Posts Tagged ‘public relations’
November 15, 2012 by Kay Paumier
All service professionals, from lawyers to dentists, have a similar challenge if they are to grow their businesses: they need to expand their pool of new business beyond direct referrals.
Unfortunately, they face several obstacles:
That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can effectively market a service business. Here are some time-tested ways to promote your service, online and off.
Develop a good website.
This should go without saying, but having a good website is essential. The site does not need to be fancy, but it should have good content and visuals. So describe your services; tell what makes you different, and describe your ideal customer. If possible, include testimonials and case studies. Regularly update the material.
Write with both your audience and the search engines in mind. That means putting keywords high up on the page, and in headlines and subheads, as the search engines give more “weight” to words in those positions.
Print your URL on your business cards and on all marketing materials.
If possible, include a blog on your website, where you provide information your customers and clients might find valuable.
Social media probably won’t directly result in leads, but it can increase your credibility and help establish you as a knowledgeable professional.
So set up a profile on LinkedIn, the business social media site. Use keywords in your write-up. Make your profile complete—include your picture, your areas of expertise and the URL to your website.
Invite business colleagues to “link” to you. (I know some people disagree, but I only link to people I know. I ignore invitations to link to someone who just happens to be in one of my groups.)
A good way to increase your visibility is to ask or answer questions. (Click on the “more” tab at the top, then click “answers.”) You can select the type of questions that interest you from the list on the right. By answering questions every week, you will show up on weekly update, reminding people in your network of your expertise.
Depending on your business, Facebook might be better for you. It’s certainly good for business-to-consumer services, as well as for any highly visual business.
You may want to have a business profile separate from your personal one, and restrict access accordingly. I know some businesses that use Facebook as their websites, posting updates there instead of maintaining two separate entities.
Definitely a thought.
I hope this has you thinking. I’ll cover some additional ideas in my next post.
November 8, 2012 by Kay Paumier
In my previous post, I discussed four ways to “make news.” Here are three more time-tested ways.
Announce a milestone.
Announcing a milestone number of visitors or sales is a common technique, used by companies ranging from Disney to Apple. You don’t have to be huge to toot your horn this way, but you do need to be large enough for the milestone to interest others.
What customer, sales or other milestone can you announce?
Hold a contest.
The contest could be local, national or even international.
The English department at San Jose State University has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest annually for more than 20 years. Named for the writer who penned Snoopy’s favorite line “it was a dark and stormy night,” this literary competition challenges entrants to compose the opening sentences to the worst of all possible novels. (To read this year’s winners, go to www.bulwer-lytton.com.)
Although it might seem counter-productive for an English department to encourage bad writing, the contest gives the school the opportunity to emphasize the importance of good writing.
Companies in many other industries also hold contests. Software companies sponsor contests for programmers. Food manufacturers hold recipe contests. Not-for-profit organizations run essay contests.
What contest could you develop that would reflect your organization’s vision?
Put on an event.
Depending on how busy the news day is, an event can generate publicity. However, make sure the event has value in and of itself, and don’t put it on just for the publicity. Visual events (such as parades) and events involving kids are popular. Or an event can be tailored for a particular industry. I once helped put on a lunch at the San Francisco Culinary Academy to announce a new cookbook. The media attended; the food was great and the cookbook got a lot of coverage.
Depending on the type of news you “make,” you will have several publicity opportunities:
Time your news to maximize its publicity potential. For example, you might tie into holidays or seasonal activities like elections or the Super Bowl. Also capitalize on traditionally slow news periods, such as long weekends. Less generally happens then, increasing your chances at coverage.
What other ways have you “made news”?
More information about news and the media is available at www.CommunicationsPlus.net/PRArticles.html
November 1, 2012 by Kay Paumier
If you’re like many small to mid-sized organizations, you have little or no news. Yet you need to remain in the public’s eye. What should you do?
Fortunately, you can “make news.” Here are four of the most popular and most effective ways. I’ll discuss three more methods in my next post.
