut through that noise and generate some good – and free – publicity by positioning themselves as an SME to local radio and TV stations, as well as print media (newspapers, magazines, etc.)

Everything (Media) Old Is New Again…

When it comes to marketing and branding, we’re seeing a rebound in what had been “old school” methods. In this case, old-school could mean only a few years ago… in the digital age, even marketing and advertising moves at warp speeds. With the huge popularity of email and other forms of online advertising, the simple, colorful postcard – yes, delivered by the U.S. Postal Service – is making a comeback. Why? Not long ago, everyone believed mail-delivered ads were dead and gone for good. Now when you get a postcard, you notice it, don’t you? Yup, everything old is new again (eventually).

I’m sure radio and TV station owners would not like the idea of their businesses being considered “old-school.” Yet whatever the name, a lot of marketers are shunning those “old” forms of advertising and marketing. And honestly, I’m not recommending anyone spend marketing dollars on radio or TV ads. Why bother, when you can get valuable free coverage instead?

Here’s a good place to start: Create your SME “resume” to spread around to local media outlets. Pull out a piece of paper, or your favorite digital note-taking gizmo and brainstorm some answers to the following:

  1. What is my “niche?” What’s the specialty that I help people with every day?
  2. What are the FAQ’s – Frequently Asked Questions – that I get in my business / practise all the time? How can I turn those questions (and answers) into something “story-worthy” for local media?
  3. BIG: What type of news events or happenings might lead to questions or issues that I could answer, or amplify with my knowledge and expertise? (Example: You’re a local CPA or tax preparer, and April 15 is fast approaching. What are the biggest deductions your local clients forget about / miss out on every year?)
  4. Do a little local media research. Create a list of local radio and TV stations, as well as newspapers and magazines. Extra credit: Call those outlets to get contact information for news department assignment editors, talk show producers, special-interest reporters, etc.
  5. Bonus Idea: Reach out to those people now – before a big story comes along. Ask if you can share your SME resume now, “just in case” they should need to talk to someone with your specialized knowledge.

Yes, online social media platforms are a very powerful way to market any business or practice – including yours. Your business or practice definitely needs an online presence. Yet despite the online competition, local media outlets are still very viable, powerful ways to spread the word about your local professional practice or business. Their local audience is your audience. Cultivate and grow that audience – and your business – by creating helpful, win-win relationships with media outlets in your area.

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