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Earned media. Free press. Whatever you call it, it's the stuff that people hear and read about your business—the stuff you don't buy.

It's earned because you work for it. You work to do something newsworthy, you work to package it for the media, and you work to deliver it.

Experts say that free press is worth more, inch for inch, than paid advertising. That's because free press has the appearance of being a third-party endorsement of what you and your business have to say.

So what are the dos and don'ts? What can you do to enhance your chances of getting what you want... and avoiding or minimizing what you don't?

No Promises

First, beware of agencies or consultants that promise to get you a story, get one killed or get you one that says such-and-such. While the chances of getting covered get better every day (see "The News Hole," below), there are way too many imponderables for such a guarantee to be worth much.

Don't Try This Alone

As with most things, two heads are better than one. Some businesses recognize this by convening standing communication groups... or somehow otherwise staying intentional about the media.

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Doug Stern (www.doug-stern.com) is a freelance business writer and marketing strategist based in Louisville, KY. Contact him at 502-599-6624 or stern.doug@gmail.com.