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What’s More Important: Your Story…Or How You Tell It?

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It’s the Public Relations version of the chicken and the egg debate. What factor carries more weight when it comes to effectively communicating a story or message? Is it the quality of content or is it how you present it and to whom?

I’ve given this quite a bit of thought. As a Public Relations consultant, I’ve had to. At the core of what I do is help people write and share their personal or professional “stories.” After nearly a decade, I think I have the answer. Before what I share what it is, I first want to make a few things clear.

Even the best story won’t get noticed if…

It’s not told. This may sound more obvious than helpful, but it’s where so many people get stuck – the beginning. It’s challenging to put something into words, especially when that “something” is important to you. Conversely, you may think you’ve told your story or shared your message, but it doesn’t accurately capture the emotion or value you want to convey. If a story is not told, or told correctly it will never get the attention it deserves.

It’s hard to understand. Even if you put into words everything you want to say, that doesn’t mean that it is content that will get noticed. If your story is poorly written it will be hard to grasp the core message. It also won’t be enjoyable to read, which will turn people off before they get too far in.

It’s irrelevant. One of the easiest ways to annoy people is to waste their time with a story or message that is irrelevant to their interests or purposes. Worse yet, this can negatively impact your reputation and cause people to tune you out even if you do have a valuable message to share with them later on.

Even the most clever presentation will be ignored if…

It’s lacking a real story. All the glitz and graphics in the world won’t overshadow a story that has no real story. I most often see this when clients want media attention for something that’s not really newsworthy. No matter how you spin it, you’re just not going to get national media coverage for hiring a new account executive at your mid-sized firm.

It’s hitting the wrong audience. Think of what you’re trying to sell and who is most likely to buy it. It’s important to meet your target audience where they are. How do they consume media? If you’re trying to share the story of your fashion business with a local sports reporter, the chances are just about 100% that they are not interested in publishing it – at least under their column. When pulling media lists or targeting a demographic, check and re-check that you’re hitting the right audience.

It doesn’t provide value to others. If the story you’re telling is solely self-promotional, you’re not going to connect with your readers. As humans, we need to know what’s in it for us. It’s perfectly fine to have some personal gain from the story, but this needs to accompanied by a component of service, helpfulness, insight or entertainment.

The Answer

As your gut might tell you, it takes both a strong story and powerful presentation to have the best possible outcome. Either of these on their own simply isn’t enough. Throughout my career I have seen examples that reinforce this conclusion again and again. A client will come to me wanting to gain media attention for something that simply isn’t newsworthy. There’s no angle or reason anyone else would care about that particular topic. It sounds harsh, but my job is to be honest and, at times, deliver the hard truth. After all, it can save a client both money and frustration.

Or the opposite might be true. They have a great story to tell, newsworthy through and through, but the way in which it was crafted doesn’t do it justice. A story told poorly might as well be a story that is never told, because you’re not really telling the true story. It’s hidden. In this instance, there is something I can do to help. When a client comes to me with a genuinely good story to tell, it’s like striking gold. It’s extremely fulfilling when I’m able to set the story free and get it in front of the right people to amplify its reach.

If you feel you have a story to tell, keep in mind that it takes both solid content and smart dissemination to effectively share your message. That’s not to say every story or message needs to be the wittiest, most captivating thing people will ever read, but at minimum it needs to hit the points I mentioned above.

And if you’re still not sure if you have an interesting story to tell, or that it’s not being shared as well as it could be, ask a professional communicator! We know what to look for…and we’ll give you the good, the bad and the ugly.

What untold story do you have to tell? Practice your “pitch” by leaving a teaser in the comments below!

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Posted by on February 11, 2019 in Business, Business & Success, Life

 

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How to Bring Media Attention to Your Place of Business

how to bring media attention to your place of business

If your business has a brick and mortar location, it could be highly valuable to earn on-site media coverage to showcase your space and give your customers better insight into what you do and who you are. But how does a business attract media attention? If you’re among the lucky few, the media might find you; however this is not commonly the case!

Instead, you need to take matters into your own hands by developing a strategy to get in front of your desired media outlets and make it undeniable as to why they should feature your place of business in an upcoming news segment.

Take a look at a few of our tried and true tips for bringing media attention to your place of business – and commit to trying these out for yourself in 2019!

1. Find the right angle.

It takes a lot more than saying “Hey, come out and do a story on my business so I can attract more customers!” Of course that’s the underlying motive for basically every business wishing to earn media coverage, however you need to paint a more interesting picture for the media. You need to find the right angle. Some options might include a special anniversary or milestone for your business. Or maybe it’s something related to a holiday, special occasion or piece of history in your local community. If you’re really struggling to find a compelling angle, think of how you can tie your story back to something charitable or “feel good.”

