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Quick Guide to Creating the Right Brand for Your Business (Guest Blog by Gemma Reeves)

The following post comes to us from Gemma Reeves, a freelance writer and entrepreneur. Learn more about Gemma in her bio at the end of the article. Be sure to learn more about her business here.


Quick Guide to Creating the Right Brand for Your Business

gemma guest blog

Any entrepreneur will tell you that establishing and growing your own business is by no means an “easy” career path. Once you have taken the initial steps to build a business model, tasks seem to rain down endlessly in front of you and you may neglect a few important things that greatly matter for your business, like branding.

Whether yours is a small or large business, serving local or international markets, branding is equally important. Creative and effective branding can give your business that edge against your competitors, which is of huge value especially when you are just getting started. Many business owners understand that branding is an essential part of their businesses, but can’t really put into words why.

Before the boom of digital advertising, businesses didn’t have to put as much effort into refining and reinventing their brand as much as they do now. Years ago, branding was simpler. Brands used names, slogans, logo designs, and other symbols that were a fairly obvious reflection of the products and services of the company. Today, these elements are still the basics of branding; however, brands as a whole have become far more sophisticated and less literal. They’re discrete, playful, creative and innovative.

What’s required now for a brand to stand out is it must tell a story, make people feel something and be remembered even when competing against the onslaught of advertisements we’re exposed to every day. In many different ways, a business’s brand drives lasting public perception that can lift you up or cause you to come crashing down.

Spectacular Marketing founder Mark McColluch states that, “You have a brand whether you like it or not. It’s best to embrace that and find the best way to connect your brand with your target audience.” The way your company answers phone calls, addresses customer concerns on social media, and supports the community are all a reflection of your brand.

Having a strong and effective brand is no mistake and its never by chance. Businesses who do this well have a strategy and a team dedicated to implementing this strategy, continuously refining it. More than simply “looking pretty,” the most effective brands achieve the following objectives:

  1. Clearly and consistently communicate the problem your business aims to solve
  2. Reinforce the values and credibility of your business
  3. Elicit the desired emotions from your target audience
  4. Move your target audience to take action (i.e. purchase your products or services)
  5. Make loyal customers
  6. Remain top of mind

Sounds great right? But how do you actually go about accomplishing this? The detailed blueprint to answer that question is far more than what we can summarize in this blog post; however we can offer you some initial and ongoing steps you should take to get started in the right direction. Take a look!

Develop Your Brand Strategy

A consistent and lasting brand is the result of strategy. This may take several months, and ongoing tweaking to reach its stride, but with time and effort you can build a solid branding strategy for your business.

Your strategy should include clear objectives and specific tactics to reach these objectives. It should also include the adjectives and emotions you want to evoke with your brand. How do you want to make your customers feel? What do you want to be known for? These keywords and phrases should drive the focus of your strategy and ultimately the design of your brand.

Research Your Competition

Branding is not just about your company. It’s extremely smart to also study your competitors’ branding strategy. How is the target audience responding to their brand? How does their branding compare to yours? How can you differentiate to stand out? These questions and more should be answered in your research. Most importantly, remember to do everything with integrity and authenticity. Getting dirty with your competitors will foremost reflect poorly on your business.

Be Consistent

Brand consistency is what results in your brand legacy. All too often businesses work to develop a consistent brand in one area of their outreach efforts, but fail to carry it over throughout every area. For example, the branding of your website should match your business cards, email signature, social media, email templates, marketing materials, etc.

Brands that remain consistent throughout time are more likely to gain a stable place in the market and more efficiently use their marketing resources. They don’t waste energy reinventing the wheel every time they roll out a new product or promotion, rather they know to always begin with their existing brand for design inspiration.

The Bottom Line

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. This absolutely applies to the branding of your business. Especially for new and growing businesses that face much competition, your brand can make you memorable, move people to take action and build a loyal customer base. Without a strong and consistent brand, your business will be washed away with each new wave of competition. The most effective way to prevent this from happening is to prioritize creating and implementing a branding strategy right from the start. In doing so, this early investment in your business will reap huge dividends months and years down the road!

