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Oh the Places You’ll…Work!

the places you'll work

It’s a Dr. Seuss book that has become the standard gift to give someone for graduation, “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” I have my own copy stored somewhere. I truly haven’t thought much about this book since my own college graduation, but recently the words in that title have never been truer of my professional life.

Sure, since starting my own PR firm nearly seven years ago, I suppose I have gotten to go to a lot of new places. But that’s not what made me think of this book. Rather, if Dr. Seuss were to write a book about my life these last few weeks it would be called “Oh the Places You’ll…Work!”

I have always enjoyed that my career allows me to work from virtually anywhere. Most often I’m comfortable in my home office, or I’d get out to park or coffee shop to enjoy a change in scenery. However, since hiring our au pair, both of my young sons are in or around our home during the day. The convenience of this is awesome, but there’s definitely the drawback that they can and will find me – often at the most inopportune times.

Lately, I’ve had to ditch my home office and seek out workspace away from the home. What I’ve discovered is a treasure trove of free work spaces all throughout my town. What felt like a minor inconvenience, has opened my eyes to some pretty creative ways entrepreneurs – or moms who simply want to drink a cup of coffee in peace – can set up “shop” just about anywhere. Here are my favorites thus far!

College campuses – I’m fortunate to live within walking distance to a small private college, Messiah College. While I’ve walked this campus for years, I’ve never really stepped foot inside their buildings. Once I did, I found a handful of perfect co-working spaces. A college or university is a prime spot for pop-up offices. They have free wifi, plenty of quiet areas, ample outlets, and open desks/tables/chairs to suit your needs. In Messiah’s library, there are even glassed in private work spaces that are first come first serve! Usually there’s a café or coffee shop nearby too. So this has become my favorite virtual office as of late.

The gym – Sounds weird, but it’s efficient! Our local YMCA has free wifi, coffee and a comfortable lounge area in the entrance. In an effort to get out of the house as quickly as possible in the morning, I head to the gym. I usually have a few hours to kill before my preferred workout class, so I’ll pop open my laptop, drink a cup of coffee and start my day. Then I can enjoy a workout knowing my email is under control and I have a handle on my to-do list for the day.

Co-working spaces – As you might have picked up from the theme of this article, I’m just really against paying for office space. A lot of our local co-working spaces come with a monthly fee; however, I’ve learned where in other cities this is offered for free. I often find myself in State College, Pennsylvania for both work and social obligations. Here, they have an incubator/accelerators space called Launch Box. This is a free resource for students and entrepreneurs to work, get mentored and learn from other entrepreneurs. All around it’s just a fun environment! As a bonus, it’s located right down town so grabbing a quick lunch while working is very convenient.

Coffee shops – This is a pretty standard go-to work space for many entrepreneurs. I’ll usually go to a coffee shop if I have a meeting scheduled there. I’ll arrive a little early and get in some extra work time before taking the meeting. I don’t use coffee shops as my regular workspace because they tend to get loud and crowded. Also places like Panera will cut off your wifi after so many hours. All that being said, coffee shops make great workspace options while you’re on the road and unfamiliar with other options in the area.

Libraries – Libraries make for okay workspaces. I suppose it depends upon your local library. This is a great option if you really need to dig deep into a project and require silence. Libraries don’t work so well when you need to take phone calls throughout the day – or you’re like me and tend to be a loud snacker.

Client’s office – I have several clients who graciously offer me unlimited use of their office space. This is ideal when I’ll already be in the area and need some workspace in between meetings. It’s a great way to get regular facetime with your client as well. For me, I get to enjoy working a day or so a week from a very nice office space right across the street from Pennsylvania’s Capitol building. I can take meetings in the conference room or meet up with a friend for lunch. I bill this as my “social” day – which one day a week is usually enough for me!

Outside – I’ve been able to find some really nice outdoor work spaces too. They key is to find shade otherwise it becomes extremely tedious to find your mouse on a screen that has a glare from the sun. It can also get hot and uncomfortable! I like working outside for an hour or so and then heading indoors. It’s a great way to add some variety to your day and get a dose of energy during those sleepy afternoon hours.

