October 28, 2013

Future PR Pros Ready For Action

I’ve always believed that it’s important to give back to the profession that has provided me with not only a career but also an opportunity to help companies share their stories.  That’s why it was easy to accept an offer from a good friend and colleague to speak at his PR writing class at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle.   If these students are any indication of how our profession will fare in the future, I’m happy to report good news.

What impressed me the most about the class was its members’ levels of sophistication and willingness to connect outside of the classroom for additional insights.  At least three of the students sent me LinkedIn requests and asked for the chance to meet for coffee.

Our class discussion focused on the changing PR landscape and how to create strategy and content in this new world of fewer reporters and publications.  They were most interested to learn about how companies are creating internal newsrooms to write news-based stories that are shared across their social media networks.

The students were also very interested to know the specific skill sets needed to be competitive among their peers for entry-level PR positions.  We joked about this tech-savvy generation being already so far ahead of the rest of us and the advantages of being able to integrate their knowledge of technology devices and tools into marketing and PR campaigns.

I left the lecture grateful for the opportunity to share and excited about the future of PR.  I even thought for a minute how great it would be to attend classes again.  Then I quickly regained my senses.

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July 24, 2013

Is it time to review your company message?

We’re all competing for attention in a world of 24/7 news cycles and information overload. In order to gain brand awareness and market share, it’s critical for your company to have a clear, compelling and impactful message.  The reality is that few companies are able to devote the time and resources needed to tell a story in a simple and attractive manner.  Executives can be indifferent to messaging summits or hiring outside resources, both of which might be needed to achieve the desired results.

So how do you know when it’s time to review the company message?  Even startups can find themselves using outdated messaging in a time when technology is evolving at light speeds.  Some obvious indicators include a rapidly shrinking sales funnel and lack of press coverage.  At the same time, thanks to an easily digestible message,  a competitor is securing high profile media coverage.

If this is the case for your company, it might be a good idea to present a preliminary analysis to executives with the recommendation that it’s time to conduct a message review.  Since this can be a sensitive subject, make sure you’ve done the necessary legwork and are prepared for push back.  But when you get the green light to proceed, consider these tips to help ensure success:images

All-In.  Since the new message will permeate throughout every department, it’s critical to require the participation of all key executives.  This will help ensure that the message is supported across the entire organization.

No Sacred Cows.  The exercise will only work if everyone takes an objective approach to determine the best message based on your target audience.  Anything less will prove fruitless.  There should be no topic that is off-limits.

Nothing Personal.  For executives involved with creating the current message, the idea of change could be a blow to their egos.  Make it clear from the start that the review has nothing to do with personalities but is necessary to achieve strategic business objectives.

Proposing and conducting a company message review can present risks; but, if done correctly, it could also position the company for long-term success.

June 7, 2013

Reporter’s PR tip at trade shows: stop listening to marketing folks

imagesA recent blog post by Health Data Management reporter Joseph Goedert is a good reminder of how PR folks can be operating on auto pilot when it comes to announcements issued at trade shows.  According to Joe, it happens every year:

“Can’t wait for your big news to break at the show when you announce it Monday morning? And hoping you won’t be disappointed by the coverage like you were last year, the year before, the year before…?”

His advice:

“Stop listening to your marketing folks. Listen to a reporter and your outside PR pro who is begging you to release the news early, and release it the week before the conference.”

Joe points out that if your news isn’t major, release it early.  We agree with him in that it often makes more sense, especially if you provide copies in the trade show press room, at publication booths on the show floor and during scheduled meetings with reporters.

His last piece of advice: the week before a trade show is often slow on news and reporters still have daily newsletters to get out.  Routine vendor announcements that might be ignored get picked up.

Good insight the next time your marketing folks demand you release news during the first day of a major event.  It might be wise to consider the input from a reporter.

 

 

May 20, 2013

Industry analysts key to converting prospects to customers

Think of the last time you made a decision to purchase a significant item such as a home, new car, furniture or appliance.  It’s likely you spent a lot of time doing research to determine the best products and prices. Customer prospects often engage in the same process; they’ll talk with colleagues, read reviews on the web and even consult with an analyst firm that covers a particular market category.

Is it impossible to introduce analysts to your company without spending a significant amount of money?  Not always. We introduce our clients to major analyst firms including Gartner, Forrester Research and IDC on a regular basis regardless of whether or not our client is a paying customer.  The key is to understand the role of the analyst and to keep in mind how to help him or her be more informed of the latest business and product developments in his or her industry niche.

imagesNot every company that wants to schedule an analyst meeting is successful.  Understandably, the bulk of each analyst’s time is allocated to paying clients.  Without the proper strategy it will be very difficult to gain their attention.  So consider these tips the next time you plan to propose a product or service briefing:

1-    No Advertising/Endorsement. Analysts are only interested in how your company is providing a new solution to a pressing business challenge or opportunity in the market.  Remove any marketing hyperbole from your presentation and refrain from asking for an endorsement during the first briefing.

