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Put on your “news hat” when reaching out to media

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I was meeting with a new client today to talk about what we might do regarding media outreach. They were interested in publicizing the anniversary of their business, which is perfectly worthy of a press release and some local media outreach.

Then, we started talking about other ideas and how we might tie those in to trends and topics that are currently hot. During that brainstorming session, we hit on a topic that has the potential to be a bigger story regarding industry trends and how the field is growing, etc. I got excited—and so did they—when we realized we’d tapped into a topic that goes beyond the fact that they’re celebrating an anniversary.

Sometimes, you have to put on your “news hat” when thinking about what the media might find appealing. Yes, there are always those stories that may be interesting from a local perspective, but uncovering topics that go beyond the local media to perhaps an even bigger audience can be a thrill.

Once you hit on a topic you think will capture a reporter’s attention, always consider:

  • What statistics might be beneficial to include
  • What images or video might be compelling
  • What third party sources might you provide

When you craft your email pitch, offer these additional resources to help round out the story. (Just be sure to have what you offer ready to provide, if they take you up on it.)

PR pros with a background in journalism are particularly skilled at uncovering these ideas. We’re trained to think like a reporter and tap into story ideas you may not have even thought of. So, take a cue from a journalist and what started as a routine effort may turn into something much bigger.

Labor Day is lurking–hold your PR activities until next week!

Don’t look now, but Labor Day is lurking just around the corner! While everyone looks forward to a long weekend–and this is summer’s last hurrah–it can throw a bit of a monkey wrench into your PR plans.

As I was thinking of my own clients and the timing of what they have coming up, I thought I’d share my tips for issuing news or contacting media around the holidays. Keep in mind:

  • The Friday before a holiday weekend can be a poor time to issue news or pitch reporters, as many take off early (or may even take the whole day off!)
  • Of course, the holiday is Monday–avoid contacting journalists then or issuing press releases
  • The Tuesday following the long holiday weekend should also be avoided, as many are coming back to inboxes filled with even more email than they’d normally have to slog through

So, bottom line: pitch before or after the holiday weekend, keeping these tips in mind! By the middle of next week, things should be getting back to normal and should be all clear for any media outreach you choose to do.

Enjoy the LONG weekend!

Enjoy Labor Day--but hold your PR activities until next week!

Need ideas for your next blog post? 5 free resources

If you’re like me, you have TOO many ideas for blog posts. I keep a running list whenever I come up with a topic that sounds like it might be a good fit. Sometimes, if I’m feeling really inspired, I’ll even start jotting down a few ideas that usually become part of the post.

But alas, I know many struggle to come up with ideas for content. If so, don’t despair! Here from Ragan’s and Entrepreneur is a piece to help:

5 free blog idea generators to liven up your content

These are useful and FREE resources that allow you to type in a keyword (or three) and come up with ideas for topics you can write about. And, they’re easy to use.

Some are content idea generators while others are blog topic generators. The only difference is that the former lets you fill in only one keyword per search while the latter allows you to enter three. I was familiar with HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator but hadn’t hear of some of the others. Might be worth checking them out to see which one you like best.

So, now that you have no excuses, get going on your next blog post!  blog time

PR: A Powerful Tool for Startups on a Budget

Is PR worth it for startups? I recently wrote a post asking if startups really need PR. Of course, my take is that they do. Having lived and worked for years in startup land, i.e. Silicon Valley, I have many stories of how the power of PR transformed a company’s visibility. PR can provide this visibility for a fraction of the cost of other marketing or advertising methods. Of course, if you have the budget, it’s great to do all three, but many startups are strapped for cash.

So I came across this piece in the Huffington Post, Why HR, PR and IT Are Worthy Startup Investments, which makes the case for spending the precious cash startups do have on PR. The article makes a couple of important points about PR:

“In the end, the content promoted by a PR professional is free, and the PR service may well be cheaper than a TV ad or banner.”

This is something I often cover in my speaking engagements because it needs explaining. Many don’t understand that all they pay for PR is the cost of the time of the person doing the work. There’s no cost for true PR placements. PR differs from advertising in that you don’t know where or when the article may appear or what it will say. It’s not like placing an ad and knowing exactly what page it will show up and how it will read. But, think of it like this: Are you more likely to believe in a product or service when you read about it an ad or in an article? A study by Nielsen (commissioned by inPowered) concluded that PR is almost 90% more effective than advertising in the consumer decision-making process[i]. These stats to back up the fact that more of us are partial to what we read in articles versus ads. So, not only is PR less expensive than advertising, but it’s actually more credible.