Many of these ideas give you the opportunity for several announcements, as well as the potential for long-term publicity.
Take a survey.
The media love to know “what’s happening.” So pick a timely topic, design some questions and take a survey. Nabisco did this as part of the 85th anniversary of the Oreo. The company asked people to vote on a new color filling for the cookie. (Blue won.)
Of course, a survey doesn’t mean asking your co-workers a few questions in the cafeteria. Make it a real survey. Either contract with a survey firm or use an online service to help you develop a plan. Test your questions beforehand with some colleagues to make sure that they are clear. Strive to get a “statistically significant sampling”—enough respondents to make your results meaningful.
Give an award.
Creative awards can be newsworthy. The award can even be for something negative. A public relations firm in San Francisco, Fineman PR, gives awards each year for the biggest public relations blunders. (My favorite, several years ago, was a news release describing a drug bust. Unfortunately, the release went out the night before the bust. You can imagine the results.)
What can you “honor,” either negatively or positively? Just make sure that the award is somehow connected to your business.
Make a list.
You don’t have to be David Letterman to have a “top 10″ list.
To a great extent, a list can just reflect your opinion. However, you should have some criteria to back up your statements.
What can you “list” in your industry?
Celebrate an anniversary.
This can be especially effective if your organization has a long history and can contrast the present with the past. Jell-O got great coverage for its anniversary with headlines like “100 Years Old and Still Wiggling.” The company resurrected some of its early ads, giving editors the ingredients for a visually attractive layout.
Maybe your anniversary isn’t as dramatic (or your budget as large), but perhaps you can contrast “then” (what things were like when your organization was first founded) and “now” (what things are like now). Your theme could be “things have really changed” or “some things never change.” Consider getting a newspaper from your organization’s “birthday” to make the contrast more real. (An online search for “historic newspapers” will get you started.)
So what anniversary is coming up for your organization?
There you have it—four ways to make some news. In my next post, I’ll discuss three more ways and give some general tips.
In the meantime, more information about public relations and news is available at www.CommunicationsPlus.net/PRArticles.html.
October 11, 2012 by Kay Paumier
Many companies and organizations are, frankly, just not newsworthy. Even the most newsworthy entities typically can’t depend on “hard news” to consistently get the word out about their product or service.
This is where feature stories come in. They can offer even greater opportunities than news releases, because they typically are longer, go into more detail and have longer “shelf lives” (i.e., get used over a longer period of time). They can help you get publicity when you have no news, increase your credibility and generally get the word out about your product or service.
One important thing to remember is that any feature story cannot directly promote your product, service or organization. You’re trying to put your service or product into a larger context, one that will interest the media and their readers or viewers.
Here are five time-tested ways to develop stories.
How to’s are always good and can be used by virtually any organization, including:
What expertise do you have that could become a how-to feature?
A case study or application story shows how a product worked in a given situation. Such stories are particularly popular in technology where they can help people relate to material that could otherwise be somewhat esoteric.
Check with the company’s PR or communications people before even beginning a case study. Some companies have policies against participating in application stories. Others may have procedures you need to follow, and the person who is using your product may be oblivious to these restraints. You could write an entire article, only to find out that you can’t use it.
So make sure the customer approves the idea at the beginning, and signs off on the final document at the end.
Sometimes the story is buried inside a bigger picture. A participant in one of my publicity classes invented several hair-cutting and beauty-aid products, but was having problems getting distribution. After the class, she pitched a story on how inventing the product was easy; the hard work was getting someone to distribute it. She ended up with a half-page spread in a large daily newspaper, complete with large color photo showing her demonstrating one of the products.
Is there a story hidden inside your product or service?
Several business journals regularly do personality profiles, typically one-page descriptions of an interesting person. The varied themes include everything from unusual hobbies to different types of experiences. I successfully pitched a “mainframe and motorcycles” theme for a client who had worked in the mainframe software industry and had four Harleys.