2-    Earn Trust. This is an excellent opportunity to preview beta or prototypes to gain expert feedback and help position your company as an industry leader now and in the future.  In these cases, the analysts are fine with non-disclosure agreements.

3-    Trust Your Instincts. Don’t hesitate to engage in friendly debate regarding a particular topic or data point.  The analysts will respect your opinion and be more amenable to follow up briefings.

Building a successful analyst relations program takes time and patience.  The results can make a huge difference as to whether or not your company is perceived as a leader and the best choice for prospects seeking to make a purchase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 3, 2013

Contributed articles can turn CEOs into thought leaders

As PR and marketing professionals, we hear the term constantly during planning meetings with a client’s executive management.  The CEO wants to be positioned as a thought leader, or someone who is considered to be on the cutting edge of innovation and is helping to guide his or her industry into the future.  A thought leader’s opinion is usually important, sought after and commented on by media, analysts and other industry influencers.

How can you turn a CEO into a thought leader? For those of us in marketing and public relations, it can be a daunting task.  One way to achieve this goal is to utilize contributed article opportunities.

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Contributed articles are great ways to share trends, best practices and a vision for the future within any industry.  Many publications consider these articles to play a vital role in their success.  Most of the time you can work with the CEO to determine the topic and key points, then draft an article for his or her approval.  Once published, the piece can be posted on a website, used for social media posts and integrated into sales and marketing collateral.

Before you go down this road, consider these tips for success:

No selling. Many will be disappointed to learn that the best articles contain no company or product information.  They are specifically designed to help colleagues and other observers stay on top of the latest trends.  Credibility comes from addressing challenges and opportunities facing the industry, not just a particular company or set of customers.  The article will contain a byline for the author, and that’s enough.

Be specific. Before writing the article, you will be required to submit a well thought-out topic, headline and at least one paragraph to explain the focus of the piece and what readers can expect to learn.  Take the time to create a quality pitch to the magazine’s editors.  It’s the most important part of the process and not to be taken lightly.

Be patient. If submitted for a print publication, articles could be held for up to three months.  Conversely, web articles are typically posted within a week or two.

Contributed articles can often open doors to build or develop relationships with key media, analysts and industry influencers.  Other benefits can include speaking opportunities at major trade shows and events.

 

 

 

April 5, 2013

The Perfect Elevator Pitch

You know the drill.  It happened to me just the other day as I was pitching editors for the first time to inform them about a startup that provides technology for live interactive online video.  Many of them don’t know the company or me.  Alas, one editor finally picks up the phone and asks the $64,000 question: “I haven’t had a chance to read your email, tell me what the company does?”  A bite!  I immediately launch into a diatribe regarding how retailers are using video, chat and ecommerce to engage customers and close sales online during first-ever Flash sales.  There’s a long pause on the other end.  Finally, he says, “I don’t think I cover that,” and hangs up.

elevatorPitch-e12990625803801It occurred to me that I had broken my own rule—Keep-it-Simple.  We realize the how hard it can be to create a short and compelling elevator pitch to grab attention from the media.  VOXUS is often called upon to help provide strategy and focus to make it easy to understand the value of your company and product.

The next time you’re asked the question, here are some ways to Keep-it-Simple:

Use Lay Terms.  The next time I spoke with an editor who asked me the same question, I talked about how the technology helps retailers recreate the retail store experience online.  Think QVC or HSN.  This grabbed some attention and landed a phone briefing.

Just the Facts. We operate at warp speed and suffer from information overload.  Even so, it’s our natural instinct to be thorough and cover all of the relevant points.  Unfortunately, the press just doesn’t have the time or the bandwidth to absorb it.  Do your best to summarize the main points in two or three sentences.  If you get their attention, then it’s time for additional information.

Keep Trying. Especially with startups and new editors, it can take a few versions of an email elevator pitch to determine the right combination of content and length.  If you don’t receive interest after several interactions, review and revise the pitch. The “Aha, now I get it!” moment may still be buried and hard to grasp.

The perfect elevator pitch is a long -term goal that will take time and feedback from your target audience.  Once you have one that works, you’re on the road to media success.

 

 

February 20, 2013

Breaking Through a Reporter’s Email Filter

Most of us have at least one personal email address in addition to our work account. And we’ve all felt the pain associated with too many emails from unfamiliar people and companies. It’s doubtful that we’ll take time to read, let alone respond to these unsolicited emails. The funny thing is that’s exactly how an editor feels when they receive literally hundreds of unsolicited emails daily. This is one of the many reasons companies turn to a pr firm for help getting emails read and articles published.

Here are some tried and true tactics we put to work on behalf of our clients:

It’s the Customer – As much as we sometimes hate to admit it, the real story behind a company’s success is satisfied customers. Editors don’t get paid to write about a company’s take on why their product is the greatest thing since sliced bread. The proof is with the customers. Structure your pitch to focus on a customer’s success – anchored by your product.

