Chronemy

Navigate Communications, PR, and Social like a Bawse

Author: mercedesb

Writing for Others? 5 Ways to Avoid Being a Sucker for Words

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If words are your bread and butter, you gotta learn how to cook. What I mean is if you write for money, anything from writing as part of your daily job function to freelancing, pinpointing the scope is paramount.

If you aren’t adept at asking the right questions to make sure at the outset you and your intended client are on the same page–there will be blood. Dramatic? Perhaps. But, it’s easier to plan for a worst-case scenario up front. This as opposed to being driven to rocking back and forth in a corner either seething, crying, or both because a project has exceeded its worth (oh, that’s just me?). As I have, you’ll collect valuable lessons from your mistakes and be a better writer-for-hire for it. But… if some are avoidable–why not?

Ask the write questions

That’s no typo. To write well for another person, you first need to understand the what and why. Whether a commentary, a blog post, a white paper, a media release, or marketing copy, you need a full understanding of what outcomes the client hopes to achieve. Collect available supplementary materials. This includes bios, earlier pieces of work, a full rundown of the event, key messages, and more. Understand the power of an actual conversation. Sometimes a quick call with the person will fill in the unspoken blanks that can trip you up later. Set up a line of communication where you can reach out for clarification as you go. No question is dumb. It’s better to understand upfront and as you go than to receive an edit-riddled draft that requires you burn what you’ve already done. To write in someone else’s style and voice you need to understand them. Asking key questions will save you time, gray roots, and much-needed sodium (see above crying reference).

Set mutual expectations

Your client needs to trust you, and you need to trust them, and then you need to trust yourself. Agreeing on the outcome of a piece is the key to a successful partnership. It’ll allow you to manage expectations and produce a piece that makes everyone happy. There have been a few instances where I’ve received feedback and/or edits that turned a delightful piece into a sad sack of potatoes. You’re on the project because the client likes the way you write. So, if you have counter-suggestions to keep the person from appearing boring or saddled with copy that won’t resonate–tell them so. Explain why you’ve made the edits or changes. It may shock you to find that once explained, the client is not only accepting but grateful that you’re looking out for their best interest.

Set a timeframe

Set a realistic timeframe that accounts for feedback, edits, and rewrites. If you need more time, make a case for what you need. Be sure to track your time. Consistent tracking improves your ability to estimate project parameters. Either use your phone timer or tracking apps to help. Toggl is one of my favourites.

Determine your value–then ask for it

Come close and lend your ear (ok I get you’re reading this but you get the point). You are worth it. Worth what you’re charging–and likely more. Good writing translates into real value. Understand that others know the value too–but they may not always want to pay for it. Asking for more money can seem gauche or downright scary but learn to be unafraid to ask for what your work is worth. Keep in mind you’re trying to make a living. Many wonderful resources exist to guide you through calculating what to charge, and how to negotiate. It gets easier; promise.

Let go

Take your joy from writing for your own endeavours. On your personal blog, site, social channels, journalistic articles, and that novel–these are where your own voice sings. Those spaces are where you get to highlight what’s uniquely you. When writing for others, best to keep it ‘church and state’. This is what will allow you to write in many voices, genres, and forms. You’ll meet clients who aren’t sure what they want–or who have such strong opinions you’ll wonder why they didn’t just write for themselves! Exhale. You do your best to produce great work that represents your client well, making them happy and coming back for more. On the flip side, you’ll also learn what you’re not willing to sacrifice, such as your ethics. Become ok with letting go, and you just may find a bit of that joy anyway.

Write Like It’s Your Job

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When’s the last time you read something that spoke to you? Everybody Writes by Ann Hadley, is the latest to do that for me. The book has become a hybrid bible-self-help wonder. I clutch the hardcover, revisiting dog-earned pages, using it for reference and guidance. I suspect I’ll read it, either in its entirety or in chunks, repeatedly. Obviously, I recommend it, not only for those who consider themselves writers, but wanna-be and have-to-be writers too. Because, no matter what you write, and I’m talking from emails to web copy, you could be better at it.  More effective writing will lead to less L’s, and more bounce-backs (we see you Big Sean).

