Monthly Archives: March 2010

5 Tips On Doing Your Own PR

Marketing  and PR professionals who know their stuff are worth their weight in gold.

But there will be times when it’s down to you to do some of the work yourself. Publishers, for example, will only go so far to push your book, they have other clients to help, but you could go much further !

 Whether it’s a book or a service or simply you that you’re promoting,  here are some tips that might help.

  1. Who do you know ? Trawl your contacts for people in radio, TV, newspapers and magazines who might be interested in doing something with you.
  2. Give them a story. No one in the media will give you air time for a shameless plug but they like stories and they love great talkers. Your self-help book might tie in beautifully with New Year’s resolutions in January. Your well-being book might translate as a story on how to spring-clean your body and mind. If the budget is coming up then are you just the tax expert the local paper has been looking for to make intelligent comment ?
  3. Write a press release which really sells it to them. Tell them your story and provide all the contact details they need. Make it easy for them. If you are selling yourself rather than promoting a product then this still applies. Think of your LinkedIn profile or your dating website profile as your press release and make it as dynamic and interesting as possible.
  4. Think beyond the same old. How about web magazines and online forums? Lots of places let you promote your services free online. Take a look at Creative Boom and Business Women’s Cafe. You write an ‘article’ or blog post about yourself, your story or your service; then  at the end you give your sales pitch and contact links. What’s not to like ?
  5. Use Social Media. Create a Facebook fan page, build a network of followers on Twitter, add value to LinkedIn forums. Ask your mate with a blog to interview you. Guest blog on other people’s sites. Get known, liked and trusted and then you can get your message out.
  6. Any more ideas to add to the mix ?

Are Business Users Ruining Twitter ?

Spam is in the eye of the beholder.

What ? You say. Surely Spam is spam is spam.

Actually it’s quite a subjective concept and the more people use Twitter for business the more we will  be followed by people whose sole motive is to capture our custom.

But before you rush to block everyone you don’t know and put walls round your networks, I think there are two things worth considering.

Timing and Selling.

Timing was covered brilliantly by Copyblogger the other day, so not much more needs to be said. In summary there is a very fine line between salad and garbage, it’s all in the timing. Yesterday it was perky salad, today it’s wilted leaves. Yesterday’s unwelcome insurance salesman is today’s policy expert (if you happen to need a policy that is.)

Likewise a spammer trying to sell DIY services on Twitter might turn into a Godsend the day your guttering falls down.

If you are the DIY man then you aren’t going to know if I need you or not but you can increase your chances of staying in my Twitter stream and even being followed back if you think carefully about the way you approach me and what you say.

The example is pertinent because my husband got followed by DIY man the other day and decided to block him straight away. It didn’t have to be that way.

Here’s where he went wrong:

He was a logo without a name. My husband immediately decided he was being followed by a business who wanted to sell him something and not a person who wanted to share something.

He arrived without announcement. If he had attached a short hello message using the @ symbol saying who he was he might have stood a better chance.

He could have looked through my husband biography and found a shared point of interest like football and made a brief friendly comment about that.

He could have made sure that the top three tweets in his stream were all pieces of valuable advice.

When you start using Twitter for business it is really worthwhile having a brainstorming session to try to pinpoint the things people want to hear and the things they don’t. I worked with some new Twitter users at an excellent workshop run by the Success Network this week and this exercise was the most valuable thing we did.

Most people automatically reach for the sell button. But Twitter is not an appropriate place for rate cards or product specifications. It’s a place where you can look out for people to help, to add value, share advice, expertise and friendly comment.

In short, you are not looking for new customers, who might become friends. You are looking for new friends who might become customers.

The Viral Marketing Behind Hot Hoodies

Playground crazes sell stuff. We established this in my last post when we looked at the Dappy hat. But does the item have to be cheap to spread through the school yard ?

Well not if you are Jack Wills, one of the most expensive brands ever to gain a toe-hold in the cult youth  market.

It started in Salcombe, Devon in 1999 (which really should say it all.)

The clothing is inspired by traditional University and public school styles and the price is part of the brand’s bid for exclusivity. The hoodies are £60 and have the Jack Wills name printed prominently on the back.

They have been compared with Abercrombie and Fitch but you really need to be thinking Brideshead Revisited.

The sensibility may be retro but the marketing is anything but.

Jack Wills does not advertise but goes instead for word of mouth viral marketing bolstered by events; Varsity Polo Match anyone?