Pick Up the Phone – Even the most organized reporters simply cannot keep up with the volume of story pitches they receive, regardless if they have written about your company previously. Reaching an editor by phone can be difficult, but it’s worth it when they’re interested in your pitch and want to revisit the email you sent (offer to re-send it while you chat, so it’s at the top of their inbox). For sorting purposes, always use your company name in the subject line.

Don’t Stop at One – There have been so many changes regarding which reporters cover what topics that more often than not your journey will lead to a different person from the original target. If you’ve given it your best shot and attempted follow up with still no response, do some more research to determine the next appropriate contact.

Lastly, story pitches focused on customer successes can also be used for website news, blog and social media posts to help create coverage.

 

 

 

December 7, 2012

Grabbing Mindshare Starts with Market Positioning

Before your company formally introduces itself to the market, VOXUS can help create your “voice” to maximize mindshare among key audiences, including the media. The first media interaction is similar to a job interview. First impressions can mean the difference between being asked back (e.g. securing coverage) or never hearing from them again. These days having a clear and concise value proposition for your market is more important than ever due to shrinking editorial space. Conversely, the right positioning can result in coverage beyond your wildest dreams.

Your positioning becomes the “voice” of the company, speaking directly to all of your stakeholders regarding your identity, purpose and leadership ranking in the market space. At VOXUS, we can help establish and communicate key messages to all of your audiences. In short, we get you “heard.”

Here are some fundamental questions to help you create the positioning needed to become a trusted resource for the market and industry media:

Market category? This can be tricky. There are both pros and cons depending on whether or not you choose to “play” within an existing category or seek to create a new one. It’s important to collaborate with experts that understand what it takes to stand out in each scenario.

Key players? How is your company positioned? If not already, could your product or service also be considered a key player? If so, what is it about your product or service that qualifies?

Market growth? It goes without saying that potential growth is a huge factor. Take the time to do your homework. Remember to focus on the next 5 years to ensure maximum media attention.

Experts/Influencers? Who are the so-called experts in the market able to influence clients and prospects? Consider an outreach campaign to garner their support for your business and product strategy.

Brand Name Customers/Early Adopters? As you already know, often times start-ups provide solutions to brand name companies. Are you one of them? If so, what prompted the brand name to use your solution? Are they willing to participate in a press announcement? We all know third party affirmation is one of the most powerful ways to position leaders in their market.

We are senior PR professionals with years of experience to help establish companies as market leaders worthy of attention from key media. VOXUS can help rocket you to the top of your industry, while using limited resources.

 

 

 

 

 

November 8, 2012

PR Content’s Holy Grail- “What else can we do with this?”

Let’s face it; many of us still use the same PR content and distribution model that pre-dates the explosion of social media and other electronic platforms.  You know the one in which we issue a product press release over a wire service, post to the news section of our website and move on to the next campaign.

In the meantime, we all realize that most of our customers and prospects are gathering information for their next purchase using a number of electronic sources other than our press release page.  In addition, often times the folks creating content for product and service announcements aren’t communicating key messages to their counterparts in charge of social media and other platforms.  The result is a mess of mixed messages and often-duplicative time and resources.

Our philosophy is simple yet powerful.  Instead of content teams operating in a vacuum, why not create a set of key messages to leverage across all distribution mediums?  For example, you want to create a story regarding a successful customer.  Instead of posting it ONLY on your website news page, ask, ”What else can we do with this?”

Consider these tips the next time you plan to communicate product or service news to key audiences:

1-    Expand key messages to include all targets- In the case of the customer success story, use a challenge/opportunity/solution format.  Focus on how your product or service has provided a solution to a common challenge or opportunity across your customer base.  This will enable you to distribute all or select content to all stakeholders.

2-    Add icon to homepage or product/service web pages- It’s still a good strategy to post stories on the news page.  Don’t stop.  Take the time to post an icon on the appropriate product/service pages to help draw additional attention.  Clicking the icon can take you to another targeted page such as news, customer, partner and social media.

3-    Consider monthly electronic newsletter- This is a great option to both communicate news to customers and prospects and build an email database at the same time.  Many businesses select one story per month to minimize budget and resources.  Platforms such as Constant Contact make it easy and affordable to distribute content.

4-    Don’t forget about Social Media! - It’s easy to post all or select parts of content such as the customer success story to Facebook and Twitter.  Here’s where you can use images to help tell the story.  You can also leverage Linkedin for corporate related information such as major announcements regarding new business, partners, etc.

5-    Coordinate-Coordinate-Coordinate! - Once content and images are final, it only takes one person to make sure distribution bases are covered.  Instead of burying the content on a web news page, your customers and prospects can access via product/service pages, electronic newsletter, social media pages and even sales and marketing collateral.

The VOXUS PR team is ready to collaborate with you regarding how best to maximize content and distribution.  You’re customers and prospects have changed their research and buying habits.  Make sure your information is front and center regardless of the viewing platform.