The main lesson I took from Everybody Writes, is the simplicity of consistency.  No magic formula. No waiting for a touch from the Fairy of Creativity. No anointed tribe exists, and no need for your own Yoko Ono. You’re good, and you will get better with practice. Just because every word you scribe isn’t a diamond, doesn’t mean it’s a lump of coal either. I’ve sat in front of a laptop or with a notebook so many times, only to freeze with feelings of inadequacy. Why start when it won’t be worth a damn? For goodness sakes, even my trusty friend Grammarly mocks me. The last stats email included this gem: “Did you know? Scottish author Muriel Spark completed her best-known work The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in about four weeks.” I didn’t know that, thank you, and please excuse me while I burn my outline. I’ve scrolled through many half-done, kinda-started, and cryptic lists of ideas lost in the abyss of ‘one day’.

Applying consistency to creativity isn’t a new concept. Steven King has been frank on mastering the art of routine. He approaches every day in the same way and aims to write 6 pages by its end, no matter what. He writes like it’s his job, even before it was. Schedule, sit, write, regardless of what comes out on the other side. This practice isn’t even exclusive to writing. Malcolm Gladwell outlines the 10, 000 hours rule in his brilliant work, Outliers. Watch Rapture on Netflix, a series chronicling the journey of select up-and-coming and established hip-hop superstars, and a commonality presents itself. Talent is important, but the ones who refuse to give up are the ones who made it. They outworked everyone by showing up day after day, great or bloody terrible.

Ann’s style will resonate with you. The book is an easy read, and perfect for skipping to the section you need right now. Because listen, it’s one thing to read about a concept and quite another to implement right? If you can start at the beginning where she coaxes you to get started, dispelling the tiny myths that keep you from jumping into the ring. Think of her as that friend who’s brutally honest but encouraging at the same time. Each following chapter is a bounty of precise advice for every writing, content, and publication scenario. Seriously, you feel like Keanu after the red pill.

Sometimes the subject isn’t sexy or is more function than fun. White papers, reviews, term papers, and press releases come to mind. Sometimes it’s the weight. A speech, a crisis communication response, a reply to a child’s teacher that doesn’t make you sound like a bitch but needs to make clear you can be. Approach each the same way and you’ve won half the battle.

For me, it’s taking my seat at the dining table, mood-ready playlist, a timer, muted cell, and a promise to ignore the email notifications that beckon from the top right of my screen. I build in reward breaks. If I’ve been writing for 45 minutes (and sometimes less if it’s one of those days), I reward myself with a game of Solitaire or a Twitter scroll. Maybe I grab a snack or a quick walk. Morning, twilight, in the basement, or a coffee spot-the formula doesn’t matter, as long as it’s yours. You’ll become strong enough that even when the set-up isn’t ideal, or you’re on the hot seat, you still punch that card.

So, here’s to the visible future where you’re a stronger, better, and even more amazing writer. Show up and do the damn thang.

6 Low or No-Cost DIY PR Tools

 

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When you’re starting, growing, or maintaining a business or your own brand, it’s a constant balancing act between hard and soft costs. Space isn’t free and peeps need to eat foods other than ramen (you fancy, huh?). It can be a real dance deciding how to distribute available funds. As a result, finding a budget for social media, communications, or public relations support is sometimes a tough sell.

Just because the money may not be there (yet) for everything your heart desires, it doesn’t mean you can’t access tools to help get you to the next level. The good thing is, today’s market is chock-full of great, low or no-cost options. But we talked about the time you don’t have, didn’t we? Lucky for you I’ve slogged through a few and I’m here to share my faves. Here’s a list of 6 handy social, communications, or PR tools worth their weight in white truffles.

1. ProWritingAid

If we’re being honest, we want to write better. If you had an editor to comb through every piece you pen, helping to avoid poor grammar and spelling, clichés, and just tighten and make it more pleasant and engaging to read, how much more confidently and often would you publish? Welcome to your very own trusty and salary-free editor, ProWritingAid.  Paste or upload your document, and in seconds you’ll have a comprehensive overview of your piece. The report can be tough to swallow and take some time to fix, but it’s worth it to have pieces you’re proud to share.

