Tag Archives: PR

How Long do You Need? Or, How to Make it Happen Now.

You need to have fast reactions in the always-on world. Opportunities bubble up out of no-where and disappear just as fast.

This week I am in the middle of my very own living case study about the need to move quickly and make things happen now…I blogged about it here a couple of weeks ago.

As you know, the marketer, PR or business person who doesn’t seize the day is one who’s out of a job, so when I was asked to help implement a campaign for a client I was on it like a shot.

The activity we are planning and  promoting doesn’t kick off until next year, so there’s plenty of time to sit back and polish the ideas you might think.

Not a bit of it. To catch the press in this particular sector we have to be ready by next week, including input from collaborators who don’t even know we want to work with them yet!

Am I mad you might ask?

No, I don’t think so, because the alternative is to fold our arms and say “oh dear” – we’ve missed the boat - we’ll just sit here and scratch our elbows until the next opportunity comes along.

There is no reason why businesses can’t turn on a dime, especially small ones with good contacts and social media already in place.

True, I am relying on my potential collaborators to be able to see a great opportunity and move as fast as us over the next week or so and events may not be straight forward, but in this always on world you could say “How long do you need?” or you could just make it happen now.

How to Build a Content Bridge

I am taking it for granted that the service you offer is excellent. It’s of the very highest quality, in fact it’s the best of its kind.

And yet, you don’t have the public profile you’d like.

You want to be known as the first port of call for this product or service but you’re not in the market for a hugely expensive national ad campaign and you’re running out of fresh ideas for media news releases.

This is where social media and content marketing can come to your aid.

You don’t have to beg the media to write about you or engage in hugely expensive ad campaigns because now you can communicate directly with your audience yourself.

Many people already blog and use Twitter to connect directly with potential customers, but you could go one step further and build a content bridge.

In the form of a website or blog, separate from anything you might already do as a company, a content bridge is a place where you and your audience can meet on relatively neutral territory. It is a stepping stone towards the service that  ultimately you want them to buy.

So, for example, if you are a society of butchers and your aim is to sell more meat, then your content bridge will be a website where people can get advice on the best way to cook cuts of meat, to exchange recipes and to chat about issues to do with the product.

As the host, you are in a position to provide expertise – after all, your members know everything there is to know about the subject and can afford to be generous with their knowledge.

When your customer decides that it is time to buy (and that may not be for some time) you can put her in touch with a wonderful supplier. It is up to you to make that process as simple and obvious as possible, when the time is right.

The content bridge can work for anyone – you don’t have to be an umbrella organisation, you could be a solo butcher or baby food supplier or dressmaker or school. As long as you are discussing your area of expertise, sharing information of value and engaging with potential customers, you are set fair to win in the long run.

You will need to let people know you exist and you can publicise your content bridge on Twitter, by guest blogging on related sites and via the established media. 

The important thing is that your bridge exists, to carry and guide people towards your service, which you have already told me is the very best of its kind.

Why You Need To Act Now In An “Always On” World

Have you heard of David Meerman Scott?

He specialises in real-time marketing and talks about it on his blog Web Ink Now

His main point is that we live in an “Always On” world. We encounter opportunities all day long as we meet people and  interact via social media and as a result we need to be fleet-footed and flexible enough to seize those chances whenever they appear. Waiting to run ideas past the board is going to cost you dear in the “Always On” world.

As someone with a background in 24 hour news, this makes perfect sense. If a story drops on the newswires you need to check it, verify it and broadcast it as soon as possible, because if you don’t, another channel will.

News did not always move this fast. There was a time when a journalist in the BBC Radio Newsroom would be given one story to write first thing in the morning, which would not be due on air until 6.0 clock that night. He or she would literally have nothing else to do all day and consequently could afford to spend a good part of it in the pub.

By the time I came along, news bulletins were every half an hour. This meant that if a story broke we could actually broadcast it then and there instead of waiting until the next major bulletin, which could be some hours away.

