Category Archives: marketing communications

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: When Media “Hits” are Hard to Come By

So what happens when you’ve sent out press releases, pitch e-mails and done your “call downs” aka follow-up calls with media and still all you hear is the sound of chriping crickets? It happens all the time. And, no, there is no possible way to have deep, meaningful relationships with every single journalist on your dozens of media lists. It’s not always possible to pick up the phone and say, “Hey, Jim. Can you do me this one favor and write something up on my client? They’re really fantastic. It’s a great story.” Nope. Even your best reporter friends can’t always say “yes” if their editor says “no.” When the media hits stop coming, or they never came at all, it’s time to stop an reevaluate your story. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re auditing a media relations plan:

1) Do you have realistic expectations about the hits you’re going for, and when those hits might happen? Remember, it takes weeks, sometimes several months to get on a journalist’s radar if they’ve never heard of you before or have a very limited idea of what your company does. Be persistent and continue to send releases, pitches and advisories. Eventually, they’ll get the sense that you’re a legitimate company with ongoing news to offer their audience.

1) Is this a new angle on an ongoing news story, or are you simply promoting your service or business? It’s important to remember that public relations is an “arm” of marketing. Avoid using marketing speak or language that is too entrenched in selling your product or service. Always default to “what kind of news content can I provide that will be of service to this reporter’s audience?”

2) Are you positioning yourself as an expert resource that can be called upon again and again for similar news items? It’s important that you’re not perceived as a one trick pony or that you’ve never done this before. Make certain that spokespeople are trained appropriately and are ready to go when that hit comes.

3) What are your media friends saying about your pitch? Solicit some honest feedback from sources you’ve used before. They may not be your target media, but every journalist has an idea of what makes for a good pitch and, subsequently, a better story.

4) Are you sending out your news in a variety of ways, i.e. pitch e-mails, press releases, letters to the editor, op/ed pieces. Are you using newswire services or sending targeted information to specific journalists? Take stock of what distribution methodologies you’ve used. If something is not producing results, step back and say “let’s try something else” and get back to media relations in a couple of weeks. Remember, media relations is not the whole of what public relations is. Sit down with your marketing director and discuss other strategies for raising awareness about the business that does not involve pestering journalists.

5) Are you offering third party interviews from people who are not in your organization? If you have great relationships with industry analysts, use them! Or how about great customers that can attest to how brilliant you are? Solicit support from your fans and ask if they would be willing to be included in your pitch to the media. Make certain they have talking points, but encourage them to be enthusiastic and frank about your business.

Doing a quick “reality check” in your media relations plan is helpful in not only keeping pace with the industry, but developing new strategies for getting the word out. And don’t worry if reporters aren’t jumping to interview you. Step back, take a break, try something else and get back to it later. You do not want to exhaust the contacts that you have, and it’s always advisable to review messaging during those dry editorial periods.

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Filed under marketing communications, media, Media Training, PR for Non-Profits, PR for Small Biz, PR Resources, Press Releases, Public Relations, publicity, Uncategorized

Should PR Replace Advertising If You’re On a Tight Budget?

The answer to that common small business question is a resounding N-O! In my humble opinion, one communications strategy should not be expected to pick up the slack for the rest of your outreach because of lack of money. The bottom line is that it’s easier to get the media interested in you if there is already at least a little awareness out there about your product or service. I recently consulted with a start-up consumer company that manfactures high-end kitchen accessories. They spent the first year of their business creating a media buying strategy in national consumer (some vertical) publications. Yes, it was very expensive. But in the end, they experienced a steady increase in sales over time. After several ad rotations in a variety of magazines, they were ready to turn to PR and say “bring it on home.” The good news for their publicist was that awareness had already been built with some of the magazines he was tasked to pitch story ideas to. But let’s be clear. Editorial and marketing departments are very much separated in the world of magazines and newspapers. I don’t believe you have more of a chance to get a “hit” if you advertise with a certain publication. However, if you’re company is rapidly growing and customer response is high due to effective media buying, you’re establishing important benchmarks that you can use to help pitch to publications with large circulations. Another advantage to advertising with major publications (if you can get over the sticker shock) is that you’re putting your product directly into the hands of decision-makers that do have some access to editorial. So don’t be surprised if your cool item does find its way to a writer or contributing editor who also a celebrity. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. The basic idea is that PR is an extremely effective tool which can work beautifully in conjunction with a fleshed-out marketing and advertising program.

