Tag Archives: Public Relations

The Two Key Components of Successful PR For A Startup

Startups are emerging everyday.  A lasting impact of the Great Recession is the number of people starting companies on their own.  One of the key things that these new companies need is publicity.

Why?

  1. It gets the company’s name out to the public, creating brand awareness.
  2. It allows the company a chance to attract investors.

Yet despite knowing this many startups struggle over what they need to do to achieve publicity.  Sometimes they launch a publicity campaign before they are ready for prime time or other times they try to incorporate a variety of components in their publicity campaigns instead of concentrating on the two most important pieces of startup publicity – media relations and the company blog.

Media relations and the company’s blog are without a doubt, the most essential public relations pieces for any startup.  Without those two pieces nothing else matters, in terms of publicity.

Media relations is quite simply news stories featuring the startup and its founder.  It informs the world of the new company and the wonders that it can do.  Beyond that, a successful media relations campaign should position the founder of the company as the expert in the field the company specializes in.  The founder should be in all news stories dealing with his or her field and offering solutions to the problems that the media is discussing.  This implies a third party endorsement by the media.  Media relations must be ongoing to create a sense of awareness and repetition.  Media relations is the most efficient way to create public brand awareness and draw the attention of investors.

The company blog is the other critical public relations component for a startup.  Why?  First every blog post attracts traffic to the company’s website and also helps in search engine results.  Beyond that, just as with media relations, it sets the company up as an industry expert that helps in the long-term branding of the company.  Finally, it converts leads into customers.

Public relations is critical to the success of startups.  But knowing what to put the emphasis on in a publicity campaign can determine if the startup succeeds or fails.  Every start-up when executing its public relations campaign needs to emphasize media relations and the company blog.

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Starbucks Red Cup Controversy? A Publicity Score!

Unless a person has been totally hidden from social media or traditional media, they know that Starbucks has unveiled its Christmas season cup. The cup is plain red with the Starbucks logo emblazoned on it. The company kept it simple with the traditional colors of the season in an effort to foster inclusiveness and diversity it claimed. The reaction has been incredible. Many claiming to be leading Christians blasted the company for omitting traditional holiday messages on the cup as in pervious years or missing the reason of the season. In fact the Starbucks holiday cup has been one of the biggest stories on social media and in traditional media. The Starbucks holiday cup has been of the most frequent searches on Google. Starbucks has emerged as a branding winner in this story.

How were they able to make this controversy a winner for the brand?

First they were very measured in their response to critics. Rather than ignore the controversy or go into full crisis mode, they were nuanced. On their website they reiterated their main point of why they were doing the simple red cup. For millions who buy into the Starbucks’ brand story that response just reinforced their belief in the brands. For others, it was a non-story not pitting Starbucks against its critics. And the media could not make a bigger story of the controversy from the company’s response so the story continued to be the new holiday cup and not Starbucks versus its critics.

With the increased noise over the Starbucks’ holiday cup, the Starbucks website saw increased traffic. Starbucks with this increased traffic in mind put its holiday offerings – Christmas blend and other products front and center on the website. What a great way to advertise!

Long term as I mentioned it reinforced the brand identity to its loyal customers. Consumers expect their brands to tell a story and share their values. Starbucks in this holiday cup saga reinforced the social values that so many of its loyal consumers have come to expect from the company.

Finally, Starbucks reaped millions in free publicity. It was a major story in all of the media. Social media is still several days later abuzz with the story. People who know little about Starbucks and its various holiday offerings now do. All achieved at very little cost to the company.

Starbucks has emerged as a major winner with its holiday cup saga. Other brands can learn from it.

Why Businesses Should Include A Public Relations Strategy In Their Plans

Less than one percent of small and medium size businesses have a public relations strategy. The challenge is that many businesses simply do not understand what public relations actually is and what it will do for them in terms of business growth and branding. Many business owners and executives equate public relations component with paid advertising. They do not recognize the difference and value of ongoing media coverage which puts them out as thought leaders in their industry that customers will seek out and which is the best way to enhance a business’ brand.

Small and medium size businesses looking to grow and position themselves as leaders should look to public relations and its value in supporting growth. A modest budget combined with an ongoing program will reap consistent rewards. To educate prospects who are not familiar with public relations, I compare public relations activities to mortgage payments. When you carry a mortgage, you make a monthly payment until you own the home. Public relations activities should build awareness and attract attention over time.  These efforts ultimately enhance a business’s reputation and standing in its market.

