Work in Progress, Part 4: Moving Up in the Marketplace

In Editor's Notes by Coury Turczynleave a COMMENT

Starting a business isn’t easy. Especially if it’s a little bit different from the norm.

That’s something we discovered just six months ago when we launched this paper. Yeah, I know—paper. Should’ve figured it’d be more difficult than expected. Nevertheless, we came up with a business model that made sense, put our backs into it, and have stuck with it.

We’ve learned some interesting lessons along the way—great fodder for the e-book I’m writing, How to Start a Weekly Paper Without Really Expecting a Profit—but the results have been gratifying: We have developed a community of readers who appreciate our content. We have cultivated a group of advertisers who believe in our ability to reach that valuable community. And we have created a new (if a tad familiar) voice in the community for positive change.

What’s next? Well, a lot. From my perspective, we’ve barely gotten off the ground in providing the news and cultural coverage that Knoxville deserves. And in terms of being a start-up business, we are still charting the trajectory required to achieve a higher orbit. There are lots of things we plan to achieve. And we’re getting there.

One of the things that’s pushing us higher is, frankly, marketing. I’ve always believed that good content wins out—but I must admit that you also have to let people know it’s there to be read or viewed. So far, our efforts to get the word out about the Knoxville Mercury have been pretty straightforward: paper boxes, radio spots, social media, a basic website (improvements are on the way), and word of mouth. The results have been excellent so far (especially considering we don’t actually have a marketing budget), with a passionately devoted following.

But we need to take things up a notch when it comes to connecting with potential clients. And a vehicle to do that might be a feature that’s more about enjoying life here in Knoxville than government exposes: a readers’ poll that determines what’s “best” in our area. It was a game-changer for Metro Pulse in 1994, introducing the publication to a much larger pool of potential advertisers who in turn helped finance the work we did. The Best of Knoxville became a brand onto itself, one that supported a lot of great journalism. We expect our new Top Knox survey to be a similar catalyst. And an enjoyable read to boot.

Every new business could use a similarly big push into the spotlight, but not many can afford to do it. That’s where Project BrandAid comes in. Partnering with Asen Marketing and other media companies, we’re going to help provide a catalyst for one local business: a $40,000 marketing makeover.

Project BrandAid is a contest for Knox County businesses that need to raise their visibility in order to succeed. Candidates must have a yearly revenue of $2 million or less and must have been in business for at least two years. Nominees must not have a current working relationship with a marketing or public-relations firm.

How to enter?

Go to the entry form at and nominate a business that you think the world needs to know about—it doesn’t necessarily have to be your own business. On the entry form, you’ll need to tell their story—what makes this company unique and deserving? The deadline is Oct. 15. A panel of expert judges will select three finalists, and the public will vote on their favorite Oct. 26-Nov. 6.

The winner will be announced Thursday, Nov. 19. They’ll receive a package of marketing goodies that includes a website, brochures, photography, social media, ads for print and digital, and public relations.

It’s just the sort of spark that might turn one lucky small business into an institution. And all it takes is your help—and patronage. For more info, hit up

Meanwhile, look for our Top Knox 2015 results in our Oct. 15 issue—we hope it’s the start of a new yearly tradition that furthers our goal of providing important stories.

Editor Coury Turczyn guided Knoxville's alt weekly, Metro Pulse, through two eras, first as managing editor (and later executive editor) from 1992 to 2000, then as editor-in-chief from 2007 to 2014. He's also worked as a Web editor at CNET, the erstwhile G4 cable network, and HGTV.

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