Their website links to the blogs of ski ‘seasonnaires’  doing the chalet-bunny thing in top-notch ski resorts.  JW host parties for them in places like Val D’Isere and give away their gear as prizes. In summer they focus on smart locations in the Sates like Martha’s Vineyard. They are VERY switched on.

The prize is clearly ‘posh with dosh’ students who will then advertise the clothes by sporting them  in various trendy locations around the globe. It’s Fat Face with a Mansion.

But what they’ve picked up in their wake is a whole bunch of wannabe  school kids who are clubbing together to get their friends Jack Wills merchandise for birthday presents.

These girls (it’s mainly girls) know that designer goods and smart phones cost a lot, but they don’t seem to mind. They calculate that the kudos gained by owning one of these item will be worth it.

So Jack Wills is;

  • Exclusive
  • Elitist
  • Expensive
  • Hard to find

Whether its low rent hats or top dollar hoodies, our kids have very firm ideas about what they want. They don’t like to be dictated to, so any attempts to kick-start crazes have to be handled smartly. But if you catch them right, then the rewards are huge.

How Chav Hats Became A Playground Craze

Playground crazes ship !

They can elevate a quite ordinary product into the stratosphere.

Manufacturers love them, marketers try to create them.

But what captures the imagination of a bunch of unpredictable school kids.  How does it actually work ?

I’m going to look at a couple of real examples of cults that have swept through our school yard.

Neither is a craze specifically ‘created’ for the playground by the marketers, like Gogos Crazy Bones or the highly swappable Pokemon cards.

These are organic crazes that have risen up for their own reasons. They come from opposite ends of the social spectrum, one cheap the other very expensive.

We’ll look at the exclusive example next time.

But first; Chav Hats.

You must have seen them; striped neon with long strings on either side, pretty unpleasant and probably made of nylon ?

These hats became the must-have head-gear of the  winter at our school this year. But where did they come from ?

The key to their success is a character called Dappy, from hip hop group N-Dubz. Dappy has popularized a host of odd head-gear including tea cosy wooly styles, as well as these Peruvian hats which started popping up in street stalls all over the country.

Dappy has influence with kids, something that was even noticed by the government. At one point he was being used to promote the government’s anti-bullying campaign. Unfortunately he sent an aggressive text to a fan, after she criticized him on a radio show and he was dropped.

Still, kids want to be like Dappy and his hats are now playground must-haves.

Why have they succeeded where other pop star inspired fads have failed ?

Well, we have just experienced the coldest winter for 30 years and parents are grateful to get their kids wearing hats of any kind.

These neon versions have been readily available on any street corner and  they are cheap…just a couple of quid.

Parents may hate them aesthetically but there are not many good reasons to say no when they are cheap and functional.

So here are the key elements to this type of fad,

  • Ubiquitous
  • Cheap
  • Meets a need
  • Populist
  • Mass market
  • Celebrity led

Next time we will see a list which is almost exactly the opposite when we talk about the rise of  a cult sweatshirt with serious social currency.

Why Mygov Means You Need To Sharpen Up Online.

Much excitement about the new UK ‘government on demand’ website which will make interacting with government as easy as banking and shopping online.

The “mygov” portal will allow people to manage pensions and benefits, pay council tax, apply for school places and jobs, and book doctor’s appointments.

There’s even talk that within three years it could have a Facebook-style interactive service allowing people to ask doctors for medical advice or to consult your child’s teachers.

To Generation ‘Y’ – the connected generation this is a natural extension of a plugged-in world. (Gen Y = born after 1980)

According to Pew Social Trends three-quarters of U.S. teens already have a social media profile, like Facebook. So, supposing the UK figures are roughly the same, we have a generation who will start working and  raising a family expecting to find all the services they need online.

So the nay-sayers still spluttering over Twitter may have to have a re-think.  This stuff is not going away.

Plenty of people in my age group, ‘Gen X’ (1965-1980) still question the need for LinkedIn or smile wryly when you tell them you have a blog.

But you can be sure the government will be looking to existing set-ups like Facebook and LinkedIn for ideas.

If we’re all going to be running our lives from a computer dashboard isn’t it better to seize control now and start to shape the way we are portrayed online ?

There has never been a stronger argument for taking a look at your own personal brand and making sure that what appears about you online is what you want to see.