And some pretty unusual spaces…

While these are not my “typical” nor preferred workspaces, it’s fun to reflect on some of the outrageous places I’ve been able to accomplish work. Luckily having small children has given me the ability to focus through just about anything, which is what makes this possible! Some of my unusual office spaces include: golf course, casino, carwash, grocery store, mechanic, doctor’s office, airplane, train, car, bus (pretty much every type of transportation), bar, beach and many more I can’t remember!

Do you benefit from having a virtual work environment? Share some of the best places you’ve found to work remotely outside a traditional office or home office!

 

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How to Use Data to Improve Your Public Relations and Marketing Strategy

data

We have more data available to us now than we ever had before. While this sounds like it should enable us to create stunningly sophisticated public relations and marketing campaigns that are fine tuned to attract our target audience, I have found that rarely is the case.

Rather, I often meet clients when they are completely overwhelmed by the data available to them. Instead of doing anything with it, they spend hours reviewing each morsel until they’re simply paralyzed by the thought of making a meaningful assessment of it. The following phase is frustration. Where do I find my data? What data really matters? How do I analyze my data? And what do I do with my analysis?

These are all valid questions and ones I aim to answer in this blog. What I’m about to say might shock you and that is that data alone will not be what makes – or breaks – your public relations and marketing strategy. While data absolutely plays an important role, don’t let it overwhelm you to the point you feel you aren’t qualified to learn how to extract its most important information – quickly and easily. Let me show you how!

Where do I find my data?

As you might have already learned, and the reason you’re reading this blog, is that data is available to you just about everywhere these days. “Analytics” for your website, “insights” for your social media profiles, “statistics” for your blogs and then you can get into highly sophisticated and targeted data tracking like heat mapping for your website and much more.

My point is not to make you feel like you need to be monitoring all of this data each and every day, rather I simply want you to be aware that data is available virtually everywhere you have an online presence. By first learning how different platforms refer to and present their data to you, you will have taken the first major step toward taming the “data monster” and turning it into a powerful ally for your business.

What data really matters?

Who is you target audience and what do you want to know about their behaviors? The data that shows you this is the data you should pay the most attention to. Say I am a local plumbing business what a small service area that’s about a 60 mile radius. I look to Google analytics to tell me who is visiting my website and if they are people who reside within my service area. If I find that a large percentage of my pay-per-click (PPC) ads are pulling in people from 100+ miles away, this data matters to me a lot! Why? It means I need to refocus my PPC campaign to target only people in my service area. If I don’t, I’m throwing money away on clicks from people who I’ll reasonably never take on as customers.

It all ties back to your PR and marketing strategy. Knowing your ideal customer allows everything else to fall into place. If you’re looking to hit millennials, you’re going to place a higher value on your Instagram insights than your Linkedin business page. Know your audience and you will know the data that really matters.

How do I analyze my data?

First, you need to establish a baseline. What is “normal” traffic to your website or interactions on your social media? Spend a few months first tracking what takes place prior to implementing anything drastic. What do these results tell you? If you’re like most small businesses, these results are going to be pretty boring, even borderline depressing.

Now the fun begins! Based on your PR and marketing strategy (because everything, and I mean everything you do should align with this), you may start to roll out a social media advertising campaign, contest or promotion, or a Google AdWords campaign. Give it 30-60 days and compare your new data against your baseline. What changed? What didn’t? You’re likely to be surprised by the answers to both of these questions. This is when you need to take your data analysis and use it to refine your PR and marketing strategy. And this brings us to…

What do I do with my analysis?

So you’ve made it to the point of actually analyzing your data on a regularly basis. You’re on your way! You will likely have identified quite a number or trends, good and bad, that you want to adjust in some way or another. But what changes need to take place and how do they fit into your overall PR and marketing strategy? This is a critical question to answer!

Let’s look at an example. By tracking and analyzing your blog’s traffic over the last quarter, you see that two of your blog posts received substantially more views than the rest. You dive deeper into the data to find most of the traffic was because another website linked out to these posts from their own blog. Without looking at the data, you might not have known your blog got a back link! Seeing that this website gave your blog a new burst of traffic, you should reach out to the owner and start a conversation. Work to build a relationship with them where you can collaborate on future blogs and cross-promote them to your audiences. Though driven by data, ultimately it’s the human relationships that result from the data that are most valuable.

