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For New PR Grads—Advice from an Editor

graduates-351603_1920 May 17, 2016

I recently wrote a piece for Muck Rack, “7 Questions NOT to Ask a Reporter,” which garnered some of the best feedback I’ve ever received. An editor at an industry publication actually took the time to write me about how much he enjoyed the piece—and how every new public relations grad should read it.

With many new PR pros graduating this spring and entering the ranks of those who pitch the media, I thought I’d share his words of wisdom. Whether you’re new to the PR field or have been at it a while, you can always learn from the mistakes of others. Continue reading For New PR Grads—Advice from an Editor

Start Before You’re Ready

“Successful people start before they feel ready 3 April 13, 2016

Spring is my favorite time of year—the trees and flowers are blooming, and we finally get some warmer weather here in the Midwest. Another reason I celebrate spring is because it’s the anniversary of my business. This year, I celebrate 17 years of Garrett Public Relations.

As my business turns 17, I’ve been reflecting on how I got started. It was a dream of mine to strike out on my own, but when I was a younger professional, I knew I didn’t have the real-world experience needed to make a business fly. I needed to wait for the “right” time—whatever that meant.

So, I sought out opportunities that would give me that experience. I worked at a public TV and radio station. I worked for a large university. I worked for an IT company. And finally, I worked at an agency to round out my experience and learn the ropes on how to handle clients. There, I worked with major enterprise companies and startups.

While I waited for the “right” time, I learned all I could about how to run a consulting business. I talked to other independents and attended a group for freelance communication pros. Then, when the time seemed “right,” I hung out my shingle. I wondered if I were truly ready. “Ready as I’ll ever be,” I thought.

Even though I launched my business with three clients, my biggest fear, of course, was not having enough work. I figured the worst thing that could happen was that my business would fail—then I’d have to go back to get a job working for someone else. But, it’s never happened. Have there been ups and downs? Absolutely. Would I trade the ride? Never.

I recently read a quote I love, “Successful people start before they feel ready[i].” I had laid the groundwork for success, but in my heart of my hearts, I was still a bit afraid of taking the leap. Had I waited until I felt truly “ready,” I might never have done it.

17 years and many clients later, I still enjoy the freedom and flexibility that consulting brings. There really is nothing like working for yourself. Being an entrepreneur was my calling.

Launching your own business can be a scary thing. But not pursuing your dreams can be even worse. If you want it, go after it. Don’t live wondering, “What if.” Make a plan, find those who can help advise and inspire you, and go for it. If you wait for the “right” time, it may never come.

 

[i] http://jamesclear.com/successful-people-start-before-they-feel-ready

 

Spring marketing and PR spruce up

tulips March 31, 2016

Ah, spring is here at last. Nature is coming back to life. The birds are singing, the trees are blooming—and, our thoughts turn to….cleaning. Cleaning out closets, getting rid of clutter, sprucing up the yard…but, what about your business? For small businesses, marketing is a constant concern. Have you given any thought to freshening up your marketing—specifically, your public relations initiatives?

Here are five things you can do to spruce up your marketing and PR: Continue reading Spring marketing and PR spruce up

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

March 14, 2016

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

February 22, 2016

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

How awards can add up to a winning PR approach for your business

February 3, 2016

oscar-649301_1280As film buffs know, this time of year is awards season. There are the Golden Globes, various critics’ choice awards, Screen Actors Guild awards, and of course, the big one, the Academy Awards coming up at the end of February. Those in the movie biz understand the importance of awards to their success. Win an Oscar and you’re forever in an elite group.

But what about those of us in the business world? Couldn’t we benefit from some award wins, too? The answer is—yes. If you’ve never considered awards for your business, product, service or employees, maybe it’s time to start.

First, let’s look at whether winning awards really has any strategic value for your business. One study found smaller award-winning companies experienced a 63 percent increase in operating income and a 39 percent growth in sales when compared to non-winners, while large award-winning companies enjoyed a 48 percent increase in operating income and a 37 percent growth in sales when compared to non-award winners[i].

Sound good?

So, if you want to begin to investigate getting into awards for your business, where should you start? First, think about what type of award might benefit you most. It could be an award for your killer product. Perhaps you have the best CEO. Maybe your company has made a significant contribution to the community. Whatever it is, there’s likely an award that would be a fit. You may qualify for awards based on your company’s:

  • Services
  • Ethics
  • Growth
  • Community service
  • Employment excellence
  • Leadership
  • Products

Here are a few ideas of where to look for award opportunities:

  • Trade organizations: Start with your own industry to look for opportunities.
  • Publications: Try industry trade publications, as well as general business publications. The American City Business Journals, with papers cities across the country, has a number of award opportunities throughout the year. Regional and statewide magazines also provide opportunities. And, on a national level, publications like Fortune also have award opportunities.
  • Groups that support businesses: Think chambers of commerce or economic development organizations.

