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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

The quality of writing is on the decline – 7 tips to make you a better writer

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The quality of writing today is on the decline.

If you read any online publications or blogs, you’re probably noticing more and more errors (even in major ones). Why is this?

  • There’s more content—everyone is creating content. With the rise of content marketing, blogging, self-publishing and guest posting, the volume of content has increased dramatically. More than two million blog posts are published every day, while 72 percent of marketers are producing more content than they did the previous year[i].
  • There are fewer copy editors. There are about half as many copy editors today as 10 years ago. Copy editors have been sacrificed more than any other newsroom category[ii].
  • There’s a rush to get content out there. Some statistics claim that companies that don’t blog daily will be left behind. With that sort of a rush mentality, it’s no wonder there are more mistakes than ever in our writing today.

Whatever the reason for this decline in our writing, our standards are being lowered. This hurts our credibility as professionals. 81 percent of businesspeople in a recent survey agree that poorly written material wastes a lot of their time[iii]. It distracts the reader from the intended message. And, it just makes us look plain unprofessional.

Conversely, while the quality of writing may be decreasing, content marketing is seen as an increasingly vital part of a company’s marketing strategy. Content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads (Source: DemandMetric). It’s efficient, compelling and highly customizable, catering to virtually all businesses and industries[iv].

So, given all of this, what can we do to produce higher quality written content?

Here are seven tips to improve your writing:

1) The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect: Just get it down on paper…get the words out. You can go back to fine tune it later, but it’s important to get all the information out of your head and on the page first.

Some writers seem to be intimidated by the writing process. But truly, the first draft is just that—a draft. If you get the words down, you can always go back to edit them. Don’t be afraid to just start writing. Remember—you don’t have to show anyone your first draft—so who’s judging?

2) Write when the mood strikes you: I often see pieces advising writers to set aside a block of time each day to write. And yes, generally speaking, there are times of day that are better than others for most when it comes to writing in a focused manner.

But sometimes, an idea will just hit you—that’s the time to go with it. Run with that inspiration to achieve some of your best work. For example, I can tell you that writing a 500-word blog post is going to go a lot faster when you’re feeling inspired to write—versus when you’re forcing yourself to write.

3) Allow time for rewrites: I find that my best work is usually a product of having enough time. Sure, there are times when you just have to get it written and done. But, a much more effective process is allowing yourself a couple of days in which to write, walk away, and then come back to refine your work. You’ll be amazed at what you catch and can improve if you give it time to breathe.

4) Proofread your work: Of course, you need to proof your work. Many simple errors would be caught before publication if writers would simply review their work. A tip I use often—read your work aloud. This will help you catch errors you might otherwise glance over. (A side note: You may want to try this when no one else is listening…!)

5) Have someone else review your work: After you’ve proofed (and re-proofed!) your work, ask someone else to review it. A spellchecker is good, but it’s not the same as having another human review your work. This could be a colleague, or even a friend (or check a service like Fiverr to hire a copy editor at a reasonable rate). It’s just helpful to have another pair of eyes reviewing your work to catch the errors you (or spell check) may miss.

If you have no human to proof your work, you can try a tool like Hemingway App or Grammarly. There are even free versions of these tools, which help catch complex sentences and common errors.

6) Follow style guidelines when applicable: Not sure if a number should be spelled out? Ever wonder if a word should be capitalized? Style guides to the rescue! If you’re in the news or PR fields, AP Style is generally preferred. The Chicago Manual of Style is the guide for authors, editors and publishers of books, periodicals and journals. A full explanation of both is here.

7) Look to the pros for more tips: Looking for more advice? I always recommend Ann Handley’s best-selling book, “Everybody Writes.” And, sites like MarketingProfs, Contently and Copyblogger are great sources to glean more writing tips and tricks.

Those are my best quick tips. What works for you when you write?

A closing thought: Did you know that 64% of B2B marketers outsource writing? (Source: TopRankBlog) So, if you need writing help, get in touch.

Looking for more writing and PR tips? Sign up for my free monthly newsletter by clicking here.