Cost: Free, with paid membership levels offering additional features available

 2. MyGuestBlog

You may have heard a great way to get your name out and develop thought-leadership is to guest blog, and it’s true. Guest blogging can expose you to new audiences and help establish you as a trusted voice. It’s also a solid tactic to drive traffic back to your own blog and site. But knowing where and how to make it happen is daunting. MyGuestBlog is here to help by connecting bloggers, journalists, and content creators for opportunities to share high-quality content on each other’s platforms. A high tide floats all boats as they say.

Cost: Free

 3. HARO

Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is a tool used by journalists and sources to find each other. Published 3 times per day for email subscribers (early morning, midday and evening), it lists journalist requests for sources on specific stories. As part of your media relations efforts, keep your eye out for requests relevant to you and respond promptly and per the specific instructions. A journalist may quote you or feature your product in an article, invite you to be an interviewee, or you’ll prove yourself a quick, reliable source–which they’ll use again. Journalists are looking for you this time, which feels a lot like a right-swipe. Even on days when none of the requests is a fit, it’s a great gauge of news trends.

Cost: Free

4. Google Alerts

Unless you’re a bot, keeping up with all news, all the time, is a deeply unrealistic goal. The best way to try is to automate certain tasks. Here’s where Google Alerts comes in handy. Google Alerts is an automated service that scans the web for content based on keyword criteria you set and delivers them to you. Set up alerts to catch mentions of your company, spokespeople or executives, storylines, industry trends, competitors, and more.  You’ll never miss an opportunity to brush your shoulder off or look insanely smart again.

P.S. As a bonus tip, I’m currently trying TalkWalkerAlerts, an alternative to Google Alerts, that’s also free. So far, so good as a slight tweak in terms of style and functionality from the search giant.

Cost: Free

5. PRLog

If you’re still using press releases to share your message, you’re aware distribution services can be costly. Enter PRLog, a free press release distribution service that delivers to contacts in your desired industry sector or genre. It’s no frills, easy to use, and it works.

Cost: Free, with paid membership levels offering additional features available

6. Feedly

I’m on a constant mission to have less than 18 Internet Explorer tabs open at once. Here’s the scene: you come across a great article or blog. You open and bookmark, subscribe, or add it to your longer-than-a-long-weekend-border-crossing of a reading list and think ‘I’ll read that in a bit’. Over the course of days and weeks, this optimistic declaration degrades into ‘Tomorrow, for sure’, ‘Once I finish this fourth coffee, probably’, and finally, ‘Sometime this millennium, fingers crossed’. Following several resources helps you to stay on the pulse of your industry, generate fresh ideas, and learn more every day, so what to do? Feedly is like an online library system. It collects from the sources you want to follow and puts them in a single feed of your own design, saved and ready for you to peruse at your own pace. You can even set up several feeds by say, topic or keyword to keep things organized. As a bonus Feedly integrates with a few social management platforms, making sharing content crazy easy.

Cost: Free

Add your cost-effective finds to the list!

To Press Release or Not: That Ain’t The Question

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A quiet war wages among communicators. Ok, that’s dramatic but there is much ado surrounding the presumed death or deliverance of the press release. Does the press release, one of the original and oldest instruments of media relations, have a place in this noisy, ever-changing, multi-platform world?

If you’re a PR or Communications professional, you may have a love-hate relationship with the once-revered document. If you’re on the business or organization side, you may just be confused. I mean, if the folks you trust to tell you whether it’s necessary to issue a release have varying opinions, where does that leave you? I will say this, the press release has definitely changed in format, purpose, and effectiveness. What hasn’t changed is that beyond a few free services like PRLog and Wire Service Media, sending a release via wire is still pretty steep – especially when the ROI is difficult to pin down.

What’s an attention-seeker to do? Fret not, pet. Many alternate and arguably more effective methods exist to get the word out. Here are a few tips you can use to get the notoriety you seek.