Does your business prioritize its branding? Why or why not? Share your thoughts and expertise by commenting below!

gemma reevesGemma Reeves is a seasoned writer who enjoys creating helpful articles and interesting stories. She has worked with several clients across different industries such as advertising, online marketing, technology, healthcare, family matters, and more. She is also an aspiring entrepreneur who is engaged in assisting other aspiring entrepreneurs in finding the best office space for their business. Check out her company here: FindMyWorkspace

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Posted by on April 23, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Top Things Every College Student Needs to Do Before Graduation

college graduation

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of working with some Penn State undergrads to mentor them on the steps they should take right now to better position themselves for a career in the field of communications.

I will tell you that the post-graduation job hunt was rough when I was in school, and it’s just as challenging, if not more so, now. Especially for students who dream of moving to a big city and working for a big name brand, the competition is fierce! I was encouraged to see how seriously these college students were taking their studies and internships and how eager they were to learn more about polishing up their personal brand to make them a desirable hire.

Whether I was talking to a freshman or fifth year senior, studying public relations or film and video, I found myself repeating the same core piece of advice. Here’s what I told my mentees, and here’s what I want to tell you to. Building your personal brand, at every stage of your career, is highly important. It’s one of the few things you can control and actively improve each and every day.

So while you furiously continue to send out those resumes and cover letters, scour the internet and refresh your inbox – here’s what you can be doing to make the most of your time spent waiting for a call-back.

Polish Your Resume

Just about every college or university has a dedicated “career services” office that offers some great advice to get you started in the right direction with building a professional resume. That being said, many of my colleagues and I have run into the issue of career services’ advice being slightly different than what we know to be current best practices.

The bottom line here is to first seek initial help from career services, but don’t stop there! Do your own research for resume advice from respected online sources. Also ask alumni or family friends who work in your field (and who will know what information and formatting the industry wants to see on your resume right now) to review your resume. You are likely to encounter differing opinions, and will need to seek balance, but use your best judgement as to who best understands your industry.

Create a Linkedin Profile

Most college students are on Linkedin. If you’re not, well start there. If you are on Linkedin already, how polished is your profile? There are countless articles on best practices for creating a professional Linkedin profile, so again, do your research!

If I had to quickly prioritize the main areas that can make or break a good Linkedin profile, they would be having a professional-looking profile picture, using your personal summary to really “tell your story,” fully and accurately listing your education and job history and prioritizing your list of skills to increase your SEO.

Treat it like any of your other college projects, giving it your attention to detail, creativity and technical know-how. After all, building your personal brand is likely the most important project you’ll ever work on!

Build (and Organize) Your Contact List

Growing your personal brand is similar to growing a business’s brand in that you need to establish a quality list of contacts (potential leads, referrals or employers). Throughout your high school and college career you have made quite a few professional contacts, whether you realize it or not.

It’s important to take the time to capture these contacts and organize them in an excel spreadsheet. Take an afternoon and list out anyone of influence that you know, or know through someone else. These could be local business owners in your hometown, contacts from a past job or internship, your professors and faculty, or friends’ parents. Don’t discount anyone! Even if they do not work in your career field, think of how many people they know. A contact two or three degrees removed from someone you know personally, just might help you land your dream job.

How you choose to use this list of contacts is up to you, but I suggest sending them a professional email, preferably through Constant Contact or Mail Chimp, announcing your upcoming graduation and highlighting your skills and education. Make a direct ask for these contacts to pass on your resume to anyone they know who may be hiring in your field. Be sure to attach your resume! By making it easy for your contacts to forward this email, you have the potential of reaching hundreds of people who just might be looking to hire someone like you!

Create a Portfolio of Your Work

Now more than ever, college students have all the tools they need to quickly and easily create an online portfolio of work. Especially if your major is one that has great visual components (graphic design, landscape architecture, art, etc.), you simply must have a professional online portfolio of work to be a top competitor in your field.