Here’s another example to consider. When analyzing your Facebook insights, you see that a recent photo you shared of your staff got a significantly higher engagement from your fans than other posts that shared things like links to other articles, quotes or a promotion. Take note! Your fans appreciate seeing the “human” side of your business and want more of it. Change up your social media content calendar to include more personal photos of you and your staff, biographies and the story of how your business started.

While these are two pretty brief examples, I hope they give you inspiration for how you might take the analysis of key data and turn it into beneficial change for your business. Though we would be foolish to ignore the data available to us, be careful you don’t lose focus – or common sense. Data is merely one of many tools we must learn to use appropriately. Consistency, quality and authenticity should always remain the backbone of your business’s PR and marketing strategy.

How do you incorporate the analysis of data into your public relations and marketing strategy? Share whether this is something you do – or don’t do well and why!

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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7 Public Relations Tactics You Need to Implement in 2018

7 Public Relations Tactics You Need to Implement in 2018If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of all the new strategies you think you need to implement into your business plan in 2018, I urge you to step back, take a breath and find a clear focus on what’s going to really make a difference in your business.

You don’t have to do it all! In fact, you simply can’t. If you have a limited amount of time and resources to devote to your public relations strategy this year, you need to prioritize these seven tactics that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Here’s what they are!

  1. Get serious about collecting customer contact information

All too often I meet with clients who are excited to finally implement an email marketing strategy to reach their customers. The glaring problem? They have failed to consistently collect this contact information over the years! Right now is absolutely the best time to develop your process for compiling customers’ names and emails. Even if you’re not quite ready to roll out regular emails to them, you will never regret having their contact information for future use!

  1. Position yourself as a thought-leader

Is one of your business goals for 2018 to rise above your competition as the go-to resource for information related to your industry? You know, do you want to be considered a “master of your craft?” If so, you need to have a strategy for positioning yourself as a thought-leader. You can achieve this through many different means, and in fact, it’s important that you approach it from all angles so that you’re reaching people in multiple ways.

Look to social media platforms like Linkedin where you can tailor your profile content and the articles you publish to achieving this goal. Speak like an expert! Regularly post content to your website and social media profiles that shares timely, insightful information on changes and trends taking place in your industry. Join group discussions where you can ask and answer questions. The more you put yourself out there and engage with other people, the more you will build a name for your personal and professional brand.

  1. Refresh your website content

Think of it like spring cleaning for your brand! If you haven’t reviewed and refreshed your website content in the last 12 months, it’s time to dust it off! Think of how you have grown since the time you wrote this content. You’ve likely gained new clients, added new services or hired new employees. Maybe you’ve restructured your business model entirely! All of these reasons, and many more, are why you need to refresh your website content in 2018. It doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul either. A few tweaks here and some updates there will quickly bring your content up to speed, increase your SEO and more accurately reflect the current state of your business.

  1. Have a strategy for self-promotion

To successfully use public relations strategies to benefit your business, you need to get comfortable with self-promotion. If you’re not promoting your accomplishments, successes and awards, I promise you that not one else will either. This year, commit to tastefully and tactfully enhancing your brand by calling attention to notable achievements. There are a variety of PR tactics to accomplish this, and it will mostly depend upon what you’re promoting and your target audience. You can send out press releases, host a press conference, make it part of your email newsletter, showcase it on your website, post it to social media and much more. What’s most important it that you keep an eye out for opportunities to promote yourself – and take them!

  1. Be prepared to handle a crisis

On any given day, you will see a new scandal or crisis come across the news cycle. Whether this has to do with the business as a whole, or one of the employees, not having a plan to respond to such a crisis can have devastating effects. This year, get serious about mapping out your crisis communication strategy, both internally and externally. It doesn’t have to be an extensive document, but it needs to answer key questions such as who will serve as the spokesperson, will you issue a press release, how will you communicate what’s going on internally, how will you communicate with the public that the problem is being appropriately handled. Anticipate the most common crises your particular business is at risk of experiencing and outline some key talking points in advance. You’ll be extremely grateful to have thought this through prior to a crisis occurring.

