Newspapers are an underused resource for so many local businesses these days. With everything available online with the simple click of a button, many people believe print journalism is dead.
It isn’t. Of course print journalism isn’t a thriving field, but it isn’t dying: it’s simply changing. Because of the accessibility of online news and social networks, people know about events seconds after they happen. News is shifting from a global to local focus and this is one of the most beneficial changes for businesses. People are reading their local newspapers to stay in the loop with their community because it’s one of the only ways; the key is to be part of that community.
The pet industry is community-based. You need people who live in the area to bring their pets to you. No one goes on vacation and puts their dog into a kennel when they get there. No one drives to another city to bring their cat to the groomer. The ability to connect with someone in Australia when you live in Canada is amazing, but it doesn’t do you much good if you want to walk the person’s dog.
So how do newspapers decide what they’ll report on? News is chosen based on what is timely and interesting. Some weeks have more news than others. If something uncommon happens, there’s a good chance it will make it into the paper. But stories are made from people’s day-to-day lives as well. Here’s how you can stand out.
Write a Press Release
Press releases are used to inform newspapers about stories they might be interested in. So generate a story around your business. Generally, you’ll want to put out a press release when you have an event. If you’re organizing a free training class, write up an explanation about why people should attend. Maybe you’re promoting the event through posters and social media already, this should be a simple extra step. If you’re just opening your business, contacting local papers about your grand ribbon cutting ceremony is a great way to get some press. Even if it’s not a big event, a new business in town is newsworthy for most papers. Just make sure you cover the who, what, where, when, why and how when you submit it.
If you don’t have any events coming up, that’s fine! Think about what makes your business better. What do you do differently from the competition? What pushed you to start working with pets? Readers love stories about everyday people. Even if the paper doesn’t pick up your story immediately, there’s a good chance they’ll need a story to fill some space down the line.
Most papers will also have an online component, so be sure to take advantage and ask the reporter to link back to your website.
If you’re not sure who to send your press release to, check your local paper! They should have instructions on how to pitch a story, and you can always check their website for a contact number or email.
Take advantage of the Classifieds
The classified section is that sketchy bunch of ads at the back of the newspaper, full of help wanted ads and possible spy messages. It’s dirt cheap real estate. Most papers will have a fixed price for a certain number of words, and a cost for every word after that. The local paper around here for example, charges $8.05 for 15 words. If you need more than the standard 15 words, it costs $0.20 for every additional word. This way the paper is able to maximize the amount of ads they can fit on the page.
Remember, when you use the classifieds, you’re buried in a wall of ads. So if you choose to take this route be sure your ad stands out. Make it catchy and clever. Short and sweet is key.
It might take a few issues before your classified ad gets picked up on. Set a budget and run the ad for as many issues as you can afford – don’t kill it after just one! People won’t necessarily need your services the minute they see the ad, so the return on your investment might take a little while to come in. Be patient, but if you feel like it isn’t working after a little while, try different text. If you still don’t see results, maybe the classifieds just aren’t for you!
Use paid advertising in local newspapers
The classifieds are great but not everyone will read through them. They’re a low-risk investment because you’re not losing much on them if they don’t generate any business, but they’re boring. There are no visuals and you’re so limited in your text it’s hard to show off your brand’s personality. Sometimes it’s just worth investing in serious advertising.
You can design your own ad, but make sure you get the dimensions from the paper before you do. If you want to do it yourself, Canva is a great free design tool. Keep in mind a lot of ads in papers are in black and white, so plan accordingly! Oftentimes you are able to pay a little extra to run your ad in colour but if you think it will make you stand out it might be worth it.
Most businesses will hire a designer to make an ad for them. Whichever route you take, just make sure your branding is clear beforehand. If you have a logo, make sure it’s included. If you have any specials, like 20% off for Christmas, promote that! Make your advertisement as timely as possible. Try including a coupon customers can cut out so you can pinpoint exactly how many people are using your ad and whether or not you’re getting your money’s worth.
Find your niche communities
Of course, you need to have an understanding of the size of your community. Newspaper advertisements are not for everyone. If you’re a kennel in New York City for example, global news and local news tend to overlap. As soon as the population of your city is in the millions, advertising prices skyrocket. Rural communities, on the other hand, only find themselves in the news when they look through their local papers, so the ROI is much higher in those instances.
Most large cities will have smaller newspapers that reach the niche communities. Neighbourhood newspapers tend to be much more targeted and have lower advertising costs. If you know a lot of your customers come from the same area of the city, try targeting that neighbourhood’s publication.
Look into the number of people your potential investment will be reaching before committing to an expensive investment. Look into how many bookings it takes to cover the cost of a newspaper ad; they aren’t for everyone. For smaller businesses, like pet sitters, the price might just be too high.
The biggest advantage to local papers is that anyone reading them and has a pet is your target audience. The paper already has their attention; all you need to do is be there too.