It was 1906, and Ivy Lee was working with the Pennsylvania Railroad’s ad agency when a train wreck in Atlantic City led to the introduction of a new communication tool. Lee took a bold step and got ahead of the stories (true and untrue) by issuing a statement from the company. That statement is considered The First Press Release.

Though media outlets have grown 100 times their original size of morning and afternoon papers, the media release is still a publicity staple. Contractors should not overlook this vehicle to get a few hundred words into someone’s hands who can get your story in front of thousands of readers.

What can you do with a media release? For starters, send announcements about company hires and promotions to business publications and business sections of your local paper. Good for Top of Mind Awareness and also shows you’re a growing, thriving business, which is good for your image.

Then get creative. For example, send seasonally appropriate stories (tips to avoid CO poisoning, etc.) to Features sections or to community magazines. But don’t stop at words:

Submit cool photos – Media is visual, and all types of media need interesting photos. Except radio, right? Well, yes, except that radio stations have webpages, and they may need photos too. Share any published links on social media.

How-to articles – A step above a media release, write articles under your name for community and industry publications. Again, share links when published.

Speak to groups – Share your expertise at civic club meetings, not just contracting. You’re running a successful business, and people who want to know how to do that are ready to listen.

Teach classes – Provide home improvement tips through continuing ed. programs. And send media releases about your class.