Wix, Squarespace and WordPress (and many, many more) offer free websites that you can customize and launch in a few, easy steps. Sure, it’s not going to look like a $50k+ website, but that’s not necessary! What’s necessary is showing a potential employer that you are a professional go-getter who is tech savvy and who goes the extra mile. Be sure to link out to this online portfolio from your resume and in email emails you send to potential employers/contacts.

Hone in On Your Career Objective

Does your resume include a clear objective for what you’re looking to get out of your career? If you want to stand out, it’s so important to clearly communicate your “why.” Work to define your career objective, or you can call it your professional mission statement. In about two sentences you should be able to describe your drive to work in the industry and the unique skills you bring to the table.

Best of all, with a clear objective, you will have a strong and polished answer to provide to any potential employer who asks you the common, but often challenging question of “So what do you want this job?”

Scrub Your Social Media

This is a hot topic for our current generation of college graduates. You’ve likely built a robust collection of social media posts and pictures throughout your college career. While the archive of memories are ones you don’t want to forget, they’re better saved offline. You’ll want to dedicate quite a bit of time to carefully “stalking” yourself on social media to remove anything that could even remotely be a red flag for a future employer. Look at your profile through eyes. How do you want to be represented?

Do keep in mind that simply deleting posts and images is by no means a guaranteed they won’t appear elsewhere. You’ll want to also search for your name and any other distinguishing characteristics (such as your college’s name, hometown or major) and see what comes up. If you need help scrubbing some less than desirable search results, or you simply want to move favorable search results (such as awards or honors) up in ranking, I highly recommend Brand Yourself. Seriously, check it out!

Network with Your Professors

This final piece of advice is what I feel is most overlooked by college students and that’s utilizing the network (and knowledge) of your professors. They’re the ones teaching you everything you need to know about your industry, certainly they have a highly influential network. Schedule time to really talk with them about your career goals, ask questions and express and uncertainty or frustration. Office hours are not limited to reviewing class materials.

You will never regret building a personal relationship with your professors who can continue to support you after graduation. On a similar note, be sure to utilize your alumni network. We truly care about you guys and want to see you thrive in the same industry we dedicated our college career to studying. I speak from personal experience when I say it brings us alums great joy to see the next generation succeed!

Do you have other advice to share with college students preparing for life after graduation? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2018 in Career, Education, Life

 

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How to Get More Positive Customer Reviews on Social Media

social media reviewWe live in a day and age when most people turn to technology to answer just about any question they have. Siri, Google and Alexa are usually within arm’s or ear’s reach to answer everything from “What’s the weather in Seattle on Wednesday” to “When was George Washington’s birthday?”

Not receiving immediate input on something drives us crazy! Think about the last time you couldn’t recall an artist or song title. You likely went straight to technology to provide an answer, rather than waiting for it to eventually come to you.

Let’s not forget about social media. We spend an increasing amount of time on social platforms where we absorb a wide variety of information from life’s most previous milestones to utterly useless, yet highly entertaining videos and articles. What’s important about social media to ecommerce businesses is its influence over people’s buying habits. And while sponsored posts and advertising campaigns will continue to be highly influential, people will still gravitate toward a business’s customer reviews on social media before they ultimately purchase a product.

According to this infographic created by 16Best.net on “Social Networks and their importance in Ecommerce Gateways,” positive social media reviews increase the conversion rate by 133% for mobile shoppers. Additionally, the more people that positively respond to reviews through comments and likes help to improve the brand perception for 71% of shoppers. Positive product reviews also bump up a product price by 9.5%.

how social reviews increase sales

It’s clear that positive customer reviews on social media pack a powerful punch for increasing brand value. But this begs one very important question…What can I do to get more positive customer reviews on social media?

