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What Matters Most In a PR Practitioner?

Today, I was thinking about what matters most when it comes to PR. If you’re considering PR for your company, product or service, what should you look for in a PR practitioner? Of course, there’s always a great deal of debate about what qualities and credentials are most important. Here’s what I think matters most: passion.

Is your PR practitioner passionate about:

  • Your business?
  • Getting you coverage?
  • Helping you understand the process?
  • Keeping up with current trends and tools in the PR industry?

There are a lot of choices when it comes to PR, as with anything else you might hire an expert to help with. Credentials and experience matter. But if the passion is lacking, it’s going to be tough to get where you want to go.

For those of us who are truly passionate about PR, we eat, sleep and breathe it. We can’t even turn it off when we’re at a restaurant, because we notice typos in the menu! When we watch TV, we have to comment on the ads–are they effective? When we read a magazine or newspaper, we wonder if the headline could’ve been worded differently to attract more readers or if our client might be a fit for this reporter’s beat. When we see a posting about an event, we notice the date is missing. We can’t help it. It’s just part of our DNA.

Ideas strike us at all hours of the day–and sometimes, even the night. I’ve had dreams about how to help clients that have led to a new story idea to pitch. I’ve taken a walk that spurred an idea for a publication we could try pitching. I’ve been reading the Sunday paper and noticed an article that led to a great idea for a blog post for a client. Many times, when I’m least expecting it is when an idea will come to me for new ways to help my clients.

So you may be thinking, “This all sounds great, but how can I tell if this person is truly passionate about PR?” To help you evaluate your choices, here are real-world examples of this passion in action:

  • Your PR pro should have a passion for spreading the PR “gospel”: Do they frequently speak on PR, helping others learn about its power and how to put it to work for them?
  • Your PR pro should have a passion for helping small businesses get on the map: If they own their own small business, as do I, they understand the challenges and rewards involved. A practical, no-nonsense approach is what works best, because as all small business owners know, we don’t have time for the extras.
  • Your PR pro shouldn’t always be focused on the clients who can pay the most: Does your PR pro love PR so much that they charge reasonable rates? And do they often help out non-profits on a pro bono or in-kind basis? I usually have at least a couple of organizations I’m working with on a pro bono basis at any given. I truly enjoy working people who have a passion for what they do AND express their appreciation my help, so those are the folks I tend to gravitate toward on these projects.
  • Your PR pro should have a passion for specialization—but also see the bigger picture: There are many firms who claim to offer it all, from marketing to advertising to events to PR, but do you want to skim the surface? Or do you want to work with someone with specializes in getting your name out there? While it’s a good thing to work with a PR pro who has some experience or background in more general marketing, you may want to stay away from those who claim to do it all—because they may not do it all well.

Let’s face it, there are plenty of folks just phoning it in these days in professions across the board, but those with passion stand out. So, evaluate your options carefully and look for the passion–if it’s missing, it might be wise to look elsewhere.

How My Dad Inspired Me to Start My Own Business

dadToday’s blog 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.

 

Press Releases – Alive, Well and Working to Do Their Job Of Getting the News Out

“The press release is obsolete,” they said.  “It’s lived its useful life. It’s dead.”

I can’t recall how many times I’ve read about the death of the press release in the past year. Yet, I’ve always believed in press releases to help companies get the word out. And today, I have a client story to support the fact that press releases DO work!!

Here’s the story:

I work with a local entrepreneur who’s developed a patented product in the bedding category. We’ve been working together for a couple of years now, and I’ve watched the progression of the product and the company to where it is today.

We’ve selectively issued a few press releases throughout the course of our working relationship. About two months ago, we issued a release to announce they’d launched an ecommerce site. Up to this point in time, we’ve done mostly local media outreach, with plans to go more national/vertical in the coming months. So, just a few days ago, a leading _national_ publication proactively contacted me after finding the press release to request a sample be sent for consideration to be in an upcoming story. What?!?! Yes, it REALLY happened! And, to go one step further, the reporter contacted me via the press release service we used. And, it was a (gasp!) a FREE press release service!

This proves a few points that I often mention in the talks I give about PR:

1)      Press releases DO work to reach the media. Reporters like press releases because they’re written in a format they’re familiar with. Releases are written in inverted pyramid style, which is the way news stories are written. They contain the pertinent information reporters need to cover a story. In many cases, PR practitioners and reporters both attend journalism school, so this is a medium we both know and understand.

2)      You don’t have to spend money to issue a press release on a wire service. The free services get the word out, too, and get you on search engines to help your SEO (search engine optimization). Undoubtedly, the reporter at the national publication found our press release while doing research for a story she was putting together.

3)      While you should proactively reach out to the media you’re targeting (and yes, you should figure out who you want to target), just issuing the press release does get it out there and allows it to be found, should a reporter be searching.

