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Navigate Communications, PR, and Social like a Bawse

Category: Social Media

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!

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!

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.

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