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Posts Tagged ‘public relations’

Seven Common PR Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

December 12, 2013 by Kay Paumier

Many organizations make some basic public relations mistakes, which can dramatically affect their visibility and credibility.

Here are seven common errors, with advice on how to avoid them.

Having unrealistic expectations of PR

Too many people think that they will become famous overnight if they hire a PR firm. Or that publicity will automatically generate sales or raise their stock price.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t automatically work that way.

Marketers tell us that people go through at least four stages in deciding to buy a product or support a cause: awareness, interest, desire and action.

PR is most important in the first two stages, helping generate the awareness and interest that is essential for any action. However, PR becomes less influential the closer people get to taking action.

Understanding this basic concept is essential. PR is important, but it will not change things overnight, make up for a poor product or service, or sell your product or service by itself.

Ignoring the advice of PR counsel

In a great scene in the TV series West Wing, Jed Bartlet was going into a potentially volatile press conference. C.J. Cregg, his press secretary, advised him to call on a particular reporter first and, if at all possible, to avoid another reporter.

What did Bartlet do? He totally ignored Cregg’s sage advice and called on the “forbidden” reporter immediately.

Since it was a TV show, everything worked out fine. But this is not always the case.

Unfortunately, too many companies are like Bartlet and ignore the advice of their PR consultants. Like other professionals, good PR people have a particular way of looking at the world. They have developed skills and talents, have a radar for good stories and potential landmines, and can bring a great deal to the table.

Ask for, and respect, their opinions. You’ll be better off for it.

“Believing your news releases”

This is also called the “parental-fixation” syndrome, when you become so focused on your company, product or service that you forget a bigger world exists out there.

This syndrome manifests itself in assuming that everyone will be interested in your news, no matter how mundane. This fixation also shows up when you treat reporters as if their sole purpose is to tell your story.

In reality, most of the time the media will be only slightly (if at all) interested in your news.

However, reporters are often working on overview and trends articles, or are looking for an unusual twist, a human-interest angle or the “next big thing.” These reporters need people to give them ideas, provide information and explain the big picture.

Be that person, that resource, and you will reap the reward of ongoing coverage. Oh, and kill that news release about version 3.003 of your product.

There they are: three of seven common PR mistakes. I’ll cover the others in my next post.

Publicity Opportunities in January

December 5, 2013 by Kay Paumier

January is the start of the new year, and what better time to “get organized.” That’s probably why January is Get Organized Month.

Like most anniversaries, this provides some great publicity opportunities. For example:

  • Professional organizers can provide tips on how people can reduce clutter, streamline processes, and in general get better control of their lives.
  • Manager of office products stores could promote products that help people organize.
  • And counselors and coaches could discuss the effect that good organization has on people’s emotional well-being and career success.

Got the idea? Here are some other events that provide opportunities for publicity in January:

 

Marketing a Service Business (Part 4)

November 14, 2013 by Kay Paumier

My previous posts discussed some online ways to market a service business, as well as some tips for dealing with mainstream media. Here are some more ideas.

Develop visuals that tell a story.

Magazines, newspapers and websites all need good visuals: photos, graphics and video. Editors need visuals to draw attention to the text, break up the page visually, and help tell the story. The editors get a lot of written material, but relatively few good photographs or illustrations.

Start a file of photographs and illustrations that catch your eye and tell a story. They may spark ideas when you need some inspiration.

For example, a pharmaceutical firm developed a board-game-like diagram that clearly illustrated the FDA approval cycle for new drugs. I still remember that illustration even though I saw it more than a decade ago.

Create news.

You may not routinely have news, but you can “create” it. So hold a contest. Take a survey. Celebrate an anniversary.

Depending on the type of news you create, you may have several publicity opportunities:

  • Announcing the contest, event and the like.
  • Reminding people of the deadline or event date.
  • Announcing the results and winners.
  • Inviting the media to the event.
  • Providing pictures to the media.

Conclusion

I hope by now you see that, although success is not automatic, there are many ways to market a service.

But remember, one of the best marketing activities is also the most fun: networking. Be active in one or two professional organizations. Help others out in their businesses. Participate in projects big and small. No matter how digital the world gets, we still like the “personal touch.”

A caveat: My rule of thumb is to do three marketing activities. Choose the ones that make the most sense for you; do them well and do them consistently. Doing no marketing risks having your business dry up. Trying to do too much can be distracting, time-consuming and even counter-productive.

If you’re not doing any marketing now, start small. Pick one activity and master it. Then add another activity and then another.

Let me know your results. I’d love to hear from you.

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 Kay Paumier

 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 Kay Paumier

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 Kay Paumier

 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.

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