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Top 10 Blog Posts on Life and Entrepreneurship in 2016

Best of... onlineHappy New Year! Hopefully you have recovered from your holiday celebrations and have started to think about how you plan to make 2017 your best year yet.

Before we completely move on from 2016, I wanted to take one final look back at some of the insight and inspiration we’ve shared on the Bennis Inc blog, specifically on topics related to life and entrepreneurship. As I read through the year’s worth of writing, I found myself particularly drawn to these 10 articles. I hope that they give you a renewed passion for pursuing your dreams in 2017!

Life Lesson: Are You Satisfied or Merely Distracted?

It’s easy to find things to distract us, but it’s not quite as easy to find true satisfaction in life. So often these two feelings are confused which causes us to life a “busy” life, but not a fulfilled life. This blog helps you to identify the difference and make changes in your life to achieve satisfaction.

Read the original blog here.

Best Practices for Internal Communication During a Crisis

We never want to imagine something bad happening to our business or personal reputation, which is why so often we don’t have a plan to deal with a crisis. This blog offers best practices for internal communication – that means your staff, family, etc – when life throws you a curve ball.

Read the original blog here.

Thanking Up: Sharing gratitude with your superiors

When you want to show your boss appreciation, it can be an awkward situation. How do you properly thank a superior without it appearing condescending? This blog offers tips for how to “thank up” and show gratitude for people above you in rank.

Read the original blog here.

Parenthood: Adjusting to the Ever-Changing “New Normal”

This is a personal post that focuses on the journey of parenthood combined with entrepreneurship. Spoiler alert…it most certainly has its challenges! How have I adjusted to the “new normal” of running a business while raising a growing family? Take a look!

Read the original blog here.

What My Toddler Has Taught Me About Motivating People to Say Yes

Just about every parent can agree that a toddler’s favorite word is “No.” Each day is a new challenge to motivate my children to comply with my requests. Here’s what the experience has also taught me about motivating clients to say “Yes.”

Read the original blog here.

Declutter Your Life by Asking These 5 Questions

Whether you’re a neat freak or someone who wishes they could keep their life a bit more organized, this blog post can help you declutter by asking yourself five simple questions.

Read the original blog here.

The Power of Picking Your Focus

Some of the most successful people are those who can intensely focus on one goal and see it through completion. With the start of the New Year, this is a great article to re-read to help you prioritize your resolutions.

Read the original blog here.

How Some of the Worst Jobs Have Made My Career Better

We’re all had less than favorable career experiences, but rather than chalking it up as a failure, we can choose to learn something valuable. In this blog I recap some of my worst job experiences but how they ultimately led me to a fulfilling career.

Read the original blog here.

Can an Introvert Thrive in a Career in Public Relations?

Knowing now how much of an introvert that I am, I may have never chosen to pursue a career in PR. But that would have been a mistake! Introverts can most certainly thrive in a career in Public Relations and this blog explains how.

Read the original blog here.

5 Ways You Are Spreading Negativity Without Knowing It

No one enjoys being around a negative person. However, sometimes we spread negativity without realizing we’re doing so. Start the New Year off on a positive note by reading about the five ways we spread negatively unintentionally.

Read the original blog here.

Want to explore most blog posts from Stephanie Shirley and Bennis Inc? Be our guest! Click here to browse business and success, here to browse life and here to explore all the rest.

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2017 in Business & Success, Life, Wisdom

 

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Twas The Day After Christmas…

Twas The Day After Christmas

(As retold by an entrepreneur)

Twas the day after Christmas, when all through the house
not a computer was turned on, not even a mouse.
Their cords were wrapped up in the corner with care,
in hopes that I had strength to leave them there.

Miss Pinot was nestled all snug in her bed,
while visions of toy mice danced in her head.
For once taking a cue from my sleepy, gray cat,
I settled my brain for a short winter’s nap.

Is it possible to tune out all of the clatter,
to focus on Christmas and what truly mattered?
No doubt it would feel different to completely unwind,
what’s the worst that could happen, we’d have a good time?

So from now until New Years, the blog posts can wait
there are loved ones to hug and cookies to bake.
This short disconnect will help creativity to soar
and inspire me to write better than ever before!

Until then, don’t worry what to do with your time,
make your own holidays relaxing as I’ve made mine.
Here’s my final wish before the exit I make,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a short break!”

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Posted by on December 26, 2016 in Life

 

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Avoid Making These 6 Mistakes With Your Holiday Promotions!

Weihnachtsmann mit Daumen runter

We are in the thick of the holiday season which means we are being bombarded by sales and promotions from every angle. Mailed flyers and magazines, emails and social media advertisements all contribute to the noise and whirlwind of the holiday season.

If your business is planning to run a holiday sale, be sure to avoid these common mistakes which can cause your efforts to get lost in the shuffle – or worse yet – turnoff a potential customer. Take a look!

