10 Ways to a powerful press release

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1) Understand the purpose of the press release.

A press release is a short, compelling newsworthy storyline that is sent to appropriate, targeted members of the media. The goal of a press release is to get the attention and the interest of the journalist, editor and/or publisher.

2) Send timely news.

A press release is about something current. Something that is happening now or in the near future.

3) Target the right audience.

The goal is to ask for the interest of a journalist or publication with news that is significant to their audience.

4) Make the journalist’s job easier.

Provide your contact information and be available. Give the writer the materials and contacts they ask for quickly. Take some of the work off their plate.

5) Provide a message that is of interest to the targeted publications and that media’s readers.

Don’t just blanket your release to all media outlets relevant or not.

6) Get creative with the headline.

Capture the attention of the journalist with a good headline and brief article summary. Don’t make the journalist dig.

7) Attach photos or links to videos that expand your message.

Sent electronically, links are the best option. Test links before distributing your release to make sure the links are not broken and work.

8) Add quotes to your release from key executives and/or customers.

Include contact information for more sources that the journalist can call upon to enhance the story and get quotes.

9) Humanize your press release.

Don’t use industry jargon or acronyms. Write clearly, simply and concisely. Touch on the emotional element.

10) Use press release formatting rules.

Larger media outlets sometimes use their own formatting rules. Check out their website or press information and send the format they prefer.

Competition is fierce. Be aware that just because you send a press release it may or may not get noticed or read. Therefore, don’t expect your news release to do all the work. Contacting the press contact, pitching your story and letting them know you are available to help is a good move.

Sharing your business story

heads-speak-bubble-960Once you have written your story then share your story with your audience.

Don’t keep your business story hidden within your company but share it in the places that your audience frequents.

Here are some ways to share your business story with your audience.

Utilize video
In addition, to sharing your stories in text format add video. Your video could feature your employees talking about why they work for your company and/or talking about why and how your company’s products or services benefit your audience. Or, your customers sharing their experiences with your company and how your company solved an issue, challenge or problem for them. Make it personal and make your message targeted and focused on what is important to your customers. Post your video on your website as well as other social media outlets that your audience frequents.

Use photos.
One of the easiest ways to tell your story is by sharing images on your site and throughout your social media outlets. Remember to think like your customer and rather than be inward focused be outward focused. If you can secure and use photos of customers using your products that is a plus. Be sure to always get permission from customers to post their pictures. In addition, use your company employees/team to highlight the people behind your brand’s success.

Use Case studies

Case studies are very effective. Case studies are a good way to demonstrate in a concrete fashion what problems, issues or challenges your company and product solve.

Steps to writing a case study include..
Clearly communicate the issue, challenge or problem.
Identify the solution or approach taken.
Outline the results.

Invite your customers/community to share their stories
Ask your customers how they use your product/service/advice and get tips? Their story is an important part of your story. Use your website and/or Facebook to capture their thoughts and encourage engagement and discussion.

Add quotes
Add testimonials or quotes from customers that reiterate your story and the value and benefits you bring to them. Customer quotes are strongest but you can also get quotes from your executive team and business partners that help tell your story.

Communicate your story on the home page of your site.

Use this prime real estate to tell people something that encourages them to learn more about you. Your home page is a great place to capture the attention of your target audience and enhance the stickiness of your site.

Write a company blog or newsletter.

Use your blog or newsletter to focus on the needs of the customer and think creatively how to tell your story effectively.

As Marketers and Content Strategists, we need to developed focused company stories that communicate the benefits to our audience of what we selling.

With so many products and noise in the marketplace, it really is your story that differentiates you from your competition.

Telling Your Company Story

The lightbulb goes on with your audience and your company when you know your audience better.

The lightbulb goes on with your audience when you tell your company story.

Every business, no matter stage or size, has stories to tell.

The challenge is articulating that story in terms that connect potential customers to your brand.  As a business leader in the social media age, you and your company have an opportunity to engage with your customers by rethinking the way you express and tell your company story.

How? First of all, your company story should express your core company values.

In order to engage with your customers strive to identify an emotional pull.  However, like the TV evangelist, don’t prey on your customers emotions but be honest, open and reasonable in developing an emotional connection.

Here are three ways to connect and tell your core values and humanize your brand.

1)  Expand your idea about how to differentiate yourself in today’s market.  Define your values in human terms not in business terms.  Your real value, from your customers perspective, is about what you believe in, what you’re trying to do in the world and how you make others lives and the world better.  And, how your company is helping them.

Getting to this information requires drilling down to what really matters most.