Leading me to the second point the article made:

“PR is subtle and effective, working to earn attention instead of grabbing it.”

PR doesn’t hit you over head the way an ad can. “Buy this product! Buy it now and save! Buy, buy, buy!!!” And this is if you even read the ad….how many of us actually stop to read the ads?! On the other hand, if an article is published about your product, service or company, it will probably give an example of the product is being used, quote an actual user or, if it’s a review, give the opinion of the reviewer. This provides immediate credibility with the reader.

Yes, PR may be quieter than advertising, but it leaves a more favorable, lasting impression at a lower price tag—something to consider the next time you look at your marketing budget.

[i] http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwynne/2014/07/08/the-real-difference-between-pr-and-advertising-credibility/PR image

Five Midyear Money-Saving Tips to Cut Your PR Costs

July marks the midpoint of the year, when many businesses assess budgets and begin forecasting expenditures for the remaining months as they start to plan for 2015. In the spirit of budgeting, today’s blog post focuses on tips to help you save money on your PR efforts.

You may not realize that there are free resources out there to take advantage of. Of course, there are some lower cost paid options, as well, if you have some budget but don’t want to break the bank.

Here are five categories of  helpful PR resources, many of them free, to assist you with your efforts:

1) For reporter queries: Here are three resources you can sign up for free that send out email daily with reporter queries (reporters looking for people to interview). Anyone may respond, as long as the guidelines are followed:

  • HARO: Everyone’s an expert at something. Sharing your expertise may land you that big media opportunity you’ve been looking for. http://www.helpareporter.com/
  • Pitchrate: Simply register as an expert, and then when you see a request that’s appropriate for your expertise, “make a pitch.” That will send your pitch to the journalist making the request. http://www.pitchrate.com/
  • SourceBottle: Exclusively focused on topics around women’s interests, including beauty, business, home and lifestyle, health, parenting and relationships. http://www.thesourcebottle.com/us-can/

2) For awards and speaking opportunities: IT Memos: This service provides a complimentary subset of award and speaking opportunities geared toward the IT industry (the paid service provides even more opportunities): http://itdatabase.com

3) For research: Take advantage of Google. Use it to research to see which reporters and publications are writing about your competitors and your industry. Also use it to research publications that might be a fit and then check editorial calendars for opportunities.

4) Press release services: Issue press releases free via these wire services. There are many, but these are the two I use most often:

  • PR.com, http://www.pr.com/. This one gets the news on the search engines; note there’s a 24-36 hour lag time on the release actually being posted, so plan ahead.
  • PRLog.com, http://www.prlog.org/. This one allows you to add a photo and/or video at no charge. You can choose to issue the release instantly or set a date/time.

And, if you have the budget, here are three services that charge to issue press releases:

5) For editorial calendar opportunities: To find editorial calendar opportunities, here’s a free resource:

You may also visit each publication’s site. Many list their editorial calendar online (sometimes it can be found under “Advertising” or “Media Kit”), so it’s possible to build your own calendar of opportunities that may be a fit for free. Paid services are also available such as MyEdCals, http://www.mymediainfo.com/myedcals.html.

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Proof Positive That Reporters Actually DO Use Press Releases

These days, it’s not uncommon to read about the supposed death of the press release. Interesting how some seem to want to see it go away, as it’s still widely used by reporters to prepare stories, especially now when we see so many staff cuts and even witness entire publications folding.

But, Business Wire, a leading news wire service, just published a report stating that 89 percent of reporters had used a press release within the last week. Hmmm….something doesn’t add up here!

That’s a LARGE percentage, no matter how you slice it. For any naysayers out there, this should be yet another proof point that press releases still play an important role in our PR programs. (See more here on my thoughts on this topic, in this article published on Ragan’s PR Daily.) While there are certainly best practices that should be applied so that releases are actually providing value to reporters, if anyone tells you they’re not vital to an effective PR effort, they’re just plain wrong.

The report went on to say that 75 percent of reporters prefer graphics/infographics be included in a press release, while more than 70 percent like photos to be added. And, almost 80 percent say they turn to a company’s online newsroom when researching a company or organization. Many companies don’t even have an online newsroom–meaning it’s time to add one!

So, the bottom line is this: The press release is, in fact, alive and well, and absolutely has its place in today’s PR world. Don’t overlook this important tool in your marketing and PR arsenal!

