Labor Day is right around the corner and, while the barbecue lover in me thinks only of ribs on the grill, my inner businesswoman is saying, “Fourth quarter, dead ahead!”

I like to get a running start planning for the all-important Q4 for a number of reasons. For one, it’s our last opportunity to hit sales

and revenue goals for the year. This is especially important for retailers and the many other businesses that ring up more sales Oct. 1 – Dec. 31 than in quarters 1, 2 or 3.

It’s also our last opportunity to take advantage of tax-saving spending strategies and, for many in the corporate world, to ensure budgets are spent down before the 2015 budgets are proposed. And, speaking of the year ahead, the fourth quarter is a good time to analyze what worked and what didn’t this year as we start planning for the one to come. Whew!

For businesses and others hoping to maximize sales in the months ahead, I recommend planning now for publicity to keep your brand in front of potential customers through the holidays. That’s exactly what I’m doing for my business. Now’s the time because space is limited and many traditional media plan holiday coverage well in advance.

Here are just a few ways Q4 publicity can help you:

  • It ensures you have maximum visibility during the busiest time of the year. Messaging from companies gets particularly noisy during the fourth quarter as businesses jockey to boost their visibility. Many rely heavily on advertising, which is fine, but it’s only one component of a complete marketing campaign. Other components include getting publicity, doing speaking engagements, networking on social media, and sponsoring events. If your competitors are doing just one or two of these outreaches, you gain a visibility advantage by employing multiple strategies.
  • It builds trust in your brand, company and product. One of the greatest benefits of publicity is that it establishes your credibility. The implied endorsement of journalists who quote you in their articles and talk show hosts who interview you on TV and radio builds the trust and brand reputation that attracts new customers and facilitates sales. This is especially important today, with consumers who are more sophisticated than ever and have the tools to research companies, products and services before they buy. If you and your competitor offer the same service, and potential customers research both of you, which will they choose? The expert who’s been quoted in Forbes and USA Today, or the one who has gotten no media?
  • It highlights company values that may be very important to consumers. Consumers are sophisticated and increasingly selective about who they choose to do business with. In decades past, they made purchases mostly based on what they’d heard about a product or service’s quality; its price; convenience; the image it conveyed. Today all of those factors may go into a purchase decision along with others that have little to do with the actual product or service: Is the company environmentally friendly? Is it a good citizen? Does it have a shady background? How does it treat its workers? How do its vendors treat their workers? Publicity can answer all those questions in a more believable way than advertising.
  • Virtually all traditional media include a strong online component, which gives your publicity a longer shelf life. In addition to their regular readers, viewers and subscribers, the traditional media now have potential audiences of millions. These are not the people actively seeking out a specific publication or show – they’re people searching for information on the Internet. Google “gluten-free cupcakes,” for instance, and you’ll find articles and blog posts written by and about bakers all over the country.  Additionally, online articles posted by “high domain authority” publications – reputable media that are trusted by Google – can boost the visibility of your website. Because Google trusts these publications, any links and URLs contained within their articles get a nice boost in Google search results.

As I noted earlier, the fourth quarter is a busy one for most businesses – including the media. If you have ideas for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s stories or angles that relate to your business, and highlight your expertise, now’s the time to start crafting your pitches. That’s particularly true for monthly and quarterly publications that plan their content well in advance.

Take some time this holiday weekend to brainstorm ideas and identify the media you want to target. You’ll make your inner businessperson very happy!

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