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How to get media coverage

Question:

How can I get restaurant-related media coverage without spending a fortune on advertising? We are small, with two restaurant locations, but have just started franchising.

– Sam Ahmed, President, Mugs N Jugs Sports Bar & Grill

Answer:

There are many ways to receive “free” media coverage for your restaurant in local newspapers.

Support your local high school or college team. If you’re local sports team hits a coring level that you set, all fans who present a ticket stub get a free product. During each sports season, set attainable goals for the home team to achieve. For example, the offer is good when the basketball team scores 100 or more points or when the baseball team wins a game by three runs or more. This can be done successfully for any local popular sport. Let the local papers come and see the “home team” advantage. It will generate traffic and increase awareness with the surrounding teams. 

Another frequently overlooked and even more frequently misunderstood opportunity is free publicity for an event or promotion. Charity promotions and benefits will get you noticed.  If you cannot afford a public relations agency, you can become your own. Call your local newspaper or radio station. Tell them what you think is newsworthy. If the newspaper or radio station agrees, it will help you out.  Study your local press to see what areas it is most interested in.  If you live in a military town, consider special events for military families that the media might cover. If you have an employee with an unusual story, call the local papers to tip them off, and invite the reporters to come to your location for the interview.  When the photographer shows up, make sure that you or your employees is sitting in front of a big sign for your business.

Look around your entire business and try to find reasons that the public would like to know about something you or members of your staff have done. People stories are the bread and butter of local newspapers, radio and television.

To generate awareness of your franchise model to potential investors or franchisee—you may want to attend both State and National Restaurant shows. For the fee of a booth, you can reach hundreds of potential clients. International Franchise Association, Restaurant Leadership Conference, National Restaurant Association, just to name a few. The exposure is amazing.

Direct mailing is also another great and inexpensive way to reach potential investors or franchisees. If you are marketing to high-end customers, you can obtain lists of owners of large parcels of real estate from your county deeds office. There are many services online that maintain corporate records that you can sort by state and zip code. Join your Chamber of Commerce and you’ll automatically get access to its mailing list.  Membership can cost as little as $150. Check out trade associations. Search under “List Brokers” and “Mailing Services” to see what they have to offer that’s within your budget. Your community newspapers and magazines also make their lists available for a fee.  Make sure you know your target market as not to waste time and funds

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