One of the biggest things businesses seek to determine is ROI for publicity efforts. Media placements, which include articles, story links and video news coverage, need to be utilized and pushed via social media, sent directly to prospects and integrated into sales packages to reinforce branding and enhance business development. Simply gaining media coverage without reusing it is where many businesses fail.

Many small business owners succumb to “shiny object syndrome.” They hear about new marketing tools, strategies and services, and want them even though they have no idea how these services actually work or if they will work. They gravitate to this while public relations and its tremendous value is not prioritized.

Businesses often fail to see how publicity helps generate interest, support salespeople, enhances SEO, creates high quality social media content and positions experts as leaders.

Finally, businesses need to know that publicity is an insurance policy for protecting their brand and reputation. A crisis situation can happen to any business at and given time. If a business crisis hits the media or online, failure to have the ability to respond or properly react could mean the demise of a business. Having a public relations and crisis communications strategy in place when a crisis hits protects brands, businesses, products and people.

As we head into the fall and many businesses think about their marketing pushes, they should also include public relations in their planning.

PR Tips For Start-ups

Many start-ups know that they need public relations to get their message out but are unsure on how to do it. They know that distinctive brands, which are easier to identify and thus purchase, can be achieved many ways via traditional and social media. A single cover story in a key trade magazine, an executive profile on CNBC, or inclusion in The Wall Street Journal can generate sales. A sustained visibility campaign across all mediums (news, speaking opportunities, social, etc. ) builds a brand and is a game changer.

So knowing this what should do they do?

  1. Be a media expert. How many times do you see a competitor on the news talking about an issue that affects your industry and wondering how did they get there? The answer is quite simple, they pitched themselves to the reporter or producer as an expert in the field who can address issues in a story the reporter is working on. For example if you specialize in IT, pitching yourself to reporters on the recent computer glitch on Wall Street as well as offering suggestions on what you would do to solve the issue would be something that any reporter would be interested in. The key is to monitor the news and position yourself and your company as an expert in a story that is of concern.
  2. Understand media deadlines. Want to see your brand in a holiday gift guide? Then think about pitching media in September and not November. It helps to know the dates, times and potential results of an event before the reporter does. Members of the press tend to act on the fly for most breaking news stories, but plan well in advance for traditional, time-oriented content.
  3. Be a speaker. One of the best ways to promote a business and reach target audiences is through speaking engagements. A speech at a local organization such as Rotary or the Chamber of Commerce reaches potential customers, can sometimes obtain media coverage, and elevates your business.

Public relations doesn’t need to be expensive or time consuming. A well orchestrated public relations campaign can enhance your business and bring your customers to you.

What Makes A Good News Story

Media relations are a key component of public relations. Companies want positive media coverage to assist them in reaching their target audience. Every CEO believes that they have a story that is newsworthy that will bring them coverage and assist in marketing. Regardless of whether it is business to consumer or business to business, companies want media coverage.

In public relations we hear all the time from clients and potential clients, can you get us in the news? The answer usually is yes we can, if you have a compelling story that will stand out. Today, news coverage is more competitive than ever before despite the opportunities the 24/7 news cycle provides.

What does it take to get news coverage?

Here are the elements for great media pitches and press releases:

  • New – Your company should have something current and fresh to share with your target audiences. Do you have a new product launch, a new spin on an old way of doing something, or a late-breaking development?
  • Timely – Make sure your news is presented to the media in a timely manner. For example, if your company reduced its carbon footprint this year, holding that information until closer to Earth Day (April 21) will give the story relevancy and timeliness; or closer to the season if you work in eCommerce doing stories on holiday sales online is timely starting in November.
  • Local – The rise of hyperlocal news has made this element more important than ever. Your story should be relevant to your locale; and remember, even national media outlets like to see how a piece of news impacts a particular community.
  • Human Interest – You might have a great piece of news, but you’ll increase your chances of coverage if you can put a human face to the story. For example, we represented an author once who after a near fatal accident gave up her high profile Wall Street career to pursue her dream of writing believing that the accident was a sign.
  • Conflict/Controversy – This component often needs some finessing, but if done right, you can position your piece of news as a long-fought victory or a beat-the-odds scenario.
  • Odd – That’s right, an unusual piece of news often makes headlines. Does your organization do something out-of-the-ordinary or quirky?

