RSS

Tag Archives: story

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

rawpixel-586682-unsplash

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!

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Twas the Day Before Christmas (The Business Owner’s Version)

twas the day before christmas

(As retold by a mom and entrepreneur)

Twas the day before Christmas, when all through the house
not a computer was running, not even a mouse.
Cords and chargers were stowed with care,
in hopes we had strength to leave them there.

One sleepy critter was nestled snug in her bed,
while visions of toy mice danced in her head.
For once taking a cue from my jolly, 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 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 as 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!”

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 24, 2018 in Business, Business & Success

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

T’was the Morning of Christmas (As Retold by a Mom and Entrepreneur)

T’was the Morning of Christmas

christmas break

(As retold by a mom and entrepreneur)

T’was the morning of Christmas, when all through the house
not one electronic 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.

My babies were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of toy trains danced in their heads.
Before too long, they would clamor to the tree,
to assess what Santa brought for the family.

Would I remember how to slow down and soak up the view?
As a mom and entrepreneur, it’s something I don’t often do!
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 done mine.
Here’s my final wish before the exit I make,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a short break!”

–Adapted from the holiday favorite by Stephanie Shirley
 
1 Comment

Posted by on December 25, 2017 in Life

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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!

 
5 Comments

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

 
3 Comments

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Quotes That Have Helped Shape My Life: Part II

Last week, Bennis Inc’s PR Assistant and Photographer, Danielle Gouger shared the 10 quotes that have helped shape her life. These words of wisdom inspired Bennis Inc’s Owner, Stephanie Shirley to share her own list this week. Take a read and get inspired to make this your best week yet!


10 Quotes That Have Helped Shape My Life 210 Quotes That Have Helped Shape My Life

Part II

Last week, I felt so inspired after reading Danielle’s list of 10 quotes that have helped shape her life, that I had to also get in on the action! Here’s my own list of quotes that I have compiled and carried with me from as early as childhood. Some are light and fun, others are heavy and thought-provoking, but they have all shaped my life in some way. What quotes have shaped yours?

Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” ~Unknown

I have been fortunate to already experience some of the benefits of entrepreneurship, but it’s not without some extremely hard and busy days. This quote reminds me of why those days are so worth it.

“The reason we struggle with insecurities is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” ~Steven Furtick

I think many of us can relate to this quote, especially as it pertains to social media. This reminds me to not judge, assume or envy someone else’s journey.

“You have not lived a perfect day, even though you have earned your money, unless you have done something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” ~Ruth Smeltzer

Sharing your skills and talent with someone, especially without the expectation to be paid back, is truly fulfilling.

The Price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” ~Henry David Thoreau

How simple and how true! This quote reminds me to value my time and not waste it on things I don’t love doing.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” ~Matthew 6:34 NIV

I have many bible versus that I look to for inspiration, but this is one that has come into my life time and time again. It’s a great reminder to take things one day at a time.

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.” ~Margaret Thatcher

As much as I sometimes wish to have less to do in a day, I am far more satisfied when I stay busy and productive.

“Live in such a way that if someone spoke badly about you, no one would believe it.” ~Unknown

This quote is so wise! You need not worry about what other people say about you, so long as you keep a good reputation that speaks for itself.

“Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.” ~Bob Marley

I have one vivid memory of playing in the rain with my son. I truly felt the rain that day, not just wet. I have loved this quote ever since.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” ~Greek Proverb

This quote reminds me that as much as PR focuses on the “what’s in it for me,” it’s so important to do things in life that are simply for others.

The best way out is always through.” ~Robert Frost

This quote is the great finisher to my list. I have learned, especially through some of the hardest days, that the best way to get through these moments it to keep moving forward.

 Feeling inspired to create your own top 10 list? Share a few of your favorite quotes with us by commenting below!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on September 26, 2016 in Life

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Quotes That Have Helped Shape My Life

This week’s blog was written by Bennis Inc’s PR Assistant and Photographer, Danielle Gouger. Click here to learn more about Danielle’s passion and expertise!


10 Quotes That Have Helped Shape My Life

10 Quotes That Have Helped Shape My Life

We have all stumbled upon a quote that seems to speak to our soul. It’s an inspiring, emotional and enlightening moment when you can read someone else’s words and feel like they are speaking directly to you and your situation. Best of all, some of the most powerful quotes come from people who you’d never expect to share such pearls of wisdom, making a good quote that much more of a treasure to find.

Now that you’re hopefully feeling a little inspired to read some famous words, here’s my list of the top 10 quotes that have helped to shape my life. Have they helped to shape yours, too?

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Mahatma Gandhi

This is probably the most motivating quote that has inspired me to pursue my dreams. Knowing that tomorrow is never a guarantee pushes me to want to live every day to the fullest.

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” ~ John Lennon

This is a great quote that my mom always said to me growing up, as she happened to be a Beatles fan. Her message to me was to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and instead focus on my own path in life.

“Keep calm and carry on.” ~ Winston Churchill

I have struggled with anxiety and often would get overwhelmed and stressed out over the little things in life. Telling myself this quote everyday really helps me get through the tough times and helps me not to sweat over the small stuff.

“Never give in and never give up.” ~ Hubert H. Humphrey

I have always been a resilient person and I believe this quote sums that up for me. To never allow anything to keep you down and to remember to always pick yourself back up in life.

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” ~ Anne Frank

The compassion in this quote is really in the author who wrote it. As a fan of reading the Anne Frank Diaries in grade school, you really can’t help but be inspired by her courage.

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” ~ Walt Disney

As a dreamer by nature, this quote has a special place in my heart. It is with this saying that I have the courage to pursue my dreams.

“Treat Others How You Want to Be Treated” ~ Author Unknown

This is a quote I always heard my parents tell me growing up as a kid. It is one of those life lessons that, now being a mom, I get to instill in my child.

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” ~ Dolly Parton

I absolutely adore this quote, as I grew up listening to country music. This is one of the first quotes that really made me think about its meaning, but once I understood the validity of it, I use it on a weekly basis.

“Life is like a camera. Focus on what’s important. Capture the good times. And if things don’t work out, just take another shot.” ~Ziad K. Abdelnour

This is probably one of my all-time favorite quotes given my passion for photography. It is definitely a creative and meaningful statement.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ~Aristotle

I am only recently discovering the profoundness of this famous quote, as it has taken me years to really get to know myself. I am still learning and growing as a person!

Is one of these 10 quotes your absolute favorite? Or do you have another to share? Let us know by commenting below!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on September 19, 2016 in Guest Blogger, Life

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: