Self-Promotion Through Your Chamber of Commerce

Ned Barnett, APR
Barnett Marketing Communications

Your local Chamber of Commerce offers a gold mine of effective self-promotion opportunities. Fewer than 10 percent of members actively use their Chamber’s available self-promotion opportunities; however, those who do find their business-development potential soars.  Here is one way of using your Chamber.

1. Join

If you’re not a member, invest in your future and join – you’ll quickly be listed in the membership directory, a remarkably useful placement. By doing nothing more than joining, you will already be improving your local self-promotions.

2. Analyze their publications

Chambers have member publications, including online and printed editions, that offer you avenues to successful self-promotion.  Carefully analyze each publication.  Do they feature spotlights on specific members?  Do they include columns from member experts?  Do they quote members in articles about business trends? 

Once you’ve identified the types of material they publish (don’t forget letters), determine which ones will help your self-promotion efforts.  Then come up with a reason why they should include you.

3. Determine how you fit in

If you’re thinking about a column on your specialty (be it small business accounting or Feng Shui office design), draft a sample column you’d like Chamber members to read – and remember. This column should be helpful, informative, step-by-step and simple to apply – and the right length (based on what they usually publish).  It should position you as an expert, someone others turn to for advice, ideas – or paid support.

If you’re thinking about being interviewed for a news story, consider how you fit with the topic and why Chamber members should care.

4. Make your move

Armed with your analysis of how you “fit” into the Chamber publications – including a column sample if that’s your choice – it’s time to make your pitch.  Think of this as a sales effort – use up-front, honest sales techniques.

One effective approach is a face-to-face meeting with the Chamber’s editorial director (ED).  Since business hours tend to be hectic – and considering that Chamber staffers may not be paid exceptionally well – take the ED to lunch at a nice restaurant or club. Instead of a hardball pitch, steer the discussion toward editorial needs, then offer ideas organically within the conversation.  Your study of the publications will enable you offer useful feedback that all EDs welcome.  Especially in member organizations, real feedback is very difficult to obtain. 

The ED will understand your purpose, but will appreciate the respect you show with a low-key presentation.  Whatever you do, avoid implying that the ED could be “bought” by a nice lunch.  Show respect for the ED – you’ll get respect in return.

5. Closing the deal

Once you’ve made your pitch, follow up.  The same approaches used in courting potential clients work here, too.  Each time a publication comes out, send the ED a note offering appropriate praise and constructive feedback.  When you come across an idea for an article, send that along in an e-mail – and occasionally, suggest articles that wouldn’t involve you.   If you’re going for a column, pitch ideas for free-standing columns whenever business or world news offers the opportunity to springboard into commentary.   Persistence works – with each success, you move closer to your goal of turning the Chamber into an extension of your self-promotion efforts.

6. Building on success

Once you gain a placement, put links (or, with permission, “reprint” copies) on your website.  Obtain reprints and use them in direct mail to clients and targets.  Then start working on that next opportunity.  Self-promotion is a journey, not a destination, but a well-planned trip is worth the effort.

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