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Know your media people

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Without media coverage, a great promotion or milestone in your business may go largely unnoticed. Those of us who understand the importance of media shake our heads and smirks slightly at a photo opportunity or promotion gone not exactly bad, just gone. The guidelines for good media relationships are tried, true, and easy.

The working press is much like your mother-in-law- you’re technically on the same team, but unless you treat her with respect, you’ll get nowhere fast. In small cities with single news publications it’s not so critical, since the newspapers are generally starving for news.

No matter your business or how important (you think) your news is, your coverage is related directly to how well you treat the reporter. (Unless of course, they are out to crucify your business for some reason… and then, oddly enough, the premise works conversely!) Remember that there are many local stories out there, all waiting to be printed.

The following suggestions are tried and true, and everyone knows them. Sometimes, however, it’s nice to dust them off a bit.

* Use the personal touch. If you cannot personally recognize the reporters that have given you coverage in the past, wake up!

* Don’t need something every time you contact the media.

* Be sensitive to the format each reporter prefers. Some reporters like stories already written, some just the facts. Some want it all e-mail, while others prefer faxes. Yes, it’s more work to learn this. Yes, it will pay off.

In small towns, radio and television coverage can be personal and immensely powerful. If you are lucky enough to be in a small city with a local radio and/or TV station, the audiences should love you—if you’ve been working at it. You should have a close relationship with everyone who works there. The reporters should include your news in their broadcasts, and the sales representatives should cut you a deal on advertising.

Remember that there is always something you can do for the media. Teach a class or them, provide a meeting area, absorb a printing cost, or climb aboard the sponsorship wagon of their favorite charity, especially when it’s sweeps time. Think ahead so that you start to generate “good will.” You will collect on it later.

None of this information is rocket science. However, we have found that those who scoff at it as too juvenile have lousy track records with publicity, commercial awareness, or lack of brand recognition. And those marketing professionals who still practice what they preach manage to come out on top of the heap time and time again. Small Business Success

Like so many entrepreneurs with big dreams, Encinitas resident and veteran travel professional Dawne Andrews wanted to establish her own brand new company with her own very specific market and objectives.

She envisioned an all-women company that was focused exclusively on women travelers; those who wanted the opportunity to take a trip and be themselves, build new friendships and renew old ones, challenge themselves mentally and physically, live their dreams and rediscover the diverse flavors and cultures of the world around them.

Supported by family, friends and colleagues, and fiercely determined to succeed, Andrews admits now that nothing could have stood in the way of launching her dream enterprise, Woman’s World Travel. But after a solid year of planning and just recently getting the promising business off the ground, she is quick to give some of the credit to the national non-profit organization SCORE, which provides assistance to small businesses in the form of resources and counseling.

Andrews found out about SCORE while conducting research for her business plan.

“I read a great deal about SCORE while doing research and since I was new to starting a business, I wanted to seek out the advice, experience and assistance of people who had already been in my shoes,” Andrews explained. “Everyone at SCORE has vast business experience starting and running their own companies, and they have a wealth of knowledge. They know the steps to take and I knew they would give me honest answers to my questions.”

Andrews visited SCORE’s downtown San Diego chapter office and met with several different counselors at SCORE’s North County Entrepreneurial Center located in the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce offices. SCORE counselors Joe Phillips and Willeen Hasler helped her initially draft and refine her business plan, and Paul Hollenbach was instrumental in her obtaining an SBA loan for the business. Providing encouragement and support, he accompanied her on appointments with bank loan officers and also provided valuable marketing assistance and web site consultation. Andrews believes SCORE’s personalized counseling, which is free and unlimited, proved invaluable in financing and launching the business.

“I couldn’t begin to put a price on it,” she said. “Without the counselors’ help and their recommendations, I would have been ill-prepared to meet with any lenders.”

Now that Woman’s World Travel is off and running, with trip bookings already exceeding her projections and expectations, Andrews looks back on her experience with SCORE and reflects upon the important lessons she has learned from the organization’s experienced professionals. The most valuable lesson, she says, is the need for sufficient capital.

“Their advice is to make sure you have enough money and your cash flow is healthy,” Andrews said. “Start-up businesses often feel awkward asking the bank for larger sums of money, thinking that if they ask for a smaller amount, they are more likely to get the loan. Paul encouraged me to go over my financial information time and time again to make sure I was asking for enough money to fund the company so that it would be sufficiently capitalized.”

And now that Andrews has been through the process of establishing a new business and utilized SCORE’s resources for her own benefit, she feels she can offer some friendly advice to others who may be considering starting their own venture.

“First of all, believe in yourself and start a business doing something that you love,” she said. “Take your time, write a business plan, get all of your thoughts and ideas on paper and don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice.”

And the best source of that advice and guidance is from experienced business men and women who have weathered the inevitable storms of business ownership and achieved success in their respective fields of expertise.

“SCORE is a remarkable group of men and women who give their time freely and who have your best interests at heart,” Andrews said. “They want you to succeed and will do everything they can to help you. I would encourage anyone who is considering starting their own business to get in touch with SCORE.”

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