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Celebrating My Independence…Five Ways Starting My Own Business Changed My Life

Happy Independence Day!

To me, this holiday has a dual meaning. Yes, like many other Americans, I celebrate our country by attending a parade, having a picnic with my family and enjoying fireworks. But, this holiday is also a time to celebrate my independence as a businessperson.

More than 15 years ago, I “liberated” myself from the day-to-day grind of working for someone else…and started doing it MY way. When I launched my consulting practice, I believed I could:
• Find companies who needed my help
• Provide excellent counsel and execute to bring results
• Offer them services at a reasonable price
• And do it all on MY terms

What has this meant for me? Well, it’s changed my life in a number of ways:

• I now work on a schedule that fits not only my clients’ needs, but MY needs. Sometimes, that means getting up early, staying up late or working weekends. But it’s done on MY terms. I was doing this when I worked for someone else, but it no longer feels like a sacrifice, because it stems from my passion and commitment to my clients, to what I do and to making my business successful. It’s a completely different feeling when you’re so closely invested in the success (or failure) of not only your client’s businesses, but of your business.

• I also enjoy the collaboration with other independents. I love meeting and connecting with other consultants and then being able to offer my clients resources for the kinds of projects I don’t do (and no, I don’t try to do it all…there’s plenty of work to go around for all of us!).

• And, I believe I’m more productive on my own. Without the meetings, the commute and the office politics, I can actually get more done. I believe that doing the actual work to get results is more enjoyable—and really what serving clients is all about. I can work anytime, anywhere productively. The whole telecommuting movement is something I tried to get my bosses to agree to years ago…without much success. For some reason, they just didn’t believe that employees could work productively outside the office. After 15 years of working on my own from wherever I want, I beg to differ.

• Not to mention the wonderful clients I get to work with. I think I’m extremely lucky to get to work with smart, talented (did I mention very nice?!) people. It’s a pleasure to work with my clients because they truly trust me and are a joy to serve.

• Then, of course, there’s the personal pride I feel in helping my clients succeed. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting a media “hit” for a client or knowing they have new prospects or sales because of PR initiatives they undertook. It’s a true “high” that I still get whenever this happens.

So this 4th of July, I celebrate my freedom and the ability to do the work I love for clients I’m committed to serving. Happy Independence Day to all!

Of Small Businesses and Social Media…

 

It’s no secret that many are overwhelmed by social media. I recently saw a tip advising small businesses who’ve avoided social media to date to choose an outlet that fits their type of business/target market to focus on. Great advice, as it seems many small businesses (and larger ones, for that matter) are overwhelmed even by the idea of social media.

While I always go out of my way to explain to clients I’m not a social media expert or strategist (as many who claim they are unfortunately are not), I do see the value in incorporating social media in marketing and PR efforts and often help clients to do so. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when there are so many social media outlets out there to choose from. The bottom line is you probably can’t keep up with them all and do them all well—and you probably don’t need to.

Focus on one or two outlets: Picking one or two social media outlets where your target customers spend time IS a good investment of your time or dollars. Maybe your customers use Facebook a lot, so you’ll want to focus on that. Or maybe your customers are more of a LinkedIn crowd—put your time and effort there.

What do I post? Once you choose one or two outlets on which to focus, you need to update them consistently. I’ve had clients tell me, “But we don’t know what to post.” Not a valid excuse. There are no end to the sources where you can get content ideas. I’ve retweeted many articles about that very topic—do a Google search to find some. Here are a few examples:

This was a great article that appeared last week by Joan Stewart (@PublicityHound) on how to create blog content, for example: http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/46121.aspx#

And a couple of others:

7 Effortless Ways to Find New Ideas for Your Blog

6 ways to find relevant and valuable content ideas for your social media marketing

And those are just a few of many great articles on the topic of creating content.

Once you start, keep up with it: It’s a mistake to start and then not keep up with your social media channel(s) of choice. It only takes a few minutes a day to post something—even less to retweet/reuse something, if you don’t have any fresh content of your own.

PR feeds social media: Another point—use PR efforts to feed social media content. So every press release you issue, every article that results from your media outreach, every case study or success story on a customer, every speaking engagement, every award and so on should be issued via your social media channels.

So don’t be overwhelmed. As with any marketing effort, it’s fine to start small and grow from there. Just pick your poison and get started!

Handling Media Opportunities: Media Training 101

Everyone knows that media attention is usually a GOOD thing! But, what do you do if you’re lucky enough to get a reporter interested in your story? The truth is that many companies might not know how to handle a media opportunity if they were fortunate enough to land one.

Relationships with reporters require the utmost care. Here are some tips to help you make the most of any media attention that comes your way:

1)      RSVP! At the top of the list is a prompt response. If a reporter contacts you proactively or in response to something you’ve contacted them about, drop everything to respond. Even if you don’t have all the answers to their questions, at least let them know you’ve received the message and are working on their requests. If you wait, the opportunity may disappear because they’ll have moved on to the next source on their list.

2)      Provide what they need: Make sure you’re ready BEFORE reaching out to media by having your images, logos, customer references and any other information they may request ready.  

3)      Prepare for the interview: Do a little research on the reporter. Take a look at what the reporter’s written to get a sense of his style. Read his bio, if you have access to it. Think about what questions he may ask and what answers you’ll give. It doesn’t hurt to prepare a Q&A document to refer to, especially if more than one person at your company is speaking with the media.

4)      Listen more than you talk: During the interview, you want to make sure you don’t talk too much. I’ve been on media calls with clients who, despite coaching to the contrary, seem to do ALL the talking! OOPS! Not a good move, if you want to build a relationship with the reporter. Let the reporter drive the discussion. DO answer their questions and work in your nuggets (see next point), but don’t overdo it.

5)      Work in your “nuggets”: What are the top three things you want this reporter to take away from your interview? If they remember nothing else, what three pieces of information about your business—or nuggets!—do you want them to write about? Weave those in throughout the interview, as much as it makes sense.

6)      Wrapping up: When you wrap up the interview, make sure to ask if the reporter needs anything else—images, customer references, etc.  See #2 above so you’re prepared to send these over immediately after the interview. Also during wrap up, you should ask when the article might appear. You can then follow up to get copies, if it’s a print publication.

7)      Follow up: If the reporter did need something, make sure to get them the requested information as soon as possible. If they contact you with questions following the interview, get right back to them with the answers (or reply to say you’re working on getting them the answers).

8)      Promote Your PR: When the article appears, blast it out via social media, post it on your site and make sure to let your audiences know it’s out there!

Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to building a relationship with the reporter so that next time he needs an expert source, he’ll call you first.

And if you need help, consider hiring a professional to handle media outreach, requests and responses. Even if you can’t do it yourself, you can make sure someone is there to handle media relations with the care it deserves.