In his book “Real-time marketing and PR” David Meerman Scott exhorts us to both live and respond in the here and now. There’s no point sitting around scratching your head about an opportunity that comes your way. You need to respond instantaneously and have the clearance and the confidence of your boss/clients to do that.

This means listening to conversations online to find out what is current  and acting on it – engaging the media about what they are going to write, not what they have already written – and using your social media relationships to make the most of all opportunities.

In a world which is always on can you afford not to be first with the news ?

How to Build Momentum

There’ll be  no talk of mass and velocity here. This is not a physics lesson.

Momentum for my purposes, is the energy behind an idea or concept that propels it to the next level.

We could all do with some momentum behind our business ideas because once things start to take off they build up an energy all of their own, taking you to some very exciting places.

I am no football fan, but there is a moment when commentators say; “There’s going to be a goal soon, it’s got to happen, they’ve built up a momentum and nothing can stop them now.” 

This is the point we need to reach to achieve success, the point where winning appears inevitable, it’s just a question of when. The best way to get to this magic place, apart from/as well as, sheer hard work, is with a media boost.

A PR injection at the right time can deliver major results.

For example, a hotel that gets even one favourable review can fill their rooms for the rest of the year. That kind of exposure is worth thousands.

People don’t necessarily know you exist until you tell them - so don’t rule out a short sharp PR injection. Spending  just a couple of days thinking solely about promotion could give you the push you need.

Make sure you’re ready for it though. Contacting the press, sending out samples to bloggers and hitting promotional full steam ahead can backfire if you aren’t ready to handle the interest. Could you manage a flood of orders or deluge of bookings?

Make your promotional push proportionate. If you are a small operation target the  people you promote to carefully,maybe start local with papers or niche publications before you get more ambitious.

And if you think it’s a great idea but are not sure what to do - get someone in. Or you can call me.

Feel free to share you successes or let us know what didn’t work so well.

Why Your Business Needs a 20 Minute Audit

We’ve all heard of the 20 minute make-over. Somebody from a TV show or magazine comes along and makes huge improvements to your clothes/room/ entire life – all in next to no time at all.

Well this is not it. What I’m talking about is much more worthwhile.

I’m suggesting that you take 20 minutes out of your busy day to look at what your web presence says about you.

Imagine you are your own prospective customer or client and you are trying to get an initial idea about whether or not you should do business.

  • Step 1. Put your name or the name of your business into Google. For me, that brings up my blog followed by my LinkedIn and Twitter profiles, some articles I’ve written on other sites and a random Bebo entry from someone who is not me. The Bebo thing is annoying but in general I am happy with the results. I tried this with a professional organisation I wanted to check out and found they were ranked fourth for their own name. That is not so great. If they were selling a product and their competitors were coming in ahead of them then it would be terrible requiring immediate help from the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) doctors. As it is, this organisation might want to think about why it’s not doing better in the rankings and get cracking on upping their online presence with some guest articles and blogs.  
  • Step 2 Put some search terms into Google that you think people might use while looking for your services ie Find cleaners in Maidenhead – if you are nowhere to be found put Keyword Research onto you to do list and read this article by  Lisa Barone to get you started.
  • Step 3. You might want to get a friend to help you with this one. Go to the web site and write down the first three things that occur to you as you look at it. If those words are dull, grey and confusing then book an appointment with a web designer, preferably a new one.
  •  Step 4 How easy is it to find out basic facts? Where are you, what is your phone number, how can people contact you?
  • Step 5 This is one I like to throw in because I am interested in press and publicity – What does the outside world say about this service? Testimonials, links to press cuttings,  mentions on other websites? Try using the web service Social mention   for a quick overview.

Now I think our 20 minutes is up, but do give it a go or organise a swap with a friend – just make sure that it’s an honest audit and that you take the time to act on it.

What Makes a Good Publicity Stunt?

This headline caught my eye in the London Evening Standard.

