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How to Time Your PR Efforts Over the Holidays

Timing your PR over the holidays

The holidays are indeed upon us.

While timing is always important in PR, trying to get media coverage at this time of year can be especially challenging.

In talking with clients about their imminent PR plans, the holidays have to be taken into consideration. Not only might our audience be tuned out to our news, but many reporters are also out of the office enjoying holiday time with their loved ones. And, adding yet another hurdle, one reporter I just spoke with mentioned that the holiday changes his newspaper’s production schedule.

Considering your schedule, the reporter or publication’s schedule and your target audience’s schedules, PR timing over the holidays can definitely present a conundrum.

So, if you have news you must pitch over the holidays, what’s a PR pro suggest you do? Continue reading How to Time Your PR Efforts Over the Holidays

Top 11 Things I Learned at Content Marketing World

Content Marketing World was this past week. I looked forward to it for months. I went. I learned a lot.

But the highlight for me is the people. Making those face-to-face connections is priceless.

Yes, we live in a digital world. In fact, I was marveling recently at how many people I “know”—but have never met in person, or even spoken to on the phone. While I value those relationships, there is just something about actually being able to make that personal connection with someone.

Content Marketing World

TrackMaven had one of the best vendor booths at this year’s Content Marketing World with its “See What Sticks” marketing target, complete with spaghetti to throw.

Beyond that, here are my top 11 takeaways from my time at #CMWorld: Continue reading Top 11 Things I Learned at Content Marketing World

Yes, You Need A Website For Your Small Business

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I was doing some research recently when I came across an article that said nearly half of small businesses don’t have a website. You read that right, nearly HALF. 45 percent is the number quoted in the article, which by the way was titled, “You’ll be shocked to learn how many small businesses still don’t have a website.” And yes, I was shocked.

I’ve seen research like this before, and on one hand, it isn’t hard to believe. Small business owners are strapped for time and funds–I get it. They’re overwhelmed by the demands placed on them, including not only sales but marketing, operations, business development, HR and the list goes on.

On the other hand, how can a small business NOT have a site? It is simply a must for any business today. Even if you’re not selling anything online, a site is the hub of all digital marketing activity—social media, content marketing, PR, advertising and SEO. Where is the first place many will go when they look for a product or service? Online. If you’re not there, they may not bother to seek you out–and go elsewhere.

Continue reading Yes, You Need A Website For Your Small Business

Why you should create a crisis communications plan BEFORE you need one

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Summer is nearly here. How did we get here already? Everyone’s calendar is filling with plans for graduations, Memorial Day and other celebrations.

But, not everyone is celebrating.

The past couple of months has been anything but a party for several well-known brands. Pepsi. Delta. Adidas. And of course, United. All these brands have had major missteps that became headline news.

While we may cringe when we hear these tales of corporate missteps, there may be a silver lining. These mistakes present an opportunity to talk about how PR, specifically crisis communications planning, can help in times of trouble. Continue reading Why you should create a crisis communications plan BEFORE you need one

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

The quality of writing is on the decline – 7 tips to make you a better writer

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The quality of writing today is on the decline.

If you read any online publications or blogs, you’re probably noticing more and more errors (even in major ones). Why is this?

  • There’s more content—everyone is creating content. With the rise of content marketing, blogging, self-publishing and guest posting, the volume of content has increased dramatically. More than two million blog posts are published every day, while 72 percent of marketers are producing more content than they did the previous year[i].
  • There are fewer copy editors. There are about half as many copy editors today as 10 years ago. Copy editors have been sacrificed more than any other newsroom category[ii].
  • There’s a rush to get content out there. Some statistics claim that companies that don’t blog daily will be left behind. With that sort of a rush mentality, it’s no wonder there are more mistakes than ever in our writing today.

Whatever the reason for this decline in our writing, our standards are being lowered. This hurts our credibility as professionals. 81 percent of businesspeople in a recent survey agree that poorly written material wastes a lot of their time[iii]. It distracts the reader from the intended message. And, it just makes us look plain unprofessional.

Conversely, while the quality of writing may be decreasing, content marketing is seen as an increasingly vital part of a company’s marketing strategy. Content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads (Source: DemandMetric). It’s efficient, compelling and highly customizable, catering to virtually all businesses and industries[iv].

So, given all of this, what can we do to produce higher quality written content?

Here are seven tips to improve your writing:

1) The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect: Just get it down on paper…get the words out. You can go back to fine tune it later, but it’s important to get all the information out of your head and on the page first.

Some writers seem to be intimidated by the writing process. But truly, the first draft is just that—a draft. If you get the words down, you can always go back to edit them. Don’t be afraid to just start writing. Remember—you don’t have to show anyone your first draft—so who’s judging?

2) Write when the mood strikes you: I often see pieces advising writers to set aside a block of time each day to write. And yes, generally speaking, there are times of day that are better than others for most when it comes to writing in a focused manner.

But sometimes, an idea will just hit you—that’s the time to go with it. Run with that inspiration to achieve some of your best work. For example, I can tell you that writing a 500-word blog post is going to go a lot faster when you’re feeling inspired to write—versus when you’re forcing yourself to write.

3) Allow time for rewrites: I find that my best work is usually a product of having enough time. Sure, there are times when you just have to get it written and done. But, a much more effective process is allowing yourself a couple of days in which to write, walk away, and then come back to refine your work. You’ll be amazed at what you catch and can improve if you give it time to breathe.

4) Proofread your work: Of course, you need to proof your work. Many simple errors would be caught before publication if writers would simply review their work. A tip I use often—read your work aloud. This will help you catch errors you might otherwise glance over. (A side note: You may want to try this when no one else is listening…!)