You might start by asking why was your product created? What is your office culture? What overall purpose does your company fill?  How does your product or service help your customers? What does your company offer that benefits others?  Your want to look for key points that your organization truly cares about.   Points that makes your business unique, valuable, and needed in the world around you.

2) Establish a common goal with common language.

You are familiar with the company that has their vision or mission on their website or on a sign outside the executive suites.  It is usually very generic and could refer to any company.  You want to be different, you want to stand out and identity your company’s core value.  Like your vision, everybody at your company needs to see, understand and buy into the core value and mission.

Using common language allows people to understand and align with your mission.

If you’re not sure if your company has a common vision, do a little research.  Start by asking a few people in your company to describe your company’s core value.  Ask them to use five or six descriptive words. Look for themes and then take those key words and put them into a clearly defined description.

3) Give your brand a human voice.

Once you have succinctly defined your mission and decided how to describe your value then develop your ideal persona or type of person that would deliver your message.  Is your persona mainstream, conservative, open-minded, etc. Develop an ideal persona or personas that match your general target audience.  Think carefully about what the persona cares about –not only directly related to your company’s products or services but as a whole person.

This clarity of mission, purpose and story leads to a real understandable persona that will help you and your company successfully develop your brand identity and build your customer base.

Successful brands are clear, transparent, open and honest about what they want to achieve.

What is innovation?

Thinking about innovative ideasInnovation defined.

Not surprisingly, innovation means different things to different people.  In one case, your audience might be thinking of a large, breakthrough change in technology or in the way an employee or consumer functions in their daily lives.  To someone else, an innovation may be a small step that seems small to the producer but makes a big change in enhancing the user experience.  In another case, it might be a small change that doesn’t appear to make allot of difference but over the long run and with additional changes makes a big difference. It could also mean a change in system or procedure that affects the employees in your company.  This list could go on and on.

If you read anywhere there’s lots of discussion about innovation to the point where the term seems overused.  So when you talk about innovation, it is a good idea to start by defining what innovation means to you and ask what it means to your audience, what the purpose of a new innovation might be and what lengths you or your customer is  interested or willing to go to incorporate a new innovation.

As an innovator, I hope for and work towards breakthrough innovation.  However, in tough economic times, innovation may require too much risk and expense for an organization.  It is also not uncommon for customers to resist change and therefore companies have a difficult time innovating product changes even if it is clearly a benefit to the customer.

So instead of dreaming about the next big thing for your product incorporate a step-by-step plan to develop and implement the innovation.  Focus on smaller changes and make changes easier to implement and easier for the customer to accept.  Use inexpensive and small experiments to test your new ideas. For example, add or make a small product improvement and test that improvement by watching users try the new feature.  Then evaluate how well, how significant, and how beneficial the audience considers this change to be.  Is it worth the money if the innovation affects your product’s price or the time needed for your customers to learn how to use the new feature?

In many cases, difficult economic times require product innovations that are easily adapted and cannot require a large investment either by the company or the consumer.

If you want to have the best possible outcome, have a plan for product innovation or for a major innovation as a series of palatable building blocks that moves toward and reaches your bigger goal. This approach, if the innovation is beneficial and is communicated that way,  should be met with less resistance from either  the company itself, company employees or their consumers.   This approach will allow for a smoother transition and incorporation of the innovation.

 

 

 

5 hints to creating content

Scan 121990001-1One of the questions that I hear is “How do I find applicable content for my online posts?”  And, then from there the ideas seem to get very complicated and involved.

But let’s take a simple step-by-step process to help easily create meaningful and helpful content for your target audience.

1) List all the questions that your customers/clients ask everyday.

Ask yourself what questions do I hear and then ask salespeople and customer service staff or whoever in your company comes in contact with customers, current and potential, on a regular basis.  Ask them to keep a list and send you the the questions.  Ask for the most frequently asked questions as well as the more bizarre and one off question because that can get very interesting.

2) Turn that into question and answer articles for your blog.  Or, pose the question and provide the answer on your website and any other social media outlets that you use in your business.

3) Once you have a series of articles consider making them into a free eBook that can be downloaded from your site or available from other social media sources.  It is easier than ever to become your own book publisher if you have enough content to make it work.

4) Use questions and answers in the “Frequently Asked Questions” on your site.

5) Keep getting and answering those questions and use them as a base for informing and updating current and potential customers.

6) Use this content for email blasts or newsletter copy or wherever you are able to communicate with your target audience.

Once you put gathering customer questions as a practice or habit within your company you will have good content ideas.

10 tips for selecting an outside vendor

IMG_0164Throughout my career, I have hired and worked with outside consultants and freelancers and have had, for the most part, positive and workable experiences and successful project outcomes.