  1. Focus on the social media that matters

You can’t do it all and do it well. As the world of social media continues to expand at a rapid rate, you will need to get strategic about where you choose to devote your time. This year, narrow your focus to only the social media platforms that reach your target audience. Be realistic about the time you can devote to maintaining your social media presence. Do your research to understand the demographics each type of social media hits as well as the best practices for effectively engaging your audience. If it doesn’t align with your goals, don’t waste your time here!

  1. Get professional help

While the struggles and stresses of business ownership might make you feel like you need to see a therapist some days, this isn’t the kind of professional help I’m referring to here. Rather, this year I urge you to really assess the value of your time and how it is best spent. Hiring a professional PR consultant to help with strategy and implementation could be a very wise investment. Their years of experience and relationships in the PR field will yield far greater results than what you could achieve on your own. Moreover, your time is better spent focusing on business development and operations, so that when implemented, the PR tactics drive customers to a thriving business that is equipped to handle their requests.

Which of these seven public relations tactics do you plan to implement in your own business in 2018? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2018 in Business & Success

 

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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Better Time Management

5 New Year_s Resolutions for Better Time Management

Some of my very first blog posts have focused on the topic of time management. I’m passionate about discovering new ways to efficiently use my time so that I can have the greatest impact on my clients while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The reality is, it will always be a work in progress and sometimes I slide back into old habits that leave me feeling overwhelmed.

For 2018, I want to refresh my time management tools to make this year my most fulfilling one yet, both on the professional and personal sides of life. If you find that you’re already struggling to keep you head above water in these first few weeks of January, I urge you to join me in making five small, but impactful New Year’s resolutions. The common goal of these resolutions is to help you balance your life so you’re doing more of what you love, and being mentally present in the moment to fully enjoy it.

Take this resolution with me! In 2018, I will…

  1. Start my morning with a clear “inbox”

Several years ago (once my kids were finally on good sleep schedules), I began to wake up one hour earlier than the rest of my family. I used this time to wake up, drink a cup of coffee and clear out my inbox. By the time everyone else was waking up, I had handled many small tasks and outlined the tasks I needed to accomplish that day. I could then close my computer and enjoy those morning hours with my family.

By the time my husband and sons were off to their respective locations for the day, I could again open up shop and jump right into my core tasks. I found this single hour in the morning gave me so much more patience and peace of mind to be present with my family. While there may be some mornings I choose to hit snooze, I resolve this year to use this “power hour” at least 3 times per week, or as needed.

  1. Keep an organized to-do list for each day

I have always kept a rolling to-do list of every task on my plate at a given time. However, this year I resolve to take things up a notch and organize this a bit further. I find that by placing my to-do’s on a list on my computer, I no longer carry around the mental weight of trying to remember it all. I also love the satisfaction of deleting something from my to-do list.

This year, I plan to keep a daily to-do list where I can spread out and prioritize my work tasks over the course of the week. In doing so, I know that I merely need to accomplish what is on today’s to-do list to stay on track. One long list can be paralyzing to tackle. Rather, a list that breaks it down by day and order of importance is far more manageable.

  1. Manage other people’s expectations of my time

This is an important one! Typically I try and complete work tasks as quickly as I can for my clients, often giving them same-day service. While this has helped to build up a great book of business, adhering to this standard every single day is neither reasonable nor necessary. Rather, this year I resolve to manage people’s expectations of my time, both professionally and personally. I plan to assign a realistic deadline so everyone is on the same page and so that it works into my workflow without causing undue stress. I anticipate I will often deliver tasks in advance of the deadline, which is all the better for building a good reputation with clients! But having a deadline as my buffer will help me retrain myself that many tasks can wait while I prioritize other things in my day like relaxation and family.

  1. Block schedule my time

Another secret to getting the most out of the hours in my day is to use a block scheduling strategy. On days when I have one out-of-the-home meeting scheduled, I try to schedule a few others as well. There are a few reasons for doing this. First, I know I will already be out and about and professionally dressed (not always the case when working from home!). Second, having just one meeting during the day really breaks my concertation and work flow. If it’s going to get broken anyways, I may as well make it worth it by blocking most of that day out for other meetings.