5) Have someone else review your work: After you’ve proofed (and re-proofed!) your work, ask someone else to review it. A spellchecker is good, but it’s not the same as having another human review your work. This could be a colleague, or even a friend (or check a service like Fiverr to hire a copy editor at a reasonable rate). It’s just helpful to have another pair of eyes reviewing your work to catch the errors you (or spell check) may miss.

If you have no human to proof your work, you can try a tool like Hemingway App or Grammarly. There are even free versions of these tools, which help catch complex sentences and common errors.

6) Follow style guidelines when applicable: Not sure if a number should be spelled out? Ever wonder if a word should be capitalized? Style guides to the rescue! If you’re in the news or PR fields, AP Style is generally preferred. The Chicago Manual of Style is the guide for authors, editors and publishers of books, periodicals and journals. A full explanation of both is here.

7) Look to the pros for more tips: Looking for more advice? I always recommend Ann Handley’s best-selling book, “Everybody Writes.” And, sites like MarketingProfs, Contently and Copyblogger are great sources to glean more writing tips and tricks.

Those are my best quick tips. What works for you when you write?

A closing thought: Did you know that 64% of B2B marketers outsource writing? (Source: TopRankBlog) So, if you need writing help, get in touch.

Looking for more writing and PR tips? Sign up for my free monthly newsletter by clicking here.

[i] http://neilpatel.com/2016/01/21/38-content-marketing-stats-that-every-marketer-needs-to-know/

[ii] http://www.poynter.org/2013/asne-survey-there-are-about-half-as-many-copy-editors-today-as-10-years-ago/203244/

[iii] https://hbr.org/2016/09/bad-writing-is-destroying-your-companys-productivity

The quality of writing is on the decline - but how can you improve your writing?

The quality of writing is on the decline – but how can you improve your writing?

[iv] http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2016/08/content-marketing-stats/

 

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

 

In Honor of Father’s Day: How My Dad Inspired Me to be an Entrepreneur

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Today’s 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.

Michelle and her dad, her first entrepreneurial role model.

Michelle and her dad, her first entrepreneurial role model.

Happy anniversary to me! Top 10 lessons I’ve learned in 16 years

Happy anniversary to me!

Happy anniversary to me! This April, I’m celebrating 16 years of having my own small business.

Hopefully, I’ve learned a thing or two over the years of having my own business. Today, I share the top 10 lessons I’ve learned—some silly, some serious:

10) Don’t neglect your marketing: Yes, I’m in PR/marketing, but many times, I tend to put my own marketing last. So, the last couple of years, I’ve made a concentrated effort to do a better job. Last year, my anniversary gift to myself was a new logo. This year, it’s a newly designed web site.

9) You truly can work in your PJs when you work for yourself!: Just be careful when that Skype call comes in that you’ve at least brushed your hair.

8) You can never be too connected: Make sure to build that network before you need it, so it will be there for you at all times. Because, as a self-employed person, you never know what you might need to call on your network for–help, referrals, troubleshooting, brainstorming–you learn to have your go-to resources for each of these.

7)  You wear all the hats, so be sure you’re ready for that: If you’re not a self-starter, it may not go so well. Of course, you can always hire pros to tackle the tasks you’re not so fond of. I wouldn’t trade my accountant, for example.

Creative problem solving is a must. Because you’re not surrounded by an office full of co-workers, you’ll need to be able to find solutions to a lot of your own problems—or have folks you can call on. You learn quickly how to resolve printer issues, the best way to send a package and how to cater a meeting. Believe me, it’s worth it.

6) You supply your own coffee: So buy a Keurig! (-: And join Costco/Sam’s Club to save on K-cups.

5) Be ready for the peaks—and the valleys: You can prepare for the peaks by having a list of sub-contractors at-the-ready when you need some help to handle all your client projects. You can prepare for the valleys by making sure to save some cash and not getting too sure of yourself, in that your business will definitely go through highs and lows.

4) You make your own schedule—which can be a blessing and a curse: Sure, you can take the afternoon off and have lunch with your sister or go to the school play—just make sure you plan to catch up on whatever you’ve missed by working later in the evening or on Sat. morning, for example. Don’t get so lulled into that sense of freedom to the point where you’re scrambling to meet your deadlines.

3) Clients may assume you work all hours of the day and night: Yes, this can be a hazard of working for yourself, but honestly, I’ve never found it to be a problem. And really, it’s a small price to pay for the perks of being your own boss.

More often than not, clients are respectful of your schedule. And, I truly don’t mind answering email on the weekends…I’m sort of addicted to email anyway! Just make sure to communicate when you’ll be out of the office for more than a day….most of us check messages frequently but there may be days when you really don’t want to be “on call.” If so, just let them know that. Give them a way to reach you if there’s truly an emergency, and enjoy your time off.

2) Experience matters: This is probably even more the case when you’re working on your own. When you work for yourself, you need to call on that experience often, so make sure you’ve built a solid base of work experience before flying solo.

For example, I’m steeped in a background including full-time experience at corporations, nonprofits and agencies. I’ve worked on both sides of the fence, as a reporter and as a PR practitioner. I also gained experience working at a public TV and radio station before setting sail on my own. All of this has come in handy, as I work with clients from different backgrounds and industries. It doesn’t hurt your network-building, either—you can call on your former colleagues when you need to.

1) And the number one thing I’ve learned from having my own business (drumroll, please!)….I’m so glad I made the leap because I wouldn’t trade it for anything. There’s nothing better than loving what you do and having the opportunity to do it on your own terms.

Do I have to answer to clients? Yes. Am I slave to the media? Sure, sometimes. But, at the end of the day, I decide who to work with and have the ability to approach my work according to my philosophy. And that’s pretty priceless.

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