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“Effective PR is essentially inception…”

Excellent Forbes piece here on PR dos and don’ts-although it says it’s geared to start-ups in the title, the advice could apply across the board to established companies, as well. 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/sethporges/2013/05/17/the-10-pr-disasters-all-start-ups-need-to-avoid/

Although the article is chock-full of great tips, this may be my favorite line: “Effective PR is essentially inception: It’s your job to plant the seed of an idea in a writer’s head.” What happens after that is up to the reporter or publication. I often say to clients and colleagues that PR opens the door to opportunity–it creates a chance for them to receive coverage. It doesn’t GUARANTEE coverage–but without that door being open, you have a much lesser chance of being on the reporter’s radar. 

Watch for more coming on this idea in my blog post later this week. 

Happy anniversary to me!

This spring, I’m celebrating the 14th anniversary of my business, Garrett Public Relations.

As I celebrate another year of being self-employed, I look back on the years since I launched my business. Yes, the business climate has changed and PR is constantly changing, but I still get so excited whenever I remember that I work for myself!

I grew up in a household where neither parent went to work at an office or company every day. It never dawned on me how much this had affected my own view of the work world until the past few years. I started to wonder, where did my drive to work for myself come from?

My parents were both 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. Both my parents and all four of us kids worked there. That’s where my early lessons in customer service came from (and my ability to add without a calculator!). In addition to working at the market and taking 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. Later, my mother turned her love of antiques into a business, even opening a shop for a while, and she still buys and sells antiques all these years later.

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 mom and dad 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.

I wonder now what my kids will learn, as they watch their mom run her own business. I need to find ways to integrate them into the business so they get a sense of what it’s like. Maybe they’ll catch the entrepreneurial bug just like I did.

 

Spring is here—is it time to “freshen up” your ideas about PR?

Ah, the flowers are coming up, the weather is getting warmer and all thoughts turn to spring! With spring comes spring cleaning. Maybe it’s time to freshen up your PR initiatives, as well.

What are some fresh ideas you can bring to your public relations planning? Here are some thoughts:

 Have you tried a press release lately?  Yes, press releases are one of the best tools for PR, yet they’re often over-looked. Releases are great, because they’re cost-effective and can be leveraged in a number of different ways. You can issue a release via a paid or free service to create links to your site and get visibility. 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. You can post the release to your site. You can share the release as in your content marketing efforts via social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. And those are just a few ideas to get you started.

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 help your business, 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.

Have you considered an award submission? Many industries and publications have awards programs that 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.”

Have you started using social media? If you have yet to start leveraging this valuable yet free tool to reach out and drive traffic to your site, you should start today. Starting small and focused is OK. Pick one platform—I recommend LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook—to start and develop some ideas to post. Or re-tweet or share others’ content. See my blog post here about social media for small businesses for more ideas.

Those are just a few ideas to get you started on “freshening up” your PR as part of your spring cleaning this year. For more ideas, be sure to follow me on Twitter, @PRisUs, visit my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/GarrettPublicRelations , or watch the site for upcoming blog posts.

Working From Home a Problem? Start Your Own Business

When I saw the recent comments from Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, about employees working from home, I must admit I was at a loss: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/business&id=9006273

This is a hot button issue for me.

For years early on in my career, I struggled in my attempts to get my employers to see the value in allowing me to work from home. I achieved minor victories here and there, but it was always a sticking point. In my mind, I knew I could be productive and do a great job working from home—without all the office distractions.

Finally, I decided I’d take matters into my own hands and work toward launching my own business. I gathered information by talking to others who’d successfully gone out on their own and did my research, putting all the pieces in place. Then I planned my escape…er, I mean exit, from the 8-6 office life.

I started my business to get the freedom to work when and where I wanted. Funny how this topic is still relevant all these years later. The data is now there to support the concept that those working from home can be as productive–if not more so–than those who work in the office. The idea still seems to be slow to catch on with employers, but the hope is there that someday they’ll get it!

To those who still fight this battle, you can always start your own business like I did nearly 14 years ago. I still love working for myself–and of course, I no longer have to ask for permission to work from home.

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!

From a Reporter’s Perspective—What Are You Doing Wrong When It Comes to PR?

I came across a recent Inc. article in which reporter Minda Zetlin talks about what you might be doing wrong if you can’t get the media’s attention:

Can’t Get Good PR? 4 Things You’re Doing Wrong, 

http://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/cant-get-good-press-heres-what-youre-doing-wrong.html

This piece resonated with me because a) this is what I help clients do every day and b) it has some great reminders for those trying to do PR themselves—or even for those who have help, but don’t seem to get why their PR person can’t get them ink.

Point 1: Assuming a journalist has the same agenda as you:

I often view the job of the PR pro to get the client the opportunity to speak with a reporter. Once the interview’s taken place, it’s out of our hands. It does happen sometimes that while the reporter seemed interested in the story at the time of the interview, their editor may not be as interested. It may be a timing issue—perhaps the space planned for the article was cut. There are many reasons, in fact, why an interview may not lead to an article. If it doesn’t, this isn’t the fault of the PR person (and sometimes, not the reporter).