[i] http://neilpatel.com/2016/01/21/38-content-marketing-stats-that-every-marketer-needs-to-know/

[ii] http://www.poynter.org/2013/asne-survey-there-are-about-half-as-many-copy-editors-today-as-10-years-ago/203244/

[iii] https://hbr.org/2016/09/bad-writing-is-destroying-your-companys-productivity

The quality of writing is on the decline - but how can you improve your writing?

The quality of writing is on the decline – but how can you improve your writing?

[iv] http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2016/08/content-marketing-stats/

 

It’s Q4—is it time to check in on your marketing budget?

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Yes, it’s here—the last quarter of 2017. The last three whooshed by quickly, didn’t they? As we head into Q4, it can be a good time for small businesses to take stock of where their marketing budgets were spent.

Statistics show that while businesses are cutting back on traditional print and broadcast advertising, spending on digital marketing continues to increase. 66 percent of small businesses are maintaining or increasing their spend on digital marketing[i]. Makes sense, as more and more buyers turn to online sources to gather information and make purchases.

As spending on digital marketing increases, so does spending on social media, content creation and public relations[ii]. But, other statistics reveal that many small businesses still don’t have a social media presence. According to a survey, 67 of small business owners are new to social media, while another 18 percent don’t have a social media presence at all[iii].

Why don’t small businesses see the value in social media? One reason may be that they don’t know what to post. I often hear this from business owners I speak with. “I know I should be on social media–but what should I post?” Of course, if you have your own content, you’ll want to share that. Curating others’ content is also important. (For more ideas on how to curate content, see this piece, “The small business owner’s answer to, ‘What Should I Post on Social Media?’”)

Does your marketing budget include PR?

And, how can public relations help? PR can generate earned media in the form of articles that can be used as content on your site and shared via social media. A focused PR effort can also help you land opportunities for contributed articles in vertical industry publications that can then be shared on your social media channels and on your site.

And what about a company blog? Do you have one? If so, you need content for that blog. Many PR pros are also skilled writers who can help craft content. And, you can then repurpose those blog posts by self-publishing that content via platforms like Linkedin Pulse and Medium.

Another way to create content is to look to your customers for ideas. Are there customer stories you could share? Testimonials? Photos of customers using your product or service? These are all great content for social media and can also be plugged into your PR and marketing efforts in various ways.

So, as you consider your Q4 marketing budget, don’t discount the value of PR in feeding the content creation and social media machine.

Want more free PR tips and advice? Sign up for our free monthly newsletter here.

[i] http://localvox.com/resources/marketing-statistics/#small-business

[ii] http://www.webstrategiesinc.com/blog/how-much-budget-for-online-marketing-in-2014

[iii] http://www.inc.com/john-brandon/new-survey-59-of-entrepreneurs-dont-view-social-media-as-essential.html#515

PR Is No Picnic in the Summer — 5 Tips to Plan Your PR Efforts Around Vacations & Holidays

PR is no picnic in the summer (4)

Ah, summer…a time for getting outside to enjoy the warm, sunny days with picnics, margaritas and relaxing by the pool…but, what about your PR plans? Summer can be a challenging time if you have PR initiatives that need to move forward. With many reporters on vacation, your media outreach can take even longer than usual. And, of course, the 4th of July is right around the corner.

So, what does this mean for your public relations efforts? PR can be anything but a picnic during the summer months. Here are some tips to try to make the most of this season when it comes to PR:

  1. Planning is imperative: Trying to choose the best date for an announcement? Study the calendar. Avoid the major summer holidays, the 4th of July and Labor Day, as well as the days before and after. That is, unless your news has a tie-in to these holidays. If you’re making a tech-related announcement, for example, you’d certainly want to time it so it doesn’t coincide with the 4th to achieve maximum visibility. On the other hand, if your news involves a holiday-related trend, you’d want to pitch that a week or two before the holiday.
  2. Allow extra time: As we know reporters may very well be on vacation, it’s a good idea to build in some extra time on pitches during the summer months. For instance, if you usually pitch news a week before an announcement, allow two weeks. That way, if a journalist is out of the office, you’ll still have time to follow up.
  3. Avoid the dead zone: Per the point above, as the 4th of July and Labor Day each fall on Monday, you can expect the Friday before to be pretty quiet (you can almost hear the crickets chirp!). Some may even take off the Tuesday after to create an even longer weekend. And, once they return, their inboxes may be filled to the brim with pitches. You don’t want your pitch to get lost in that sea of email, so maybe wait another day or so before sending it.
  4. Think Christmas: Believe it or not, it’s not too early to think about the holidays. Gift guides for many print magazines are already in the works. If you have a product that fits in that category, you’ll want to start pitching those gift guides now. Be ready with a product description and high-resolution photos.
  5. Cover your time off: Lastly, if you’re in charge of working with the media for your company or client and are planning to take a vacation, have a plan in place should a reporter get in touch during that time. Ask someone to cover for you and be sure to have basic resources ready for them to use if a reporter needs anything. If you have a press area on your site, all of these materials should be posted there (that makes it easy for the reporter AND for anyone trying to cover for you).

And, be sure not to leave your clients in the lurch. Give them plenty of notice so you can complete any work they need done before you go. If you’re a consultant leaving for an extended period of time, e.g.               more than a week or two, consider asking someone to fill in for you. Perhaps you have a trusted consultant colleague who could be on call, should your clients need anything.

I hope these tips help you make the most of your summer PR initiatives. Now, time to get back to your sunbathing!

 

 

Why Hire a PR Consultant?

Why Hire a PR Consultant

So, you’ve decided you need some outside PR help for your business. But, what kind of help do you need?

Of course, in the world of outsourcing, one size does NOT fit all. If you’re thinking of hiring external support, there are always options. Agencies, subcontractors, PR consultants (sometimes known as freelancers) can all offer assistance—but which option is best for you?

Why would a PR consultant be a good fit?

Let’s look at some situations in which a PR consultant would be a good fit. Here are some possible scenarios:

  • You can’t afford an agency
  • You have sporadic projects with which you need help (so a subcontractor may be overkill)
  • You have an ongoing program that needs to be managed by an outside resource

Consultants are generally more flexible than agencies, in that they may not ask you to sign a long-term contract and may accept project or hourly work. Another benefit: most are probably less expensive than an agency, which stands to reason, because they don’t come with the overhead that an agency would carry.

And, consultants are accustomed to working with teams of all sizes. They’re skilled at getting up and running quickly, as they tend to work on a variety of projects at once.

Which companies can use a PR consultant? 

Consultants can be plugged into any scenario:

  • Small businesses: This can be an ideal fit, as most small businesses don’t have an internal resource for certain job functions and may just need help occasionally. Need a press release and some media pitching? Hire a PR consultant. Need some graphics designed for a brochure? Hire a graphic design freelancer. Get the idea? Consultants can help as needed.
  • Startups: Usually strapped for cash, startups need a resource that can assist—but on a budget. Consultants can be the answer. They can help you with a launch or an ongoing effort, showing results that will help keep your investors happy.
  • Corporate/enterprise: Even large companies can make effective use of freelancers or consultants. Many times, there’s a project that needs doing, but the internal team is just too taxed to add it to their workload. That’s when a freelancer can really come in handy. They can focus on that particular project—and when it’s done, they can move on. Or maybe there’s a big project coming up and the team just needs an extra set of hands. A consultant can help offload some of that temporary burden.
  • Non-profits: Another group that can be operating on a tight budget is nonprofits. While they might benefit greatly from some assistance, they may not think they can afford it. A consultant can come in to affordably help with a major fundraising push or perhaps an upcoming event.
  • Agencies: Freelancers can work with agencies, as well. Many agencies like free agents because while they don’t have enough work to keep someone on staff to do a particular task, a freelance consultant can be beneficial for certain clients or projects.

Once you determine you need the benefits outside help can bring to your business, be sure to consider hiring a consultant as a viable option. They’re a versatile solution that can be plugged in in a number of ways to help you using the approach that works best.