Once you’ve done your research and made a list of possibilities, determine which awards you’d like to enter. Some have entry fees—others don’t. Always check to make sure fees are in line with your budget.

Then, compile the information required. Some award applications will ask for more detail than others. Allow enough time to collect the information, write what you need to, and then submit by the deadline. Be sure to follow the directions and be thorough.

You’ve entered – now, you wait. If you win, of course, that’s a big deal! Make the most of it by issuing a press release, posting it on your site, and maybe even adding a badge (if they have one) to your site. You can even work it into your boilerplate. And once you’ve won, you’ll always be an “award-winning company.”

And, of course, if you don’t win this time around, there’s always next year.

[i] http://www.stevieawards.com/pubs/general/72_194_8831.cfm

 

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

hats-829509_1280 January 6, 2016

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.

Planning for 2016? 10 Ideas for PR and Marketing

new year 2016 December 21, 2015

The end of the year is almost upon us and yes, the holiday rush has set in. These next weeks will fly by even faster than the ones before them. Then, before we know it, 2016 will be here. A fresh, new year to do all the things we didn’t have a chance to do in 2015.

As we prepare for the holidays both professionally and personally, planning for the new year may be the last thing on the minds of some small business owners. If you’ve been caught up in the holiday hubbub, don’t wait to plan — start now to come up with ideas for 2016.

As you plan, when it comes to marketing and PR, don’t forget to factor these ideas into your efforts:

1) Try a press release: If you’ve never issued a press release or if it’s been a while, find a reason to issue one in the new year. Press releases help search engine optimization (SEO) and can be used in a number of ways to help market your product, service or company. Read more on five ways to use a press release here.

2) Speak to increase credibility and visibility: Speaking engagements are a great way to attract the attention of potential clients and position you as the expert. It’s important to select the appropriate venues, so do your research on local, regional and national groups, trade shows and other industry events that accept speaker proposals.

3) And the award goes to: Awards programs are fairly easy to implement and can help attract attention to your product, service or company. If you win an award, it makes great marketing material. You can tout it on your site or issue a press release and forever after be known as the “award-winning” company.

4) Reach out to local publications in your area: If you haven’t reached out to your local media, be sure to consider that in 2016. Most cities have a major daily paper, as well as smaller community newspapers and magazines that are specific to certain suburbs. You can also try local TV and radio, if your story lends itself to broadcast media.

5) Try — or amp up — your use of social media: Let’s face it. Although many small business owners and startups intend to do more when it comes to social media, it’s easy to neglect it. Here’s the thing: It’s a free way to market your business! If you’re not doing any social media, start by choosing one or two platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook. If social media is already in your marketing mix, plan to beef up your efforts in the new year.

6) Sponsor an event: Have you tried sponsoring any charitable events, perhaps in conjunction with the types of businesses you’re trying to attract as clients? Attaching your company to a benefit or charity could help attract potential clients’ interest. And, maybe more importantly, you’ll be doing something to help others, too.

7) Create an online news area: Add an online news area to your site, if you haven’t done so. This can be an area where you post press releases and news stories about your company. You can also add a downloadable “press kit” with more information on the company, such as team bios, photos, logos, product shots and other material. This makes it easy for reporters who may want to cover you to grab what they need. Read more on what to include here.

8) Create case studies: Position your company as an expert by creating case studies on your customers, including details about how they’re using your product or service, how much time or money it’s saved them, and what their future plans might be to increase usage. You can use these to pitch as stories to the media, and can also leverage them as sales materials for potential customers. Content marketing continues to be all the rage, and case studies are a perfect example of that.

9) Reach out to vertical media: Don’t overlook reaching out to industry publications and/or bloggers, selecting those publications and blogs that your potential customers are reading. They’re looking for great content in the form of contributed articles and new product announcements. Why not fill the gaps for them with your expertise?

10) Network like you mean it: While networking doesn’t necessarily fall into this category, it’s critical for all small businesses and startups. Be sure to dedicate the time to do it and select the events your potential clients attend. Get involved in an organization or two at a deeper level to really get to know people. This can truly pay off over time to keep business coming your way.

These are just a few ideas to get you started…what are your PR and marketing plans for 2016?



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

November 19, 2015

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!

holiday wreaths