Dr. Roger Blackwell: Three Lessons in Presenting

blackwellThe other day, I had the distinct honor of hearing Dr. Roger Blackwell speak at our Columbus AMA luncheon. Dr. Blackwell is a marketing legend—I won’t go into all his accolades, but you can visit his site and read his bio here: http://www.rogerblackwellbusiness.com. Suffice it to say that he’s written 25 books, The New York Times has described him as one of America’s top business speakers and there’s a building named after him at The Ohio State University. (!)

I’d been looking forward to this event since I invited him to present and, thankfully, he said yes. He’s a long-time AMA member and a big supporter of the organization. I may be one of the few who’ve never had the pleasure of hearing him speak, so I was stoked for our meeting yesterday. And, Dr. Blackwell did not disappoint!

Here are three lessons to take away from his brilliant presentation:

Lesson One: Have a Thread That Ties It All Together

Dr. Blackwell has written a brand new book, “Saving America: How Garage Entrepreneurs Grow Small Firms into Large Fortunes,” that talks about how to bootstrap the economy and how small startups are our salvation. I must admit, I’m not the biggest follower of economics, but his talk fascinated me. “If you don’t know the cause, you won’t know the cure,” is one of his favorite expressions. So, he proceeded to explain his theory regarding the cause of our economic woes.  The way he explained how our upper head strength (= brain) has become more important than our upper body strength (=brawn)—meaning  it now takes fewer workers to do the same job because of technology—by using statistics and examples we can all relate to had the crowd enthralled.

Lesson Two: Your Presentation Style Matters

Add to that his dynamic presentation style—there’s no doubt that this is a guy who CARES about what he’s saying!—and it was a tremendous presentation. Dr. Blackwell came out into the audience—he didn’t stand up on the stage or at the podium. There was an energy in the room.  Although he ran over the allotted time, no one got up to leave…everyone stayed to hear his entire talk. I think he would’ve kept going, had we had more time—and I really wanted him to keep going!

Lesson Three: Leave Them Wanting More

This got me to thinking, if you’re a passionate presenter, perhaps it doesn’t matter if every member of your audience is into your topic. If you CARE about what you’re saying, then the audience will follow your lead and care, too! So, the next time you present, try to inject some passion into your presentation. I’m still thinking about Dr. Blackwell’s talk and am sure it will stay with me for days. He definitely left his audience wanting more.

 

What Matters Most In a PR Practitioner?

got-passion3-300x127Today, I was thinking about what matters most when it comes to PR. If you’re considering PR for your company, product or service, what should you look for in a PR practitioner? Of course, there’s always a great deal of debate about what qualities and credentials are most important. Here’s what I think matters most: passion.

Is your PR practitioner passionate about:

  • Your business?
  • Getting you coverage?
  • Helping you understand the process?
  • Keeping up with current trends and tools in the PR industry?

There are a lot of choices when it comes to PR, as with anything else you might hire an expert to help with. Credentials and experience matter. But if the passion is lacking, it’s going to be tough to get where you want to go.

For those of us who are truly passionate about PR, we eat, sleep and breathe it. We can’t even turn it off when we’re at a restaurant, because we notice typos in the menu! When we watch TV, we have to comment on the ads–are they effective? When we read a magazine or newspaper, we wonder if the headline could’ve been worded differently to attract more readers or if our client might be a fit for this reporter’s beat. When we see a posting about an event, we notice the date is missing. We can’t help it. It’s just part of our DNA.

Ideas strike us at all hours of the day–and sometimes, even the night. I’ve had dreams about how to help clients that have led to a new story idea to pitch. I’ve taken a walk that spurred an idea for a publication we could try pitching. I’ve been reading the Sunday paper and noticed an article that led to a great idea for a blog post for a client. Many times, when I’m least expecting it is when an idea will come to me for new ways to help my clients.

So you may be thinking, “This all sounds great, but how can I tell if this person is truly passionate about PR?” To help you evaluate your choices, here are real-world examples of this passion in action:

  • Your PR pro should have a passion for spreading the PR “gospel”: Do they frequently speak on PR, helping others learn about its power and how to put it to work for them?
  • Your PR pro should have a passion for helping small businesses get on the map: If they own their own small business, as do I, they understand the challenges and rewards involved. A practical, no-nonsense approach is what works best, because as all small business owners know, we don’t have time for the extras.
  • Your PR pro shouldn’t always be focused on the clients who can pay the most: Does your PR pro love PR so much that they charge reasonable rates? And do they often help out non-profits on a pro bono or in-kind basis? I usually have at least a couple of organizations I’m working with on a pro bono basis at any given. I truly enjoy working people who have a passion for what they do AND express their appreciation my help, so those are the folks I tend to gravitate toward on these projects.
  • Your PR pro should have a passion for specialization—but also see the bigger picture: There are many firms who claim to offer it all, from marketing to advertising to events to PR, but do you want to skim the surface? Or do you want to work with someone with specializes in getting your name out there? While it’s a good thing to work with a PR pro who has some experience or background in more general marketing, you may want to stay away from those who claim to do it all—because they may not do it all well.