  1. Foremost, focus on delivering exceptional service. Don’t fall into the trap of misplacing your focus on simply collecting as many customer reviews as possible. Your primary focus should be on delivering quality and satisfaction to your customers. As a result, these happy customers are going to be far more inclined to take the time to leave a review.
  2. Make your product review process easy and immediate for customers. Identify your most influential social media platform and direct your customers to leave reviews there. Customers don’t have the patience to leave reviews on 5 different sites, so be sure your call to action is clear and direct. Next, make sure you spell out the process for them in minimal steps. If you email them asking to leave a review, include links directly to the page to leave a review. Keep it short, make it easy and you will earn more customer reviews on a consistent basis!
  3. Give customers an incentive. We live in a “What’s in it for me?” culture. Applying this to customer reviews means to want to offer an incentive to leave a timely and helpful review of your product. Some business offer a discount or free sample as a thank you. Think about what’s feasible for your business and be sure to promote this incentive.
  4. Don’t expect it to happen organically. Very few customers take it upon themselves to offer a product review without any sort of ask or reminder to do so from the business. Furthermore, these unsolicited reviews tend to be polarizing – either very positive or very negative – because those extreme cases are when most people feel the need to provide a review. Don’t miss out on the “silent majority” by failing to directly solicit customer reviews as part of your marketing strategy.
  5. Monitor and respond to customer reviews. Make sure that someone in your business is assigned to monitoring customer reviews. For the positive ones, respond with a thank you or possibly follow-up with the customer to see if they have the potential to be a brand ambassador. For negative reviews, also be sure to follow-up quickly to address any issues and right the customer’s wrongs. In doing so, the customer may choose to leave a follow-up review that’s positive. If nothing else, other people browsing your reviews will see your commitment to customer service which will counteract the review’s negative impact.
  6. Show gratitude! Thank each and every customer for their review, either by commenting on the review or sending them a follow-up email. If you choose to implement an incentive program, this provides the perfect opportunity to touch base with the customers and offer thanks when you provide them with their discount or sample product.
  7. Integrate customer reviews into your marketing strategy. After investing your time, and possibly some free products to build up your customer reviews on social media, be sure to get the most out of them by integrating your reviews into your ongoing marketing strategy. You may choose to share some of the reviews on your website, in e-newsletters or feature them as part of your paid social media advertising campaigns. Given how influential customer reviews are to ecommerce, you want to put a spotlight on the great ones to increase the impact they have on new customers.

Are you struggling to engage your customers to consistently leave reviews on your social media pages? Share your hurdles or ask a question so we can help lend some advice!

 
 

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Facebook’s Latest Changes Favors Person-to-Person Contact – and You Should Too!

Facebook changes

In a video announcement released by Facebook earlier this month, Mark Hull, Director of Product Management, opens by saying “People come to Facebook to connect with the people who matter to them.” The video goes on to explain that over the next year Facebook intends to implement a series of changes to alter the way we receive and interact with the content that comes across our newsfeeds.

My first reaction was that this would be some new marketing strategy to enable businesses, and maybe even individuals, to promote their content in a highly targeted and intensive way. However, it’s quite the opposite!

Rather, it appears that Facebook has done their homework and came to the same, glaring conclusions as the rest of society (whether we choose to fully acknowledge it yet or not). And that is we have become, for the most part, addicted to social media in a serious and life-changing way. At minimum, scrolling through Facebook and taking in everyone else’s highlight reel causes us to feel negative about our own lives. From there, it can quickly progress to people who weigh their entire self-worth by their social media engagements and suffer severe depression and anxiety as a result.

Social media is the drug of choice for many, and Facebook has taken responsibility for helping us rehab from this. While I see these changes as having real potential for positive change, it’s important that we, the users, understand the method for how things show up in our newsfeed so that we can (somewhat) take control of what we’re exposed to.

In light of the changes Facebook plans to implement over the coming year, here are 5 things we must learn to do differently to attain the best (and by that I mean healthiest) user experience.

Prioritize your person-to-person contact.

Sometimes I login to Facebook with the intent of seeing how my friends and family have spent their weekend and all of a sudden I’ve spent an hour watching “Tasty” videos of instructions for how to make casseroles and cheesecakes. Can you relate? Facebook has identified that most of us get sucked into viral videos and articles that have nothing to do with our personal community. While this content is fun temporarily, their research has proven that it’s harmful long-term.

This next step is going to be hard, but when scrolling through your newsfeed try to pay the most attention to your connections personal shares of photos and posts – a family selfie, photo album from a recent vacation or a call for advice on a topic. By scrolling to, and spending more time looking at this content, you will help Facebook better curate a more personal and meaningful newsfeed for you. The next step builds upon this further…

Engage with the content – if you like it, show it!

