Local Newspaper Promotion From A to Z

November 4, 2013

By Peter Wagner  | Publisher, N’West Iowa Review

It’s still accepted, at least in most communities, that the newspaper is the best place to turn for fresh, economical and effective promotional ideas. So why is the same local paper, and all the things it can do, often the best-kept secret in town?

Community newspapers have great stories to tell but often lack the motivation and ideas to get started. Like all for-profit businesses, we have to regularly “get-in-the-face” of our customers if we want to get our share of their advertising and subscription dollars.

Here, A to Z, are some of the easiest and least expensive promotion ideas we’ve come across at The N’West Iowa REVIEW:

[A] is for ADOPT. Throw you weight behind a major community event as one of the lead corporate sponsors. Offer unlimited advertising and selected editorial coverage in return for having your logo on posters, T-shirts and promotional literature. Ask to have your editor or publisher as one of the presenters at some of the public events.

[B] is BALLOONS. Everybody of every age loves balloons. Bright, colorful balloons imprinted with your publication logo is an inexpensive way be part of chamber gift bags, community banquets, school functions and nearly anything that might come up.

[C] is for CARICATURES. Have someone talented on your staff or in the community create easy-to-identify comic drawings of your key management team and editorial staff, including all your columnists. Use them to identify weekly columns, all in-house advertising, special event posters, community guides and programs and anywhere else possible.

[D] is for DELICIOUS. Sponsor an annual citywide chili cook-off during late February. Encourage stores to offer servings of their unique homemade chili along with their end-of-season closeout prices the night they are traditionally open. Have independent judges take all the entries and award a traveling trophy inscribed with your publication name. (Don’t overlook the opportunity to sell promotional advertising to the participating stores.)

[E] is for EMPLOYEE of the Month. Publish a quarter page each month saluting a local business employee as the community’s Employee of the Month. Provide the winner with a framed certificate and the store with posters announcing one of their own was selected that month for his/her knowledge, commitment and friendly service.

[F] is for FREQUENT advertiser program. Create an exclusive recognition program for your most consistent advertisers. Provide framed certificates of appreciation, an annual open house, provide first use of bartered tickets, include at no charge a series of community promotional ads and offer special discounts on certain advertising programs.

[G] is for GROUP activities. One year we organized an Irish Road Bowling team and challenged local groups during their community’s annual celebration. You could do the same with a mixed-softball team or traveling golf tournament.

[H] is for national HOLIDAY House Ads. Dedicate a process, full-page color ad in your newspaper for every major holiday: Christmas, New Years, Easter, Fourth of July, Veteran’s Day and so on. Use local illustrations and a message of appreciation for the holiday and to the people of your community.

[I] ILLUSTRATIONS in your lobby. Have your photographers share some of their favorite recent photos, matted and framed, in the lobby of your building. They can be a variety of published and unpublished photos. Have the photographer sign his work on the mat in the lower right hand corner just under the image. Change at least a fourth of the images each month.

[J] JACKETS and baseball hats. Make sure your photographers and reporters wear hats and jackets with your logo on them. Let the folks at a ballgame or major fire know your paper is there recording history as it happens.

[K] is for KOOZIES. Everybody has a need for a Koozie to keep his or her beverage cold at a hot summer event. At prices below a dollar each they are a great way to get your name out to the masses. Tie your logo to a simple message like “Always refreshing, The Hometown Times.”

[L] is for LIFTING up regional sports stars. Publish your own all-star football, volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball teams. Do it as a special section with pictures of your first and second team players and coach of the year. Turn it into exceptional revenue with quarter-page salute ads from businesses in the school district they represent.

[M] is for MARKETING on the top of the front page. Twice a year—Christmas and the start of the football season—print a subscription coupon under your nameplate at the top of the front page.

[N] is for NOTING community events with an 11 x 17 process color poster printed on your color copy machine. Honor the reopening of locations closed for new streets or a unique prize earned by a local organization with storefront posters announcing the good news on the top of the poster and your newspaper logo at the bottom.

[O] is for ORAGNIZING public events. For years we sponsored a 10-mile Sunday afternoon bike ride to a nearby community and back. We covered the cost with the sale of T-shirts and the town visited also made money from the sale of a picnic dinner.


[P] is for PARIS, Holland, Las Vegas and New York. You’d be surprised how many readers become aware of your paper when you give away a trip to some exotic city. We’ve done them all. It is affordable when you divide the cost between a number of advertisers for 13 to 18 weeks. For the best results offer two prizes with one going to the drawing winner and the other to the owner of the store where the winner registered.

[Q] is for QUICK. Stay ahead of the competition by staying in touch with the community. Produce a section or at least a special page honoring the owners of every new public structure with a collection of thank you ads from the builders, suppliers and community in general.

[R] is for RESPONSIVE. Don’t let a subscriber go unattended. Send out early renewal notices and we-miss-you cards. Follow up with personal telephone calls if necessary.

[S] is For STATE and national contests. Enter every one you can and run big ads—and serious stories—about your successes. Everybody likes to be associated with a winner.

[T] is for T-SHIRTS for after-prom-party favors. Make them collectable with double meaning statements like “We’ve got issues … 52 times a year.”

[U] is for UNIQUE gifts the customer will use and appreciate. One year our handout was a dustpan with a long handle so it could be easily used while standing. The imprint read “Enjoy a clean sweep sale with an ad in The Golden Shopper.”

[V] is for VALIDATING success. Every year we host a banquet for the top scholars from each of our 17 high schools in the area, as well as their parents and grandparents. A complete biography of each student is published in that weekend’s N’West Iowa REVIEW along with congratulatory ads from businesses in their community.

[W] is for WELCOMING Christmas. We co-sponsor an annual citywide tree-decorating contest. The trees are placed on display in various Sheldon stores early in November to encourage a jump-start on holiday advertising. The public votes for the best tree and the winner receives a free process page of advertising in our mid-week Sheldon Mail-Sun.

[X] is for XTRA opportunities. Hand out coupons for free classified ads in your newspaper at county fairs, home shows, women’s events and even the local grocery store. Ads beget ads and the more classifieds you run the more you will sell.

[Z] is for ZEAL. Build interest in your newspaper and various services by creating an in-house speakers bureau. Offer a variety of programs from local history to problems facing newspapers in our age of the Internet to high school career day gatherings, Kiwanis clubs and women’s groups. You’ll gain at least one new friend—if only the person in need of a program—every time. © Peter Wagner 2013

Peter W. Wagner is publisher of The N’West Iowa REVIEW in Sheldon, IA, and president of Creative House Print Media Consultants. He is a regular presenter at newspaper conferences and conventions as well as a new revenue consultant and trainer for independent newspapers and groups. He can be reached at pww@iowainformation.com or on his cell at 712-348-3550.

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