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Having these 4 things ready before you contact a reporter will make you more successful

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You have a great idea for a story to pitch a reporter. You decide to call or email the reporter with your idea. He or she responds with interest. Good news, right? But, have you thought through what the reporter may request in addition to your pitch?

Having a strong pitch is, of course, vital to your PR effort. The trouble is, no matter how great the idea is, if you aren’t prepared to provide the elements to back up your story, it may never see the light of the day.

Reporters who do a thorough job will always look deeper and want more than your side of the story. This validates what you’re saying. Because part of PR is to make things as easy as possible for them, before you ever hit send on your pitch, you’ll want to be prepared with information to back up your story.

With that in mind, here’s a helpful guide for what you need to have ready when you contact a reporter:

Continue reading Having these 4 things ready before you contact a reporter will make you more successful

Forget the resolutions: 5 ways to get started on PR in 2017

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2017 is here. As the New Year begins, resolutions are being made. That includes resolutions for your small business.

But, what if you don’t believe in making resolutions? And even if you do, for some of us, they simply don’t work.

That’s OK. How about we just focus on getting it done this year? If you’ve been thinking about doing some public relations for your small business or startup, there are some simple ways to get the ball rolling.

Here are five ways you can make it happen for your small business when it comes to PR:

Continue reading Forget the resolutions: 5 ways to get started on PR in 2017

Doing PR over the holidays? What you need to know about timing

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The holidays are indeed upon us.

Though many may be in denial—Thanksgiving is NEXT week, people!—they are coming, and coming fast.

In talking with clients about their imminent public relations plans, timing over the holidays has to be taken into consideration. Not only might potential readers be tuned out to product announcements, but many reporters are also out of the office enjoying holiday time with their loved ones. And, adding yet another hurdle, one reporter I just spoke with mentioned that the holiday changes his newspaper’s production schedule.

As you might imagine, between your schedule, the reporter or publication’s schedule and potential readers’ or viewers’ schedules, it can be a challenge. So, if you have news you must pitch over the holidays, what’s a PR pro suggest you do? Continue reading Doing PR over the holidays? What you need to know about timing

If agencies are struggling, is this an opportunity for PR consultants?

PR Week just published an article, “PR agencies face mixed future,” prompted by financial reports that were issued by holding companies such as Omnicom, which owns big public relations agencies including FleishmanHillard, Ketchum and Porter Novelli. Among other findings, organic revenue was reported to be down 6.9 percent. Says the article, “No matter which way you spin it, that’s a disappointing performance.”

So what does this mean for PR consultants? Is it bad news? No. In fact, it could be viewed as an opportunity.

The PR Week article goes on to say, “Using lowly paid account staff churning through accounts that come and go regularly because clients become frustrated with poor service is a common complaint. CCOs are seduced by charismatic leaders who pop up at pitch or review time and occasionally thereafter, but aren’t physically and emotionally connected to the account on a regular basis.” Continue reading If agencies are struggling, is this an opportunity for PR consultants?

How to get more bang out of your public relations efforts

Get the most bang out of your PR efforts

If you’re reading this, you probably understand the value of public relations. It’s cost-effective and credible. Its power in winning over prospects to turn them into customers is unquestionable. PR is about telling stories—and even getting others to help us tell our stories. Think customers, influencers and, of course, reporters.

While it’s always been a valuable tool in the marketing mix, in today’s content marketing driven world, public relations has taken on an even greater role of importance as companies seek to fill the pipeline with relevant, compelling material.

When we reach out to reporters with a pitch, we sometimes get the desired result—a story! Or we pitch a speaking gig—and we secure a speaking engagement! Or, maybe we’ve entered our company to win an award—and we win!

But then what? Continue reading How to get more bang out of your public relations efforts

Timing Your News Over the Holidays to Get the Most from Your PR

The holidays are indeed upon us.

Though many may be in denial—Thanksgiving is NEXT week, people!—they are coming, and coming fast.

In talking with clients about their imminent PR plans, timing over the holidays has to be taken into consideration. If you have news unrelated to the holidays, not only might potential readers be tuned out, but many reporters are also out of the office enjoying time with their loved ones.

So, what’s a PR pro suggest you do? Well, for anything that can wait until the new year, that might be the best plan of action. If it can’t wait, look at the calendar to choose the best timing given the options.

First, let’s look at the calendar for Thanksgiving:

  • We know Thanksgiving is next Thurs., Nov. 26. If you MUST issue news that week, issue it Mon. or Tues. at the very latest. After Tues., all bets are off as far as reaching anyone or grabbing eyeballs. Of course, as a colleague pointed out, if your news has to do with Thanksgiving or with Black Friday, then by all means, pitch or promote away.
  • Then, looking at the week following Thanksgiving, keep in mind that Monday should be avoided. Folks will just be getting back to their inboxes, which will be jam-packed with messages that came in over the long holiday weekend/break. Go with Tues. or Weds. to issue news or reach out to reporters.

