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Publicity Opportunities in December

November 7, 2013 by Kay Paumier

December is so focused on the holidays, it’s easy to forget there are other celebrations as well.

For example, did you know that December 15 is Cat Herders Day

Before you laugh, think of how organizations could use that day to publicize their business or service.

  •          For example, pet stores, animal-rescue operations and vets could use it to promote the idea of adopting a feline friend.
  •          An organizational consultant could discuss “effective ways to herd the cats in your life.”
  •          Ministers, coaches, and counselors could use the day as a discussion of what it is like to be “tasked with the impossible” and to “manage the unmanageable.”

Got the idea? Here are some other anniversaries coming in December.

Marketing a Service Business (Part 3)

October 31, 2013 by Kay Paumier

In my past two posts, I outlined some ways service businesses could market themselves online. Here are some ways to get the attention of mainstream media.

Track media activity.

One of the best ways to get publicity in mainstream media is to track what the reporters are working on and what they need…and give it to them.

Fortunately, that is easy with HARO (Help a Reporter Out). This free service emails notices about what topics reporters are researching, and what kind of information or sources they need.

It’s a great service. The challenge is that it is very popular. So when you find that someone needs some information you can provide, reply quickly. Outline the information and tell the reporters a little bit about yourself. (You want them to understand you are a good resource.)

I have successfully arranged media interviews and generated publicity for clients through the HARO inquiries. A colleague was even mentioned in The Wall Street Journal, thanks to the service. So it’s definitely worth the effort.

Develop story ideas.

Developing story ideas can be an effective way to ingratiate yourself with the editors. Reporters and editors are typically overworked and underpaid. They appreciate it when someone does some of their work for them.

Develop a few ideas so that if the editor doesn’t like the first one, you can suggest another story. “How to’s” are often good, as are stories about trends, personalities and any unusual aspect of your product or service.

What do you do once you have these ideas? For one thing, you can just contact the editor of a publication or website and discuss it with him or her. That’s a little tricky, but can work.

Or you could suggest it as an angle for an editorial calendar topic.

Track editorial calendars.

An editorial calendar is a schedule of the topics publications (and some websites) plan to cover over a period of time. You can often find this information on the publication’s website, usually in the advertising or media kit section.

Two caveats. Editorial calendars change frequently. Topics get deleted, moved or changed. Also, often the editorial calendar just lists topics (e.g., “widgets”), not story angles (e.g., “the growing importance of widgets in medical imaging”).

However, when you find something that “fits” (or might fit) your company, contact the reporter. Find out if he or she has a specific angle in mind. If not, suggest something. (That’s one reason you developed all those stories ideas.) If the publication takes contributed articles, volunteer to write it. Otherwise, offer to be a source of information for the article.

I have successfully maintained PR programs for clients based almost exclusively on “working” the editorial calendars. You can do the same.

I’ll cover some more suggestions for dealing with the mainstream media in my next post.

Contacting the Media? Increase Your Chances the Email Will be Read

October 10, 2013 by

 A reporter’s job is not an easy one. There are fewer of them than even a few years ago, and they are faced with multiple deadlines, with writing for both print and online, and with trying to become an expert (or at least proficient) in dozens of subjects.

Unfortunately, this also means it is becoming increasingly difficult to connect with reporters. Here are some techniques for getting attention.

Pitch the right person. It amazes me that, with so much information online, reporters still say PR people target the wrong people. Check the publication’s beat lists, which is often on their websites. Or do a database search on the publication or reporter.

Make your email subject line work for you. To avoid the dreaded “delete” key, include important keywords in your subject line. Even better, refer to past articles or coverage. A simple, “about your story on….” Can dramatically increase the chances that your email will be read.

Face it, if your subject line isn’t good enough, chances are good your pitch will not be read at all.  

Pitch people over products.  Show the product or service in action, helping make businesses more productive and profitable, helping doctors save lives, helping teachers educate the next generation.

Or craft a story around the product’s development. What were the problems? The challenges? The obstacles? Who was involved? Whose idea was the product?

Give reporters a plot and you’ll increase the chances they’ll “bite” on your story idea.

Begin with WIIFM. Answer the question “what’s in it for me?” in the first paragraph of the pitch. Provide the facts—the who, what, where, when—at the very beginning.

Go heavy on data. Reporters love statistics. Give them timely information from reputable sources. Bullet them in your email or pitch. That will help establish you as a source.

Avoid attachments. They will probably get stripped out anyway. Instead provide links for the reporters to get the information off your website.

Have a good online news room. Increasingly reporters rely on the online news room for their research. Make sure yours is complete, easy to search and accessible. Include high-quality, downloadable visuals.