On the flip side, days when I have no meetings or phone calls scheduled, I am very protective of this time and strategically plan nothing else on such a day. I know I can get into a deep concertation and plow through a lot of work tasks that would typically take me far more time if disrupted by anything else. I love these days just as much as I love my client meeting days. It’s all about balance – and something that I resolve to gain more of in the New Year.

  1. Decline or outsource tasks I don’t have the time or desire to take on

When you spend any part of your career as an entrepreneur, you quickly learn to say yes to any work that comes your way. However, once you’ve built a solid business, you need to remove yourself from the trap of trading your time for tasks that don’t pay your market rate or that you simply down enjoy. While I have gotten better each year, I want to make a conscious effort in 2018 to decline or outsource tasks I don’t have the time or desire to take on. This applies to work tasks as much as it applies to household tasks.

Consider what you time is worth. If you can work an extra hour or two and afford someone else to do something you don’t enjoy, like clean your home, it’s more than break even! Before you start turning down or having someone else take on work for you, get a good grip on your budget and understand your “hourly rate.” Then, gradually transition into letting other people help you get things done. After all, it’s an opportunity to someone else to make a living too!

Have you made a resolution for the New Year? Does it focus on time management or something else? Share what you hope to accomplish in 2018 by leaving a comment below!

 

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Top 10 Blog Posts on Life and Entrepreneurship in 2017

2017 blog postsHappy New Year! I hope you woke up today inspired to tackle your goals for 2018. Whether it’s kicking a bad habit, taking better care of yourself or going after a new job, everything starts with that first step. I hope I can offer you some motivation to take your first step toward reaching your New Year’s goals and resolutions with a special blog post. I’ve compiled the top articles from 2017 on life and entrepreneurship that you, the readers, helped to show me were among your favorites.

While today is a day to look toward the future, I want you to join me on one last look back at 2017 and the topics that inspired thousands of you to possibly join me on an entrepreneurial journey!

#10 The Benefit of Business Turnover in the New Year

In the business world, it seems like when it rains it pours. Losing a few clients back-to-back can feel like the walls are caving in around you. Will you survive? The short answer is – yes. In fact, business turnover can be a prime opportunity to restructure and rebuild an even better business model that will service you well into the future.

Read the original blog here.

#9 Five Things You Can Immediately Do To Gain More Business

Speaking of rebuilding your business, did you know there are five things you can implement right now to gain more business? No gimmicks, just honest advice. Don’t overlook the low hanging fruit that could be at your fingertips right now!

Read the original blog here.

#8 How to Plan an Event That Inspires Guests

I’ve planned a lot of events throughout my career and have witnessed the stark contrast between events and events designed to inspire their guests. The difference in outcomes is substantial. Whether you’re a non-profit on mission to raise funds or a for-profit business looking to give back to the community, I share my tips for planning an event that inspires guests to act.

Read the original blog here.

#7 How to Win Over a Client in the First Meeting

In business, your first meeting is like a blind date. You and the client both arrive hoping to hit it off, but that doesn’t always happen. In most instances, you are in control to make a good first impression and win over the client in the first meeting. This blog shares how you can do that!

Read the original blog here.

#6 Five Signs a Client is Not a Good Fit for Your Business

As much as you want to win over a client, you don’t necessarily want to work with every client who comes your way. Why? Well sometimes a client isn’t a good fit for your business. Maybe it’s their budget, their values or their attitude. Here are five signs a client is not a good fit for your business.

Read the original blog here.

#5 The Two Week Evaluation Every Entrepreneur Should Take

Are you a business owner/entrepreneur? Then you most definitely want to start the New Year with this two week evaluation. Find out if what you’re currently doing is aligned with what you hope to achieve. Are you happy? Satisfied? Balanced? I know I’ll be starting 2018 with this two week evaluation!

Read the original blog here.

#4 Low Cost and No Cost Business Tools Every Entrepreneur Should Use

This proved to be a very popular blog post in 2017! It seems that most business owners can relate to the topic of wanting to find low cost and no cost tools to help their business run as efficiently and lean as possible. Check out what I use and recommend!

Read the original blog here.