When you come to personally shared content that you enjoy, take the minimal extra effort to click the “like” button. It’s silly how challenging or awkward that feels for most of us. For example, my Facebook connections have grown quite a bit over the years from just my closest friends who I’ve spent years of my life getting to know, to people that are maybe one or two degrees removed from a friend and quite likely I’ve met them once in person, if at all.

I enjoy growing my network, but I don’t feel close enough to all my contacts to engage with their content. This shouldn’t hold me back! I’ve seen relationships grow through mainly Facebook interaction where you do start to feel like you know the other person. So long as you’re not crossing any major “stalking” boundaries, people will appreciate your likes and comments. I know I love seeing how people engage with my content, and we could all do a better job of reciprocating.

Why this is important for Facebook’s new changes is that the more you engage with your contacts, the more you will see these contacts show up in your newsfeed, and vice versa. Again back to curating your own newsfeed, you can help customize what you want to see more of by showing Facebook what you enjoy.

Put effort into your communication.

Facebook is now telling us that engaging with content through likes is good, but commenting is great. It takes maybe one whole second to react to post and throw a thumbs up or heart up there. But by taking the time to write a couple sentences in the comment section shows Facebook this is a genuine connection, someone who you feel comfortable engaging with on this level.

As a result, these interactions will be ranked higher than a mere post like. What hopefully will result is that people will be inspired to start a dialogue with one another, even if it’s through private messenger. This is way better than everyone posting photos of their “highlight reel” which, whether intentionally or unintentionally, can make people feel pretty bad about the reality of their own lives.

Don’t be a passive scroller – it’s for your own good!

All of this being said, you “passive scrollers” out there won’t be doing yourselves any favors by standing in a corner. You’ll need to jump in and engage your contacts if you want to have some control over whose content you see most often in your newsfeed.

Some of my newer friends to Facebook, who haven’t felt comfortable reaching out to request contacts beyond their own family, often complain that their newsfeed is filled with just one or two people who post “all the time.” The reality is, if you only have 30 Facebook friends and 5 of them post once or more per day, you’re going to feel like they are bombarding your newsfeed. If you really want more variety in your newsfeed, you need to grow your Facebook connections. You should still be careful with how you do this, but if you open up a bit, you’ll realize that friending a co-worker is not the same as giving them keys to your house. Be authentic in real life and on social media and you will have nothing to hide.

Login with a purpose and a time limit.

Here’s a novel idea. Get serious about limiting your exposure to social media. This is easier said than done, I know. I would likely be appalled by the number of hours I spent on Facebook that I don’t even account for.

Here’s my challenge to you, if you really want to reduce the negativity and anxiety of being dependent upon social media for entertainment. Establish a purpose for surfing Facebook and set a time limit. Your purpose doesn’t have to be “marketing my business” (and that’s a pet peeve of mine that will have to be a whole other blog series). It can still be completely social, but at least login knowing your purpose. For example, maybe you want to catch up with a friend you haven’t reached out in a while. Don’t just stalk their profile, send them a message or comment on their latest post! Or maybe you need some parenting advice or a recommendation for an HVAC company. Though still social, these purposes lead your mindset and your engagement on social media and keep you from getting lost down a Buzzfeed rabbit hole.

Through these changes, Facebook actually anticipates the time their users spend on the platform to decrease! However, they feel the time users do spend on Facebook will result in a healthier, more positive experience.

How do you feel about these changes to how Facebook shares, and favors, content? Do you think it will be an enhancement to user experience, a setback to businesses or a little of both?

Jump in the conversation!

 
 

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Entrepreneur at Age 30: Life’s About to Get Good

30

Today is my 30th birthday. To the vast majority of people, that milestone doesn’t change any aspect about your career. But for me it does. I started my public relations consulting business, Bennis Public Relations when I was 23 years old. In those first few months of stepping out on my own, I also started the blog that you’re reading now.