Send a personal pitch

This is still the go-to guys. First, make sure your information is newsworthy (of interest to a particular audience). Do the research on what publications and journalists cover the subject-matter. Get to know the format and proper fit, read/watch at least the last few stories they’ve done, and then spend the time to craft an angle that makes sense for them. Reaching out with a tailored ask, married with timeliness, will at least get your toe in the door. If it’s in the budget, use a service such as Meltwater, Agility PR, or Muck Rack to help you streamline the process of finding the right journalists, their contact info, and preferences. You’re far more likely to receive a response and will find yourself that much closer to coverage when you’ve done your homework and taken the time to personalize your outreach.

Change your perspective

The press release was a staple tactic to peek media interest and secure coverage. The release went out; you grab a snack and wait for the journalists to come to you. It’s fair to say across the board, that seldom works anymore. But–if you view a release as a companion to a newsworthy hook, it’s still a useful document. Think of it as the full bio after the one-liner gets someone to take a second look. It should offer more in-depth information. Add multimedia such as pictures and video, an infographic, social media links – whatever expanded information an already interested party may need to find out more, and subsequently use as a resource to craft a piece.

Use your own(ed) media

PSA: You’re a publisher too! You have a website, social platforms, a blog–each of these are publishing platforms and media distribution channels. Guess what? You can publish whatever you like, including a press release. For instance, if you have a media section on your site or a business LinkedIn page, post it there for anyone looking for more information à la point 4. Participate in ongoing social conversations and ‘listen’ for key influencers and journalists doing the same. It makes total sense to reach out directly via social media

Send one out, but selectively

If you do craft a release, after all, consider sending it to a select media list instead of through a wire service. We’ve talked about the necessary skepticism and inherent busyness of journalists, and why that can make it so hard to get their attention. Getting a blanket, random release via a wire/distribution service is very easy to ignore, and often is. Instead, pull out that list of media contacts who you’ve had some success with or just connected with before, and repeat the steps in point 1. Once you’ve created that list, go ahead and send them the release. I still recommend at least opening your email with a personal pitch and sending the release in the body of the email – because attachments sent without permission suck. You may also send it as a follow-up to an initial outreach.

To answer the question back at the top – it depends. If it makes sense for your brand, product, event, launch or otherwise to use a release to help get the message out to your audiences, then use it. If a press release continues to work for you, use it. If it’s falling on deaf ears, costing you more than you gain, or simply isn’t resonating with those you share it with, change it up and try something new.

What combination of methods works for you?

If You Build [A Content Calendar], They Will Come

I know, I know. You get daily reminders from every industry expert, newsletter, and your 14-year-old that a key component of business success these days is a killer social media presence. There’s an enormous opportunity to give your expertise legs by developing relevant content and sharing it strategically.

It’s not that you aren’t aware right? It’s that the starting point resembles the gate to Hades.

Here’s the thing, I promise that if you take the time to develop a content plan, that includes a calendar, you’ll remove some daily work from your plate, and some pressure. It can prompt soon-to-be new clients and customers to find you instead of you always hunting for them. It will provide insight into your customers that can make you the best virtual friend ever–which will often develop into a great customer/provider relationship IRL.  It will highlight you as the engaged and resource-rich industry aficionado you are–while you’re busy doing what makes that true. Follow these 5 steps to get you started:

1. Set your intentions 

Namaste. Kidding! Well, not about setting intentions. I mean goals Y’all. Decide your desired outcomes. Sales? Thought-leadership? Brand awareness? Leads? Set S.M.A.R.T social goals that align with your business objectives. These will inform your strategy, provide a way to measure outcomes, and allow you to adjust as needed for success.

2. Do the research 

Do an audit any employee of the CRA would be proud of on your social platforms. Explore each place you live online. Focus on the platforms that make sense for your business. Do they need an update or makeover? Perhaps you’re not on a platform you should be or another has run its course. You’ll be sharing and cross-promoting your content through these channels so you want to make sure they represent you well. Your identity and personality should be consistent and clear across the lot. While you’re at it, spend time on competitor properties to see what they do well and what needs work, and some accounts you plain admire for inspiration. Then, get to know your audience. Check out the analytics to determine where most your followers are, when they interact with you most, and what type of content resonates.