Here are 10 tips for selecting an outside vendor.

1. Define the project, the scope and rough schedule.

Knowing and defining what you need and are looking for is critical to do before talking to any vendor.

Once this information is defined and established, internally in your organization, then you can provide clear, complete information to your selected vendor and this will in turn help you get more specific information from them.

Be realistic about schedule requirements—you may have to compromise on the deliverable date to get the best provider for the job.

2. Interview the vendor.

Ask questions—lots of questions.  You are hiring a partner for the duration of the project and you want people that not only have the experience and background but also the “soft” skills that include communication skills and interpersonal skills and ability to work with you and communicate effectively with you.

Check their references and ask for feedback from other clients who have used their services. If you have any concerns about a vendor’s specific capabilities, voice your concerns to them now. And, remember the vendor is putting their best foot forward with their best people.

Make sure you know who your day-to-day contact will be and interview them too.  Then request that unless there is an unforeseen emergency that that consistent interfacing contact is with you through the duration of the project and the vendor is not changing contact people periodically during the process.  Getting a new person up to speed and understanding you and your business can slow or halt the project progress.

3. Look for specific experience fit

Ideally, the vendor that you select has the specific experience with the type of project that you defined and in the area that you need.

Don’t be your vendor’s “guinea pig.”

4. Review the vendor’s work

Review their “portfolio” (if they have one), their website, their online presence and reviews.  Make sure that your expectations regarding style, quality and, if copy and design, that tone and manner are applicable to what you want and need.

5. Confirm who will be doing the work

Some vendors outsource various parts of projects to other vendors, if you are comfortable with that then that is okay.  But ask the vendor beforehand if all aspects of the project are done with them or what outside vendors might be involved.  Having your selected vendor outsource some of the project isn’t necessarily an issue such as a designer working with a printer.  But you should be aware and be comfortable with which aspects of your project might be outsourced.  If it is the crux of the project that is outsourced then you may want to consider another vendor.

6. Test

If you can, start with a small, simple project.  That way you can see the vendor in action and when it is crucial will know if this vendor is trustworthy and can handle what you need.

Some companies ask for a “mockup” or sample project but I think it is better to use a real project.  This allows the vendor to get paid for their work and you to really see what the provider’s capabilities are in action.

7. An agreed to schedule

By this point, you have defined with your provider a working plan. This plan should include defined, concrete goals.  This will allow you to know the scheduled checkpoints and review the status and direction of the project at those check in points.

If any course corrections need to be made you will have adequate time to make those and you won’t be in the dark until you get a finished product, which by then is too late.  My motto is “No surprises” and this is a way to avoid as much as possible project or vendor surprises.

8.  Final product ownership

For any type of outsourced project, make sure that you are clear about who owns the work product and any important components of that product or project. Make sure the service provider understands how you intend to use the deliverables that they are providing.

9.  Define what you expect as far as any ongoing support

During the planning phase, negotiate with your vendor what happens when the work is complete. Is there ongoing support or options to make changes?  If artwork, what do you need and in what format. Don’t be greedy but try specifying some amount of free support or negotiating discounted prices for future modifications.  That seemingly little detail  can save you time and money later.

10. Get everything in writing

Include the scope of the project, what the deliverables are, the agreed to price, schedule, criteria that may change the scope and cost of the project.

Keep a record of all interactions as well as changes to the agreement.  Save email, text or any other exchanges.

Hiring top-notch expertise, as outside vendors and freelancers, is a great way to meet your business needs without hiring a full-time staff member.  There are numerous, excellent vendors available and by being upfront with honest and open communication you can have a successful outcome and even better a successful, ongoing relationship.

10 tips for free exposure

stock-illustration-20941241-social-network960Once you have pinpointed your audience and understand their motivation, wants and needs, defined content and developed a media strategy then you are ready to use that information to get not only free but effective exposure for your business and your products.

1. Share your knowledge-Offer free workshops and classes.

While this option may seem challenging, it doesn’t have to be nor does it have to be a big or elaborate production.  Invite people for a class or workshop incorporating the services or products you sell. For example, if you are an auto shop offer a class in car maintenance or handling emergency road situations.  Or if you have a thrift or hobby shop use classes as a way to incorporate your product as well as offering new and fun information to your audience.  Tax preparers or accountants can offer seminars on tax tips or how to avoid an audit.

Offer classes or workshops that let customers incorporate your product, educate your target audience and/or learn how to use your services.

For inventive thinkers, the possibilities are endless.

2. Sponsor, donate or volunteer for a charitable event that you are passionate about.  If there is not an event that you feel passionate about —create one.