4)      The above two points underscore the need to work in your keywords, so in the event a reporter is searching, he or she finds your press release.

Given, the product hasn’t yet appeared in the magazine (just imagine the celebration, if that happens!), but this is already a “win” in so many ways:

  • It’s a win for the client, whose product is being seen by a high-level press and may appear in an upcoming issue of a top magazine
  • It’s a win for me, because I worked with the client and wrote the press release
  • It’s a win for PR because look at the power of what it can do, and
  • It’s a win for our friend, the lowly press release, who some have too quickly deemed obsolete.

It’s OK, press release—we know you’re not dead. We believe in you and your power to help us get the news out!

 

Happy Cinco de Mayo! To Celebrate, Here Are Five Takeaways From My Weekend at the AMA Leadership Summit

This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the American Marketing Association Leadership Summit in Chicago. Along with great networking and the chance to bond with my fellow board members, I learned some things. Here, in no particular order, are my top five takeaways (there were lots more, but I chose five in honor of Cinco de Mayo!):

1)      Don’t skip the prep work for your next presentation—if you’re trying to just “wing it,” it probably won’t go very well. Good presentations don’t just happen – they require lots of preparation. Rehearse and practice, either in front of someone or even just on your own. As our presenter mentioned, he rehearses in front of his dogs if no one else is available!

2)      Keep your audience in mind. If you’re trying to reach millennials, a luncheon might not be the best timing for an event. They prefer events after work, so try a happy hour or dinner. And, they don’t want to hear about topics related to social media, which is something they already clearly understand. Try something related to how to move up in their career or maybe a topic about how to better work with the C-suite.

3)      Don’t overlook the importance of visuals in your presentations. Add compelling visuals to draw attendees’ attention, versus adding more text. Text-heavy slides aren’t as memorable as showing the audience a visual that will stay with them. Then, talk about the topic—you don’t need to include all your points on a slide. We’ve all heard, “A picture speaks a thousand words,” so try incorporating this into your next preso.

4)      Don’t be afraid to ask. This is actually one I’ve I learned before I went to the summit and shared, because the power of the ask is one we sometimes overlook. You won’t know if you don’t ask, so don’t be afraid to reach out, even if it’s a “cold” contact. What’s the worst that can happen? They may so no…if so, you move on. But, they may say yes—then, you have a “win”! Not to mention a new contact.

5)      When trying something new, be sure you’re building on a solid foundation. That could include having a strong team in place, financial security and some programs that are already working well. For example, if your program is in dire financial straits, it’s not the time to try a risky, expensive new idea. On the other hand, if you have some cash in reserves, it may be a great time to experiment with something you haven’t tried before.

Newspaper Reporter Now Ranks as Second Worst Career

I saw this piece about the job of a newspaper reporter now being ranked as the second worst career in the nation:

http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowlny/newspaper-reporter-now-only-second-worst-career_b210383

This is something for PR peeps to keep in mind as they pitch. We need to take it easy on those overwrought reporters. Yes, sure, sometimes we think we have a difficult time getting a story in front of them, but if your job was viewed as worse than these, you’d know you have it rough:

  • Appliance repair person (#73).
  • Dishwasher (#124).
  • Sewage plant operator (#141)

And, my favorite, Public Relations Executive, ranked #140. Guess it could be worse–right, reporters?!

Think Spring: Five Ways to Spruce Up Your PR and Marketing Efforts

Ah, spring is here at last! Spring is the time of year when our thoughts turn to freshening up our homes, cleaning out our closets, and by the way, have you checked out that cluttered garage lately?! All kidding aside, while spring cleaning your home may be on the top of your list, how much thought have you given to your business and to freshening up your marketing, and specifically PR, initiatives?

In the spirit of spring cleaning, here are five things you can do to spruce up your marketing and PR:

1) If you haven’t made the commitment to social media, do it now. Social media isn’t going anywhere…and it’s a free tool just waiting to be taken advantage of. If you haven’t dipped your toe in the water yet, come on in! Start small, so as not to get overwhelmed. Pick one or two platforms you can commit to consistently updating. LinkedIn is a great place to start. I also like Twitter and Google+. Of course, there’s Facebook, Pinterest and many others, depending on the audience you’re trying to reach.

2) Consider a press release. Press releases are a multi-purpose tool in the marketing mix. They’re like the Swiss Army knife in your marketing arsenal! They help you get the word out to the masses and also help your SEO (search engine optimization). They can be posted to your site and to social media. You can pitch the release directly to reporters who may be interested in covering the news. Your sales team could use the press release in their efforts.