 2. Put effort into your pitch.

With the right angle lined up, don’t skimp on the quality of your pitch. The key to a perfect pitch is to find the right balance of being direct, courteous and creative. Make sure to address the WIFM (What’s In It For Me) so that the media can clearly see how this would interest their audience. With a quality pitch and a creative angle, you will drastically increase your chances of getting picked up.

 3. Follow-up and follow-through. 

Now that you have their attention, you need to follow-up with your pitch. If you get an interested response, act quickly. Nail down the time and location of the interview – and all the nitty gritty details. Quickly decide who will be on air and their key talking points. Make it as easy and seamless as possible for the media to cover a great story and you will form the foundation for a long-term relationship that could yield more coverage in the future!

On the flip side, should you get a “No” response, or no response at all, you need to follow-through. Be persistent, but friendly. In your follow-up email ask for a courtesy “No” if they have left you hanging, simply so you can close the books on this pitch. If they do say “No” kindly ask for a piece of advice as to how you can better pitch to them in the future. Maybe they don’t cover that beat – but you might be able to find a new angle in the future that does align with their topics.

 4. Make the most of the media coverage.

If you’ve successfully earned media coverage for your business, be your own best publicity! Ask how soon a link to the story will be ready and set a strategy for sharing. You’ll want to get this out on your social media outlets (personal and business) as well as finding a place for it on your website. Depending upon the coverage, you might also want to further promote it with sponsored social media posts, or create a blog post to tell the story of the behind-the-scenes aspect of the day. There is no limit as to how you can share quality content!

 5. Don’t lose momentum – plan for the future!

Finally and most importantly, don’t lose momentum. You deserve a pat on the back for a successful media pitch, but then it’s time to get back to work. How can you harness the power of this first feature story? Are there other outlets that may now be interested in doing a story as well? Can you find a new angle? Or maybe your strategy is to let a little time pass and then pitch a new angle in the next month or so. The more media coverage you get in a moderate amount of time, the more people will wonder what all the buzz is about!

Have you had success in earning press coverage at your place of business? Share your success story or ask a question that we can help you answer!

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2019 in Business, Business & Success

 

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6 Ways to Grow Your Media Relationships

6 Ways to Grow Your Media Relationships

If you work in the field of public relations, advertising, even marketing, it’s inevitable that you will need to interact (i.e. get along) with the media to some degree. In fact, it’s absolutely to your advantage to forge real relationships – you know, the kind where you know a little bit about each other and try to help each other out, rather than just use one another.

But this can feel like a daunting task, especially if you are just beginning your career. The most critical thing you should remember is that members of the media are people, too. They’re not out to “get you” and hearing “no thanks” surely won’t kill you. So why not play nice and get something of mutual value out of it? Here are my six top tips for growing a meaningful relationship with media contacts.

  1. Become a (genuine) fan.

I’m not referring to Twitter (though following media contacts on social media isn’t the worst place to start). Rather, I’m talking about learning what beats each reporter regularly covers. Read their work, make note of topics that could relate to one or more of your clients, and most importantly give credit where credit is due. Recently a reporter used a press release I sent him to heavily and favorably cover one of my client’s issues. He included quotes I provided in the release, and he also sought out quotes from local individuals to fully flesh out the article. I truly appreciated his thoroughness. So I wrote him an email. I thanked him for using pieces of our press release and applauded him for seeking out additional quotes beyond a single source. He was flattered. As a result of this small step toward building a relationship, I feel like I can now reach out to him directly to pitch my next story.

  1. Take advantage of networking opportunities.

If you’re on the lookout for them, you will find that there are some very valuable networking opportunities to be had with members of the media. As a member of the Pennsylvania Public Relations Society (PPRS), I attended a recent meeting that was a “speed dating” mixer with just about every local media outlet represented. I was sure not to miss this event! As a result, I got great advice, lots of business cards and a handful of valuable invitations to “Pitch me anything you can think of!” I’ve already taken advantage of this for some of my clients. I can’t stress enough that meaningful media relationships, especially ones you can make face-to-face, will make your job easier, save you from the unknown and make you look like a rock star to your clients.

  1. Don’t hide your motives.

When you introduce yourself to a member of the media as a public relations professional, it’s pretty hard to hide your motives. After all, we are paid for our earned media placement and the gatekeepers to this are members of the media. Rather than being coy, I have found that being direct, honest and humble goes a lot further. I try to find a way to make light of the conversation, but also cut right to the chase. The media is hungry for quality content, and we have incentive to provide exactly that! Don’t hide your motives. Let the media know what you want, and they can then tell you what they need.