 Wanted: party organiser able to wow A-list guests of London’s latest hotel

A list guests? Party organiser? London hotel? It had hot sexy story written all over it and I know for a fact that I’m not the only journalist who stopped in their tracks and though how can I follow this up?  

But the more that I looked,the more sceptical I became. The hotel,it said, was looking for  a cool-hunter with inside knowledge of the London party scene, with an exclusive entre to the city’s most fashionable bars and celebrity hangouts. Yet the whole thing was referred to as a contest, the selection process was an ‘audition’ and the successful candidate, the’winner’. As to whether there was any money attached to this ‘job’, well that was shrouded in mystery.

It put me in mind of ‘The Best Job in the World’. This was the story about the search for an island caretaker who was to live on a remote tropical island for six months on a wage of seventy thousand pounds. It turned out to be a publicity stunt for the Queensland tourist board, yet I think we all bought into that little piece of heaven for a moment.

So what are the rules with publicity stunts? Are they acceptable or not?

Personally I think you have to remain true to the principles of modern marketing. Do not treat your customers like idiots. Do you remember the sham marriage in 1999 when two people who had never met before got married live on a Birmingham radio station? That’s got to be twaddle.

I like stunts which challenge the accepted thinking in brave new ways, like the Dove Real Women campaign, which saw women of all shapes and sizes being used for billboard ads or what about the Women’s Institute famous naked Calender Girls? That stunt was so successful it became a film.

I’m not saying you have to be politically correct. Britney and Madonna snogging on TV did neither of them much harm nor did projecting a naked Gail Porter onto the House of Commons – FHM magazine did very nicely out of that one.

I am indebted to Taylor Herrings great Publicity Stunt Hall of Fame for these examples. Check it out and get this, the Olympic Torch relay, which seems so much an integral part of the whole games hoopla, is in itself a publicity stunt.

Find yourself a stunt that becomes part of the culture, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and you’ll have done a good days work.

5 Ways To Get The Copy You Want

It’s tempting to think that when you hire a professional to take on the tasks you hate, you can just offload and heave a sigh of relief.

In my experience, working on pr copy and publicity material for clients,  it doesn’t work like that.

It may be that you find writing about yourself really hard and you want a professional to give you a sparkling bio or you want some tired old copy about your business brought up to date and re-written. In either case the professional you employ will be a lot more effective and possibly cheaper too, if you make a few preparations before handing over the job.

Here are five points worth considering when handing over to a professional:-

  1. Most copywriting and pr is about selling your brand, so remind yourself what you stand for. Can you get this over to your writer or editor in a way they can work with? It really doesn’t have to be written out in elegant prose, that’s our job, but even a handful of words really helps.
  2. Do you have a mission statement? Does it still hold? You may find things have changed since you first set out your core values and this is a good chance to re-visit and up-date.
  3.  If your professional sends you a questionnaire it’s to help the process along, not trip you up  with bureaucracy. Questionnaires are often used to get down key pieces of information about a client and if you can fill them in promptly it really speeds things up when you get to the interview.
  4. It’s a good idea to meet the person working for you if you have the time. Long term relationships can only improve from meeting face to face and a chat over coffee will give you both the chance to discuss exactly what you want.  
  5. If you need something fast and you don’t have a chance to meet, make sure your professional has all the information they need. It may seem obvious to you where you are coming from but if you have not worked together before it’s worth spelling everything out. 

Working with a professional can save you time and give you the top class results you’ve been looking for. By working together in the early stages to really understand what you need you can develop a working relationship that lasts, so that next time it’s even easier than before.

When Should You Send a Press Release?

What shall we do about Press Releases?

Journalists say they don’t like them, so why do we send them? What shall we do instead?

I will be straight up with you and say I don’t know. There are as many opinions on this as there are stories and journalists to write them.

Back in the day on a small BBC Radio station in the sticks we liked press releases because it gave us a safety net in case there was nothing to say. That as it turned out was quite often. In an area with little news you are forced to make a silk purse out of a sows ear and if you think I am joking you have never read out the fat stock prices. (The weights of pigs and other animals due at market, broadcast by very tired journalists to farmers early in the morning.)