Someone in your organization has an interesting story or two. Dig a little and you will find it.
Editors love trends, so put your product or service into a larger context. A participant in one of my PR workshops had just started a dating service for obese people. She had no track record, not a single client. I suggested she connect with other businesses offering similar, but not competitive services, so that she could present a picture of a growing trend. Within a short time, she had a major feature in the San Jose Mercury-News on the rising importance of the obese market.
What is happening in your industry that you can capitalize on?
July 26, 2012 by Kay Paumier
In my previous post, I discussed the advantages and challenges of dealing with broadcast media.
In spite of these challenges, you can definitely succeed in broadcast by following some basic media-relations procedures.
And accept the fact that Murphy is often right. What can go wrong will (sometimes) go wrong. So prepare for the unexpected. One rainy day in Boston, a client and I were in a traffic accident on the way to a live newscast. We made it, with about one minute to spare. If we had not allowed plenty of time to begin with, we would have missed this interview opportunity.
Broadcast isn’t for everyone. It probably doesn’t fit extremely technical or true commodity businesses. But, for many of us, broadcast can be a powerful addition to our publicity programs.
July 20, 2012 by Kay Paumier
Many PR professionals deal exclusively with print media. That’s a shame, because broadcast (TV and radio) offers some excellent opportunities and advantages, whether you’re on a talk show, newscast, or public affairs program.
(Note, here I’m discussing broadcast media, not online channels such as YouTube, although much of what I say will apply to YouTube and its ilk as well.)
There are good reasons to include broadcast in any publicity program:
However, dealing with broadcast is trickier than dealing with print media. With rare exception, I advise clients to “master” print media first, and then move onto broadcast. After all:
In my next post, I’ll give you some tips on how to deal effectively with broadcast media.
July 5, 2012 by Kay Paumier
This is the final post in my series about technology product reviews. You’ve learned how to research, pitch and manage the review process. What do you do next?
You can, and should, follow up after sending the product for review. I have been very successful with reviews, partially because my client or I have followed up regularly. Several times we have improved the results because we clarified procedures or resolved problems – definitely good reasons to keep tabs on the process.
After the review
When you get a good review, market it internally and externally. Notify the product team right away. Get rights to reprint the review for marketing and sales purposes. Link to the review or post it (with permission) on your website.
If you win an Editors’ Choice or similar award, notify your customers and prospects. Also announce the award in a news release. Post the release on your website and distribute it over a wire service for the SEO (search engine optimization) value. Don’t bother sending the release to other publications because they will not cover the story anyway.
Also share the results with R&D. The reviews may provide insights into possible changes that could improve the product.
If you follow these guidelines, you may not “Win All Reviews,” but you will definitely increase your chances of getting good ones.
June 28, 2012 by Kay Paumier
My previous post discussed how to research and pitch the review of a technology product. Here’s what to do once your product has been accepted for a review.
Learn as much as you can about the reviewer beforehand.
Ask who will be doing the actual review. Read the person’s previous reviews, looking for any strengths or biases.
Sometimes magazines send the products out to third parties for review and will not tell you the reviewers’ names. That definitely puts you at a disadvantage.
This happened to one of my clients, who went ahead with the review anyway because the publication was important and had a good reputation. Unfortunately, the results were disappointing. In a comparative review of business telephone systems, AT&T was given an “A.” All other participants (including my client) were given a “C.” The products were all very similar, so the discrepancy in ratings was dramatic and, frankly, puzzling at first.
Then we learned that the reviewer was actually an AT&T reseller. We notified the editor about the apparent conflict and we refused to participate in subsequent reviews when we discover that person was doing the review.
This is the most egregious conflict of interest I’ve seen in reviews, and it definitely illustrates the importance of knowing as much as possible about the reviewer.
Learn as much as you can about the reviewer beforehand.
Ask the editor what the goal of the review is. What are they trying to accomplish? To find the faster widget? The easiest-to-use? The least expensive?