3) Content marketing is hot in 2014. Have you embraced it yet? To develop your own content, look internally for ideas. Are there customer case studies or success stories you could create? Is there a trend in your industry that might make a good white paper? Maybe look into creating an infographic you could publish. Once you have the content, make sure to add it to your site and post it to all your social media outlets. If you mention a customer or partner, perhaps you can ask them to blast it out on their social media platforms, as well. PR plays right into content marketing, as it can be used to create much of the “content.”

4) Have you booked a speaking engagement? Speaking is one of the best ways to increase visibility and be seen as the “expert.” Many organizations need speakers for their meetings and conferences. While these are generally unpaid speaking gigs, the benefits you’ll reap in the form of visibility can really boost your business and help your product or service get on the map. You can publicize the speaking engagement before, during and after the fact to get the most visibility from it. Again, using this as content on your social media platforms is a great idea. And those at the event may try to book you for another event or even purchase products or services from you.

5)Have you considered an award submission? Many industries and publications have awards programs you can enter, some at no cost. What does this get you? If you win, you can publicize it with a press release and once again, blast it out via all your social media platforms. You can also post the win on your site (some awards come with an icon you can use). Awards create credibility that lasts forever. Think of the Oscars—Tom Hanks will forever be known as “Academy-Award Winner Tom Hanks.”

Try leveraging the power of some “fresh” PR and marketing initiatives this spring by putting some of these ideas into action.

 

Garrett Public Relations has a new logo!

Garrett Public Relations has a new logo!

Introducing…drum roll, please…our new logo! Very exciting! We’ll be rolling this out across the board, but I couldn’t wait to share it here. A big thank you to Caring Marketing for their work on this!

Celebrating 15 Years of Bliss!

When I set own to start my own public relations consulting business 15 years ago, I didn’t really know what to expect. My first solo venture was both exciting and terrifying…I’d laid the foundation for months, even years, prior to hanging out my shingle. I’d talked to other solopreneurs about how to set up an office, organize financials and even find clients. Everything was in place. But, the big question was, would they come? 

Even before opening my doors, I managed to line up two clients who were there the moment I stepped out on my own. I was also fortunate that the agency I’d been working with hired me back to work on an account. The thing I’d worried most about became less of a worry, as I focused on delivering great service to my clients at reasonable rates. 

15 years later, I’m proud to say that’s still my focus. Over the years, I’ve successfully worked with companies large and small to provide them with results-based solutions to their PR challenges. The more I get out to speak about PR, the more I understand that people need help. It need not be over-priced, but it does need to deliver results. People are looking for someone they can partner with to accomplish their objectives, someone who can show them the value PR can add to their marketing outreach. 

Going solo isn’t for everyone–but it certainly was a great choice for me. 

TMI–Is There Such a Thing When It Comes to Your Business?

I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of small business owners yesterday. After the talk, one attendee came up to tell me how much she appreciated my openness and honesty, as far as sharing information. I’ve learned that sharing information openly is a key to being of value to others. If you hold all your information too close to the vest, it can hinder your efforts. Sharing helps both the recipient, as well as the provider, of the information.

I don’t know that there is such a thing as sharing “too much information” when it comes to your business. By sharing what you know, you’re showing others that you’re an expert resource to turn to when they have exhausted their own ability to take what you’ve shared and run with it.  Openly sharing helpful information isn’t “giving away the farm”…it’s actually beneficial to share what you know so that you are THE resource they remember when they, or when someone they know, needs your help. It also builds trust, which is crucial to a good relationship, be it business or personal.

“Transparency” is a business buzzword these days, but really, people just want to be dealt with openly and honestly. Genuinely wanting to help others and share what you know comes across and will win over many more than will being stingy with the information.

 

 

Ideas to Feed Your Content Marketing Efforts

Content marketing is a hot topic in 2014. Seems that while every company wants to do more content marketing, many are struggling to find the content.

You need content to push out through all those social media channels, as well as for your site, and perhaps even for your customer or employee communications—but where do you get this content? Who creates it? Where does it come from?

Leverage what you already have, such as company news—new hires, new partnerships, awards your company has won, speaking gigs your executives are participating in, new products or services, new customers, customer successes, events your company is participating in and so on. The stream of possibilities is endless, if you take the time to look for newsworthy items.

Then, you need someone to write the content. Think everyone’s a writer? Wrong! I’m so often amazed by the number of typos I see in business communications. Typos mean more than just a misspelled word or a missed punctuation mark. They make your company look unprofessional and weaken your credibility. Make sure to use a strong writer, if that isn’t among your talents.

If you commit an hour or two per week to plan and craft content to use in your various channels, you’ll be surprised at the results. If you don’t have the time or the ability to create the content yourself, consider hiring a professional business writer to craft the content for you. Once you have it, it can be repurposed in a number of ways, making your minimal investment of time well worth the effort.