But it can provide some value depending on your approach…

Did you finally snag that big interview with your local newspaper? Did the morning news show book you to come on? Is a blogger for a national publication planning on writing about your company? Congrats – that’s great news. Have fun. But don’t expect it to have much of an impact on your business.

I meet lots of business owners who want media exposure for their companies. A few do it because they have aspirations of hosting their own talk show one day on CNN alongside Anderson Cooper.  Most don’t have these aspirations. Instead, they’re hoping that the time they spend with a reporter will result in more exposure for their business and therefore drive higher sales. That’s more realistic, but not as much as you think.

Media exposure is over-rated. You’re not going to be discovered by some Hollywood agent and cast in the next Tom Cruise movie (and why would you want to anyway?). More importantly your phone isn’t going to start ringing off the hook just because of an interview with the “Morning Zoo” team at the local radio station or a five-minute spot on “Good Day Poughkeepsie.”

Why?  No one’s really paying that much attention. The segment flies by.  People are busy doing other stuff. In other words, they’re not thinking about you just because they saw you on TV.

OK, there are isolated incidents where an article or a video goes viral and creates a ton of buzz for a business. But most of that is probably not the kind of attention you want. It’s usually where someone videoed rats crawling through a restaurant or a business owner’s racist or homophobic opinions are broadcast to the world.

Most of the media don’t want to highlight your product – unless it’s something very unusual.  If it’s very unusual it’ll make a good story and that’s what they’re interested in.  But will that story actually turn into significant sales? It probably won’t. How many times have you rushed to the phone and called up a company in desperation to buy their product just because of something you saw on TV? Sure, you’ve done that before at 3AM after a few drinks because who wouldn’t buy the amazing knife that slices tomatoes perfectly even after cutting through a big chunk of wood? But unless your product demonstrates the same super-human capabilities (and is being pitched by a hairpiece-wearing salesman with big teeth and a magnetic personality) you’re not going to see that big a difference from your media exposure.

Don’t get down on this. There is some benefit to being in the news. It’s a credibility booster for your business. Whenever and wherever it happens, make sure you’re capturing it. Get a copy of the video if it’s a TV interview. Bookmark the link if it’s an online article. Take a high resolution photo of the newspaper piece. Then promote it yourself. Put the media mention on your website’s home page. Create a little sign touting your “recent TV appearance” on your wall or display it in front of the cash register. For some reason that I cannot explain, customers love this stuff. They, like you, incorrectly believe that it actually means something. So feed into their naiveté. Let them think that you and your business are something special just because you were on the morning show.

Media exposure won’t create a lot of immediate sales. But the more you can get, the more credibility it will build for your business. Customers will feel more comfortable buying your products and recommending you to their friends because they somehow feel you’ve been validated because you were on TV or the radio. We’re mesmerized by publicity. That 15 minutes of fame can be used to build years of reputation. So forget about being a TV star. Getting exposure won’t have a significant immediate effect on your bottom line – but it may have some long term advantage.

Join writer and small business owner Gene Marks each Wednesday on the Small Biz Ahead podcast. You can also submit a question for Gene to answer on the podcast.

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