Tag Archives: Writing

5 Things I’m Doing to Have the Best Year Ever

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!


5 Things I’m Doing to Have the Best Year Ever

What defines a great year? For me, it’s challenging myself with new opportunities, improving my health and well-being and spending more time doing things I love with people I love. 2016 may or may not end up being “my best year ever.” What it really comes to is mindset. I’m choosing to put my energy into doing things that will make this year better than the year before, and for that reason 2016 has a pretty good shot at being awesome – regardless of what life might throw my way!

So what am I doing to have the best year ever? Take a look…

Healthy Mind, Body, And Soul

The last few years have been a turning point in my life that has resulted in a lot of changes. From becoming a mom four years ago and single-handedly helping to care for my mother who has had a struggle with multiple health issues, I haven’t had a lot of time to focus on myself. So 2016 has really been the year of turning 30 and learning the importance of making time to take care of myself as much as I make time to care for others. I have recently joined a gym and plan to pursue fitness and make my health a priority. This is this first step toward a healthy mind, body and soul and I’m so excited for this next chapter!

Pursuing Career Path

Ultimately I want to work in the photography field, and although I am not quite there yet, I feel I have learned so much over the last several months on working in the Public Relations industry! I have a clearer direction of where I am headed and what it will take to get there. I plan on utilizing the rest of this year to set myself on the right path for the future of my career. I am just starting this journey, but am happy that I have discovered my true passion. I am getting serious about goal setting, both short-term and long-term, and am determined more than ever to work to my full potential!

Making More Time to Connect with Family & Friends

Since becoming a mom myself, I have truly realized the importance of being connected with family and friends and investing in these relationships. This year in particular, I have begun to reestablish a relationship with my father, which means the world to me. This has also helped me to reexamine my other relationships and to work toward staying connected with those who contribute to my life in a positive way.

Pursuing a Passion

In lieu of working on myself mentally and physically this year, I have made time for one of my favorite hobbies and passion in life, which is live music. Before the demands of motherhood, I used to see a lot of great live bands by going to concerts and shows as much as I could. By allowing myself time for me this year, I have made it a priority to bring back that passion and adventure that really sets my soul on fire. In fact, I have put a checkmark on my bucket list this year, by attending a Paul McCartney concert, which happens to be, hands down, the best concert of my life thus far!


Until this year I used to consider myself a gypsy, as I moved around a lot and was never truly able to settle in some place I could call home. I believe in a lot of ways that had to do with having the itch to travel and experience new places and people. As much as I love to travel, I recognized my need for establishing a home base. One of the greatest blessings this year is becoming a homeowner. I plan to balance the stability of having a home with the adventure of continuing to travel as much as I can. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the year than by taking my daughter to Disneyland for the very first time for her birthday in November! It’s truly a magical place where everyone can be a kid at heart.

What can you do to make 2016 your best year ever? It’s not too late to stating making some changes now that you’ll be proud to have accomplished before 2017.

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Posted by on October 24, 2016 in Life


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How Public Relations is different than Advertising

PR vs Advertising

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

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

Public Relations is…


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…


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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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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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!

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Posted by on September 26, 2016 in Life


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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!


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


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Shifting Away From Shift Work: Forgetting the Life of a 9-5er

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!

Forgetting the Life of a 9-5erI realized I’ve now spent more of my career as an entrepreneur, building my own business and setting my own schedule, than I have as a 9 to 5 employee to someone else. It’s a milestone I’ve proudly earned by taking many other risks and sacrifices, but I still can’t help but feel a little spoiled for the life this has provided.

When my friends or family encounter a restriction because of their work schedule, I’m oddly aloof as to what this feels like. I’m unable to recall what it’s like to have to report to a desk every day at a specific time and stay there regardless of what, if any work needs accomplished during those exact hours.

Work doesn’t always come in between 9am and 5pm and it certainly doesn’t stop coming in at all other hours of the day. This raises the question of why, with all of the technology that allows us to work from virtually anywhere, do we still chain ourselves to a desk for a block of time?

I don’t know who I should credit for its original quotation, but this following thought often weaves itself into my conversations with people who ask me about entrepreneurship. “As an entrepreneur, you get to choose the 80 hours a week you work.” The hours of work per week will change, but the message remains the same. Entrepreneurs may put in long hours, but at least we get to choose these hours. This allows us to weave work around life, travel and important events that we may otherwise have to choose between.

I jokingly say that if I worked a 9 to 5 job, I would max out my vacation days before February of each year and with every passing year this joke becomes more of a reality. I’m grateful that the length of my vacations, holiday breaks and time spent with family are at my discretion. With a husband who also runs his own non-profit, I’m quite certain that without our flexible work schedules, we would be like two ships passing in the night. Instead, I’ll join him on a business trip and work from hotels and coffee shops. Or we’ll both choose to work from home for a day to spend a little more time together.

When you’re an insomniac, they say that you’re never really asleep and never really awake. As an entrepreneur, I feel quite similar with my work schedule. At any given time I never have to be working, but I’m also never not working. Email and cell phones connect me at all times with my clients, so whether I’m sitting in front of my computer or out grocery shopping, I’m just as accessible. This allows me to do anything at any hour of the day and so I try to be strategic with when I do what. For example, entrepreneurship has allowed me to visit the doctor or hair salon at times when most people have to be at the office. I can do my grocery shopping when the store is dead rather than fighting with the weekend traffic. I also schedule my meetings to avoid rush hour so I can easily sail down the highway and spend no more time than absolutely necessary in transit. These may seem like small perks, but I couldn’t imagine life without them.

I’m barely able to remember what life was like when I had the same exact routine every morning and a set time to be out the door. Every so often these clouded memories come back when I find myself scheduled for an early morning meeting or poor planning has left me stuck in commuter traffic. My immediate reaction is “How do people do this every day?” After the moment passes and I re-enter my entrepreneurial world of constant change and variable schedules, I realize this is also a reasonable question that anyone else may choose to ask me…


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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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