Chris Graham: Get your business in the paper

“My husband,” the caller was telling me, or I should say, selling me, “is an expert at finding financing options for people who think they have credit issues.”


“I think that’s a good news story.”

I didn’t. Actually, what this clearly was to me was an attempt by a small-business owner to get a free ad, which as the editor of a mom-and-pop news publication I wasn’t all that interested in.

You know, considering that whatever money I was making off the publication came in the form of paid ads.

Maybe if she’d made it easier for me, I wouldn’t have minded so much.

Write your own press release. If your business is used cars, as in the example above, and your trick is financing options, spell that out. I as the editor may still feel like you need to pay for an ad to deliver the message, but at least you’re not asking me to come out to your business to do an interview then return to my office to transcribe and write the story from scratch.

You’re better off if you don’t try to be so overt about what your aims are. The end goal of any good business press release, of course, is to get attention to your business and ultimately more customers for your business. You’re free to straddle the line of pushing your products and services and hoping for the best, but you’re more likely to have more success in getting your name in the paper by setting the target a bit lower. Sharing news about a new client or a new employee – or your employee of the year – is a much safer bet. Or mining the current-events headlines to see where you might be able to offer your expertise.

You’re also better off if you’re able to give the paper something that an editor can use almost verbatim in a news-brief column. Small- and medium-circulation papers have cut their newsrooms to the bone in recent years, and even with shrinking news holes still have a great demand for finished news products. If you can satisfy that need for news with a couple of paragraphs about your employee of the month or latest business venture, advantage you!

There’s no guarantee, of course, that your local paper will run every item that you send, and at times it may seem like they’re not interested in anything that you send. My advice as an editor is to not let that bother you. If you send out five press releases, 10 press releases, 20 press releases, and get one bite – that’s one bite of essentially free advertising that you’ve created for yourself.

At the same time, you’re creating fodder for your business website, email newsletter and your Facebook page.

You do have all of those working for you 24-7, right? If not, it’s time – double time! – to catch up.

Chris Graham is the editor of and owner of Augusta Free Press LLC, a full-service web design, marketing and PR firm based in Waynesboro, Va. Direct questions to him at


UVA Basketball Fans!

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Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25. The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe, and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018 through to the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.

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