In today’s increasingly social world, I would add the following component:

  • Shareable – Your news must be worthy enough to be shared on social media platforms. At least six in 10 Americans consume news via the internet; moreover. Indeed more people claim today they get their news via the internet or Facebook than traditional media source. Indeed, Pew reported that 44% of consumers like to read news that is “shareable.” Indeed many companies that become overnight successes credit their success to the fact that their news story was shared on the internet.

News coverage can be obtained if we keep these basic elements in mind. These elements not only help our clients get the coverage they seek but also makes the reporter’s job easier meaning your relationship with them is strengthened and media relations, good relationships with reporters makes or breaks the coverage your client gets.

PR For Effective Audience Targeting

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In public relations, one of the first lessons we learn is that to deliver real results for our clients (and their bottom lines), we need to take ourselves out of the equation. The second lesson is how to convince our clients they have to do the same thing. Why? Because in most cases, neither we nor our client contacts are representative of the audience they need to reach.

It’s a challenging proposition. Business owners are rightfully very passionate about their companies. Having employees who are passionate about what they do and the organization for which they work is one of the greatest strengths they can have. But these same qualities can create a harmful environment when it comes to creating compelling communications and seeing a return from a public relations campaign.  The bottom line is that to be effective we must forget our preferences and think about those we are trying to reach.

 The good news is that effective communicators always keep the target audience at the top of their mind when crafting their work. Here are questions I always ask myself when evaluating whether a pitch, press release, or even a tweet is hitting its mark: 

  1. Who is the target audience?Yes, this seems obvious, but you can’t ask yourself this question enough. As busy as we are and as entrenched as we can get in getting the work done, stepping back from it and reminding ourselves of the real audience we need to reach has to be the first step each and every time. 
  2. Am I talking in language they will easily understand? I don’t mean English, Spanish or Russian. Rather, is there lingo or trade terminology that is more “inside baseball” that only industry insiders will understand rather than it is clear and compelling? There are no extra points for grammatically-complex sentences filled with technical jargon – unless your audience is well-versed in the intricacies of what you do and how you do it. For most businesses and organizations, those details are not germane to the desired action and may in fact cause your audience to tune out. Short, clear, crisp – and commonly-used – language is almost always the best option.  Wordy and technical responses turn off the audience most times and they switch to something else.  Nothing loses an audience than talking in terms they do not understand
  3. Are my personal preferences getting in the way? This is a tough one. As a customer yourself, you want to really like what you’re paying for. That’s understandable. But if you really like green, and you know from research that your audience simply loves orange, then orange is the way to go. The message must appeal to your audience first. You’ll learn to love orange…when it’s helping meet your business goals.
  4. What’s in it for them? People are busy. They are also inundated with marketing messages everywhere they turn. The only way to get their attention is to deliver a message that caters to their needs.

The bottom line is this: effective communications are those that work. To drive sales, change behavior or diffuse a crisis, messages must first reach their target. When we remember to take ourselves out of the equation – and see things from the perspective of our audience – we stand a greater chance of success.

Where Self-Published Authors Should Invest Money

 

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More and more authors are turning to self-publishing.  In 2013, Bowker reported over 391,000 books were self-published.  That was up 59% from 2011.  This trend is expected to continue. 

With the increase in self-publishing, many authors wonder where they should invest their resources when undertaking this endeavor.  They know the cost of self-publishing can be astronomical.  I recommend that any author who is self-published spend their money on:

  1. Editorial
  2. Cover design
  3. Marketing and publicity

A good cover will catch a reader’s attention.  People are visual.  They react to what they see.  When competing against thousands of book in your genre, a good cover is essential to grab the consumer’s attention and get them to pick up the book and look at it.  Getting a consumer to look at your book is half the battle in selling the book.  This means a striking cover design that will arouse the reader’s interest.  A good cover conveys a sense of what the book is about and lends a sense of intrigue as well.  You don’t want to use clip art.  You want a graphic artist who has expertise in designing cover art and understands what your book is about.  A good graphic artist will provide you with several samples to select from after going to work on your cover.  Sometimes the perfect cover may be a combination of all the samples.  No matter what, work with a professional who has worked with authors before and can show you samples of his or her work.

Once a reader’s attention has been spiked, they will skim through the book to determine interest.  A book with spelling errors or grammatical errors will turn off the consumer and probably cost the sale.  Beyond that, you are struggling with the mindset (an unfair one) but one that still exists that self-published books are subpar.  A badly edited book will reinforce that mindset and hurt your sales.  Reviewers will pounce on any grammatical mistakes in the book.  Spending money on a good editor prevents that from happening.