3. Develop your content strategy

This step takes time and contemplation so give yourself the space to do so. Think of the content strategy as your map. It will outline how to get your useful and relevant content out to your audience. Look beyond your obvious core offerings. You’ll get traffic from folks looking for what you offer but creating a community where you are a useful resource every day, will mean you’ll stay top of mind for when that time comes. You may also stand-out as the obvious choice. For instance, if you offer accounting services, your content could span anything from tips on doing your own taxes, to how to build a budget, how to teach kids about money, or what the newest dip in the stock market means in layman’s terms. Think of your owned social and digital properties as the middle of a wheel and the spokes are how you get that info out to the world. Find some templates in the style you prefer to start.

4. Carve out your editorial plan 

Take those core subjects/areas of expertise and marry them with relevant calendar dates such as holidays, seasons and key dates in your industry and decide ahead of time what you’ll talk and write about when. Plug these into a weekly editorial calendar. Keep in mind to leave room for real life happenings. Using the accounting example again, if a surprise announcement is made that affects finances and that week you planned to talk about teen spending, be ready to make a shift. Remember relevancy and usefulness is the core of every activity, and each should serve your goals. These are overarching themes that you’ll share in various ways across your networks – and all roads lead back to you.

5. Build the calendar 

Now it’s plug-in time. You’ll outline per platform, the what and when for each day and week. This includes links and visuals. Doing these a year in advance is the holy grail, but if you can master 2 or 3 months at a time to start – you’re doing great. HootSuite and CoSchedule provide user-friendly and free calendar templates. The calendar should be detailed enough, that you can post quickly, in bulk if available, or just hand to someone else (lucky you!) and they understand exactly what to do.

How do you tackle the massive web that is content planning? Share your tips and struggles!

4 Crisis Communications Tips – From Paw Patrol

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Yes, that Paw Patrol. The crazy-popular kids’ program chronicling the zany stories of a quiet seaside town with a neurotic and useless mayor who depends on a pre-teen and his band of humanly talented puppies to save the town citizens from every disaster. Kids everywhere, including my own, eat this show up like a dog on a bone (insert groan here) and, trust me on this, it’s actually pretty entertaining. Just ask anyone who’s suffered through even a single segment of The Power Rangers.

During an episode where the town was overrun by popcorn (very serious), it dawned on me – the Paw Patrol really know how to handle crisis communications (I mean, besides excellent life lessons for kids)! Things go wrong, it’s part of life. It’s the way those wrongs, mistakes, accidents and oversights are handled, and subsequently resolved, that separate the stars from the dumpster fires.

So, from the mouths of cartoon dogs and babes to you, here are 4 real-life tips for crisis communications.

1. Own It

The town’s mayor might be useless, but she isn’t shy about accepting ownership for the mess of the day (and then calling on children to help). Taking full ownership of a problem will both change the way it is perceived, and how long it lives on in the memories of your audience, and the abyss of the internet. The faster you own it, and move to the next steps, the less negative impact it will have in the long run. Take responsibility and then…

2. Apologize

Sometimes it’s the problem-perpetrator, sometimes it’s the canine rescuers themselves after a failed plan, but someone always apologizes on the show. Think of the last crisis you heard about in the news. How differently did you perceive a company if they blamed others and/or refused to apologize, sometimes until outed, versus one that that straight up took responsibility and said ‘we’re sorry’? Just as in real life, an empathetic and sincere apology goes a long way. Calculate the entire scope of the problem to understand the full impact and all that are affected. Then make sure the apology is issued on the multiple platforms your audience frequents to ensure it is seen and repercussions are understood – especially concerning any action that needs to be taken.

