Forming a Productive Relationship with Your PR Firm

Branding Brand Trademark Commercial Identity Marketing ConceptMost public relations firms that have been in business for a while have established relationships with long-term clients.  That’s no accident.  Lasting client/PR firm relationships are built on mutual trust and respect.  The client knows that the PR firm has its best interests at heart, will keep confidential information confidential, and can design and communicate strategic messages effectively.  The PR firm appreciates being part of the team – respected for its contribution to the organization.

How that relationship begins is the key to its success. Every PR firm has a responsibility upfront to explain their process for coming up with a strategy and implementing it, especially for a business or nonprofit organization that has never worked with a PR firm before.  Successful PR-client relationships begin with an understanding of what PR can do and how it can achieve the organization’s goals.

The client also has some responsibility for making the relationship a mutually beneficial one.  Here are three tips for clients who want to establish a positive, long-term relationship with their PR firm:

  • Let them show what they can do. Bring the PR firm in at the beginning of the relationship to inform them of your business goals so they can develop an effective communication strategy to achieve them. Expecting a PR firm to handle a series of communication tactics – news releases, brochures, ads – without allowing them to design the strategy behind them rarely works out well.  An outside PR counselor is trained to look for the “WIIFM” factor – the news significance or marketing message that you may not see as an insider.
  • Communicate. It may take some time to develop trust with a new PR firm, but if a firm has been in business for several years and has a good reputation and established long-term client relationships, that firm is probably trustworthy.  So share as much information as possible about your business, its successes and its failures. PR firms specialize in finding solutions to problems. Give them a chance to do so.
  • Be responsive. Too many great PR plans have been thrown off track by a client’s delayed response to a PR firm.  Timeliness in response to events, news, or a media interview request can mean the difference between gaining positive attention for your organization and missing out on a really great opportunity.

Posted by Margot Dimond.

Share

Five Steps to a Successful Speech

iStock_000012372602SmallDo you dread making a speech? If you do you have plenty of company.  Studies have shown that fear of public speaking, or Glossophobia, affects three out of four people.  In fact, it ranks as the number one fear, with number two being death – a finding that once prompted comedian Jerry Seinfeld to remark that the average person going to a funeral “would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Today, digital communication is the norm, and while email, text and social media present their own special problems, they are a lot less daunting to the average person than presenting to a group.  The good news is there are some simple steps you can take to ease this fear and become an effective spokesperson for your business, whether your audience is one person or 1,000.

When planning your next presentation, keep these five elements in mind:

  1.  Work backwards. Don’t begin writing a presentation until you have determined what you want the end result to be.  What do you want to move your audience to do?  Is your purpose to inform or persuade, or both?  Identify key points you want your audience to take away, and make them easy to remember.
  2. Know your audience. How many people will be in attendance?  What kind of work do they do?  What is their level of understanding about your subject?  What do they want to hear – and what might upset them?
  3. Be understandable.   Regardless of the level of understanding of your audience, it’s always best to speak in conventional English and avoid technical jargon.  Use analogies, anecdotes and descriptive words to make your points.  Although the temptation is to rush through your presentation to get it over with, remember to take your time and keep your tone measured and friendly.
  4. Be yourself. Be honest, open and sincere.  Tell a story about yourself that relates to the content of your presentation.  Gesture naturally, and move around a bit, if possible, even if you stay close to the podium.
  5. Prepare, prepare, prepare.  None of the above will mean anything if you haven’t spent enough time preparing.  Relying too heavily on a PowerPoint presentation or notes during a speech can be deadly dull.  Instead, rehearse your speech until you can present it comfortably.  Have a friend, family member, or co-worker listen, time it and offer a critique.  Anticipate any audience questions or points they are likely to challenge.

Speaking well in public is a skill, and like any skill, the more you practice, the better you will be at it.  You may well find yourself looking forward to your next presentation!

