If you were going to look up the word “publicity” in the dictionary you’d get a really broad definition that mentioned public notice and media coverage… Personally, I think that definition could leave people more confused than they were before. So what exactly is publicity? And why do you need it? For those answers and more, read on.

Publicity is basically free advertising. Now, don’t be fooled by the word “free”, because you will have to put in some time and a lot of work to get that free advertising. Here are a few examples of publicity. You are given publicity anytime you, your products, or your services are featured in a newspaper, magazine, a local or national news program, on a website or blog, or even a podcast.

You need publicity because this is how you get your name “known”. Being featured in these mediums also helps you establish yourself as an expert. When people view you as an expert, you will start gaining even more publicity. People will automatically think of you when they think of the type of product or service you offer.

When it comes to publicity, every little bit counts. Your first interview doesn’t have to be on Oprah. Start small, start locally, build up some media experience, and then go after the big dogs. I mean, you don’t want to go on Oprah looking like a deer in headlights, anyway.

Here are a few things you can do to start getting some publicity:

Develop a media kit. A media kit contains information about you, your business, your press releases and links to any press coverage you have received in the past.

Send press releases to local and online media. These can be of any newsworthy topic that relates to your business.

Send magazines and newspapers some story ideas; for example, if you design baby clothes that feature guitars and skulls rather than bunnies and bears, you could offer a story comparing the parenting styles of Generation X and Y with previous generations’ styles.

Network with other businesses, especially those that offer complementary products to yours’; using the above example of the punk rock baby clothes, find some businesses that offer fashionable maternity clothes or urban-inspired baby furniture. Offer to do a link exchange or blog roll with them.

Podcasts are growing in popularity. Find some with an audience that has a need for your product or service and send the host your media kit and let them know you are available for interviews.

It’ll take a little bit of time to start gaining publicity, but it does take on the snowball effect. You start gaining a little bit here and there and before you know it, you are getting a lot of publicity. Best of all, it starts coming to you, rather than you chasing after it. Who knows? Someone from Harpo Studios could be calling you anyday.