3. Lay out the plan to do better – and then actually do it

Once you’ve taken responsibility and apologized, it’s time to make things right. On the show, each pup has an area of expertise, and they are called on when their special skills are the best fit for the situation. During a crisis, bring in your experts. Seek and listen to the advice of those best suited to remedy the situation and make a plan. You’re asking the question – how do we stop the flow and change course? Be fully transparent – this is key. Pull the post, inform the public of the danger, get your CEO out with answers or the plan to get them, whatever action it takes. To be clear, this isn’t a window into how not to get caught next time – it’s an opportunity to do and be better.

4. Analyze

Truthfully, a crisis plan should be put into place before a, well, crisis. The very act of figuring out what to do during a red-alert situation can help you avoid one altogether. At the very least you’ll be prepared. The exercise forces you to think of worst case scenarios and to put preventative systems in place.  It reinforces your company’s code and reminds everyone to always keep it top of mind. The result is  a plan that anticipates or avoids errors and a blueprint for how to mobilize quickly when something does go awry.  If you don’t have the luxury of drafting a plan in advance, after a crisis take the opportunity to analyze what happened and how it was handled. Pick up and take stock of valuable feedback from all relevant parties, and most importantly, use all of that intel to design a clearly defined, well thought-out plan.

Who knew an animated boy and his talking dogs could teach us all a thing or two about managing high-pressure situations, huh? What are your experiences with crisis communications?

When bite, bites back (or, how not to do transparency)

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I’m turning 40 this year. All that means is I know the sand in my hourglass of eat whatever, do whatever, sleep very little, eat-some-more-and-bounce-right-back, has very much run out. Oh, you can still do all the things you love to do, it’s just it shows now is all. It shows in your hair, your body (every part of it), your skin. I’ve been lucky-ish thus far, not needing to do too much skin-wise, since I have some of the oiliest variety this side of Kuwait, and it’s (only) now paying off (not today wrinkles). The difference now is I know my time of sometimeish skincare was running short and I needed to start some sort of proper regimen, stat.

Enter The Ordinary, the skincare and beauty brand that pegs itself as The Abnormal Beauty Company. It’s perfect for someone like me. Someone who wants top quality stuff, for low-quality prices. Their skincare line is a beautiful array of just that. High quality ingredients developed for all that ails me (honestly, it’s like they’ve been in my bathroom and my head) – hyperpigmentation, anti-aging, oil and acne control, and all for a fraction (and sometimes a fraction of a fraction), of the price of similar products on the market. Seriously, most of it is under $10. Plus, their tendency to make power-duos out of key ingredients means I’ve been able to streamline my regimen. It’s a parade I’ll wave a flag high for.

So imagine my chagrin when this mess began. In a nutshell, Brandon Truaxe, the co-founder and CEO of the brand’s parent company Deciem , has gone…. messy. Back in January, he decided to take over the brand’s Instagram account. He would, from that point forward, post, comment and interact with followers, all by himself. Take a long lunch marketing and communications department. Seems cute right? In theory, yes.

Everyone is constantly saying that brands need to be more transparent, more personable, more accessible, and simply more human with their customers, especially in this digital and social age. So what better way to do this than for the CEO her/himself to hop online? Many others such as Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Mary Barra do an amazing job of somehow running Fortune 500s and fantastic social accounts at the same time.

Not so with Brandon. Instead, what ensued after his decision to take the wheel, was a nightmare of a downward spiral (still going by the way) that spawned commentary, backlash, Twitter explosions, and far worse (as in people threatening to stop buying  the brand altogether) just about all around the world. The drama has also caused a slow panic of brand loyalists that this fiasco could end with the demise of the brand itself.

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So, what the hell happened? To be clear I do not have any inside track and so I can’t say for certain, but what I would bet the return of Niacinamide to available inventory  is that Brandon decided to go against the better judgement of those very folks he hired to provide guidance in the area of the ever-important communications strategy front. He said as much, using one post to explicitly state that he had excused the team formerly responsible for running the account.

The difference is that those folks I mentioned earlier who are killing it on social is – They. Have. Help. Each understands their personal brand and identity is directly tethered to the brands they run. They know that business core values must stay front and centre, and that the things they say and do have an enormous effect and ripple, for days. I’m not suggesting someone is holding their hands across every rock in the pond.  These are brilliant, highly experienced people who have a clear grasp of how social works and how to bloody use it – well. But you can be sure that they have the input, guidance, advice, and probably inherent safeguards, from equally brilliant communications/PR/community relations people at their disposal.