Posted by Margot Dimond

What Business Start-Ups Need to Know

PR firms often get calls from new business owners who realize they need help promoting their product or service to potential customers.  They see public relations as “free publicity” and an easy, inexpensive way to promote their new venture. However, many start-up businesses don’t have the budget to engage an outside PR firm, so they usually end up doing initial marketing work on their own – with various degrees of success.

If you are thinking of starting your own business, here are three PR/marketing recommendations that will increase your chance of success:

Calendar planning concept – Think about marketing before you open your doors.  To successfully sell your products or services, your business plan should include some essential information: what you are selling, who you are selling it to, why they would be interested in what you are selling, and how you will sell it. No one should ever begin a business without knowing all of these things in advance because once you open, there are two things that most likely will be in short supply: time and money.

Many new business owners have unrealistic expectations for how popular their product or service will be and how much marketing and PR they will have to do to gain attention. The intense information overload most people experience today makes it difficult to break through with your message. So realistic planning – both for execution and projected results – is essential.

59_Public-Relations – Public relations is more than media relations. Over the past 10 years, obtaining coverage in traditional media – newspapers, magazines, radio and TV – has changed considerably.   Consolidation of newspapers and broadcast outlets and the resulting cutbacks in reporting staff have made it much more difficult to get attention for your story idea or product release. To be successful, you may need to target media outlets specific to your community or consult a professional PR firm to navigate the media landscape.

If your budget is small and depending on the type of product or service you are          selling, you may want to investigate other means of promoting your business. Eblasts are effective, if you have the right list, and there are a number of email marketing programs that can help. Direct mail may seem outdated, but well-produced and targeted appropriately, it is still a relatively inexpensive marketing tool. Social media, if used judiciously, can spread the word quickly and easily.

reputation-management-new-york-300x300 – A good reputation is essential for long-term success. When you are trying to get your business off the ground, you may want to make a big splash right away. That big feature story in the newspaper or interview on television will give a big boost to your bottom line. However, good PR is more than that; it’s about building and maintaining a reputation over many years.

Once you get past the start-up phase, please keep in mind that, especially in this era of short attention spans and social media, nothing lasts forever and a reputation built over a number of years can turn sour overnight. At some point, you are going to need some expert PR assistance – whether in-house or through outside counsel. Don’t wait for a crisis; have a strategic program in place early on.

Posted by Margot Dimond

Read All About It! Five News Release Essentials

ExtraExtraMany business people equate doing news releases with having a public relations program, but in fact, a news release is to public relations what flour is to a cake. It’s essential, but not the only ingredient. Don’t depend on news releases alone to enhance your company’s profile. To do that, you will need a strategic, long-term plan.

On the other hand, news releases have the potential of gaining a much larger audience than ever before. Depending on your distribution method, your release can be read by almost anyone – not just journalists. This makes it even more important that you get it right.

Here are a few tips to increase the chances the information in your news release will get read:

1.  Be Clear and Concise.  There are times when company representatives – concerned about being held to account for an inaccuracy – will add so many qualifying statements to the wording of a simple announcement release that its impact is watered down or it reads like a legal document. Rule of thumb: If you are uncomfortable making your announcement without adding explanations to every direct statement, you aren’t ready to send a news release.

2.  Be Interesting.  Journalists get hundreds of news releases every day, so unless you are working for the White House or some other big outfit where millions of people want to know what you’re up to, your news release had better be written in a way to attract attention or it’s going in the recycle bin. That starts with a compelling headline and a strong WIIFM factor. Write it like a news story and include quotes and graphics, such as photos or charts, when possible. Proofread it carefully for grammar, spelling and punctuation errors. Don’t rely on an editor to wade through it to decipher what you’re trying to say; they don’t have time for that.