#3 What No One Tells You About a Career in Public Relations

I’ll be honest. When I chose a career in public relations, I really didn’t know what it was. I knew it required writing and communicating, which I love to do. However, there are some significant details about choosing a career in PR that no one told me. It’s likely they didn’t even know what this wild ride would include! So I’ve shared what I learned to hopefully educate some future passionate PR professionals.

Read the original blog here.

#2 Seven Things I Will Never Have as a Business Owner

While owning your own business will provide you with a lot of advantages, there are a few things I know I’ll never have as a business owner. But it’s not all bad! Take a look at what you can expect to kiss goodbye whenever you take the entrepreneurial leap.

Read the original blog here.

#1 How to Create the Job You Want

And the number one blog post from 2017 on life an entrepreneurship was “How to Create the Job You Want!” I’m not surprised. Who wouldn’t want to learn how to take control of their career by creating their dream job? Yeah that sounds glamorous and easy and I caution you that it’s not. However, I share some useful and practical advice for taking the initial steps toward creating a job that you love to wake up to each day.

Read the original blog here.

Which of these top 10 blog posts on life and entrepreneurship inspired you the most? What topics would you like to see me touch upon in 2018? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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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 to Promote Your Business Using Public Relations

How to Promote Your Business Using Public Relations

So your business has done something awesome. Maybe you’ve set a new record, received an award, given back to the community or opened a new location. You want to get credit for your good work, but you’re not sure how to get anyone to pay attention. What can you do?

The good news is there are a lot of ways in which you can promote your business using public relations. Here’s a look at the top 6 PR tactics I recommend using when you want to promote your business, or even you – personally!

  1. Press Release

Not everything is worthy of a press release. I mean, you can still put the time and effort into sending one out but the media is not really going to care unless your news is deemed interesting to their readers. Be strategic with the angle of your press release. Be sure to clearly answer the question “What’s in it for me?” that readers will likely have. If your business received an award, great! But why should anyone else care. That’s what you need to focus on if you want your press release to get picked up.

  1. Letter to the Editor

Unlike a press release, writing a letter to the editor is an opportunity to share your opinion. You must be factual, but you can also add your personal insights. You can use a letter to the editor to promote your business indirectly, yet still effectively. Keep a lookout for recent news or events that relate to your industry. Offer your advice or bring to attention a larger issue impacting your community. Most importantly, you will be given a byline, which you should be sure includes your business’s name and website.

  1. Guest Column

Contributing to a guest column is another great way to gain media attention for your business. Your writing will be published in the main news sections, which is an advantage over letters to the editor or op-ed pieces which can sometimes get buried. Some outlets openly welcome guest contributors and post their rules for submission on their website. Others are less clear. You should reach out to reporters who regularly cover your industry or area of expertise. Most importantly, be sure you provide high quality content and are timely with your responses. If you can build a relationship with a reporter, you will have the opportunity to contribute again and again.

  1. Media Pitch

If you have something really newsworthy to promote, consider reaching out to reporters and pitching them your story. If you can earn a live feature story at your place of business, this is a highly valuable marketing opportunity! Now, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. You need to make sure your pitch is clear and compelling. Again, be sure to answer the “What’s in it for me?” by making it obvious how your story impacts their audience.

  1. Public Speaking
    You don’t need to be a polished public speaker to make this PR tactic work for your business. If you have a compelling story to share, maybe it’s how you’ve grown your business or how you’re giving back to the community, you can promote your business and its work through public speaking. Think of local clubs and organizations that often have featured speakers. Reach out to them and pitch the idea of having you as their next guest speaker. Getting in front of your local community is a great way to grow your presence, and grow your business as a result.
  2. Case Studies

If absolutely nothing else, you can always promote your business through case studies. Do you have an exceptional customer story to share? Has your products or services drastically improved someone’s life? Writing case studies for such examples will help to illustrate what your business does. You can then take these case studies and promote them on your website, social media, e-mail newsletters and by sharing them with specific potential customers who can relate to them. The best thing about case studies is that you’re not relying on the media or someone else to make sure they get published – you’re in control of how and where they are promoted!

Which of these tactics do you see most valuable for promoting your business? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

 

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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