The job of such people isn’t to sugar-coat, sweep under, or mislead the audience, it’s to do the exact opposite. Either Brandon misunderstands the value of his own team and the expertise they bring to the table, or he found them wanting, and rather than replacing them with better skilled and perhaps more ethical staff, he decided he could handle it. Now I am not a CEO of a highly successful international conglomerate but I’m guessing if I was – I’d have bigger fish to fry. My job would be to set the overall tone, culture, and vision of the company. To make 10- year plans. To hire people whom, I could trust to disseminate that mission throughout the land, and who in turn would hire more awesome people to carry out the strategies and tasks their management put before them. It’s intensely presumptuous to think that anyone of us can do it all, and even more so – do it well.

How does whatever move you make serve the greater good of your company? What’s the larger purpose of your business, and the value it brings? The core of any strategy is to be useful to your audience. Do you entertain, help, educate, celebrate? In short – how do you solve their problems? If your reasoning to take over social, start a blog, make a speech, write a book, or whatever other way to amplify your own voice doesn’t answer that question, either at all, or jive with what everyone you work with agrees to, just don’t. Silence really is golden and its perfectly ok to employ it sometimes.

Make a plan, trust the people whose expertise helped to craft it and to guide it, then stick to it. And if you have any personal epiphanies, that’s great, some of the best ideas are born this way – just, do everyone a favour and run them by someone who’s got an honest ear ok? Happy social-ing.

Do You Even Need PR? (Hint: yassssss)

Public Relations usually gets its whispered mentions in conversations about marketing, communications, advertising, crisis management and the like. While most folks would agree that much of that list a necessary and even important part of business function, sometimes PR seems more like a play-cousin. Nice to have, but not essential.

But what about in your particular case? What’s in it for you or your [insert just about any type of business here]? Do you even need PR, or is it reserved for the Fortunate 500, Jolie-Pitts’, or clients of Pope and Associates?

At its core, Public Relations is simply (as penned by my wise professor Sheldon Rose) “Doing good things and telling others about it”.

Here are a few basics of PR and how it can indeed be of use to you (yes, you!):

1. PR will help you communicate better with your audience(s)

Allow me to go academic for a second. The Canadian Public Relations Society defines Public Relations as:

“the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communication, to achieve mutual understandingrealize organizational goals and serve the public interest.”

In short, PR helps you identify your peeps and speak to them properly. Whether your biz is B2B, service or product offering, or charity, having public relations as part of your overall success plan eases the process and ensures it’s built on a solid foundation. PR folks can help you make sense of your goals, express those goals in a way that captures your core values in your unique voice, craft them into an outcome-driven plan, and then share them in a way that each one of your audiences not only understands, but is drawn to.

2. PR will help you avoid becoming the next negative hashtag

Just about every week, another brand finds itself in the news for all the wrong reasons. For the most part, the problem seems to be a lack of diversity in the decision-making process. People are missing from the table. It’s PR’s business to make sure you not only identify each of your stakeholders (see point 1 ya’ll) but that you also uncover those you may have missed or may have been ignoring. Paying attention to everyone with a stake in what you do, will ensure you stay on the pulse, and the right track.

3. PR will help you evangelise your Big Idea

Above we mentioned communications, marketing, and advertising plans, and by now you’re getting that PR should absolutely be part of that mix. The key is that PR is a path to marrying the focus of each of these areas into a smooth succinct flow across multiple platforms. That means through media, social, digital, traditional and everything in between. Identify the core value you have to offer, and use PR to share that with the world – clearly and consistently – all the while feeding your bottom line.