  1. Not giving customers enough time to take advantage of the sale

Nothing will frustrate your customers quite like a sale that gives them hardly any time to react. Don’t send out a coupon or promo code that is set to expire mere hours from the time it is received. Plan ahead so that your promotion lands in the hands of your customers with at least a week to react to it. The holidays are busy enough; your customers don’t want one more “urgent” to-do added to their list.

  1. After one promotion ends, running another one that’s event better

This is a personal pet-peeve of mine. I can’t stand when businesses run a promotion touted as “the best deal of the season” only to follow it up with an even better offer the next day or next week. The customers who took advantage of the first offer will likely feel taken advantage of themselves. This doesn’t mean you can’t run multiple promotions in a season, but be sure to structure them differently so it’s not literally the same offer with a better price tag.

  1. Using generic messaging

Your holiday promotions are yet another prime opportunity to establish your brand. Don’t resort to generic messaging like “Buy now!” or “Don’t delay!” Speak directly to your customers with a message that relates to their wants and needs. Remind them why they should want what you’re selling and most importantly, why they should do business with you over a competitor. If your brand is hip and fun, reflect that in your messaging. If your brand is high-end and exclusive, again…reflect that in your messaging!

  1. Focusing too heavily on acquiring new customers

Sure, every business hopes their holiday sales bring in some new customers. However, don’t forget to pay special attention to your loyal customers who will be the ones most likely to come to your business to buy gifts for their loved ones. Send them exclusive deals and discounts and make sure they know they are receiving this because of their loyalty. Bottom line: when your customers feel appreciated they are more likely to open their wallets.

  1. Bombarding your audience with too many promotions

If you plan to send out a holiday promotion every day between now and Christmas Eve…don’t. Not only will you see your email opens drastically decrease with every passing day, you may also turn off your customers to the point where they unsubscribe entirely. Carefully think through every email you plan to send and be sure the messaging is valuable enough that even if a few people fall off your list because of it, you’ll attract enough other customers that it’s still worth it.

  1. Using scare tactics or guilt

Finally, don’t use negative sales tactics to try and gain new customers over the holidays. This is a time when people want to feel happy! By scaring them with messaging like “You’ll be the only one without…” or “This is the last chance you’ll ever have to get…” they will associate these negative emotions with your brand. Equally as damaging is using guilt like “Don’t let your child be the only one without…” or “Don’t you want to give your loved one the best…?” Keep it positive and uplifting! Sell joy, happiness and fun.

What holiday promotion tactics do you find most frustrating? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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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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6 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Public Relations

6 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Public Relations

Public Relations can be a vast and confusing field – even to us professionals who work in this very industry each and every day. What is Public Relations, or more importantly, what isn’t? Rather than dig into the deep history, which you can Google online anyways, I thought I’d share six fun facts about things you likely didn’t know about Public Relations. In doing so, I hope you learn a little bit more about the industry and understand how communication is woven into quite literally everything we do.

The Public Relations industry is credited as being 100 years old, but public influence and communications management goes back as far as ancient civilizations.

Some of the most historical figures earned their success by being influential communicators. Really, even today’s current leaders – whether that be in government, business, nonprofit, entertainment or some other industry – have risen to the top through public influence. We are always using PR tactics to communicate with one another (and to essentially get what we want) in our daily lives, we just often don’t think about it that way.

There are 7,000 Public Relations firms in the United States alone.

I don’t know about you, but that number is a lot bigger than I expected. From PR powerhouses that occupy several floors in a skyscraper, to a sole proprietor working from home, Public Relations professionals are often right around your corner. This is all the more reason to seek out their expertise to make the most of your communication efforts!

Public Relations is not a 9-5 job; it’s 24/7.

Though we mostly try and set reasonable “office hours,” we really know that when a task needs done – even if that’s at 2am – we’re going to hop online and do the job. Especially when it comes to crisis management, certain things simply cannot wait until the next business day. The media never sleeps and neither do PR professionals (though we do nap, sometimes).

An estimated 275,200 are employed in PR, but 34% may retire in 4-7 years.

The Public Relations industry fuels a lot of jobs! Just as quickly as colleges and universities are pouring out fresh talent, older professionals are also looking to retire from the game. Furthermore, the growing importance of Public Relations in nearly everything we do, creates a growing need for even more qualified communicators. The bottom line is that PR can be a very rewarding (and lucrative) career to those with both passion and talent. Don’t be afraid to jump in!

Social media press releases didn’t exist until the early 2000’s.

The Public Relations industry has vastly changed as technology has evolved. Before there was Facebook (Was there ever such a time?!), there was no need for the social media press release. Before email, press releases were faxed and before fax machines, press releases were delivered by pony express (I’m kidding, but you get my point). With every new advancement of technology, us PR professionals have to keep close tabs on how this will impact our industry.