3.  News Means NewsThere are companies that send news releases at the drop of a hat – Joe won an award, Mary’s title changed, the company was named one of 50 top widget makers by Widget Makers of America, and so on. An endless stream of this type of “exciting news” lands on the desks of reporters and editors until, at some point, the company’s news releases are ignored altogether. Why? Because the writers don’t know what “news” is, and they end up getting that reputation with journalists. This is not a good policy, and it usually stems from a lack of perspective. If you want to know what journalists consider news, read the news, watch the news, and listen to the news.

4.  Know Where to Send It.  Deciding on where to send your news release is important too. Pay attention to the type of news that is covered in different news outlets. Is there a new executive at your company? Are you announcing a new product or service? These two news items may go to completely different editors or news outlets. If your news has wide appeal, consider using an online distribution service. Do your homework up front, and you’ll be much more effective at getting your message out.

5.  Stay Current.  Putting together a list of news media contacts is just the beginning. You will have to update it periodically to make sure you still have the right editorial contacts. I’ve seen some pretty dusty media lists over the years, and that’s one of the main reasons events or announcements don’t get covered. Keep in mind that people come and go at news organizations. They may leave for other opportunities, or just leave a particular “beat.” Don’t count on them to forward your information. Be proactive in knowing the right person to contact with your news.

This article is an updated version of an original article by Margot Dimond, originally published as an Ezine article.

 

Is your marketing plan stuck in neutral?

PuzzleIt’s often said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. In actuality, it’s probably just the definition of being human. Let’s face it: Sometimes we get stuck in a rut – doing things the same way for years and wondering why the outcome isn’t better.

It’s not all that different with a business. Often a consulting firm is called in to make recommendations for improving marketing results, and its suggestions are met with resistance because they are out of the company’s comfort zone.

But leaving your comfort zone is exactly what has to happen to move forward and see some results.

It’s planning time again – time to look at the approaching New Year and make decisions on what you want to see happening with your business in 2016.

How about taking a look at the latest marketing trends to see if any will be suited for you? Or better yet, contact a PR/marketing firm and ask them to conduct a complete audit of your marketing program and design a new plan for you based on their findings.

Just remember to follow through on implementing the plan. After all, if it’s not implemented, you will never know how well it worked.

Posted by Margot Dimond

The Importance of Being Understood

Earlier in my career, my boss asked me to teach an in-house class on writing.  While I was discussing the importance of using clearly understood words and phrases, one man questioned the entire premise of the class, saying that in order to impress others, it was imperative to use the same terminology used in his profession.  “Otherwise, it’s too simplistic,” he said.

Today, with multiple forms of communication available, attitudes have changed.   Most business people realize the importance of communicating clearly in both writing and speaking.  Unfortunately, it’s easier for some than for others, and one of the main barriers to clear communication is the prevalence of jargon.

JargonJargon – defined as the specialized language of a profession or other group of people – is not all bad.  It can be a handy shorthand within the specific group of people for whom it was intended.   The problem arises when you are speaking to an outside group or even to a group of newcomers within your profession.  That’s when jargon can cause confusion or misunderstandings.  Ultimately, it can have a negative effect on your audience, who may think you are either trying to impress them or are being evasive by hiding behind expressions and acronyms they don’t understand.

Rarely will anyone say anything, however, and this is the real problem.  While you are chattering away, dropping an acronym here and a technical term there, your audience is probably not going to be listening to you.  After the first acronym, they will be drifting away, trying to determine what that stands for, and after a stream of unintelligible jargon, they will often become irritated or lose interest completely.

The use of jargon is not always intentional.  At our firm, we often train clients for media interviews or presentations, and in most cases they don’t even realize they are using jargon.  They have been in a profession or job for so long they think everyone understands their special language.  They have to spend some time untangling their jargon in order to connect with the audiences they want to reach.

Making the effort to remove jargon from your presentations is worth the effort.  When you communicate clearly in everyday language, you are more – not less – likely to impress people.  They will be impressed with your sincerity, thoughtfulness and leadership, and, most important, they will understand you.