The most fitting tagline I could think of at the time for my blog was “The World As Told By a Twenty-Something Entrepreneur.” I didn’t know where this leap of faith would take me, so I was hardly worried about what would happen when this tagline was no longer true of me or my business. I just wanted to survive my first year of taxes!

Six and a half years later, I’ve done more than just survive. I’ve surprised myself in more ways than I can count, and I’m fortunate to say the entrepreneurial journey is the path I’m meant to be on for the rest of my foreseeable future. However, this year presents me with a unique challenge. I need to take a step back, reflect on how far I’ve come, and embrace a new mindset that progresses beyond the twenty-something entrepreneur I was when I first started the business.

Bennis Inc Old Tagline

Sure, I could keep things simple and update the decade to “thirty-something,” but what fun is that? Rather, I want to share with you the thought behind what will become my new tagline and my new mantra for my personal and professional brand. I want to pull back the curtain and give you insight into how I’ve developed and re-developed my business model over the years, how I’ve had to pivot, pause, leap and stretch.

Will you join me as I relive a little of my entrepreneurial “dance?”

Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

In the first year or so of starting my own business, I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. By that I mean I learned to live lean! I canceled cable and internet and worked out a deal with my neighbor to share his WiFi so we both saved on cost. I took on odd jobs in my spare time to help make ends meet. I tightened my budget in a lot of creative ways, all for the reward of starting my own business.

I may have been young at the time, but I was wise beyond my years for doing this. A lot of people don’t want to sacrifice the little luxuries of right now for the ability to afford far greater luxuries in the future. My business was my baby and I was willing to do whatever I had to do to help it grow.

Using “Young” to My Advantage

Throughout my twenties, I felt like I needed to constantly prove to people that my age was an advantage. I’ve witnessed many businesses who simply like the idea of hiring an older PR consultant because they feel as though age alone qualifies someone as being more experienced and knowledgeable in their field. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

I was strategic about calling out my age and positioning it as one of my greatest strengths. In my biography, on my website and in client meetings I made sure to align my youth with the concept of new energy, innovation, fresh ideas, cutting-edge technology and a different way of thinking. Again and again, I was able to build confidence in my clients and win their business over other consultants who were easily twice my age.

Learning that Responsiveness is Unique

As I grew my business, I felt like I really hit a tipping point when I focused on providing quality, reliable service. It sounds so simple, but it was a huge point of differentiation for me. Being responsive to my clients and delivering good, fast service helped me to substantially grow my book of business.

These satisfied clients turned into ongoing retainers and also my best form of marketing. Nearly 90% of my clients are word of mouth recommendations in some form. That’s powerful! Not only do recommendations result in very qualified leads, these businesses tend to share the same values as my existing clients who are a pleasure to work with.

The bottom line: If you are responsive, attentive and reliable, you will instantly set yourself apart from the majority of other businesses out there! It’s a disappointing truth I have used to my advantage.

Increasing My Value, Increasing My Bandwidth

About two years in, I had built up a good book of residual business and my brand was growing. In order to continue to take on more clients I needed to do one of two things. I needed to raise my prices or hire employees. I had no interest in splitting profits and managing employees, so I needed to re-evaluate my rates to determine what was fair to both me and my clients. It’s a delicate balance. If you charge too little for your time, you’ll have plenty of business but still be dissatisfied with your earnings. If you charge too much for your time, you’ll turn away good customers. And the customers who do hire you at this premium price will want the moon and the stars. So how did I manage this?

Every year my hourly rate goes up by $5. This becomes my new base rate for all new clients. For existing clients, I honor the rate I gave them when they initially signed into their contract. So long as they maintain or increase their level of services with me, they get the benefit of this rate. If they choose to pause or decrease services, their new contract will be at my current market rate. Make sense?

By implementing this new policy, I was able to give my loyal clients the benefit of great rates that aren’t arbitrarily raised on them each and every year. That’s way better than a box of chocolates at Christmas! In return, they give me the benefit of consistent business. My annual $5/hour raise covers inflation and the growing demand for my services that keeps me at market rate.

