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"I want the family farm - the backbone of our country's heritage - to thrive and survive for future generations."

Articles/Press Releases

How to Get Free Publicity

By Jane Eckert

How would you like to have some free publicity about your farm?

After attending the winter farm meetings, I realize that a great many of you are still not taking advantage of perhaps the biggest FREE opportunity to get new customers to come on to your farm. It’s literally free publicity – achieved by developing relations with your media so they will feature you in a news story or even come to your farm to feature your activities on television.

Some of the very best publicity you can get is when the media features your farm in the newspaper, or on a radio or TV program. The fact that the media is talking about you gives the whole story more credibility than if you had said the very same thing, and paid for it! Yet, so many of you are not taking advantage of this marketing strategy to grow your business- and frankly, I don’t understand why.

Eckert AgriMarketing PieIf you’ve been reading my articles the past few months, I have shown you the Eckert AgriMarketing Pie™.

I call this piece of the pie “Media Relations” because as you start a regular program of sending press releases to your local, regional and national media, you will eventually establish yourself as the “go to” person in your area for ag stories.

Several times, I’ve had farmers at my workshops tell me “the media always go to my competitor for feature stories about the farm. How do I get them to come to me, instead?”

I’m going to let you in on a big secret. The press is not trying to be unfair. It’s just that your competitor has already figured out the secret– they have invested the time and effort to regularly contact the media. They have built up a relationship such that the media knows that they are always ready to help find a new and interesting way to look at the farm experience. When news is slow, or its time for a special fall feature, the papers and TV stations know that this is the farm that understands what media people are looking for in a story.

So how do you get to the top of that list of farms to call?

1.Develop a list of media.

Many Chambers of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureaus provide such a list to their members. Joining also lets you network with other businesses. Or you can build your own list. Do not limit yourself to the local paper, but consider media up to 100 miles away from your farm, and even some of the national publications, such as AAA and Family Fun.

2. Develop the hook.

The “hook” is a term used in journalism and marketing that refers to the special aspect of a story that catches people and makes them want to know more. Once you have your media list, send them a press release with a strong, interesting story.

You need to create a good visual picture with your headline and first paragraph. Make it sound fun. The fact that you are open for business is not a hook; find something new or create something new that will make the media want to know more. For example, add Braille signs to your corn maze, invite a civic club to help park cars in exchange for a percentage of the admission, or hold a photo contest with interesting prizes.

3. Don’t just do one press release.
Develop a regular schedule – send out at least 4 stories per year and 2 per major season. You may not be published the first time but the key to this is that you become a recognized sender – one day they will feature you.

4. When they do come onto the farm – be there with them the whole time.

Be a superb hostess or host. Give them free food – let them sample your pies, caramels apples, cider donuts or whatever you are making that’s in season now. Guide them to the most interesting activities. Give them and their equipment a wagon ride out to the field. Remember you want them to return – make the story easy for them. Think through what you want to show them. Give them something to take back to the newsroom to share, such as a jack-o-lantern or a bag of apples.

5. After the story send them a note.

I don’t like to call this a thank you note (it’s their job to do this). Instead, tell them that the story really captured what you were doing, or that the photo’s looked super. Let them know that if they ever need another ag story, you are certainly available.

6. Don’t quit.

Don’t quit, even if your story doesn’t get published the first time. It often takes repeated contacts to get your first story published.

7. Do you have to take out a paid ad in return for free publicity?

Technically NO, it’s not necessary, because the writers have nothing to do with the paid salespeople. However, I have seen that some small town newspapers might make this a requirement. Then it’s up to you. In larger communities, the media typically will never even ask that question.

8. Don’t let writing the release stop you.

There are plenty of books out there, including my book, “Fresh Grown Publicity,” that provide you ready made templates to simply drop in your information. Another alternative is to hire a local freelance public relations writer to help you. It would be money well spent.

Having your farm featured on the news (television, newspapers, magazines, etc) is a wonderful way to get the public motivated to visit your property. Best of all, getting good publicity costs only the price of a stamp to inform the media about good story ideas that would be of interest to their audiences. In one season, I figured that the news coverage we received for free was equivalent to $80,000 in advertising space!

You can do it too. Just get started now.

Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of www.RuralBounty.com, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.