The next holiday hurdle is Christmas. Again, if your news is related to Christmas or to New Year’s, this isn’t as much of a concern. But, in many cases where this doesn’t apply, here’s what I’d suggest:

  • Christmas day falls on a Friday this year. So, the week of Dec. 21, you might be able to get away with an announcement on Monday or Tuesday (although I suggest always avoiding Mondays). As we move closer to Christmas day, just save it, unless it’s relevant.
  • That week between Christmas and New Year’s is notoriously quiet for any news that isn’t related to the end of the year or New Year’s resolutions, so do yourself a favor and wait until the week of Jan. 4. Then, try Jan. 5 or later to increase your odds of getting the media’s attention.

After that, it’s all clear—although the standard guidelines still apply. Always check to see what’s coming on the calendar as far as holidays and be aware of other news in your industry that might steal the spotlight (I know this to be true in tech—happens all the time). Avoid Mondays (too much email) and Fridays (unless it’s news you don’t want anyone to see). And, issue press releases in the morning, if possible.

Those are my tips for making the most of your news over the holiday period. Any questions? Let me know!

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Entrepreneur features my latest, “6 tips for handling a failed media pitch”

My piece, “6 Tips for Handling a Failed Media Pitch,” which explains what to do if your media pitch falls flat, was featured Monday by Entrepreneur:

This significantly increases its reach. When Entrepreneur runs my pieces, I always see a jump in followers and activity. This underscores the value of creating great content!

Pitching Your Startup to Reporters? Here’s What to Avoid

Today, I wanted to share media pitching tips for startups and small businesses. Not from me but directly from a journalist.

This piece from PRNewser covers a TechCrunch editor’s suggestions for pitching. While some of this should be common sense to anyone who reaches out to reporters—c’mon, no email attachments is something that should be drilled into our heads by now–and, just forget the email inviting a journalist out for coffee–some of his other suggestions may not be so obvious. For example, he talks about startup founders trying to do their own PR:

“He is concerned, first and foremost, with startup founders and app-makers who try and fail to handle their own self-promotional duties; you may be shocked to learn that many do NOT double as well-trained PR professionals.”

Yes, while they may be strong in many areas, startup founders may not be the best at media relations. In fact, there are several reasons why entrepreneurs and small business owners may not want to do their own PR (see my piece, “6 Reasons Not to Do Your Own PR”).

Another point he makes is that it’s a mistake to assume that simply because a company or product exists, that warrants media coverage. Yes, gone are the days of simply saying, “We have a startup—therefore, cover us.” And, to echo his sentiment, I recently attended a panel on pitching your startup to the media, during which reporters explained you must go deeper if you expect them to be interested in your news.

I even agree to a point with his take on press releases—which he says are “dead.” While I wouldn’t go that far (see my piece on that, “Enough with the death of the press release already”), it’s true that you need to bring something more to the table, something beyond the press release. Simply sending a press release saying, “Please cover this,” doesn’t really cut it. We need to tell a story. Yes, press releases can play a role in this, but you need to actually explain WHY this should matter to reporters and their readers. Of course, YOU think your product or service is great—you created it! But why would a reporter and his or her readers care? For example, here’s some of the advice he gave when pitching a product. Think about:

“Was it created to solve a specific problem? What is that problem and how is it solved? Does the product fit with a separate trend piece? How so, and why should this particular outlet’s readers care?”

And, tell your story succinctly. Offer data and resources, while you’re at it, to make the reporter’s job even easier. After all, isn’t our job as PR pros making it easier for reporters to cover our clients? That means providing the information they have to pay attention to, the information that will make your pitch stand out in a sea of pitches.

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13 things to include in a virtual press kit

What goes in a press kit?

As I often work with startups or small businesses doing PR from the ground up, from time to time I’m asked what goes in an online press kit or media room, as it’s sometimes called.

Do you have one? Do you even need one?

While hard copy press kits are optional (a word about that later), you should have a virtual press kit. Be sure to create a place for it on your site. Preferably, it has its own drop-down menu, but some companies choose to put it under “About,” which is fine, as long as a reporter can easily find it.