Forming Strategic Partnerships

By 2015, I found a whole new untapped potential for my business and that was strategic partnerships. Through my network, I was introduced to an advertising agency, media firm and government relations firm, all of whom are now my strategic partners on an ongoing basis. How it works is that I am often called upon to offer my public relations services to their clients as an enhancement to the services they provide. They pay me (directly) by the hour or by the project and their client in turn pays them. For some of my partners, I use their business’s email address and business cards, giving them the benefit of the appearance of a larger in-house staff. For others, they prefer me to work with all clients directly, under my name and entity. Both work for me!

Through my strategic partnerships, I am able to work with huge corporations and associations that I could never tackle alone. When we combine our resources and expertise, we provide a full menu of services that directly compete against the region’s largest agencies that have way more red tape and overhead. It’s the best of both worlds for our clients: they get everything they want under one “roof” at a highly competitive rate. And it’s the best of both worlds for my partners and me: I get a constant stream of new work at my market rate and they get to make a little off the top.

Refining My Sales Process

For many consultants, the hardest part of growing a business is refining the sales process so that it’s efficient and consistent. Personally, it was for me. I would struggle to leave a client consultation with a clear path for how to proceed. How do I structure the proposal? What if the client wants to haggle prices? It wasn’t until about the last year or so when I finally felt like I had a clear sales process that allowed me to craft quick proposals that resulted in signed contracts in a matter of a few days.

I recently outlined a lot of my tips for achieving this. Now I leave client meetings in control of the next step and with the promise to deliver a proposal to them the same-day. If you choose to embrace a similar sales process to mine, you will be amazed by how much time and energy you were putting into proposals that simply didn’t need it. If anything, all that extra “fluff” was a distraction from what you were really trying to sell them. Trust me on this one.

Planning for the Future

What does the future hold for me? I’m a PR consultant not a fortune teller, how should I know? But in all seriousness, I do have a strategic plan for my future and that’s to continue to forge more large-scale partnerships with other businesses who want to offer their clients the service of public relations and strategic communications. I plan to selectively work with fewer, but larger clients who are on annual and quarterly retainers. I plan to continue to take on one-time projects as I desire as a means to help small businesses grow. And I plan to cut back to a 3-day work week, when reasonable, and enjoy more time spent on vacation and with my family.

It’s beyond measure the amount of hard work, drive and sacrifice it’s taken to get me to this point, but at the same time I feel I was also in the right place at the right time for much of this to happen. As the philosophical saying tells us, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” I suppose this quite rightly sums up my entrepreneurial journey thus far.

Having shared with you some of the most significant moments I’ve experienced in my career as a “twenty-something entrepreneur,” I now want to share with you my new blog tagline as I enter this next decade of life.

Passionately Communicating My Entrepreneurial Journey

This new tagline will suit me for the rest of my life. I’m passionate about communicating, in every form you can imagine. My blog is just one way in which I can give you a window into my entrepreneurial journey which I plan to be on for a long time.

Though it’s bittersweet to close the chapter on my twenties, a time in which I took risks, hustled hard and learned a lot about myself, I realize that I plan to keep doing exactly that in my thirties….forties….fifties…you get the idea.

Whether this is your first visit to the Bennis Inc. blog, or you’re one of my loyal subscribers, thank you for being here and stay tuned. Life’s about to get good!

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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How Public Relations is different than Advertising

PR vs Advertising

So often lines are blurred when it comes to Public Relations and Advertising. While the two certainly overlap, there are distinct differences that determine how and when you should use them in your communications strategy.

A solid plan can and should have elements of both, but it’s important to understand their unique roles and seek out different professionals to represent each one to ensure you’re not using Advertising to solve a Public Relations problem or vice versa.  Take a look at our simple, but helpful overview of these two industries.

Public Relations is…

Earned

Public Relations is also referred to as earned media or earned placement. You don’t pay for the specific placement of content, but there are other costs associated with issuing media relations and content creation that often comes in the form of paying a PR professional to create and disseminate this for you. However, compared to true advertising costs for the same size placement, PR is often a much more cost-effective option.

