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It All Started with a Flying Machine

As I celebrate 18 years of Garrett Public Relations, I’ve been thinking back to my very first client.

When I launched my business, I was in the Bay Area—one of THE places for entrepreneurs with great, if sometimes crazy, ideas.

As I was preparing to leave my day job to go full-time as a solopreneur, I was fortunate to be introduced to one of these entrepreneurs, an inventor. What had he invented? A flying machine. For real. It was called SoloTrek and was a vertical take-off and landing aircraft based on ducted fan technology. (The two-person model, the DuoTrek, resembled the flying car that’s been in the news this week.)

Continue reading It All Started with a Flying Machine

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

Do Midwest Startups Have a PR Problem?

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This week while scanning the news, I saw an article that struck a chord. It talked about the Columbus startup scene and how startups here don’t often get featured in major tech publications like TechCrunch—because they don’t reach out to TechCrunch.

The article was based on thoughts shared by TechCrunch editor John Biggs during a recent interview with Columbus Business First, “TechCrunch editor to Columbus startups: Do a better job promoting your product to national tech media.”

Unfortunately, I know this to be true. From my first-hand experience doing PR with startups in both Silicon Valley and the Midwest, I can tell you that it’s just not a priority for startups here. In fact, I’ve written about it previously (5 ways PR can help startups toot their own horns).

I don’t know if it’s the Midwest in us, but we need to do a better job of promoting ourselves. And according to Biggs, it’s not unique to Columbus. It happens in other smaller markets, too. Continue reading Do Midwest Startups Have a PR Problem?

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.

Start Before You’re Ready

“Successful people start before they feel ready 3

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

 

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

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?

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.

Planning for 2016? 10 Ideas for PR and Marketing

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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?