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

Content Marketing – Made to Order for Professional Services

Content MarketingPublic relations for professional services firms usually revolves around highlighting the expertise of the firm’s staff – as “thought leaders” – through published articles, expert interviews and speaking engagements, which are then reproduced or linked to for promotional purposes.

Now, however, these PR vehicles can be re-purposed to reach a much larger audience through a strong content marketing program.

What is content marketing? According to the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

For the past few years, content marketing has been touted and flouted; it’s either the greatest marketing tool ever or a big waste of money, depending on the point-of-view of the person evaluating it.

In truth, no one marketing tactic is the answer for every business. Like every other tool in your marketing toolbox, it’s how you use it that counts.

Content marketing requires three main components to be successful. The first is obvious. You must have technological capabilities – either in-house or through an outside platform.  But if that were all there was to it, anyone could be successful at it, and surveys tell us they are not.

Two other requirements are essential:   a strategy and interesting content.

Strategy.  As with any PR program, you need to have a plan of action before you start.   This means:

  • Profiling your target audience and their primary areas of interest
  • Having a compelling message – in this case, producing content that addresses the interests and concerns of your target audience
  • Identifying the best ways to reach your target audience with your content

Interesting Content (and Lots of It).  It is really important to have one or more staff members whose sole job it is to produce well-written or well-produced content, including:

  • Content that appeals to the target audience
  • Content that is compelling and valuable to the reader
  • A variety of content: written, video, webinars, etc.

That’s a time-consuming job, especially if you don’t have a large in-house PR department. You may need to hire someone or bring in an outside firm to handle it.

Finally, as with any new marketing program, it takes a while to see measurable results. But content marketing seems to be made to order for professional services firms, and it’s worth considering.

Posted by Margot Dimond

New PR Tools Prove Effective

social-toolboxTo many business people, public relations is still defined in terms of the “news release,” but it’s always been more than that.  It’s about creating and managing the reputation of a company or nonprofit organization through a well-defined communications strategy.  The news release is just one communication tool, and many new ones are being incorporated into the discipline every day.

Here are some things to think about for your next marketing campaign:

  • The Rise of Visual Content.  In recent surveys by PR tech firms Cision and Isebox, nearly two-thirds of journalists said they want press releases to give them easy access to photos, videos and graphics.  That makes sense when you consider that YouTube is the second most-visited social website after Facebook and infographics and other graphic representations are becoming ever more prevalent in communications.
  • Customized Messaging.  Customizing messaging for different audiences has always been an essential part of promoting your company and its products or services.  But it’s increasingly important today as audiences become fragmented by interest.  People now have access to a wide range of information, and they choose what kind of information they want and how they want to receive it like never before.
  • Native Advertising.  Digital media has given rise to a growing trend:  advertisements that are in the same format as the content audiences are there to consume.  They have proven to be more effective in generating click rates than traditional banner ads.
  • Inbound Marketing.  Inbound marketing is the process of drawing the right people to you – the people who are already interested in the topic you are addressing – through providing quality content on your website, blog, newsletter or social media platforms.  The key to producing good content requires not only good ideas but the ability to write about them in a compelling way.
  • E-Mail News Blasts.  Your employees can be your greatest sales force, but your internal audience is composed of more than employees.  Current clients, business partners, members of organizations you belong to, volunteers and donors (if you have a nonprofit organization) – it’s important to regularly stay in touch with all of them.  And e-mail has made it easier than ever.  After a lull during which businesses flirted with various social media platforms, e-blasts and e-mail newsletters are back in style.  Less expensive and time-consuming than printed publications (and more likely to be read), e-blasts can be sent with the latest news literally in the same day.

Posted by Margot Dimond

Up Your Game for 2015

on his wayThe first month of 2015 is almost over, but it’s not too late to think about doing a better job of marketing your business this year. Here are five things that will make your efforts more productive.

1.  Do a strategic plan – and follow it. Take a fresh look at your last PR/marketing plan. Is it kind of dusty? Let’s face it, many plans are. Typically, a firm will host an end-of-year planning session, maybe at a retreat where the staff discusses goals for the year, strategies, marketing objectives, etc. Finally, someone is assigned to put all of the ideas into a written plan.  When finished, it’s passed around, and everyone feels good about having done it. But during the year, ideas get thrown around and tried out without any regard for the plan. How do we know a plan works if it isn’t put it into practice?

2.  Effectively incorporate social media into your marketing plan. The key word here is “effectively.” When it comes to social media marketing, there are two types of staff members: evangelists, who think it’s the answer to everything; and followers, who think social media marketing is complicated and should be left to the evangelists to implement. Our take? Social media is an important part of the overall marketing strategy when it fulfills the stated objectives, and since it involves communication, the public relations department should direct its strategy and implementation.

3.  Whether in traditional or new marketing, quality content trumps all. Keep in mind that everyone listens to the same radio station: WII-FM, or “What’s in it for me.” If your content – whether in a speech, article, or online – speaks to your audience from their point-of-view, you will be successful. If your communication is all about your firm and what you do, instead of about your audience and what you can do for them, you will struggle to succeed.

4.  Review your social media platforms. Video was 66% of internet traffic in 2013; by 2018, it is estimated to be 84%. Internet traffic draws people to your website, so you really can’t ignore online video. And you don’t have to hire a video crew and have an expensive production. Just start videotaping. With all of the new equipment around, you can make quick promotional or education videos and use an editing program to turn them into something people will want to watch.