Point 2: Lying to yourself about what is and isn’t newsworthy:

This is what I help clients determine. Many times, something the client thinks is very much headline material simply isn’t. In these cases, it’s better to wait to contact the reporter or issue the press release until something more newsworthy comes up. You don’t want to waste reporters’ precious time by pitching story ideas that cause them to yawn as they delete your email.

Point 3: Staying relentlessly “on message:”

Even I preach to clients to prepare their “nuggets” of key information before an interview, but she makes a valid point here. You have to be willing to branch off in other directions, if that’s where the interview goes. If the reporter wants your expert commentary on a topic related to, but not directly on, what your company does, it’s OK to comment and not try to constantly steer the conversation back to your key messages. As she mentions, she’s more likely to quote you if you provide more bits of useful information versus less.

Point 4: Not being available.

This one I could absolutely rant about! NEVER—and I do mean NEVER!—be too busy to speak with a reporter in a timely fashion. If you’re lucky enough to get their time, take it! Do whatever it takes to make yourself available. Keep in mind how busy reporters are, how many companies are competing for their limited time and mindshare and how much that real estate is worth in their piece. And, let’s not even talk about cancelling or not showing up….the cardinal sins of media relations.

Read Minda’s piece in Inc. for all her valuable tips on what not to do when it comes to PR.

See Michelle’s tip featured in this blog post on procrastination

 

Want to stop procrastinating? See my tip in this blog post (#23): 

Stop Procrastination: Slay This Business Beast Now

http://spirited-solutions.com/stop-procrastination-slay-this-business-beast-now/

23. Just Get Started!

My top tip to whip procrastination? Just get started. Whether it’s writing something or starting a new project, if you just force yourself to start somewhere (whether or not you really want to), you’ll find it much easier to keep going. The hardest part is often just getting started. So, dig in and do one task that will get you going. Often, you’ll feel much better knowing that you’ve at least made a dent in the project. And sometimes, you’ll even keep going until it’s done!

Thanks to Michelle Garrett of Garrett Public Relations

Everyone Could Use PR

In my work as a PR specialist, I often notice things perhaps others don’t.

For example, walking through a mall on my way to meet someone for a lunch appointment, I noticed a sign about an upcoming event that would appeal to parents in the area. I thought, “Hmmm, why haven’t I seen/read/heard about this before?” The event happened to be coming up that very weekend…and I’m just now seeing it. So how many others who’d be interested won’t see/read/hear about this before the weekend? This happens to me frequently, leaving me to wonder, “Why doesn’t everyone see the value of PR?”

There are many situations where I think a little PR could’ve helped an organization or event immensely. Here’s another example: I recently attended a local charitable event—a major undertaking to plan and prepare–that would’ve benefitted from better communications. Meaning that after folks signed up to participate, they should’ve heard regularly from the organizers. I signed up and received only one email confirmation. I never heard back before the event with any buzz-building messages or updates. Did it affect the turnout? Yes, unfortunately, the event suffered from a poor turnout, despite all the planning and preparation that went into it. Better communication would’ve yielded much better results and helped the organization reach its goals.

These are just a couple of examples of how better PR could help even the smallest of organizations. There are, in fact, many instances that take place in our day-to-day lives when I’m left wondering why someone didn’t do a better job of promoting this event/product/service? It’s plain to see that a lot of time and effort went into the initiative; why didn’t someone spend just a little more time getting the word out to the masses?

PR is getting the word out about your event, your service, your product, your customers, your new hires, and so on—it’s spreading the news about your company or organization. Oh, and here’s another key point: Other than the time it takes to create the message or content and contact those who publish the news (or self-publish it via social media channels and your site), PR is free. That’s right, FREE! If that doesn’t get your attention, than what will? Unlike paid advertising, you don’t pay for the space. PR also goes hand-in-hand with your marketing efforts, so that any content created can be tweaked and repurposed, meaning you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

So, if you’re taking the time to plan an event, launch a new product or service, hire someone, or do something else newsworthy, why hide your light under a bushel? Get the word out—shout it from the rooftops if you have to!–but make sure to include PR in your planning efforts.

Michelle Garrett quoted in article on Carol Roth’s Business Unplugged site

 

Catch my advice here in the article,”Competition: Standing Out From the Crowd in Business” 

http://www.carolroth.com/blog/competition-standing-out-from-the-crowd-in-business/

Stay in Your Lane!

My top tip to make your business stand out–stay in your lane! This means don’t try to be all things to all potential clients or customers. If you have a specialty, make sure to make that your main focus. If you dilute your brand or message by trying to include everything you do and every industry you serve, you won’t attract more business–you’ll actually take the focus away from what you do best. In turn, you may not attract the type of clients you’d really prefer to work with.
Thanks to: Michelle Garrett of Garrett Public Relations.