Follow this advice and you’ll increase your odds that you’ll get the reporter’s attention…and that your story will be told.

Publicity Opportunities in November

October 3, 2013 by

Yes, Thanksgiving occurs in November, bringing with it lots of articles about family gatherings, the importance of gratitude and (of course) great recipes.

But November also has lots of other great celebrations, including the National Game & Puzzle Week November 24-30 (www.millionminute.com)

I realize it might seem old-fashioned to mention a celebration that encourages people to enjoy board, card and dice games. But I’m a Scrabble and Settlers aficionado. I find them a nice balance to an otherwise very digital world. (And, if the stories are correct, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet play bridge together. Not a poor testimonial, to say the least.)

From a publicity standpoint, National Game & Puzzle Week would obviously provide the opportunity for game manufacturers and stores to market their products.

Community organizations and churches could have “Game & Puzzle” nights.

Counselors, therapists and ministers could discuss the value of playing games together.

And, moving into the digital world, developers of collaboration software could challenge people to create a new game online (that ideally could be translated into the “real” world).

I’m sure there are lots of other ideas. Please share them in the comments.

In the meantime, here are some other celebrations happening in November.

Positioning Your Product or Service (Part 2)

September 12, 2013 by Kay Paumier

 In my first post on positioning I covered the type of information needed to develop good positioning statements, specifically the information needed about:

  •        Your product or service
  •        Your target customer
  •        Your market and
  •        The competition.

Now I’ll discuss:

  •        Organizing the information
  •        Analyzing that information
  •        Developing the positioning statements
  •        Testing those statements.

Develop a competitive feature matrix.

Having collected the needed information, develop a matrix with your product and the competition along one side and the key features along the other. Add information accordingly, as in the example below.

Competitive Feature Matrix Example

 

Our Car

Car “A”

Car “B”

Car “C”

Performance

0 to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds

0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds

0 to 60 mph in 9.5 seconds

0 to 60 mph in 10 seconds

Special Features

Stability control

Tire pressure monitor

Back-seat airbags

Leather seats

Automatic AC

Sun and moon roof

Hybrid

46 mpg

Driver knee airbags

Stability control

34 mpg

Back-seat airbags

Warranty

3 yr / 36,000 miles



3 yr / 36,000 miles

5 yr / 50,000 miles

3 yr / 36,000 miles

M.S.R.P

$ 24,500

$ 28,500

$ 25,700

$18,000

Analyze all the information you’ve gathered, especially the data in the matrix.

Look for the holes, the niches that no one else fills. Specifically, look for:

  •        Your strengths
  •        Your competitors’ weakness(es)
  •        Areas with little or no competition.

During this part of the process, it may help to develop a grid, placing each product on an axis using two differentiating elements at a time. For example, the grid below compares price and performance.

Price/Performance Chart

 

 

Average Performance

Good Performance

High Performance

$30,000

 

 

Car “A”

 

 

 

 

$25,000

 

Car “B”

Our Car

 

 

 

 

$20,000

Car “C”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Analyzing the chart, it’s clear our product:

  • Is the best-value high-performance car
  •  Has better performance than the other cars in its price range
  • Is less expensive than cars with equivalent performance.

Develop your positioning statements.

Now develop the positioning statements, which describe how you want your product or service to be perceived. The statements should define your targeted place in the market. They must differentiate and distinguish you from the competition. They must present your product or service in such a way that the benefits and features appear unique or at least unusual. They must make it clear how you reduce the customer’s pain or enhance his/her gain. And they must do all that in one or two sentences.

In our example, some possible positioning statements are:

  • “Our Car gives you the best performance for the money.”
  • “Our Car is the lowest-priced, high-performance car on the market.”
  • “Our Car has the best resale value in its class because of its standard features and competitive warranty.”

Test the positioning statements.

Ask key people in your company to review the positioning statements and evaluate whether they are:

  •  Simple
  •  Straightforward
  •  Defensible
  •  Original
  •   Available
  •   Differentiated from competition
  •    Compelling, attractive or desirable, and
  •    Focused on customer benefits (either alleviating pain or enhancing gain).

Refine or redo the statements as needed.

Summary

Developing positioning statements takes patience, insight and perspective. Because detachment and focus are critical, it can help to work with an outsider during this process. An independent consultant can often bring the detached viewpoint essential to success.

In any event, do not skimp on this process. Carefully crafted positioning statements can help ensure the consistency, longevity and integrity of your communication program.

For more information, see the classic book, Positioning: the Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout, McGraw Hill, 1996.

 

Positioning Your Product or Service (Part 1)

September 5, 2013 by Kay Paumier

One of the most important steps of any communications program is developing your positioning statements, which describe how you want the market to perceive your product or service. This process can be time-consuming and even frustrating. However, it is essential.

