Time for Some Good News?

31 03 2009

With today’s devastating economic conditions, bad news is everywhere. The morning paper is filled with headlines about layoffs, plant and store closings, stalled sales, corporate losses and bailouts, in addition to the usual crime and natural disaster news. Sometimes it makes you wonder why you even bothered to get out of bed!

Things are no different in the business-to-business marketing arena.

We’re all dealing in one way or another with budget cuts, sales declines and layoffs … and this negative environment can color the way we do our jobs, as marketers, if we’re not careful. 

Last week, several Detroit-area journalists reminded a group of PR professionals that there still is a market for positive news in a negative environment. In fact, these reporters suggested that good news is perhaps more important than ever

Here are a few of their tips to score your company some of that positive coverage:

Be aware of what other news is breaking. Don’t let negative news get in your way, but if there’s a huge negative story breaking, hold off on your pitch until you can grab the reporter/editor’s attention.

Don’t give up, but be aware that due to advertising cuts, there may be less room and more competition for your news story in print or broadcast media. Remember, however, that even if your story doesn’t make it to air or print, the online versions or your target media often offer virtually unlimited space and solid exposure for your story … and may give your story legs via cyberspace.

Be proactive and call a reporter with a positive pitch – especially if it concerns  a company expansion, growth, investments or job creation … and be prepared to give her/him enough facts, access to the right spokespeople and perhaps outside expert or analyst contacts to round out the story.

Make sure you are pitching a story that exemplifies a trend or issue, perhaps one that shows how your organization is coping with hardship; developing a game-changing product, service or technology; shifting into a promising new market, etc. … and/or a story that inspires hope.

And most of all, remember that while bad news may sell, reporters and editors are probably just as tired of writing negative stories as you are of reading/watching/listening to them.

A Failure to Communicate

24 03 2009

My Dad has been in the hospital the past few weeks. And the man that entered the hospital a little worried yet pleasant and optimistic, is now anxious, depressed and  distrustful … not so much because his recovery has suffered a few setbacks, but more because the medical personnel caring for him didn’t communicate well with him. He just doesn’t know what to believe.

Don’t get me wrong, he has had GREAT care by some very conscientious and compassionate professionals. And this care, in fact, has saved his life. But their communication could have been better … amongst themselves, with the patient and with the family.

Now, doctors, nurses and therapists are very busy and often make rounds when the family is not onsite. And, granted, my 82-year-old Dad is hard of hearing and didn’t always wear his hearing aids. Also, he doesn’t do well with some of the foreign accents sported by some of the personnel.

Our biggest disappointment was that, in spite of these known barriers to communication, the various doctors on his case didn’t take the time to really talk with him, to listen to his concerns and to make sure he actually heard and understood what they were saying. They often blew into his room, said a few words and blew out.

After one such encounter a few days ago, he became wickedly enraged because he mistakenly thought a doctor was going to perform a surgery on him that he neither wanted nor approved … and that he was helpless to stop it! The surgery didn’t happen, of course. But his trust in the doctors was gone.

The point of telling this story is simply this: in business, as in our everyday lives, we often talk, but we don’t always take the time to ensure that we are truly communicating. As a result, in spite of our intentions, our message can get mangled and the trust we seek can be lost. I hope to remind myself every day that a few extra seconds, a few extra words and a little understanding can go a long way toward building trust.

Change B2B Tactics During Tough Times

16 03 2009

Today’s business-to-business marketers are stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

They’ve been stripped of their trade advertising budget, trade show marketing has been slashed, and due to fewer ads being sold, the shrinking editorial hole in their key trade publications is limiting companies from getting all the publicity they want/need to maintain some modicum of marketplace awareness.
So what’s a poor B2B marketer to do in this challenging environment?

How about starting an e-newsletter? E-newsletters can:
- Help position your company as an expert in your product/service area by sharing valuable (in the eyes of the prospect!) information
- Help you add control and frequency of key messages in a cost-effective way
- Help to increase awareness of, and comfort with, your company among prospects
- Help you to enlist current contacts to find new prospects, by providing a quick mechanism for them to share your knowledge
- Help to drive traffic to your blog or website, where they can learn more about your offering and company; and ultimately
- Help you win new business opportunities.

Two factors really help make developing and distributing an e-newsletter easy these days:
1) Technology– services like Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com) (and perhaps those offered by your local Internet firm) provide inexpensive infrastructure, tools and templates that make professional-looking e-newsletters a breeze. The odds are that your organization already has the content you need, it just needs to be tweaked, formatted and distributed to your audience with these tools. Services like Constant Contact also offer reports detailing who’s opening your e-news, who’s clicking on what links, and who’s joining or dropping from your list. All this for as little as $15 a month.

2) Time– much to the dismay of writers, today’s readers prefer to read in sips, not gulps … meaning you don’t have to generate a ton of copy or lengthy treatises. Just offer some useful info, perhaps a few hundred words with key points in bullets, that people can put to work immediately … or that will spark people to visit your blog or website to obtain more in-depth info … or better yet, enlist your assistance!

In the past few months, we’ve helped two B2B clients with e-newsletters. And so far, we’re seeing that an average of about 30 percent of recipients are opening each issue … and many are sharing the newsletter with friends, colleagues and peers. So we know people are paying attention. And better yet, it’s helped open the door for some new business, so we know it will contribute to the bottom line.

And ultimately, that is what it’s all about! What’s your view of e-newsletters?

Defending Yourself in a War of Words

2 03 2009

Conflict abounds in 2009. Turmoil in the economy and the resultant impact upon individuals are generating frustration, distrust, anxiety and animosity. Tempers are short, patience is thin, and complaints are many. People are mad as Hell and aren’t going to take it anymore.

And with more public avenues than ever for people to vent their spleens – such as some 150 million active blogs, as well as websites, Twitter, online media, etc. – the odds that someone is going to take a shot at your company in these new media outlets are overwhelming.

In fact, it’s not a question of IF your company will be attacked in the new media, it’s only a question of WHEN.

So, when your product, service or company is the target of such an attack, here are a few things to remember:
1) Be positive. Use positive words, constructive and thoughtful language and factual information.
2) Be objective. Don’t get caught up in the emotionalism, stay calm. Getting emotional only fuels your attacker’s fire.
3) Be empathetic. Show them you hear their concerns, address these concerns, answer his/her questions, and apologize if appropriate.
4) Be prompt. Don’t wait to respond to attacks and don’t allow the silence to imply your guilt. The sooner, the better.
5) Be strategic. Think about the big picture, have a plan and follow it.
6) Be positive. I know I said that before, but it’s crucially important to your success. Don’t let someone else’s negativity suck you into the death spiral of doom and gloom. Maintain the moral high ground.

One potential positive outcome from such attacks: they can actually provide you with a forum to show how much honesty, integrity and compassion you and your company have … and they just might win you some new supporters.


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