There are numerous benefits both for you, your business, and your community in supporting a good cause that you are passionate about. This action provides networking and marketing opportunities while also increasing your business’s presence in the community. If you want you can also encourage employees to participate, you will see workplace morale improve as each person feels as though they are making a difference in your community and people will remember your organization for giving back to the community.

3. Offer advice or tips.

Write about how your services or products can help everyday life and post them on your website and on social media. Become the expert your audience is looking for when they have a question pertaining to your products and/or services.

Add a blog to your website.  Keep blog posts short and include visuals (either photos or videos) when applicable.  Provide valuable content for your target audience, write consistently and provide the opportunity for your audience to add comments.  Do this only if you have the manpower to monitor those comments and address them if necessary.  Due to spam and perhaps inappropriate comments, be sure to enable your sites filtering devices so that you see the comment first and have the ability to post it if helpful or delete if not.

Repurpose blog posts by editing them for the use in social media outlets.  With Facebook and Twitter, you can link to the blog post on your site.  If Pinterest works for you that is another resource to add a company page and link the Pinterest pin to your site.  Using the photos, Instagram is another option.

4. Periodically update your website.

It is a great business practice to keep your website fresh and updated.  This is a good reason to incorporate blogging because it does keep your website fresh with new information and you can add your ideas, photos, videos, product updates, event notices, and company news.

5. Offer current loyal customers incentives and rewards.

I was at a seminar recently where a retail establishment I use and have been a loyal customer for years offered a 20% off on a one time purchase specifically for new customers.  I understand the logic wanting new customers but it is a good idea to make offers also available to your ongoing, loyal customers.  Remember that old saying “ a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.”

Consider giving your VIP customers access to a private membership page on your website that gives them even further advice or suggestions or form a users group.  Ask for their feedback.

6. Speak at applicable events.

Where does your target audience meet either online or in a physical location?  Does your target audience attend events that dovetail nicely with the product and services that you offer?  Use this opportunity to establish your organization as the expert offering valuable advice and educating the audience.  Leave the sales pitch and product demonstrations for another time unless that is what your audience came to hear.

7. Plan and implement a public relations program.

Develop a PR strategy that serves as a foundation for your PR activities. Get to know the editor and publisher of the local newspapers.  Explore the online versions of those media outlets for “free” event listing areas.  In many cases, you can post your events to the sites yourself.  Target your news releases by providing newsworthy events or information that are important to your community.

Even with all the online resources, personal relationships are still key and need to be built continuously. In the changing media environment, the best way to build a relationship is through relevant content and the submission of interesting, educational content.

8. Social media offers a cost cost-effective way of interacting with current and potential customers and promoting your brand.  

There are many ways to use social media and online resources to provide“free” exposure.

Combining an appealing, user friendly website, a social media presence and great content develops your brand positively in your customers’ minds.

Consider embedding your Twitter or Facebook feed on your website for more exposure to your postings.  Use Twitter and Facebook to link back to your business website, promote your blog, educate, mention products or promotions and increase traffic to your site.

9. Host an educational webinar.

Hosting webinar establishes credibility and gives people the opportunity to feel like they personally know you and your company. And since people do business with people they know and trust—it can be a plus for your business.  Once you’ve created your webinar, you can repurpose the material as a series of You Tube videos and post to other social media outlets.

The advantages of creating a webinar includes offering a cost-effective way of communicating to your target audience. – either live or on demand – quickly and efficiently. A webinar can be viewed on a PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone.  User-friendly for participants: no travel or accommodation costs involved, and webinars can be searched and referred to for specific content afterwards.

10. Offer free samples.

If your business can make samples of your product for consumers to try, this is helpful “free” exposure. Two rules apply—be sure your samples are well made since people will assume that the samples reflect your best work and make sure they align with the work you want to do. For example, if you want to attract more branding work it would make sense to publish an ebook on branding. It wouldn’t make sense to release a photo retouching kit.

Free exposure is a powerful way to boost your business.  And, there are many interesting and fun ways to get your business organization and potential and existing customers to learn from it.

8 Steps to Identifying Relevant Marketing Content

people-target-fullsize-960What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is an ongoing process that involves creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience.

The primary objective is to attract current and potential consumers to engage, take action and support your product or service by sales and positive referrals and reviews.

Content marketing is not only an art but a creative process that provides relevant communication to your customers and prospects without overtly selling and potentially driving the consumer away. Instead of talking only about your products or services, you deliver information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, consumers ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.

To identify relevant content, I recommend using an 8 step content mapping approach that defines a process to gather appropriate, relevant information for the purposes of identifying and implementing the right content.