  1. Provide quality, ready-to-publish content.

Being friendly and professional with the media will help you make initial contact and get their attention, but what you do once they’re listening is the most important part of forming a lasting relationship. You must deliver quality, ready-to-publish content – or at least accurate and useful news tips that they can turn into their own story. If you prove to be anything but a reliable source, don’t wonder why members of the media stop answering your phone calls and emails. Proof and fact check your content, be responsive and go the extra mile to make yourself a valuable resource.

  1. Be proactive with your pitch.

When trying to get publicity for your clients, don’t wait for the opportunity to come knocking on your door. It reasonably won’t. Another piece of growing media relationships is to be proactive with your pitch. Reach out to them early and often. Sell them on the value of your idea. Help connect the dots so they can see how your story relates to their readership and their reporting style.

  1. Ask how you can help.

Most important, be genuinely interested in learning how you can help a reporter out. Ask them what topics or beats they’re covering right now and what some upcoming topics might be. You may be in position to lend some expertise, or to hook them up with a contact who can. Build a relationship based on trust and reliability. The more your media contacts know they can turn to you as a “connector” to help piece a story together, the more opportunities you’ll have to plug clients into these key opportunities.

Do you have another point to add that has helped you grow your relationship with media contacts? Share your advice by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2018 in Business & Success

 

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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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Why Didn’t My Press Release Get Picked Up?

Upset disappointed young businessman sitting with hands on head

Whether we PR professionals want to come to terms with it or not, the media is not our mouthpiece that will print exactly what we want, when we want it. They are the ultimate gatekeepers who determine the extent of media exposure that will be granted to us or our clients. The sheer volume of press releases that cross their desk each and every day ensures that only a fraction will receive review, and an even fewer number will be published in some capacity.

But don’t despair! Rarely is an ignored press release a direct reflection on your business or your media relations skills. Rather it could be any number of possible circumstances. Take a look:

It wasn’t really news.

The hard truth is that you’re likely to think everything your organization does is newsworthy because, well, it involves you. It can sometimes require taking a step back and role playing a reporter to determine whether or not something is worthy of media attention. Just because it’s not a good fit for the media, doesn’t mean you can’t promote it in other ways. Utilize your website, blog, social media, and newsletter to tell your story.

It was overly promotional.

Be sure to learn the best practices of writing a press release. Your headline can make or break your chances of getting picked-up. If you start off overly promotional, with a heavy focus on your business or brand, this is a huge red flag to a reporter that this isn’t a helpful “news hint,” it’s a PR tactic. As much as a client may want to see their name in the title, explain to them that this isn’t the best media-bait.

You’ve used this angle, again and again.

Is your strategy to, every month, announce the new businesses to whom you’ve sold services or goods? The first time you do this is the best chance you’ll have at gaining media attention. Every press release after that is beating a dead horse, in the eyes of the media. Reserve this angle for a truly noteworthy client, or present your new client information in a unique way. It’s easy for the media to spot a template press release which will quickly get you tossed in the “no” file.

It got stuck in spam.

There are major benefits to using an email platform like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact to send out your press releases. However, they can increase your chances of getting you sent to a spam folder. I’ve had my own clients’ emails skip my inbox and head straight for the spam folder, even after I marked previous messages from the same sender as “not spam.” The bottom line is to track your analytics, as these email platforms allow you to do. If it seems like a low percentage of contacts are opening your email, it may be due to their spam filters.

It was poorly written.

Another hard truth is that your press release may been poorly written to a point that your media contacts couldn’t see the value in the information you were sharing. I again reference the best practices of press releases to ensure you have the greatest advantage of getting picked up. You need to write to the media’s preference, not your own. Learn to embrace AP style!

You relied solely on a “Wire” for distribution.

You are likely familiar with PR wire services such as PRWeb, PR Newswire, and Business Wire. I have yet to have a client truly benefit from any pick-ups received from such services. I believe the value lies in personal contact, not some syndication service. Even if you’re hitting a list of several hundred media contacts, you are far more able to personalize your messaging and track their engagement from traditional email. Don’t waste your time or money!

You gave up too soon.

Finally, and most importantly, you may have just given up too soon. I have yet to receive a single complaint from a member of the media for sending out the same press release twice, each with a unique headline. Sometimes you hit them on a busy news day when they just don’t have the capacity to cover your story. A few days later might be the perfect timing for when they need a story like yours. Try and try and again – but two times is the perfect number. Anything more than that could work against you.

Most importantly, don’t drive yourself crazy over-analyzing the reasons your press release may have been overlooked – and don’t stop trying! Tomorrow is another news day.

Can you empathize with this experience? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment.

 

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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