Viewed as objective

The goal of Public Relations is to garner earned media such as a newspaper article or news segment based upon the information you share in your media advisory or press release. Ultimately, it’s the media outlet producing this content for you, with their byline. As a result, readers or viewers often see this content as more objective (as objective as media can be, right?) than paid advertising which gives it trust and credibility.

Not always in your control

And while free and credible content are both great aspects of Public Relations, it’s important to remember that on the flip side, you are not in full control what’s written about you. Issuing a press release doesn’t mean a reporter will choose to republish every last detail you include. A good PR professional will carefully monitor how the media interprets your story and quickly react if there’s anything inaccurate or undesirable.

Advertising is…

Paid

Most obviously, Advertising costs money. You buy placement when you want it and how you want it. Every media outlet has their own department of sales reps to accommodate this very industry. They are constantly putting together new and enticing ad packages to get businesses to “pay for play.”

Viewed as subjective

Your audience will almost always know that an advertisement is paid placement. In a magazine, articles are marked as “advertisement” or “sponsored content.” On TV, a commercial spot is obviously different from a real news segment. Regardless of how truthful your ad is, your audience will view it with a bit more skepticism because they know you paid for placement and can (generally) say whatever you want.

In your control

Because you pay for specific placement of specific content, Advertising is a lot more controlled than Public Relations. You know exactly when an ad or story will run and what it will look like or say. Although the price of placement can be steep, you fully control your message.

Do you work in either the PR or advertising industry? What other differences would you say are most important?

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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5 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Business Event (Guest Blog by Samantha Thayer)

The following post comes to us from guest blogger, Samantha Thayer. Samantha is an Education and Outreach Specialist at USANA Health Sciences. You can find her on their blog at What’s Up, USANA? or on Twitter @USANA_Samantha!


5 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Business Event

Chances are, at one point in your life, you’ve attended an event that you viewed as an opportunity to network. This could be a work-related event, charity event, community event, or an event catering to a niche that simply interests you.

If you’re new to attending such events, it may be a little overwhelming or hard to know where to begin and what’s acceptable. And even if you’re used to attending business events, these tips are a great reminder to take advantage of everything the event has to offer.

We’ve created an infographic that discusses five ways to get the most out of events and some basic etiquette to keep in mind.

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Business Event

  1. Connect with People

If you’re trying to build your network, it’s important to remember to connect with people and exchange information so you can easily follow-up after the event. Something I have found useful is to bring business cards with you to any and all events. Make sure they include your name, e-mail, company and a social platform available for people to find you after the event. If you don’t have a business card, make sure to ask someone else for theirs! Then, be sure and connect with people through social media such as Twitter or LinkedIn soon afterwards.

  1. Act on What You’ve Learned

Presenters at events typically will have actionable information for attendees. Pay close attention to the value those may add to your life and business. Find ways to personalize that information and how to best apply it, in order to improve your business or day to day life. Most importantly, apply it right now. Do it while the information (and inspiration) is fresh in your mind.

  1. Research the Event Beforehand

Research the event you’re planning on attending before you go. Some valuable information you’ll want to note is the keynote speakers, breakout session topics (and which ones you want to go to), available workshops and any additional fees there might be (food, parking, etc).  Find out the size of the event as well so you know how many business cards to bring!

  1. Set Achievable Goals

After listening to speakers at your event, it’s important to apply what you’ve learned to your life. A great way to do this is to set new goals for yourself or your business. Setting realistic, “SMART” goals is a great way to ensure you act on them. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive. Figure out who is going to do what, where, and by when while setting your goals, and it will be easier to achieve them as well as see what was effective and what wasn’t when looking back at results.

  1. Take Notes and Ask Questions

Finally, take notes on anything that is relevant or inspires you while listening to speakers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Be an active participant in discussions. It’s a great way to connect with other audience members as well as the speakers.

For more helpful networking advice, be sure to check out the infographic below!

Infographic courtesy of What’s Up, USANA?

Succeed At Your Next Business Event

13568838_10210251683992010_2184923627438616281_oThis article was contributed by Samantha Thayer, Education and Outreach Specialist at USANA Health Sciences. For more information, find her on their blog at What’s Up, USANA? or on Twitter @USANA_Samantha!

 

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