4. PR will help you keep your integrity

To point back to point 2 (yeah, I know, I do that a lot), the way a lot of business and brands end up in trouble is through oversight. Sometimes it’s glaring, but many times it’s subtle and has happened over time. You’ve moved away from your core messaging and purpose, your initial convictions, or can’t quite remember the original goal – basically the likely super-simple and pure reason you started your business. Well this falls into PRs wheelhouse too. Ethics is an enormous piece of the PR pie. Despite lingering negative stereotypes, it is the job of good PR folks to ensure that every action, strategy, and tactic under their umbrella, is done with integrity and with ethics at its core. Having someone with this focus on your team can help keep all of those moving pieces on the up and up, and it’ll be handy to have a voice like that in the war room.

5. This isn’t really 5.

Instead it’s a handy list of what PR is not, so that when (that’s right, no ‘ifs’ up in here) you add PR to the mix, you’ll be BFFs with your PR pro by lunch.

Want more media coverage? Start here

Want more media coverage? Of course you do, but where the heck to start? Here’s 5 steps to get you on your way.

1. Find your tribe

First things first, ask yourself “who cares?” May seem harsh but it’s a necessary first step. On the path to getting more coverage on your awesome person, place or thing, you first need to determine who’s interested. If you haven’t clearly defined your potential audience, nothing else matters. Create a profile that describes them to a fine point.

With that out of the way, you’re ready to start the next crucial step of focusing on the media that reaches your audience. When searching, go deeper than just “art magazines” or “journalists who cover sports”. Chances are you already have a choice lists of sites and writers you visit regularly to stay abreast of your industry, so start with there. In turn, check out who they read and follow on social. Set up Google Alerts  with key words to let you know whenever your subject matter is in the news, and if it’s in the budget, use a service offered by companies such as CisionAgility PR , and Meltwater that offer media database access. These databases allow you to specifically search and have contact information for journalists, outlets, publications, and influencers who cover your beat. Remember though, just like us, journalists don’t always stay on the same path. Check in regularly to make sure they’re still part of your tribe.

2. Customize your outreach

Now that you’ve determined your audience and have a killer listing of who’s talking to them already, it’s time to plan how you’ll get in touch. First, you’ll want to do another once-over on that list. Identify your “stars”; the ones who cover your area often and well. Custom pitches are time consuming so you’ll want to spend most of your efforts crafting outreach for this group, because, they’re worth it. Read the last few articles/posts they’ve done. Identify the trend or sentiment and include that trend as part of the reason you’re reaching out to them specifically. Next, you’re selling them on why they are especially suited to cover your topic for a particular publication. Get to the point, their time is precious and in short supply, but give enough info to make it compelling.

This could be the start of a great relationship, so treat it that way. Be respectful of their time, mindful of their workload, say please and thanks, and stay in touch. Lastly, the journalist/site/publication needs content, and lots of it, every single day. You have a source of content. So rather than approach like a beggar, approach like the business partner you are.

3. Follow-up

There’s no cute pun here. Seriously, just follow-up. Journalists get so very many pitches every day. Many are ill-fitting, poorly written, or worse. They do a lot of skimming, ignoring, and deleting, it’s a survival tool. Therefore, when you know you have something worth a second look, don’t be afraid to follow-up. Ask what they thought of the pitch/idea, and if they’re interested. Suggest an alternate angle and whether a later date might work better. Even if they’re not currently into it, they could be interested later, so use the opportunity for feedback. If you get interaction, keep or add them to that special list. Start to get to know them better through their writing, and try them again when you have another great idea. If they cover you, be sure to send a thank-you.

4. Stay informed

You can in fact make an educated guess as to whether a journalist might be interested in your story – by staying current. Stay abreast of what’s trending in the news, the world at large, and especially within your industry. What are you seeing a lot of articles about? What seems to be the hot topic of the moment? The more in-tune your pitches are with what is currently happening, the more likely your pitch fits into the editorial plan, and will in turn be seen as a valuable source.

5. Analyze the results

Once you’ve gone through a complete cycle, do an analysis. Assess what worked, what didn’t, the feedback you’ve received, and how many responses and subsequent hits you got. Keep track of all results. Google Analytics  can help with hard stats about how hits are helping to drive traffic for you. The next time, it’ll be easier, and more successful, because you’ll have learnings you can use to be that much better.

 

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