Here are some of the elements most often included:

  • Company profile/backgrounder/fact sheet: This document gives an overview of the company and what it does. The fact sheet can include year founded, executive team members, vertical markets, number of employees, and so on. The idea is to capture the key information “at a glance” to make it easy for reporters to grab what they need and to include answers to commonly asked questions.
  • Bios: Bios of the executive team should be part of the press kit. Include all C-suite executives. Keep them relatively brief, or include both a longer and shorter version.
  • Multimedia content: This is becoming increasingly important, as reporters want more visuals:
    • Photos: A professional head shot should accompany each bio and should be downloadable. You can also include photos of the team together, company headquarters and/or product photos, if desired. These should be high resolution (300 dpi is ideal for print).
    •  Screen shots: If you have an application or software product, it’s a good idea to make screen shots available.
    •  Logos: Include camera-ready logos in both color and black and white.
    •  Video: If you have any YouTube or other videos, you can link to those here, as well.
    • Infographics: If you have any that might be useful to media, you can post those here, too.
  •  Press releases: Of course, include any and all press releases that you’ve issued about your company, product or service. Include them in reverse chronological order.
  •  News stories: If any stories have appeared about your company, product or service, include those—again, in reverse chronological order.
  •  Press contact: Include a contact, in case they have questions or need something further. If you don’t have a designated PR person on staff, it should be someone who responds to email and phone calls promptly.
  •  Customer success stories or case studies: If you have them, it’s a good idea to make these available in your newsroom.
  •  Customer or third-party quotes: Again, if available, customer quotes can be a useful item for reporters. If you have partner, analyst or influencer quotes, make those available, as well.
  • Press references: Here, it might be best to say, “Available upon request.” This allows you to provide the best reference for the particular reporter. It also gives you the opportunity to let the customer know a reporter may contact them.
  • Links to social media profiles: If they’re not already included on every page of your site, include them here.
  • Awards garnered: Include any awards your product, company or executives have won.
  • Executive appearances, conferences, and tradeshow participation: List all appropriate public speaking appearances, tradeshow and conference participation, and other events in a separate calendar section. Remember to include any international events. Keep the older listings up for at least a few months after the events to show that you are in demand as experts in your field, but be sure to keep the list updated.
  • Sign up box: Provide the opportunity for them to sign up for your email list, as well, so they can receive your press releases or any other company news you may wish to send.

Also, a word about online vs. hard copy press kits. Hard copy press kits are no longer necessary, unless you’re attending a large industry conference and want to bring along a few to hand out to reporters you may be meeting with. Some conferences have a press room where you can leave materials for reporters to review. It may be better to leave a one-sheet or a press release versus an entire press kit. I don’t know of any reporter these days who wants to tote a bunch of press kits back to their office in their luggage, so chances are they could wind up in the trash.

And finally, here are a few examples of online press areas from companies in various industries that are well done:

Cisco has always been the “gold standard” of online press areas: http://newsroom.cisco.com/

Outrigger Resorts: http://news.outrigger.com/presskit/

Kaiser Permanente: http://share.kaiserpermanente.org/

Johnson Controls: http://www.johnsoncontrols.com/content/us/en/news.html

The Walt Disney Company: http://thewaltdisneycompany.com/disney-news

Here’s hoping this gets you rolling on creating your own online press kit!

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Forget the resolutions: 5 ways to just do it in 2015 (PR, that is!)

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January is over, the groundhog didn’t see his shadow (thank goodness!) and 2015 is well underway. The time for resolutions is over. And even if you made one, for some of us, resolutions simply don’t work.

That’s OK. How about we just focus on getting it done this year? If you’ve been thinking about doing some PR for your business, there are some simple ways to get the ball rolling. Here are five ways you can make it happen when it comes to PR:

  1. If you’ve been putting off that press release, now is the time to write it. You can get a lot of mileage from press releases because there are so many ways you can leverage them. Here are a few examples in my piece on Ragan’s PR Daily, 5 Ways to Make Use of a Press Release.
  2. Neglected to reach out to media? Not sure how to start? Tackle it head on by first deciding what type of media coverage would be most beneficial. Is it local coverage? Coverage in trade publications? Print or broadcast coverage? Then, put together a list. It doesn’t have to include hundreds of media outlets. Focus on five or 10 to start. Even selecting one target to pursue can be a beginning, then you can build from there.
  3. Try a contributed article. This is a great vehicle to build thought leadership. Get your expertise out there by sharing it with an audience who will appreciate it. And, these can also be repurposed in a number of ways (blog posts, social media, etc.). If you enjoy writing, you can do this on your own. If not—and if you don’t have a marketing or communications team–find someone in your company who likes to write. Or, hire someone to interview you and do the writing.
  4. Want to build your credibility as an expert in your field AND bring visibility to your business? Try speaking! If you’re just starting out, look for local opportunities to present at Chambers of Commerce, rotary groups and libraries. If you have the budget to travel to industry events like conferences, many of those accept speaking proposals. If you’re not comfortable flying solo, you can propose participating in a panel discussion with some of your industry peers.
  5. If you haven’t tried to garner any awards, now is the time. Awards are handed out by local publications and organizations, and then there are industry awards and even national awards programs. As always, where you start depends on who you’re trying to get in front of. Once you determine that, you can research appropriate awards programs, deadlines and fees and develop some baseline materials to use to submit to these programs.

These are a few ideas to get you started. There’s no time like NOW to get started on PR for your business! What are you waiting for?

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