Let’s face it, there are plenty of folks just phoning it in these days in professions across the board, but those with passion stand out. So, evaluate your options carefully and look for the passion–if it’s missing, it might be wise to look elsewhere.

How My Dad Inspired Me to Start My Own Business

dadToday’s blog post is in honor of Father’s Day.

Back before being an entrepreneur was in vogue, I grew up in a household where neither parent went to work at an office every day. Both my parents were entrepreneurs, launching their own businesses. My father was well-known in our city for having his own produce business that he ran for 40+ years. He started out selling produce door to door and eventually opened his own very successful market. The whole family, including all four of us kids, worked there. That’s where my early lessons in customer service came from (as well as my ability to add without a calculator!). In addition to working during the day at the market stocking shelves and taking care of customers, I used to love to hang out with my parents in the evenings and help with the accounting side of things, counting money and adding up checks to be deposited.

This spirit of entrepreneurship was ingrained in me without me even realizing it. Even with all the headaches that come with being one’s own boss—the technology issues, the accounting challenges, the sales and marketing outreach, the stress of trying to take a vacation—there’s just something about hanging out your own shingle. The freedom that comes with that and the pride in knowing that you are controlling your own fate are priceless. I have to thank my dad (and mom!) for teaching me these lessons. The interesting part is that I didn’t even know I was learning anything….it was just part of life at our house.

So, in honor of my dad, my first entrepreneurial inspiration, Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there. May you inspire your kids the way my dad inspired me.

 

Press Releases – Alive, Well and Working to Do Their Job Of Getting the News Out

“The press release is obsolete,” they said.  “It’s lived its useful life. It’s dead.”

I can’t recall how many times I’ve read about the death of the press release in the past year. Yet, I’ve always believed in press releases to help companies get the word out. And today, I have a client story to support the fact that press releases DO work!!

Here’s the story:

I work with a local entrepreneur who’s developed a patented product in the bedding category. We’ve been working together for a couple of years now, and I’ve watched the progression of the product and the company to where it is today.

We’ve selectively issued a few press releases throughout the course of our working relationship. About two months ago, we issued a release to announce they’d launched an ecommerce site. Up to this point in time, we’ve done mostly local media outreach, with plans to go more national/vertical in the coming months. So, just a few days ago, a leading _national_ publication proactively contacted me after finding the press release to request a sample be sent for consideration to be in an upcoming story. What?!?! Yes, it REALLY happened! And, to go one step further, the reporter contacted me via the press release service we used. And, it was a (gasp!) a FREE press release service!

This proves a few points that I often mention in the talks I give about PR:

1)      Press releases DO work to reach the media. Reporters like press releases because they’re written in a format they’re familiar with. Releases are written in inverted pyramid style, which is the way news stories are written. They contain the pertinent information reporters need to cover a story. In many cases, PR practitioners and reporters both attend journalism school, so this is a medium we both know and understand.

2)      You don’t have to spend money to issue a press release on a wire service. The free services get the word out, too, and get you on search engines to help your SEO (search engine optimization). Undoubtedly, the reporter at the national publication found our press release while doing research for a story she was putting together.

3)      While you should proactively reach out to the media you’re targeting (and yes, you should figure out who you want to target), just issuing the press release does get it out there and allows it to be found, should a reporter be searching.

4)      The above two points underscore the need to work in your keywords, so in the event a reporter is searching, he or she finds your press release.

Given, the product hasn’t yet appeared in the magazine (just imagine the celebration, if that happens!), but this is already a “win” in so many ways:

  • It’s a win for the client, whose product is being seen by a high-level press and may appear in an upcoming issue of a top magazine
  • It’s a win for me, because I worked with the client and wrote the press release
  • It’s a win for PR because look at the power of what it can do, and
  • It’s a win for our friend, the lowly press release, who some have too quickly deemed obsolete.

It’s OK, press release—we know you’re not dead. We believe in you and your power to help us get the news out!