One important thing to realize is that, to a great extent, you don’t position your product or service. The market does. The purpose of the positioning statements is to help focus your company to do the things necessary to be positioned you the way you want to be positioned. This is a complex (and fascinating) topic. I’ll first discuss gathering and organizing the needed information. In my next post, I’ll discuss how to develop sound positioning statements from that information..

First, you need to know the following about your product or service, your target customer, market and competition. This may require some research, but positioning cannot be done in a vacuum.

Know your product or service.

For example, know its:

  •        Purpose
  •        Target customers
  •        Features and benefits
  •        Strengths and weaknesses
  •        Price and availability
  •        Product roadmap and/or product family
  •        Service and support.

Know the target customer.

If at all possible, do some primary research, directly connecting with target customers to discuss topics such as:

  •        What is their “pain?”
  •        What keeps them up at night?
  •        What do they worry about?
  •        What do they want (the “gain”)?
  •        What is important to them? What are their priorities?
  •        What motivates them?
  •        Who influences them?
  •        What are the obstacles to their success?

If you can’t do primary research, at least read the publications that target your audience to get an idea of their most important issues.

Develop “personas.”

Many people find it help to create “personas” from this information. A persona is basically a profile of a fictional character that represents an entire class of users, reflecting their typical motivations, goals, skill level, experience and attitudes.

A simple chart with information about the “person”—including his/her name, age, title, “pain,” frustrations and motivations—can be very powerful. This process can help everyone in product development and marketing keep your end-users’ goals in mind at all times.

In short, personas are powerful tools for communicating about different types of users and their needs, and then deciding which of those needs are most important to target..

Know your market and your place in it.

For example, you’ll need to answer questions such as the following:

  •        What is your target market?
  •        How big is it?
  •        Is it growing?
  •        Is it well-established or emerging?
  •        What does the market need?
  •        What are its major trends?
  •        Who are the trendsetters in this market?

You may need to do some research here or get some industry reports.

Know the competition.

You’ll need to answer questions such as:

  •        Who is the competition?
  •        What do their products and services do?
  •        How are they different from yours?
  •        What do they do better than you?
  •        What do they do worse?
  •        How do they position themselves in the marketplace?
  •        How are they actually positioned in the marketplace?
  •        Where do their products “belong” in the overall market? For example, are they high quality/high price, low cost/high volume, or something in between?

The next steps are to organize and analyze this information, develop your positioning statements and test them. I’ll cover these topics in my next post.

 

 

September Celebrations = Promotional Opportunities

July 11, 2013 by

 September brings a lot more than the official end of summer and the beginning of fall.

The month is full of anniversaries and other celebrations that can provide “excuses” to get publicity or do other marketing.

For example, my cat reminded me that September is Happy Cat Month (www.catalystcouncil.org). This is a great time for animal shelters and humane societies to promote animal adoptions.

Happy Cat Month is also a great opportunity for vets and pet stores to do some marketing. Maybe develop a checklist for people to determine how happy their cats are.

Or perhaps do a photo contest for the “happiest looking cat.” They could announce the contest in a news release, on their websites, in their offices or stores, and in an email message to their clients and customers. They could repeat the process to announce the winners.

The month of September has many other celebrations, including:

Other events celebrated during September:

This information came from Chase’s Calendar of Events, a great resource for anyone who wants to take advantage of celebrations and anniversaries.

More Tips for Handling Media Interviews

June 13, 2013 by

Here are two more techniques for handling media interviews.

Lead the reporter on.

Simply add a phrase at the end of a response, leading the reporter to the next, obvious question. For example:

“That’s not all.”

“Here’s how this might play out.”

“There is much more to this story.”

The reporter typically will ask for more information. “Tell me more.” “Can you give an example?” And then you’re on your way, presenting your messages.

 Redirect the question.

 Here you start with a verbal stop to shield yourself from an unwanted question. Examples of verbal stops are:

“Actually…”

“In fact…”

“In reality….”

Then make your point, possibly explaining why you can’t answer the original question.

No technique works all the time, but these techniques can help you through a challenging interview and raise your chances for success.

 Some material for this article came from the article “Sneak Peeks and Deflections: How they Can Raise Your Spokespeople’s Performance,” by Ed Barks (Public Relations Tactics, November 2012).

Get Publicity by Tying into Events in August

May 23, 2013 by Kay Paumier

 Regular readers know that I routinely provide ideas for tying publicity and marketing into observances.

For example, did you know that August 18 is Bad Poetry Day (www.wellcat.com)? This is a great opportunity for schools and writing groups to do surveys or contests. Ask people what their favorite bad poem is. Invite people to write bad poetry.