So you have written the world’s best book, yet if you don’t publicize it, no one will know that it exists.  Getting the word out about your book is a lengthy process, sometimes as long or if not longer than writing the book.  It means book reviews, interviews, websites, collateral material, press releases, social media, speaking engagements, book trailers, blog tours, and book signings.  An average marketing and publicity campaign for an author takes between six to sixteen months.  It encompasses developing an author brand and reaching readers.  Don’t forget your competing not just against other self-published authors but also authors published through traditional publishing houses.  The challenge to get your book to stand out is immense.  That is why investing in a strong marketing and public relations plan either with an agency or individual who has worked with self-published authors in the past is essential.

Writing a book and taking it to market is a fulltime endeavor.  Making is successful can even be more challenging.  That is why know where to make your investments as an author is critical.

 

The Difference Between Press Releases and Media Pitches

I am often asked how press releases differ from media pitches.  It seems everyone has heard of a press release and believes they need one for their public relations campaign.  But beyond that they are not sure what a press release does and how it differs with a media pitch.

A press release is an announcement of certain news – a product launch, book release, special event, or promotion.  It is written to receive media mention.  The headline needs to be written in a way that commands attention but isn’t seen as a sales gimmick.  The first paragraph of the press release is the most critical.  That paragraph should be the guts of the press release with the who, what, when, where, and why in it.  With cutbacks in the media it is usually the first paragraph that gets picked up if any of the press release is picked up.  After that first paragraph there should be a quote and some follow-up information included, as well as a link to the website from the business, non-profit, or author the press release is coming from.  More and more press releases are being used for a viral affect with social media and free online press websites available to post a press release.

A media pitch is written to get specific media coverage from a reporter.  It is written and geared in a story format.  It is often tied to a news story.  I recommend a two paragraph media pitch.  The first paragraph should list the issue or news story, as well as, critical questions that should be asked or addressed by the reporter.  The second paragraph should include your expertise in being able to address those questions, as well as, how you would answer the questions.  You want the pitch written concisely, with a good soundbite in your answer.  With media cutbacks, reporters and producers love pitches that are written as a news story that they can incorporate into their story and the interview with you.  Media pitches generate the hard media coverage and interviews that brands, authors, and celebrities crave in a public relations campaign.

Why You Should Hire A Public Relations Agency

One of the age old questions about public relations has always been, do I need an outside public relations service provider or can I do it in house or by myself?  This question has never become more meaningful than in this age of Google, the 24/7 news cycle, and social media.  The answer is yes for a variety of reasons.

The first reason that comes to mind is cost in money and time.  In business everything revolves around the bottom line.  In this alone it is smarter to retain a public relations agency.  Public relations is not just press releases, press conferences, and media appearances.  It also includes the social media aspect of maintaining a company’s blog, Twitter and Facebook page.   This would require several salaried people.  In terms of salary alone, you are losing out as with a retainer with a public relations agency you have a team of professionals on your account that handle each aspect of that public relations campaign.  For small and medium sized organizations the savings is even greater.  Not only are you saving money, you are saving time and remember time is money.  There are not enough hours in the day for a small or medium sized business to do everything that needs to be done.  And time away from your core business means lost opportunities.  In retaining a public relations agency, you have their team assigned to your account handling your social media, your media coverage, your branding, and your press releases while you do what you do best – run your business.

Just as you go to a doctor or a lawyer because of their expertise that is yet another reason to hire an outside public relations service provider.  Just as you are the expert in your field, the personnel at a public relations agency are the experts in their field.  They bring their expertise in writing, in social media, media relations, branding, and special events to the plate.  They know public relations.  They know how to position a client for the maximum exposure.  They have the contacts with the media.  They know which reporters will cover which topics and also how to package a story that the media wants.  Many people think of an interview in terms of sales, it isn’t.  If a reporter suspects someone is just trying to sell them something through their story it will never see the light of day.  An experiences public relations expert knows how to package a story so that it is newsworthy to the reporter while still being of marketing benefit to a client.

Public relations agencies know to think of all public relations contingencies including when disaster strikes a client and how to begin planning for any event.  Businesses always have a plan for when a crisis strikes in how to handle things except in the terms of publicity.  Working with an agency means a preliminary crisis communications plan has been developed beforehand that can then be altered to fit the crisis.  Agency personnel have the skills and experience to objectively evaluate your business, clearly assess its strengths and weaknesses, and figure out how to use them in crisis communications.

