Building Buzz

Oct. 3, 2009
How community awareness can generate business

About the author: Sally Koepke is principal for McHale & Koepke Communications. Koepke can be reached at 440.542.0080 or by e-mail at [email protected].

The market is down. No, wait... the market is up. Now it’s down again. To say that today’s business environment is a bit unsettled is an understatement, especially for those in water treatment.

While stimulus funds are flowing at the national level, in most cases it has yet to be seen at the local level, which is where many of us make a living. This means today’s hard-pressed consumers may just be filing water treatment under the “nice, but not necessary” column.

So what is a hardworking water treatment dealer to do? Try reaching out to the community in new ways.

Community-Based PR

Some people call it marketing, while others call it networking on a local level. No matter what you call it, community-based public relations (PR) can create the kind of top-of-mind awareness that can elevate sales for your business.

Before you undertake a PR effort, though, make sure your marketing house is in order. Is your company logo easy to read? Do you have a benefit-based positioning line that clearly tells people what sets you apart from other water quality professionals in the area? When was the last time your company literature was revised? Do you have a professional website you can send people to? Make sure your image and communication materials are the best they can be before you reach out to the community.

Seven Ways to Seed Good Will

The following suggestions are intended to help you get started building a solid community base. Ranging from the simple to the sublime, these are highly cost-effective ways to build the kind of community connections that are rewarding.

1. Sponsor a Sports Team

Little League baseball, travel soccer, football, lacrosse or basketball, even swim team—whatever the kids in your community are doing, get into it. Team sponsorships can cost as little as the price of t-shirts—or in the case of a swim team, towels—with your company name and positioning line on them.

2. Provide Bottled Water at Sporting Events

As long as there is not a refreshment stand connected to the event, company-labeled bottled water will engender good will as well as potential sales.

Do you want to get a little more out of the deal? Tie on a leaflet that discusses the water quality in the area, citing facts and figures. Include a coupon for a free in-home water quality analysis, and be sure to include your Web address and contact information.

3. Support the Local High School

From banners that hang in the gym or on the football field, to ads in the chorus, theater and sports programs, high school events are a big draw for the community, which is your base of operations. Remember, not all parents go to all events. If you can afford to run a small ad in three programs, make sure to reach out to different audiences.

4. Be the Local Water Expert

Water is quickly becoming one of our most precious resources. You can capitalize on its attention-grabbing profile by becoming a local water expert. For example:

  • Speak at the elementary school about water and what is hidden inside it;
  • Bring the high school science class on a field trip to participate in onsite water testing;
  • Contact the local papers to get on reporters’ radars as a water expert with quotable opinions;
  • Host a “Lunch and Learn” for area businesspeople on what is in the local water; and
  • If there are housing developments in the area with freestanding water facilities, get to know the people who run them and make yourself avail able for free consultations as needed.

5. Become Active with Habitat for Humanity

Donate a water softener or reverse osmosis system for the house, and make sure you install it yourself. Have someone take a photo of you in action and send it along with a short press release to the local newspaper.

6. Provide a Filtration System for a Local School

Similar to suggestion No. 5, this is a gold mine for PR possibilities. News releases, interviews and articles can come from this kind of donation, as well as an opening event or permanent onsite signage. In addition, the cost can be co-oped with suppliers or kept for a charitable tax credit.

7. Go Pro

Get serious about your PR initiatives and hire a PR agency. Whether devising your PR strategy, fine tuning your message or creating a whole new identity for you, PR professionals know how to measure, optimize, maximize and economize on your behalf all while building buzz and business at the same time.

About the Author

Sally Koepke

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