Learn to Speak Layman with Lisa Dimond Vasquez.

YouTube ScreenshotPosted by Margot Dimond

What’s Up with Live Streaming Apps?

Live stream_edited-1This year two live streaming apps roared onto the market and into the PR/marketing consciousness. The buzz around Meerkat and Periscope brought renewed attention to live streaming, which has been around since 2007, when UStream, LiveStream and other live streaming start-ups hit the market.

The older platforms are still around, and they also have apps, which begs the question: Why all the brouhaha about the new apps? After all, many of the videos currently on these apps have the appearance of selfies on steroids, rather than anything particularly useful.

But any new communication tool is always of interest to PR professionals, who want to know how to use them to promote their client companies. So here’s our “first pass” look at these apps.

Social live-streaming. With the new apps, live streaming of events is much easier and more like social networking. You can announce  your live stream to your Twitter followers, viewers can comment on your screen in real-time, and you can respond to the comments as they roll in. A new update for Meerkat even allows a viewer to post a brief cameo on your screen.

Periscope is a few months newer than Meerkat, and both are connected to Twitter (Periscope is Twitter-owned). Meerkat also allows users to connect with their Facebook profile. The apps do differ and they are constantly updating their features, so it’s best to just try them out to see which one you like best.

Multiple uses. With these apps, you can demonstrate products and how to use them, follow your clients to see what they are doing, and stream meetings and events or provide any number of “behind-the-scenes” videos. Of course, if you are hosting a conference or training session and want a more formal presentation, you may want to opt for having a video team do the broadcasting for a webcast to go out on one of the older platforms. But things are changing fast in the competitive field of live streaming. It’s worth giving all of these apps a try.

One caution. There may be legal issues to think about when live streaming on-the-fly. As with any image taken for the promotional purpose of a business or nonprofit, it is necessary to obtain a written release before using it. With live streaming, that may pose a problem.

Posted by Margot Dimond

Choosing a PR Firm – Five Mistakes to Avoid

Businesspeople arguing in meetingHiring a PR firm can bring attention to your company, its services, products and people. But public relations is not a hit-and-run venture; long-term strategies combine with short-term tactics to create a strong brand and positive reputation. Therefore, it is to everyone’s benefit that the relationship between the client company and the PR firm is a lasting one.

Occasionally, however, the relationship doesn’t work out, and while there are often various reasons cited, the problem usually boils down to a flawed vetting process when the firm was first hired.

Avoiding the following pitfalls can lead to a truly successful collaboration between client and firm.

1.  Great Expectations.  Public relations is not a magical enterprise. It involves creativity, hard work and dedication to the client’s interests. And it often takes some time before you see results. What can happen in the first meeting between the PR firm and a prospective client is an unconscious collaboration: the client wants to think the public relations person can make his company successful overnight, and the public relations person lets him think this because he wants him as a client. This can only lead to disappointment on both sides. Most experienced public relations professionals will tell you what is – and is not – possible to achieve for your type of business and your budget. A long-term productive relationship is more satisfying for both the client and the PR firm than a short-term honeymoon.

2.  Choosing the Wrong Size Firm.  One frequent complaint that clients voice about their PR firm is that the top executives presented a wonderful proposal to them, but they rarely heard from those people again. Instead, their account was assigned to someone new to the firm, and they didn’t feel they got the attention – or the results – they deserved. PR firms survive for the most part on the billable hours that make up the client’s fee. If your company is paying a fee at the low end of a firm’s fee schedule, you will probably get assigned to one of its less seasoned staff. Larger firms usually charge higher fees to cover their higher overhead costs. PR firm fees can range from $5,000 to $30,000 per month or more, so if a fee of $10,000 per month seems like a huge expenditure to you, it’s best to choose a smaller firm.