The FedEx logo has won 40 design awards and was ranked as one of the eight best logos in the last 35 years.

fedex logo

What this fun fact really tells us is that simplicity and consistency is the key to creating a successful brand. People make Public Relations (and marketing and advertising, for that matter) far more complicated and overwhelming than it needs to be. Stick with your gut reaction and go with what makes you feel good. After all, Public Relations is really about how you make your public feel.

Do you have some other fun facts to share about the Public Relations industry? Join in the conversation by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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A Guide to the Modern Press Release

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


A Guide to the Modern Press Release

With so many newspapers scaling back or going digital, the value and effectiveness of the traditional press release has become a bit of a mystery to us all.  This has left many businesses even more confused as to how they should communicate with the media when they feel they have something important to say. Is the press release still relevant? From my conversations with print and online reporters and other PR professionals, the answer is absolutely yes! But we have to stay in tune to the changes and advancements to news sources that may alter the definition of “a great press release.” Overall, the core essentials have remained the same, yet are so often ignored – even by professionals in the field. In an effort to shed some light on the lost art of press release writing (and to adapt it to the modern art it has become) here is my general guide to writing a solid press release right now.

Modes of communication

Whether you own a fax machine or even know what one looks like, this is still one of the most common and important ways to disseminate your press release. When researching a reporter’s contact information, don’t assume the fax is an outdated system. Some reporters truly prefer receiving news this way, especially if their email inbox functions more like a black hole. The second big mode of communication is indeed email.  I’d suggest using both email and fax whenever possible, and re-sending the email after a day or two with a new subject line for a second (or third) shot at getting noticed.  Make the news relevant to each reporter (do they cover a specific interest?), their target readership and personalize the message whenever possible. Aim to build an ongoing relationship with reporters; don’t just spam them with press releases whenever you want their attention. One great way to do this is to provide them with consistently useful information in a neatly packaged press release. More on that now…

The title

Now that we covered how to get your message out there, we can dig deeper into strategically packaging your news, and of course the title will be the first thing reporters see – and judge. The title should be the most newsworthy element of your press release. While it may be tempting to stick your business’s name or your own name up there right away, this is not likely the information that will catch a reporter’s eye and make him think “my readers need to know this.” For example, Jack Smith’s Auto Shop Merges With Tasty Treats Ice Cream has no immediate relevance to a reporter. A better title might be Two Locally-Owned Businesses Combine Auto Parts, Ice Cream In Unusual Merger. Really? Yes, because the second title spells out why a reporter should care to cover this news– it’s local and it’s unusual. These are two newsworthy elements that always attract readers’ attention. The reporter will likely change the title any way for their story, so don’t worry about writing for the masses. You just need to get the attention of one person – the reporter. This is your three-second “elevator pitch” and it has to cut to the chase. You are trying to sell to the reporter; the reporter is trying to sell to the reader. Remember that.

The critical first paragraph

Once you make it past the title, there is still another part of the press release that is of paramount importance for determining whether it lands on a reporter’s desk or in a trash can. It’s the first paragraph. I was taught that the first paragraph of a press release should never exceed two sentences. These can be long sentences, but two sentences is the rule of thumb. I doubt any reporter would see three periods in a first paragraph and toss a press release out solely based on this, but sticking to this rule does get you to get to the point – fast. The first of these two sentences should be the quick attention-getter and the second should be the single sentence that summarizes the key points of the entire press release. Sound like that’s asking a lot? The first paragraph is never easy. It may be the most time you spend on putting together two sentences and it should be. This is a critical component that far too many people gloss over. You may have heard that a press release (and any news story) should be written like an upside down pyramid, with the most newsworthy information on top, working down to the least newsworthy. With this analogy, you want to be sure the biggest part of your pyramid, the first paragraph, is built rock solid.

What’s in it for…everyone else?

Once you’ve made it past the title and the first paragraph, you’re ready to dive into all the other details of your press release. But this doesn’t give you a free pass to ramble on about unrelated, non-newsworthy tidbits. Throughout all of your writing, you need to keep a single question in mind. “What’s in it for everyone else?” Write this on a sticky note, the top of your word document or your cat if you need to, but don’t lose sight of this direction! Every paragraph in your press release should have an easily identifiable WIFM (what’s in it for me?) element – with “me” being the reporter/reader. It’s easy to see what you’d be getting out of a press release that’s picked up for a news story…free press! Don’t spend too much time tooting your own horn in the content. Instead focus on why anyone else should care about what you have to say. How will they be personally affected by this news? How will they benefit having read this?

