Four Steps to Making Magic

Almost every small business owner I meet has hopes for a little bit of magic, because it can be tough out there. By magic I mean simply that the business or its products will be featured in a national publication, become the subject of a reality television show, be the product of the month in a style magazine, etc. And this does happen; I remember clearly a man in the town I grew up in whose struggling local band was mentioned by a preeminent artist out of the blue, and the record companies couldn’t get to him fast enough. And to be sure there is the odd business that the New York Times – for example – features because it meets particularly interesting criteria.
But – and I say this delicately – it isn’t likely. What is likely is that you can make a little magic of your own by focusing on a few simple rules for magic-making, which I discuss below. In other words, you can increase the likelihood that the magic will find you.
First, the surest pathway to getting noticed by the media is to do what you do extremely well, and constantly work for continuous improvement. Just by doing that you will be on the radar of everyone you serve / sell to as the go-to place for your particular line of work.
Second, be visible about doing things extremely well. Write blog posts or articles for publications in your industry, and business publications in general. Offer to speak at local clubs and events, and let community partners know that you are interested / available to do so. Research conferences and trade shows where you can attend to speak and/or exhibit. I call this broadly “cultivating expertise” (don’t quote me on that term, as I’m sure I picked it up from someone else!). If people perceive you as an expert, they will refer media outlets to you if they are approached about a topic you know well.
Third, build a comprehensive, strategic marketing strategy. This will include tactics suggested in the paragraph above, but will also force you to prepare for your magic in three ways: (1) By working to reach out in search of earned media (press about you that you do not pay for); (2) By preparing materials that can be passed on to media in the event you are approached about a story; (3) By creating additional visibility through a variety of marketing channels.
Fourth, network. Every business person knows that networking is important, but through your networks you will be (or already are) a connection or two away from someone who works in media and will no doubt find your story compelling and interesting.
To summarize, you can’t control when or if lightening will strike, but you can create a foundation of success and visibility that increases the chances that it will. And don’t be disappointed if your big break doesn’t come from a global newspaper. Our local and regional news outlets can be just as big a boon to your business. At its most basic level, making magic is about doing what you do so well, that people just have to find you.