3.  Not Knowing What You Want.  From the point of view of the public relations professional, the most difficult clients to satisfy are the ones who really don’t know what they want. Meetings abound, ideas are put forward and shot down – as the public relations person tries fruitlessly to read the client’s mind. In the end, everyone is frustrated. This outcome can be avoided with some advance planning. Before your first meeting with a firm, do some internal brainstorming and be ready to state your goals and the principal audiences you want to reach with your messages. If you are doing a small project, such as a brochure or website, show examples of the kinds of things you like, your current stationery or logos, and some of your competitors’ materials. You will save time and money by being prepared.

4.  Being Cagey about your Budget.  Some business owners think that if they talk about their budget upfront, the PR firm will “spend it all – and then some.” But the cost of public relations programs can vary greatly, depending on your goals and your budget. Be clear about both. If you outline goals that require extensive work with expensive outside services and act like money is no object, expect the PR firm to present a proposal for a big program that costs a lot – maybe more than you can afford. If you are honest about how much you have to spend, you have freed the firm to discuss what can be accomplished within your budget. Give the firm a chance to show you what they can do with a smaller budget. Then you will have a more accurate picture of the firm’s resources, creativity and capabilities.

5.  Hiding Negative Information.  When you are interviewing a PR firm, be open about the possibility of any negative publicity that may be on the horizon involving your company. Public relations people need to know these things – not just at the beginning, but throughout the relationship – in order to plan accordingly. Managing negative news is much more effective when done early on, before it festers and grows into a costly crisis.

Finding the right PR firm doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark. Check with your local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. Ask other business people for their recommendations, and visit the firms’ websites. Interview several firms to see if they might be the right size and have the right background and experience level to do the job. Ask for a written proposal. Once you feel comfortable that a firm understands your business, your budget and what will be needed to achieve your goals, take the plunge. You will probably be pleasantly surprised.

Article by Margot Dimond, originally published by ezinearticles.com

The WII-FM factor: Do you know who your audience is?

Confusion2015 is now halfway over. How is your marketing program going so far? Are the people you are trying to reach – your audience – responding to your efforts to reach them?

The WII-FM factor, or “What’s in it for me,” is about the importance of communicating to your audience from their point-of-view.   If you are having difficulty reaching your audience, perhaps you haven’t correctly identified who they are and what they are interested in.

Spending time upfront identifying your audience is essential in deciding the best method of communication, as Lisa Dimond Vasquez explains here.homescreen_edited-1

 

Writing with Personality

iStock_000018352153XSmallIn a world of texts, tweets and Instagram postings, does anyone really need to know how to write anymore? Yes! Good writing is still essential, especially in business.

Unfortunately, good writing – writing that is easy to read – is not all that common. Many people who communicate very well in person completely fail in written communication. The most vivacious, interesting people seem to change when they sit down to write; they become more formal, stiff and aloof. It’s as if they think the process of writing is a very serious business, one in which the writer must throw away his personality.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and here are three ways to make your writing as interesting as your in-person communication.

  1. Be Conversational. Writing and speaking should not be all that different, and writing at its best is a conversation with the reader. Use conversational language: “help” instead of “provide assistance,” “do our best” instead of “maximize efforts,” and “show” instead of “exemplify.” Read your work aloud to hear how it “sounds” to the reader.
  2. Use Active Voice. There is nothing more deadening to the written word than excessive use of the passive voice: “Mistakes were made” or “The job was completed,” instead of “I made mistakes” or “We completed the job.”   Whether it’s a way to avoid responsibility or sound humble doesn’t matter. When it comes to communicating, use of the passive voice can be as lively as watching grass grow.
  3. Eliminate Jargon. Every profession has jargon, and jargon often comes in the form of acronyms. When readers unfamiliar with an acronym see it, you’ve immediately lost their attention as they spend time trying to decipher its meaning. Don’t assume your reader understands the shorthand you use with peers. Unless it’s a commonly understood acronym, spell it out.

Try these three tips when you write – and let your personality shine through.

Posted by Margot Dimond