Formatting a reporter will appreciate

Reporters and journalists adhere to Associated Press (AP) Style when formatting their news stories. For Public Relations professionals, it’s an industry-best practice to write press releases in this same style to keep all formatting the same. It also adds to your credibility. Everything from when to abbreviate a city, how to format dates and time, when to capitalize professional titles and more and more and more can be found in the AP Style Book! It was a handbook I bought early on in college and still have to this day (dog-eared pages and all). Resources to help you with AP Style questions can be found all across the web. Here’s the main web page. If you think you’ll be referring to this often, I’d suggest buying a copy. It’s far too much information to ever fully commit to memory, so having a copy on hand makes life, and press release writing, a lot easier.

Common mistakes and missed opportunities

Keep it to one page – It would take a compelling news story or announcement to convince me that more than one page was absolutely needed to cover all the truly newsworthy elements. Reporters can contact you if they’re intrigued enough and want more information. That’s why you provide that information in the header. Two-page press releases seem just as obnoxious as two-page resumes. Save something for the interview!

Quotes – Quotes are a key way to say something you would otherwise just write into the press release, while calling out a specific person of importance and breaking up the content. Quotes coming from you or your client can be easily molded to say exactly what you want them to say. Just make sure you format them correctly according to AP Style!

Make use of the subtitle – This is the sentence that appears directly below the title (and before the first paragraph). It is a great opportunity to explain the title a bit further as well as include a link to your web site, if relevant. By utilizing this part of the press release, you’re less tempted to weigh your title down with too many words.

Include a boiler plate – The boiler plate is that final paragraph that appears right before the “###” which signals the end of the press release. It’s a paragraph which can stand all on its own and usually summarizes the business or organization. Instead of trying to shove this same information into the body of the press release where it may not belong, the boiler plate provides a separate and organized space to highlight the core facts about your business at the very end.

One final thought on adapting to technology…

Video news releases (VNRs) are changing the way many reporters view traditional words-only press releases. I’m not entirely convinced that VNRs will take over the market anytime soon and so I suggest sticking with the written press release, but adding in b-roll footage, video clips and photos whenever available. Especially for online news sources, the more photos and videos that accompany a story, the more enticing it is to feature it. As readers, when we surf the web we’re drawn to images. Stories that include images are that much more attractive to news sites. It’s all about the web hits and readership!

What I thought would be a quick glimpse into writing a great press release has become a lengthier guide than I anticipated. I still have so much more information I could include here, but will save that for another time. Until then, please share your own experiences and expertise on writing press releases. Is there something I missed? Something you disagree with? Or something you’ve found to be particularly effective? Please share by commenting below!

 
 

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5 Reasons Why Your Content is Turning Away Readers

5 Reasons Why Your Content is Turning Away Readers

Have you experienced this scenario? You write an article on a topic that should be exiting and relevant to your readers, but it doesn’t get the interactions you thought it would. The number of views are disappointing, there are little to no shares on social media and not a single person felt compelled enough to leave a comment.

The good (and the bad) news is that you are not alone. Especially if you are just beginning to grow your blog or e-newsletter, it can take time to build a loyal readership. However, this doesn’t give you a green light to sit back and wait for the fans to come to you. Part of the problem could be the quality of your content or how it is presented. Take a look at these 5 common problems and how to correct them to create better content.

The Title is Lame

The first thing that catches a reader’s eye, besides a great image, is the title. A great title should be two things: interesting and accurate. In the fewest words possible, you need to communicate just enough information to make someone want to read more. But be careful not to bait your readers with dramatic claims or questions that sound like something out of a tabloid. You’ll know your title isn’t doing its job if people aren’t clicking on the full article to read more or deleting the email before opening it.

Your Introduction Doesn’t Build Excitement

Let’s say you made it past the first hurdle of getting people to actually click on your blog or article to read more. You still have to prove to them that it’s worth their time to read from start to finish – and that opportunity comes in the first paragraph. Be sure to write an introduction that builds excitement and relevance. Preview the valuable information that is to come without giving away all the details.

You Lack Sub Headings to Organize the Content

Another tip for creating quality content that keeps people interested from start to finish is to use sub headings to organize your main points and make it easy for readers to digest the content in bite-size morsels.

It’s Way Too Long

Thanks to technology, we as a society feel like we always need to be multitasking. This means rarely do we give anything our full attention or more than a few minutes of our time before moving on to the next shiny object. Keep your content direct and to the point. When a reader sees he has to click through 22 slides of content or scroll down a never-ending page of words will quickly lose interest and move on to something that requires less of a time commitment.

It’s Not Mobile Friendly

Finally, you may be lacking readership because your content is not accessible where people view it most often – on their mobile device. Emails, blogs and websites should all be mobile friendly. There’s a big difference between reading an article that is formatted to fit on your phone’s screen and reading one that is not. Remember, you want to make it easy and convenient for your readers to stay and consume your content through the end. Remove every hurdle that you can!

Which one of these reasons makes you lose interest in reading an article or blog? Or is there another reason you’d like to share? Leave us a comment!

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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