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Filed under integrated communications, marketing, marketing communications, media, media relations, PR for Non-Profits, PR for Small Biz, PR Resources, Public Relations, publicity

Videos for Websites

I’m really excited about a new business venture that I’m engaging in with two really great women– Emmy Award-winning video journalist Suzanne Menuet and Amy Clark. Next month we’re launching Biz Buzz Video, a video production company specializing in creating 1-2 minutes videos for websites. The great thing about our approach is that we’re not interested in marketing speak, talking points or infomercials. What we’re eager to help people do is to help introduce themselves and their companies to a wide audience by just being themselves, telling the story of the company and talking a little bit about the products and services they offer– all in a short video that people can view from their desktop. The idea is that people are very savvy about being sold to. What most consumers want is just an honest, direct introduction to the products, the company and the people behind it all. And there’s no one that can do that better than the people who make it all happen. So look for more about video production services, and ask yourself if your website is ready to make the next big leap to video.

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Filed under marketing communications, PR for Non-Profits, PR for Small Biz, PR Resources, products, video, websites

Defining the Terms: The Differences Between PR, Marketing and Advertising

If you’re a small- to medium-sized business, I bet you’ve asked yourself, “What is the difference between PR, Marketing and Advertising, anyway?” The idea of integrated communications is simple: use a variety of communications methodologies which complement each other in order to meet business objectives. But if you’re not quite sure which direction to follow, here’s an elementary rundown of the differences between these main three areas of communications.

MARKETING
In businesses big and small, generally the marketing dept. is the dept. that allocates resources, a.k.a budget, to communications programs that will help sell products and services. PR and advertising programs almost always fall under the marketing umbrella. Other areas of marketing include promotions (contests and giveaways), events, trade shows, webinars, social media, sponsorships and more. When you think “marketing” think of any activity or process designed to help sell!

According to Dictionary.com, Marketing is defined as: The activities of a company associated with buying and selling a product or service. It includes advertising, selling and delivering products to people. People who work in marketing departments of companies try to get the attention of target audiences by using slogans, packaging design, celebrity endorsements and general media exposure. The four ‘Ps’ of marketing are product, place, price and promotion.

Investopedia Commentary

Many people believe that marketing is just about advertising or sales. However, marketing is everything a company does to acquire customers and maintain a relationship with them. Even the small tasks like writing thank-you letters, playing golf with a prospective client, returning calls promptly and meeting with a past client for coffee can be thought of as marketing. The ultimate goal of marketing is to match a company’s products and services to the people who need and want them, thereby ensure profitability

ADVERTISING
Advertising is bought media. Simply, ad agencies or depts. create ads and campaigns to sell products, ideas, services, candidates, etc. Media planners figure out (through extensive demographic research) where and when these ads should run– in print, on the radio or telvision, in the form of internet banner ads, billboards, flyers and more. Media buyers then purchase ad space in the right outlets in order to achieve the greatest success for a client.
Dictionary.com says that Advertising is:

1. the act or practice of calling public attention to one’s product, service, need, etc., esp. by paid announcements in newspapers and magazines, over radio or television, on billboards, etc.: to get more customers by advertising.
2. paid announcements; advertisements.
3. the profession of planning, designing, and writing advertisements.
PUBLIC RELATIONS
There are many areas of public relations including media relations and publicity, crisis management, public affairs and more. On the whole, public relations deals with earned media as opposed to media exposure that is bought through advertising. PR is about building positive relationships with the public primarily through exposure and coverage in the media, i.e. interviews in newspapers, on the radio on or a TV newscast. PR people work closely with marketing people in order to support publicity efforts for promotional events and any other activities that encourage participation from the public. For Fortune 500 companies, Corporate PR is an intregral part of the communications machine. One false statement, however, can send a company into automatic spin.
Dictionary.com says Public Relations is:
  1. (used with a sing. verb) The art or science of establishing and promoting a favorable relationship with the public.
  2. (used with a pl. verb) The methods and activities employed to establish and promote a favorable relationship with the public.
  3. (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The degree of success obtained in achieving a favorable relationship with the public.