Public relations agencies are familiar with and use all of the public relations tools available to generate attention for their clients. These tools include pitches, press releases, media kits, media interviews, seminars, webinars, social media, ezines, and more.  Many people don’t know the difference between a media pitch and a press release.   A press release has a definite format and conventional style. It’s written in a journalistic tone and is on specific news be it a new hire, a new product launch, or any specific related news.   A media pitch, on the other hand, has the main objective of catching a reporter’s attention — enough to want to call you for an interview, product demonstration, or whatever call to action you’ve indicated. It has all the most important information, but not all the details. It isn’t a complete story. Rather it’s a teaser for a story.   A public relations agency knows the difference and how to use both to their client’s benefit.  Finally many unless they are with a public relations agency don’t understand the importance of a media kit.  A media kit includes information on a company, product or service, includes FAQ’s, bios of key company personnel, pictures that can be used in news stories, and a sampling of previous media coverage.  It is essential to any public relations campaign.  Unknown to many is the fact that if you don’t have a media kit, most of the major media won’t touch you.  The major media grades potential guests and interviews on a scale of 1 to 10 without a media kit, you don’t get beyond one.  A public relations agency knows how to develop and constantly maintain a media kit.

There are other reasons to work with an outside agency.  By bringing in someone from the outside you are bringing in someone who can be more objective and doesn’t have the emotional commitment and blinders that an owner or company employee has.  A public relations agency tends to be more creative in developing story ideas and teasers to induce the media and can think outside the corporate box.  An agency constantly monitors the news and often sees opportunities that others don’t.  For example our company represented a marriage counselor and when the Eliot Spitzer story broke, went into pitching mode to have our client discuss why powerful men cheat which resulted in coverage on CNN, HLN, and Oprah.  An agency knows how to make use of the news to a client’s benefit.

The answer to whether you need an outside public relations vendor is quite simple.  Yes.  An outside public relations agency saves money and time, they have the expertise, they know how to employ the tools needed for your public relations campaign to succeed and having them do the public relations allows you to do what you do best – your business.

The Need For Branding In The Services’ Industry

One of the most frequent comments we hear is, “We are a service oriented company and not a product based company and therefore branding doesn’t make sense for us, or it just won’t work.”  We hear it from lawyers, medical service professionals, and those in the financial industry all of the time.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Service oriented companies are in greater need of creating brand centric experiences for their current and potential clients than product based clients.

Today, almost all companies are selling a commodity in the eyes of the consumer. You sell moisture wicking shirts or coffee to go… so do lots of other companies. You sell legal, accounting, or chiropractic services… so do tons of other companies who all claim to be very good at it. Which means the consumer is now looking for a way to differentiate between you and your competitors. But most service oriented brands aren’t providing their target audience with much help here.

The smart companies have realized that their brand DNA and their brand values – the emotional experience they want their target audience to have whenever they interact with them – is the only real way to differentiate themselves from their competitors. If their brand is created correctly, it allows them to stand out from the pack and give their potential clients a reason to choose them over the competition.

When making a purchasing decision about a service, the way most consumers make that decision is fundamentally and psychologically the same as whether or not they decide to buy from Starbucks. Yes, at Starbucks you walk out with a product and at a law firm or financial planner you walk out with advice. But at both, you are buying the experience they create for you, the relationship that is provided to you and how you believe that will make you feel.

That is all brand, and although we might not like to admit it, to the consumer, the baristas are really no different than the accountants at an accounting firm or associate at a law firm. They create and reinforce the emotional connection with the client.

Now a consumer goods company does have the extra advantage of selling a tangible product through which they can demonstrate their brand – in the product itself, its packaging, and the point of purchase experience. This is all the more reason that companies that don’t sell something tangible, need to ensure they have clarity of brand and their entire internal team shows it to the outside world consistently. They have one less avenue of opportunity for demonstrating how they are highly unique and relevant for their target audience – ultimately why a potential customer should choose them.

Sadly, we see way too many “service oriented” companies out there that say their brand is all about integrity and reliability, or some other overly used and vapid term. Please understand this just positions you and makes you sound all the more like a commodity. Think of it – would you buy from a company that said, “Well… we’re not so into integrity or reliability.” Of course not! It is assumed that you will have integrity and be reliable, otherwise I would never work with you.

That’s why it is so important for “service oriented” companies to go through a process that mixes science and art to clarify their brand DNA and brand values – ways in which they can truly and consistently be unique. Then they need to roll it out to their entire team in such a way that empowers them and encourages them live up to those brand standards every day.