In a very newsy patch you are going to have to work harder to get the hack’s attention. Having said that if it is real, hot, breaking news then it’s academic how you release it, you are in the driver’s seat. You can tweet it, press release it or just phone them up and tell them about it.

So what we are really talking about is how to get the coverage we want when they need persuading.

If they are in position A you have to find out what they want and give it to them. Some journalists prefer a concise written pitch by e-mail, others like to get a tweet. Specialist journos hate it when you send them stories outside their niche and if you think that is arrogant you just have to live with it because they will delete your e-mails.

So is the press release dead? Is it still worth sending one out? Here’s my view but I would love to hear yours.

  • Send a release to add substance and detail to a story you have already pitched on the phone.
  • Send a release to publications you know are short-staffed enough to cut and paste your story straight into the paper.
  • Turn your release into an e-mail pitch, which is very short and to the point.
  • Send a release to people you know would be happy to receive them.
  • Send a release when you are in a very strong position and you and your client have decided that this is the only way you will break the news.

Any more? Do tell.

PR: Should We Be Exclusive?

When I worked at the BBC, journalism was not nearly as grubby as you might imagine.

There was the time I was threatened by a theatrical agent and I once got hauled in front of the boss for playing tough with the Today programme over access to a radio car, but this is small change.

Stories for the daily news show I worked on came from; the world around us, what was on the newsgathering diary and other media, like newspapers. We called this “following-up”, but it was more like lifting other people’s stories. Don’t get me wrong, we would always go back to sources to check it out and take it on and give it a new spin but you get the idea. 

There was something about seeing a story already in print that made some editors feel secure, a validation that this was indeed real.* The fact that it had probably been dreamed up by a PR somewhere didn’t matter because we didn’t have to deal with them, we just worked on the ‘story’. 

On the other hand, nobody wanted something that had already been everywhere, it was a fine line.

Looking  now from a PR stand point you can see how placing a story with just one source might have a positive effect. If it’s good others will want to pile in and organisations like the BBC can follow-up without feeling they are taking the PR dollar – they don’t have to get grubby. 

So it is worth being exclusive if you think your journalist is going to bite, then sit back and let the other outlets spread the story for you.

* I would like the record to show that I also worked with some tremendous editors who had the courage to run original work.

PR v Marketing: Which Works Best For You?

I read a lot about PR and marketing departments slugging it out for influence within their company or even agency but if you run a small business you have to do it all yourself.

Newsletter ? That’s you. Press Release? That’s you again. Leaflet drop? You guessed it.

So if you have sole responsibility for getting your message out there, which activities are going to bring it home? Should you concentrate on marketing or PR? 

Getting the media to take notice can be a wonderful feeling, it is validation of what you do, but it is hard. You are unlikely to get press coverage without a really good story or a celebrity on board. Technology is hot, so companies using clever apps are getting noticed right now along with genuinely new products and services.

The quirky will always be in with a shout. I recently got @BeerBeauty onto Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 show because she was doing something which turned the normal order of things on its head.  Instead of men meeting up in a pub to talk business she promotes a women’s networking group where the members learn about Real Ale. It’s fun and it’s different which is why she got the coverage.

If you don’t have the right story you can try to create one but perhaps it would be better to push the marketing side of your brand? A well written newsletter might be more effective. A really great offer could give you the boost you need. What if you were to think now about Christmas? Spend the summer working on your list, make sure all the people you meet are on it and then go for it in September.

Flashy media coverage is one thing, but building up your profile through word of mouth could give you the solid base you need. If you ask people to share your newsletter with their friends, you’ll extend your reach even further. 

Oh and don’t forget the online world. If people like your THING then ask them to recommend you online, via social media and online reviews. Millions of us blog and lots of people produce online magazines so don’t be shy about asking for this kind of coverage. 

If you are a small business I would really love to hear what has worked for you. Do please comment! I feel sure each person has their own story to tell.