Why We Can’t Afford Free

I know a man who spends his days keeping society on the rails, and his nights gambling on the internet to pay for it. He is a magistrate and it’s one of the many jobs that people do for free.

There is an expectation today that things will be free and it has penetrated our lives to an astonishing extent. Kids graduating now, have grown up without any notion of paying for music, TV, movies or games.

Free, as Chris Anderson explains in his fascinating book of the same name, has its own economics. It knocks everything else out of the water. You simply can‘t compete with free. A CD that costs a penny will stay on the shelf if the one next to it is free. The free CD is a no-brainer because you make no commitment.

The free generation is pretty much “hostile to copyright”, as Chris Anderson has it, and is playing its part in taking down industries which no longer fit the old model. The record labels, the newspapers, even paid for TV and boxed-up video games are all struggling in a world where what you want is available now, online and for free.

This hostility to copyright has invaded intellectual property too. There is an expectation that your ideas, your experience and your expertise should be available to others for free, hence my friend the magistrate, who has to fund his good works by gambling.

But now there seems to be a backlash underway.

There’s been a surge in blog posts recently from people who have had enough. They have titles like, “Why do we blog if there is no money”, “How to make sure you don’t sell yourself short as a freelancer”, “Why I can no longer give my work away for free.” Witness also the move by the Third Tribe group of social media experts towards a paid for community. Access to the new stars of social media is no longer “all areas” but behind the velvet ropes.

Free and its counterpart, Cost, are heading for a titanic struggle.

Free has conditioned us to give away our efforts almost constantly. We make and share playlists, write blogs, review products and book our own tickets. We populate the internet with our free labour and our free content.

But to make a living, whether you are Rupert Murdoch trying to squeeze a  return out of your investment in newspapers, (who we don’t feel sorry for) or a struggling copywriter looking for payback from your free online advice, (who we do) money is at some point going to have to come back into the equation.

Murdoch is tackling the problem by putting up pay walls for on-line newspaper content, encouraging others to do the same. Whether people will go for it remains to be seen.

But the fact of the matter is, if information really does demand to be free to the end user, as Chris Anderson has it, then the big guy can afford to pay for it and still make money. Economies of scale and clever new ideas pay for give-aways on the back of profits made elsewhere.  (See Chris Anderson’s book for chapter and verse on companies offering free electric cars, free stock market trades, free long distance calls and even a shop in which the goods are all free.)

They can afford to do this because ‘free’ is an illusion. We are still the ones who pay.

So the shiny new economics of free look remarkably similar to the old economics of paid. And the little guy who struggles to keep up? He may end up paying too by going to the wall.

Facebook Fans; More Than Just Customers ?

Facebook Business Pages are a big success story.

Bright minds, using the Social Media tool box, have once again created  a way of connecting with people in a fresh and friendly way.

You set up a page for your product, shop or service and invite ‘fans’ to connect with you. Once they have granted you this valuable permission, you can pass on useful tips, information and offers, direct to their Facebook Profile page.

But the problem is, some business people don’t like the idea of being one another’s fans and this is something I want to look at because being a fan seems quite odd in this context.

The  Facebook fan concept came about because  music fans wanted to connect with their heroes. Rather than have thousands of strangers piling onto their home page, musicians and actors set up  Fan pages to share information about TV appearances, new releases, tour dates etc

But the relationship is complex.

The fan is, on the one hand, part of the inner circle; they get information first and other privileges that make them special. This turns them into advocates for the band/brand and they spread the word virally. But they are also customers who buy tickets, albums and merchandise.

Now apply that concept to a business and you have a very powerful sales tool. Your ‘fans’ are both your customers and your advocates.

Treat them well by giving them some genuinely special deals or inside information and they will reward you by spreading the word.

I don’t like to bring it back to Lady Gaga, but she always thanks her fans before anyone else. She knows that her fan base is her bottom line, everything else is icing on the cake.

Seth Godin wrote a really interesting post in which he deplored the lengths marketers sometimes stoop to, to get people to pay their product attention. Instead, he said, you need to stop the drive-by sensationalism and build a genuine network of ;

‘fans that will spread the word, fans who will return tomorrow.’

This seems to me to be at the heart of why business pages have kept hold of the fan concept. It describes a fresh way of talking to people. It highlights the fact that the customer has chosen you and hopefully through your exclusive content, offers and deals you will reward them for their choice.