Ask how the product will be reviewed. Almost any product can be tested in multiple ways. What is the methodology? What features and functionality will be emphasized? What will the evaluation criteria be?
Also, research whether the publication has reviewed this type of product before. If so, what product won? Why? What did the reviewers rate highly about the last winner? What did they rate poorly? Although editors and criteria do change, this review history can be valuable information.
You might not get all the details, but you’ll probably learn enough to determine whether the test seems reasonable, and whether your product will do well or not. If the review methodology and criteria do not fit your product, it is better not to participate. A bad review is worse than no review.
Prepare a reviewer’s guide.
In general, reviewers seem reluctant to open users’ manuals, but they do expect a reviewer’s guide. This document gives background on the product and suggests ways to test it.
In many cases, the most effective way is to arrange the guide in a “problem-solution” scenario. For example:
Include graphical material: screenshots for software, diagrams and illustrations for hardware. Consider including checkboxes for the features or functions most important to your target market.
The guide does not have to be long, but it should be done well. This is your chance to position the product, explain where it fits in the market, describe its major features and, most importantly, elaborate on its benefits to users.
Include two contact names: the PR person and a media-trained technical contact. List both their work and mobile phone numbers. Reviewers often work evenings and weekends and may need technical help after normal working hours. The success of your review may depend on your responsiveness.
Prepare a review agreement.
If the product is expensive, prepare a review agreement, which stipulates that the publication must purchase the product if it is not returned after a given period of time (typically 30 to 60 days). Have your lawyer review your agreement and get it signed before shipping the product.
Media train your product spokespeople.
Media train your spokespeople, including any technical contact who might be answering questions from the media (for any technical product). Run through the questions you think editors might ask about the product and determine the best ways to answer them.
Present your answers in terms of the end-users’ wants and needs. As much as possible, incorporate your basic messages into your answers. Use stories, data and industry trends to illustrate and substantiate your points. If possible, refer the reviewer to independent research that backs up your opinions.
Alert tech support.
Some reviews will evaluate technical support as well as the product itself. You can give the reviewers a separate phone number for support, but often they will call the general support number anyway, the better to see the kind of help end-users would get.
So always let the support department know that a reviews editor might call and probably will not identify him or herself. And do what you can to make sure your support department gets a glowing report.
And, although it should be too obvious to state, do not fire your technical support person while the review is in process. One company did just that. Unfortunately, the reviewer called right before the person left. The support contact trashed the product and the reviewer evidently took his word for it, calling the network switch “a very expensive doorstop.” The moral of this story? Select good technical contacts and keep them on the job.
June 21, 2012 by Kay Paumier
As its name implies, the product review describes the editor’s experience with a given product. A good review can dramatically increase credibility and often lead directly to sales. However, technology product reviews are tricky.
Although many types of products are reviewed, I will focus on professional reviews of technology products (such as are on CNET.com) as opposed to user reviews (such as are on Amazon.com).
First, some background.
Professional reviews of technical products come in two types: group (comparative) and individual (standalone) reviews.
The group review compares similar products, generally rating and ranking the results. A schedule of comparative reviews is typically included in the magazine’s editorial calendar – the listing of planned articles often found on the publication’s website.
Group reviews are time-sensitive; all the products will be reviewed within a specific period of time. Most comparative reviews give an Editors’ Choice or similar award.
Standalone reviews typically focus on a new product or major upgrade of an existing product. Standalone reviews are usually more in-depth and provide a better chance to position your product.
Typically the reviews editor organizes the reviews, and reporters or outside contributors do the actual hands-on testing.
So how can you maximize your chances for positive reviews, whether standalone or group? Here are some tips.
Do your homework.
If possible, test the product yourself or at least see a demo. You must be familiar with the product’s strengths and weaknesses.
Develop or review the basic messages about the product. Why does it do? What do you want people to know about it? What are its main strengths? Main benefits? What problem does it solve? What capability does it enhance? Where does it fit in the marketplace?
