Creative publicity Ideas for small businesses and startups

Most small businesses and startups don’t have a ton of new initiatives, products, and hiring to announce to news media outlets in order to keep them in the public eye.

Indeed, if you want to enjoy more than your allotted “15 minutes of fame” in hopes of keeping your brand top of mind, then you have to come up with clever ways to make everyday, run-of-the-mill business activities look new, fresh, even larger-than-life.

Most small businesses and startups can boost their awareness in the community with a few creative PR campaigns each year without breaking the bank. It’s as easy as taking a little time (perhaps over coffee!) every month to brainstorm with your friends, colleagues or employees.

Here are some suggestions on how you can get your business into the spotlight more frequently:

  1. Study upcoming holidays or event calendars: often the best opportunity to get your company in the news is to tie it to a national holiday, cause or awareness campaign. For example, National Goat Cheese month is in August so if you own a cheese shop or restaurant then it’s a perfect opportunity to offer a local TV station a tip sheet on how to incorporate goat cheese into a healthy, Mediterranean-style meal. Here are a few websites that list these kinds of recurring events: brownielocks, Surfnetkids, and epromos.
  2. Seasons offer ideas: a recent idea I had for a high-end salon in the summer was to emphasize how women can protect their hairstyles on vacations from excessive chlorine, sun, sand and salt. The timing was in the middle of summer and we ended up getting coverage in a local TV station as well as a couple Mommy blogs.
  3. Fundraiser for a nonprofit: businesses can also get publicity by holding an event that benefits a local nonprofit. Link Coworking in Austin, Texas did a superb job of that when it held a unique fundraiser that imitated a Project Runway episode and ended up generating thousands of dollars in funds for three nonprofits. The Austin coworking space won a couple media mentions including a TV interview.
  4. Grand Opening – Ribbon Cutting: turn your garden-variety grand opening into a special event worth covering in the news. Invite the mayor or an important city council member. Hold a raffle benefitting a local nonprofit. Invite another business or two to participate the spread out the reach and potential audience.
  5. Unique pairings: If you are a restaurant, then consider holding a special event dinner featuring a special menu with pairings from one or two local specialty food retailers or producers. How about teaming up with that artisan goat cheese manufacturer above and a winery for a special event featuring northern Italian dishes in time for “Festa della Repubblica,” Italy’s version of Independence Day every June 2nd?
  6. It’s raining cats & dogs: there is an explosion of stray cats and dogs in many communities across America. What if your company came up with a plan to place these lovable animals in “forever homes” by offering a raffle to give 3 lucky winners free food for a year? You could combine your efforts with a local animal shelter and pet store to maximize the news exposure and do something important for your community.
  7. Anniversary with a cause: don’t let an anniversary pass you by without looking for a way to make it memorable. What if you’re a home builder and on your anniversary you build a home for a low-income family? Say you own a sustainable food grocery and on Earth Day you send a tip sheet to the local TV news about how every family can lower its carbon footprint when shopping for groceries.
  8. Jump on a craze: remember when cupcakes were all the rage? Well, now the craze is all about the Cronut, created by Dominique Ansel Bakery in NYC! Be the first to roll-out (pun intended) a Cronut knock-off in your city and invite the food media to the launch. Tasty PR never goes out of style.
  9. Set the record: it’s hokey, it’s been done before, but setting a Guinness World Record gets people’s attention. People are fascinated by records, not to mention the people with the audacity (and craziness) to break them. Are you a bar owner? Make the longest shot pour from a single bartender or the largest margarita to celebrate Cinco de Mayo or National Margarita Day on February 22nd. The media can’t resist a good spectacle, especially on slow news days.
  10. Hit the road: rent a bus, trip it out, and take a road trip. Say you are a gym looking to add new senior citizen members, then you can fit out a bus with equipment and take it to retirement homes to teach the value of exercise for managing arthritis pain during Arthritis Awareness Month.

The bottom-line is you are in charge of your publicity, and only you can create the perfect moment when creativity and opportunity come together for the perfect news story that can set your brand on fire in your community.

Speaking of fire, what about building a massive bonfire to create the largest marshmallow roast the world has ever seen?!? Okay, okay, you get the picture.

Do you have any crazy, wacky, fun ideas to get publicity for small businesses? Leave them below so we can carry on the conversation!

By Dave Manzer
Dave Manzer launched PR over Coffee to help small businesses figure out how to do their own PR by meeting reporters, editors and news anchors. Dave owns his an Austin tech PR agency and works with small businesses and startups around the country obtain brand and revenue-enhancing news coverage in local and national news media.


  1. Pingback: Round ‘em Up: Tips for Getting Press, and Being Ready For the Attention | The Patterned Blog

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