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Filed under crisis communications, integrated communications, marcom, marketing communications, media, media relations, PR for Non-Profits, PR for Small Biz, PR Resources, Press Releases, Public Relations, publicity

Five Ways to Resolve to Make PR a Top Priority for Your Biz

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Happy New Year, everyone! We all know that the business of publicizing and promoting your business is always on your mind. In November and December, however, PR sometimes has a tendency to run aground in the swirl of holiday activities, last minute accounting, and the rush of media surrounding retail trends. So here are five down and dirty ways to kickstart your resolution to pay much needed attention to the communications program that will take your business to the next level:

 1) READ: Whether your business is targeted to general consumers, or a more select audience, make a list of the top ten print publications that your customers read. Think about everything from websites to national magazines and subscribe to them. When you take your morning coffee or tea, spend just ten to fifteen minutes browsing these publications so you can get an idea about what your customers are reading about and, as a result, buying.  Don’t forget to figure out which print journalists in your hometown are the best match to report about your product and resolve to really spend some time reading their articles throughout the year so when you’re ready to pitch, you know who you’ll be dealing with.

 2) WATCH: Do the same thing with television. Think about everything from one-hour documentaries on TLC, A&E or The Discovery Channel to your local weekday morning new shows. Cultivate the mindset that you’re not just interested in telling people about your service or product but, rather, you’re giving them information that you can use.

3) ACT: In other words, fake it ’til you make it. Believe that you can be a valuable spokesperson or resource on anything and everything related to your industry. This not only makes you a more attractive interviewee for journalists, it can force you to really pay attention to the core messages of your business when you may be on camera at the drop of a hat. Remember to dress the part, take care of yourself, and get enough rest. Like in every area of life, being happy and healthy are major attractors to getting what you want, when you want it.

4) WRITE: Even if you don’t know how to get started in starting or revamping your communications program, it all starts with the basic raw materials: copy. Sure, you may not be a great writer. But you need to have at least a few rough drafts that you can hand off to a pro once your ready to get going. Take a swing at writing a one-page professional biography on yourself, then ask your executive team to do the same. If your stuck, start off with a list of ten questions that need to be answered about you and the company including:

  • What are some of your professional highlights from the last ten years?
  • Why did you decide to get into this industry?
  • What was the genesis for starting the company?
  • How has business changed over the last few years?
  • What makes you qualified to be in this industry?
  • How are your products/services unique?
  • What are some things that partners say about you?
  • What are some things that customers say about you?
  • How have your products/services evolved over the years?
  • Where are you from, and where did you go to school?
  • How many employees do you have and what are your plans for growth?
  • What sorts of media coverage have you received in the past?

Once you answer some of these questions, categories, stories and fact sheets begin to emerge. Then simply hand off what you’ve generated to a writer, and you’ve got the beginnings of a basic press kit.

5) COMMIT: It goes without saying that you can’t do it all alone. The most successful people are that way because of the people they surround themselves with. Do not trust communication with the media, developing important talking points, or sending out a press release to your office manager. If you can not afford a full-time or part-time in-house communications pro, negotiate a contract with a respected PR consultant who can at least help you navigate these sometimes tricky waters. Make a commitment to yourself and to the health of your business to take that first necessary step to work with a communications professional, even on an hourly consulting basis. It’s an investment you can not afford to scratch off your budget. 

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OK– I admit that I can be an overachiever. That’s why I need to add a SIXTH way to get your PR on in 2008.

LEARN: I know we’re all pressed for time, but there are a LOT of great PR/Communications/Marketing blogs out there that are literally giving away trade secrets for FREE. I absolutely love that so many smart and talented people are sharing years of experience through the wonderful world of social media. Expand your business know-how and check out The Bad Pitch Blog for a funny inside scoop on good PR practices gone bad. Also, try visiting The Buzz Bin for intriguing posts on marketing, social media, PR and all things related to communicating who you are.  And I’ve recently discovered The Viral Garden, a really information-centric blog for those interested in learning more about how to incorporate and utilize social media for small businesses, among many other things. And if you’re itching for some interesting insight into the mad world of the ad world, stop by HeeHaw Marketing. You’ll dig it.

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Filed under journalism, marcom, marketing communications, media, media relations, PR for Non-Profits, PR for Small Biz, PR Resources, Press Releases, Public Relations, publicity, social media