Case Study: Waging a successful local publicity campaign

It’s not always possible to quickly measure success in business, so when it happens, it’s worth dissecting the elements that contributed to the success.

That’s why I want to look at a recent community toy drive spearheaded by Ripped City Gardens, an artisan cannabis grower based in Portland, Oregon. Although they got a bit of a late start publicizing the toy drive, they brought in some 500 toys to distribute to underprivileged area children.

I became involved because they needed a press release. However, I got the call at the end of November, so I knew that the timing wasn’t ideal. We worked to turn around the press release quickly, but the next question was, “Now what?”

Ordinarily I don’t help distribute press releases and my contact at Ripped City Gardens indicated they were considering using one of the online press release distribution services. Frankly, in my experience, these aren’t very successful and they certainly wouldn’t work well for the toy drive because the only publicity that counted in this case was local publicity.

Before I go into details on how we pulled together a comprehensive list of local contacts, I want to outline an element of Ripped City Gardens’ strategy that gave their toy drive a huge advantage: They pulled in all the cannabis dispensaries they supply as toy drop off points.

Extending your reach

I like to call this the friends and family strategy. The first time I really understood it was when I was a music teacher for elementary school kids, but since then I’ve seen many others use it. Here’s the idea: When staging a local production – think of The Nutcracker as an example – it’s a brilliant idea to get as many kids as possible involved and on stage because you know all the families and many of the friends of those kids are going to attend the production. You’ve gone a long way toward filling the seats.

It turned out that more than 40 dispensaries partnered with Ripped City Gardens on the toy drive. That essentially blanketed Portland and nearby communities with signage and word-of-mouth advertising. I believe a great deal of the success is due to this factor alone.

On my part, I worked with my virtual assistant to pull together a contact information list for Portland television stations, radio stations, and bloggers. The press release I wrote would suffice in many cases, but I did three more things:

  • Condensed and re-wrote the release in public service announcement (PSA) form. PSAs are used on radio and to some extent also on television. They are read aloud, so it’s a good idea to spell out numbers, web addresses, and any other information that might be misread if it’s not completely clear in the copy.
  • Recommended that Ripped City Gardens follow up with a “reminder” release and PSA when the toy drive was in its last week or two. I wrote these so they could be easily distributed.
  • Asked Ripped City Gardens if they had any personal contacts in the local media. If so, it was time to lean on those folks a little to see if they could help them be sure that the word about their toy drive got out in time.

Digging up contact information

You can find television stations with a simple Google search and often it’s easy to uncover the email address of the editor who deals with press releases or PSA. Sometimes they’ll have a “community news” area of their website. You can even use a “report news to us” link to paste your press release.

However, after you have the URLs for television and radio stations, it can be a good idea to do a more targeted Google search formatted something like this:

  • “press release”, or
  • “contact us”

If you have the time, simply exploring the media websites is often the best way to find the names and addresses you need.

For radio stations, I used Radio-locator. You can enter a city or zip code and it will return all the radio stations in that area. It can also sense your location and return stations on that basis. When you have your list of stations, simply click on the call letters and it takes you to the station’s website.

For bloggers, the situation is different everywhere. Start with searching Google (bloggers in city name). For Portland, it turned out that there was a single website that served as a hub for local bloggers and that gave us dozens of leads.

Localwiki might also reveal bloggers in your area. Try this Google search: #blogger site: then see if your area turns up in the search results.

After you have a list of blog URLs, head over to Hunter where you can enter the URL and find email addresses associated with it…if there are any. I wrote a very short article on this service; I like it and use it a lot and the free version has always been sufficient for me. When you’re trying to contact bloggers, if they don’t have contact info on their site, Hunter is the way to go.

Making it personal

Once you have addresses it’s especially important to personalize the emails you send to bloggers. While corporate radio and television stations are accustomed to receiving stand-alone press releases, bloggers are different.

I recommend checking out the blog, so you can give each blogger a specific and appropriate compliment about their work before you pitch your press release. I also recommend including the release in the body of your email and as an attachment.

Finally, having a full contact list like this is a wonderful resource. Keep it updated. When you use it, you may find that you’ll have success locally similar to what Ripped City Gardens enjoyed with their toy drive, which made a lot of local kids happy this holiday season.


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