8 step content mapping process

Step 1.  Identify key personas.

In a previous post, I identified key identifiers for your target persona.  These identifiers include title, time in job, works with, daily tasks, responsibilities, likes as well as dislikes, frustrations, pressures, needs, activities, emotional mindset and role in buying process. For more information regarding identifiers refer to my previous blog post on building personas.

Step 2. Information/questions

What information or questions is the persona or personas, identified in step 1,  asking at each stage of the buying process?  The buying process includes 6 steps–awareness, interest, research, desire, user and finally evangelism.

Step 3.  What are the answers to their questions?

What answers can you provide for each of the questions identified?  Answer specifically and in depth those questions you anticipate your persona to be asking.

Step 4.  Review

Carefully look at your answers and identify what value added information you can provide that would be beneficial to your persona.   How are the products or services you provide able to tie into this process?

Step 5.  Map

Now take the time to mind map this information and see what content you have available or could research that would help your persona answer their questions and learn more in the process.  Take this time to identify steps to answering the questions-if the questions have multiple parts to the answer.

Step 6.  Research and Analyze

Look for places where more information is needed. Look at areas where you might be missing content.  Research and find answers to the holes in the content.

Step 7.  Create

Start creating content to fill the holes, answer the questions and add value to your customers with your product or service.

Step 8.  Evaluate

Keep track of the content you provide and evaluate analytically what benefit this information provided your company.

As with anything, this process takes time, effort and work but is well worth doing.

Building Personas– Part 1

people-network-blue-960x300What information should be included in developing a complete ideal persona?

 

Recently a client asked me to create a persona of their company’s key buyers.  He wanted to focus on the small percentage of consumers that spend the most and prove to be great advocates when talking about and working with his company.

Because this practice was new to the company, I started with a profile template that is familiar to me.  There are a number of persona templates available online and any would provide information needed.  However, some are more complex then others and can be a deterrent to getting the persona done and functional.

The first step included outlining the types of information that are helpful in the persona.  The second step was taking the template and talking to key buyers and advocates for this company.  In our exercise, we were able to fill in much of the information and only asked  customers about information not readily available or we weren’t sure about.

Information to include in a persona.

•    Title–If your major buyers work in small companies you may find that titles are a thing of the past.  So while identifying a specific title may be difficult, you can specify function which is still a valid selection.
•    Time in the job–How long have they been at their present job and how long have they been in the field?  This is a good indication of the group to target.
•    Who do they work with directly?  Who do they work with indirectly?
•    Responsibilities and daily tasks.  What are the daily job tasks and what are their key responsibilities?
•    Likes/dislikes include items relating to their job as well as personal likes/dislikes.  Review things this audience might appreciate during the sales process and things that they will definitely dislike if included in the sales process.
•    Frustrations and Concerns include both personal and job frustrations and concerns.
•    Pressures.  Again include both job and personal pressures.
•    Needs.  What needs is this person looking to fill both tangible and intangible.
•    Role in buying process and at what stage does the persona get involved.–The buying process consists of 6 stages.  Those stages are awareness, interest, research, desire, user and evangelist.  Which stage or stages is your persona involved in?
•    Key Drivers–What drives this persona to make the buying decision for your company’s products or services?  Include both tangible and intangible.

Once you have this information it helps to come up with a name and image.  Having a name and image of the persona helps all team members to think of this buyer as a real person.  I like to have the image available for meetings.  Or, as Steve Jobs did, designate an empty chair where the key persona joins in during meetings.

Remember that in the buyer persona, we are trying to learn who this person is both at a rational and emotional level.  We often make buying decisions by rationalizing our decisions but the emotional component is a strong influencer of behavior and should be studied.

Creating a name, image and persona is a bit like getting to know a friend so you can really understand your key customers.

Lifelong Learner

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”     Will Rogers

One of the keys to success, in both your professional and personal life, is making a commitment to be a lifelong learner.

LQThumb_116587314483430413Once you’ve internalized this mindset, you’ll find that you’re willing to invest time in yourself and your development. This goal doesn’t take away from what you are doing in your organization; it makes that time more valuable by making you more valuable as you increase your skill set and knowledge level.

Start by setting goals for your professional and personal development during your personal goal setting planning. Decide how often you’ll be meeting with your mentor, make a commitment to engage in a professional association, set a goal for the number of applicable books that you’ll read each year, and know how much time or how many newsletters you can commit to each week.

Write down your goals and record what you do. Recording your progress is the best way to see if you’re doing what you’ve committed to do.

And always take opportunities to keep on learning.