5.  Print is not dead, but… As more publications publish digital editions, more people are comfortable getting their news that way. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center study, by 2012 more Americans got their news online than from radio or newspapers. That said, many people think that ads or articles are less likely to be seen if they are exclusively in the digital edition of a publication.  But keep in mind that your digitally published article or ad can be linked to and sent around the world.

Posted by Margot Dimond

Don’t Do a Marketing Program – Until You Can Answer These Questions

Maze 3Anyone who has ever been trapped in a traffic jam while desperately trying to get somewhere on time knows how confusing side streets can be.  Turning onto one to find a fast way to get out of the jam can bring you right back to where you originally went off the main highway.

It can be the same with marketing a business: A business owner can rush into the latest and greatest marketing idea, only to find that he or she has spent a lot of money going nowhere.  He hasn’t really moved the target market to buy his product or service.

Promoting a business today can be a maze of confusing options:  Besides traditional public relations, advertising and direct mail, a plethora of marketing options have been presented by Social Media, Inbound Marketing, Mobile Marketing, Content Marketing, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Twitter TV, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Paid Social Media and SEO.  And new possibilities keep arising every day.  It can be hard to keep up – even for seasoned marketers.

But there are some essentials to keep in mind when doing a marketing plan – and they never change.  Before committing to any long-term program, ask yourself these questions:

1.  What are you trying to sell?  Whether you are in a service business or producing a product, you are, after all, trying to sell something.  Be very clear about what that is.

2.  Who are the people likely to be interested in buying what you are selling? This is a question that should be easy to answer, since you probably fashioned your product or service around a perceived need in the first place.

3.  Where are these people likely to congregate?  What do they read or view, what organizations do they belong to, what are their buying habits?

Now you are ready to do some research on the different marketing options.  For instance, if you are selling a service to a high-income group, you will have a different set of choices than if you own a boutique clothing store.  In the latter case, you really want to be out there, with heavy SEO and Social Media Marketing.  If you are appealing to CEOs of major companies – not so much.

The point is not to start down the street until you know in what direction you should be headed.  And yes, all of this takes time upfront, but it can really pay off in long-term results.

Posted by Margot Dimond



Yes, but what’s in it for me?

By now, most business executives have heard of the “WIIFM” factor. If not, let’s specify that WIIFM is not a radio station; it’s a shortcut for “What’s in it for me” – the secret to all successful marketing.

When a new technology comes out, people aren’t as interested in hearing about the speed, design or internal workings of the product as they are about what it can do for them – how they can use it and how it will make their lives better, easier, or more efficient.

However, too often product marketers forget this, focusing on their product’s features rather than the buyers – their audience – and how it may fulfill their needs.   That’s a formula for failure.

It’s that way with all selling. Whether selling a product or service, it’s essential to consider the audience and how that product or service will benefit them.

Sales professionals know this. They usually spend a considerable amount of time profiling their audience to gauge what their needs are before they launch into a sales pitch. That way they have a better chance of having an attentive audience.

Keeping the WIIFM factor in mind, here are some guidelines for a more successful sales presentation:

  • Do some background research. Find out as much as you can about the person or company who will be the audience for your presentation, to determine their interests and needs.
  • Concentrate on your audience. At your first meeting, ask some questions to see what their current goals are and what challenges they face in achieving them.
  • Present your elevator message. Give a very brief introduction to your company and your product or service.
  • Present the benefits of buying from you. Using what you have learned from your research and conversation, present clearly and concisely the benefits of your product or service to your audience and how it can address their particular needs.

Of course, using the WIIFM factor does not guarantee success, but it can go a long way toward achieving it.

Posted by Margot Dimond

To PR or Not to PR? Startup Owners Get Lots of Advice

ribbon cuttingIf you are the owner of a startup company looking to promote your business, you may find a lot of conflicting information out there. Just enter “PR for startups” in a Google search and watch pages of articles loaded with advice come up.

There are articles with tips from PR pros and journalists, the business owners who proclaim you can – and should – do your own PR, and even a “virtual PR firm” that takes the place of an actual PR person. It’s all out there for you to choose from, if you have the time and the inclination to do it.

While it’s true that most startups don’t have a large budget for public relations, they also don’t have much time to do all of the recommended activities on their own.

We do not advocate spending money on a PR firm if it’s a struggle to do so; that just spells disappointment for everyone because effective public relations often takes time. What we do suggest is that you come up with a simple strategy and a clear message to identify your target markets and how you are likely to reach them.

Many people think that PR is synonymous with media relations, but there is so much more to it. Yes, public relations people do try to get their organizations media coverage, but media coverage is part of the overall strategy. A flurry of media coverage that doesn’t hit the target market is useless.

The most important things to think of when developing a strategy for a promoting a new business are:

  • Who am I? Remember, at first you are selling yourself, your credentials, your abilities and your record of success.
  • What is my product (or service) and why is it different? This is especially important in a crowded marketplace.
  • Who would be interested in what I’m selling? This is your target market.
  • How do I reach my target market? What tactics are likely to work?
  • What will move my target market to buy my product or service? This is your message – the “What’s in it for me” that your would-be customer wants to hear.

Only after you have answered these questions should you consider implementing a public relations program.

Posted by Margot Dimond