Research the potential reviews.
Review the target publications that have reviews of similar products. Make a calendar for the group reviews. Prioritize the magazines according to their value to you, and concentrate on the top five or six publications.
Pitch the review.
To be considered for a comparative review, e-mail the reviews editor and check on the parameters. If you fit the criteria, you’ll probably be asked to forward your product by a certain date. (Several reviews sites, such as on CNET, also have an online link to reach them. Many reviewers prefer to be contacted in that way.)
To pitch a standalone review, e-mail the reviews editor and describe the product’s main “claim to fame.” Editors generally prefer relatively new products for standalone reviews. If the product is significant, try to start the review process early enough so that the review can appear around the time of the product launch. (That’s often not possible, but it’s a good goal.)
One advantage: generally reviews editors will go under nondisclosure, meaning that they will not write about the product until the announcement date. It’s best to have them sign a nondisclosure agreement. This means it is “safe” to talk about the product before your official launch date.
For standalone reviews, contact the editor of a monthly publication about five months before the announcement date, the editor of a weekly publication about three months in advance. For group reviews, the editors will tell you when you need to send the product.
This gets you started on the review process. In my next post, I’ll discuss what to do once you’ve been accepted for a review.
June 14, 2012 by Kay Paumier
Competition for editorial space and time is always high with one important exception – good visuals.
A good photo or illustration draws attention to the article. Editors need high-quality visuals to break up the text and help tell stories. Announcements with good visuals often get more space and are displayed more prominently than articles with just text.
In short, a good visual significantly increases the chances your written material will be used and your story will get covered.
Yet many people spend more time dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “t’s” in their copy than they do working on effective illustrations. How can you develop good visuals? Here are some tips.
Keep samples of good visuals. Analyze what makes them special. Review them when you’re trying to get ideas. Share the samples with your photographer or graphic artist.
Be clear about your message. What do you want the visual to “say?” Write out your message. Remember: a publicity visual is not great art. It is simply designed to get attention and tell a story.
Sketch what you want the final visual to look like. How can you illustrate your story? What are the benefits of your product or service? Put these in the sketch.
Tips for Photographs
If you’re taking a photograph yourself, make sure to get a high-resolution photo (preferably 300 dpi or more) if your target is a print publication. If you’re preparing the visuals for online, a lower-resolution photo is preferred, around 100 dpi.
Try different approaches, angles and colors. If size is important, include a measure of comparison. I remember a photograph of a desert flower with the head of a pin next to it. The photograph had been magnified significantly, and I really understood how tiny that flower was because of the size of the pinhead. I saw that picture more than 20 years ago, but still remember it because the contrast was so dramatic.
Check backgrounds. Check to make sure nothing in the background will distract people from the visual. Does a light fixture look as if it’s coming out of someone’s head?
Don’t laugh; that type of thing happens. I recently saw a photo of an industry “guru” standing in the power position, arms folded in front. Unfortunately, he was standing next to some trash, which definitely did not help him look sophisticated and polished.
If possible, include a person. People relate better to pictures with people in them.
Have any “unpaid models,” including your co-workers, sign a release giving you the rights to use their images. You can find model release forms online. One source is Better Photo.com.
Allow room for cropping. Get close to the subject, but leave enough room to remove extraneous material later. Cropping can dramatically improve a photograph’s impact.
When submitting a photo, include a caption. Write one to three sentences describing what is happening in the visual, even if it seems obvious to you. Write it in present tense. For example, a photograph of Julia Roberts could have this caption: “Julia Roberts, one of America’s highest paid actors, is also a ‘working mother.’”
Make the visuals available in several ways. Post high-resolution visuals in different sizes on your Web site. The most popular formats are jpeg and gif. Only e-mail photos if you are certain the recipient wants it, and if you know the desired format and size.
Good visuals can increase your chances for publicity and make your online presence much more effective. Give them the attention they deserve.
Get e-mail updates