San Jose State University has done this very successfully for years with its Bulwer Lytton contest. The annual event, named after the writer of “It as a dark and stormy night,” asks people to write the worst beginning of a novel. The contest now gets entries from all over the world, and a great deal of publicity each year.

Here are some other observances for the month of August:

  • Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month – blindness prevention www.preventblindness.org
  • Get Ready for Kindergarten Month – celebrating a happy entry into kindergarten
  • National Immunization Awareness Month – prevention of life-threatening diseases
  • What Will Be Your Legacy Month – impact on future generations www.jirehpublishers.com

And here are some other days and weeks celebrated in August:

  • August 1, 1990: Celebration of World Wide Web Anniversary
  • August 3: National Mustard Day – celebrating mustard slathered on food www.mustardmuseum.com
  • August 4 – 10: National Exercise With Your Child – encouraging parents and guardians to exercise with their children www.sheilamadison.com/exerciseyourchildweek.html 
  • August 4 – 10: Single Working Women’s Week – honoring single working women www.swwan.org
  • August 4: Sisters’ Day – celebrating the spirit of sisterhood
  • August 15: National Relaxation Day – improving lifestyle through relaxation
  • August 18: Serendipity Day – celebrating unexpected discoveries www.serendipitydayholiday.com
  • August 25, 1916: anniversary of the foundation of the National Parks
  • August 26: National Dog Day – honoring the love and loyalty of dogs www.nationaldogday.com

What can you do with events like these?

Product Reviews I Have Known

May 9, 2013 by Kay Paumier

I have watched, with interest, as Tesla has defended itself against a negative product review in The New York Times.

Until recently, this could have been disastrous, but Musk took to Twitter. Of course, he had an advantage. The car’s data-monitoring system indicated the reviewer undercharged the battery, didn’t set the cruise control to 54 m.p.h. to save energy as he had claimed, and cranked up the heat as the charge faded.

Only time will tell whether consumers believe Musk’s tweets (and the tweets of other Tesla fans) more than they believe the photo of the Tesla being loaded into a flatbed.

The episode reminded me of experiences I’ve had with product reviews over the years. These reviews happened before sites like Amazon became powerhouse review resources, and before online social networking gave companies a real chance to fight back.

They happened when we had few options to fight a poor review. Sure, we could (and did) complain to the reviewer, refuse to participate in future reviews, explain our side of the story to our customers and business partners, and pitch other reviews to other publications. But in those days, we couldn’t take our case directly to the public as Musk has done with the Tesla review.

Here are some stories.

In one case, my client fired the technical contact we had given the publication, but let him stay on the job for two weeks. (An interesting concept, indeed.) In that timeframe, the reviewer called and the tech contact trashed the product. The reviewer believed him. The resulting review said that my client’s technology product was good as a door stop, little else. And our subsequent contacts with the editor got us nowhere.

Then there was the competitive review when the AT&T business phone got an “A” and all the competing phones (including my client’s) got “C’s.” The phones were very similar; we thought they were all “B’s.” Then we learned that the reviewer (a freelancer the magazine had hired for the review) was an award-winning reseller for AT&T. We notified the magazine, saying that we did not feel the review was fair because the reviewer had a vested interest. (The magazine ignored us.) We – and all the other companies in the first review – refused to participate in other reviews in that publication. But a new company did and the result was the same: an “A” for AT&T and a “C” for the other product. (Note: this is not to disparage AT&T which, in all likelihood, did not know about the subterfuge.)

Another time a competitor contacted a reporter, pretending to be “just an interested end-user.” The competitor said he had tested several products, and gave his “test” results to the reporter. The gullible reporter printed the information only to learn that the “interested end-user” had a vested interest indeed, and that the highest ranking product came from his company. The editor was duly embarrassed, and I doubt that the offending company ever got coverage in that magazine again. (My client’s product was not included in the “test,” so experienced neither a positive or negative impact from the episode.)

And a final example. We were promoting a home-networking product that was designed for the latest computer hardware and software. For some inexplicable reason, the reviewer decided to cobble together a network from used computer parts and outdated products for his test bed. Not surprisingly, my client’s product–and all the products in the review–got poor marks because they were all geared for up-to-date technology, not left-overs from previous years. The products made these perfectly clear in their user manuals. Again, we contacted the magazine to explain the discrepancy and ask for a new review, to no avail.  

Today, I often check reviews before making a purchase, especially a technology product. I know how flawed the system can be, and yet it still helps to see what people think about a product. And some sites, such as CNET, PCMag.com and Consumers’ Reports, have good reputations for objectivity.

I am glad they have. And I am happy I now can respond if the review is totally off base.

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