More Bang for Your Trade Show Dollars

24 03 2014

(Guest post by Kayla Brown, Intern)

When it comes time for your company to take part in a trade show or an event just showing up isn’t enough and it won’t guarantee the media coverage you are looking for. So this time around shake it up and try something new.KB Headshot

Trade shows offer prime opportunities to showcase your newest products, as well as opportunities to extend and amplify your messages to a broader audience.

Your company has already spent thousands of dollars on a booth, developing messaging and creating a unique experience for your customers and prospects. Why not enhance that by inviting and interacting with the media?

Engaging reporters with interviews and demonstrations will help reinforce your message by earning media coverage, which can add to your credibility and also reach thousands of customers and prospects who could not attend the show.

Best of all, this can be easily achieved. Here are some simple tips:

1. Reach out to media several weeks before the show. Let them know what you’ll be offering such as new products, demonstrations and who will be available for interviews;

2. Set up interviews or demonstration appointments a week or two before the show;

3. Prepare press materials and brief your spokespeople;

4. Have a PR expert handy during the show to engage and pitch reporters on the spot; and

5. Conduct follow-up with the media after the show to answer any questions and make sure they have all the materials they need (press kit / images / etc.).

Of course, social media is another great way to generate extra buzz before, during and after a trade show. Here’s how:

Twitter

Create and promote a #hashtag for your show presence so users can find all related tweets. Also, tweet links that lead media and prospects to where they can find information, especially if they were unable to attend.

Facebook

Post coverage and links on your company’s Facebook page and encourage attendees to “like” your page, so they can post replies, share feedback and learn more.

YouTube

If you have any videos from the show or press conference, edit the footage into short, exciting segments then promote and link videos to your website and other social media sites.

Integrating traditional PR and social media with your trade show activities can maximize your reach, credibility and impact for enhanced marketing ROI.





Never Lose Your Keys: Tips for Developing Strong Key Messages

18 02 2014

Image(Guest post by Kayla Brown, Intern)

Good communicators don’t just wing it! When you have a concise, powerful idea of what you want to say about your company or product, your audiences are more likely to be engaged, more likely to understand you and more likely to remember you. In order for that to happen it is imperative to take the time to prepare and develop strong key messages.

What Are Key Messages?

Simply put, they describe how and why you exist as a company. The goal is to have your audiences understand the same basic message. Well-crafted messages should be tailored to the specific audience and also support your mission, explain what your company is aiming for and include a call to action.

One way to think of it is, what are the main points you want your audiences to remember?

To Be Effective, Key Messages Should Be:Image

  • Few in number, usually three or four;
  • Simple, short and concise;
  • Compelling and believable;
  • Focused on one idea each; and
  • Written down and practiced.

How to Create Strong Key Messages:

Remember the “Who”: Think about who you want to receive your message, and what’s important or of interest to them?

Do You Have Data on That?: Use brief, credible, easy-to-understand facts with figures and statistics to back them up.

Test It Out: Your key messages do not flow off the tongue easily, rework them.

In a nutshell, you should start any form of communication with your key messages, return to them throughout, and then summarize them at the end.

Key Message Examples:

Social Media Company:

  • Foursquare turns your life into a game.
  • Foursquare helps you discover new places.
  • Foursquare lets you make the most of where you are.

Technology Company:

  • 3M is a diversified technology company.
  • 3M applies innovation systematically to anticipate and respond to customer needs.
  • 3M is a global company with local presence throughout the world.




Bringing Credibility to Your Content Marketing

1 10 2013

In the last post (http://wp.me/ppqb5-sA), we discussed how Gartner’s Three Cs of Content Marketing – Creation, Curation and Cultivation – hinged upon what we see as the fourth, and most important, C – Credibility.

Ultimately, if your content is not credible, it could end up ineffective … and your effort wasted. But how do you gain credibility?

Because credibility is in the eye of the beholder and because it is earned, not manufactured, it can be HARD to come by.

But there are ways you can help your company earn it. Consider that credibility has two key components: trustworthiness and expertise.

You or your company earn trust by proving your integrity and worth over time through your performance. You perform. You do what you say you’re going to do. You demonstrate you can be relied upon. And you keep at it. Every time. Every day.

As you start to win trust through your performance, there are ways you can enhance and extend it by demonstrating your expertise using some “traditional” PR and media relations approaches, such as:

  • Conducting research that will benefit your target audience and sharing the results with them, demonstrating your company is willing to go the extra mile to understand the environment in which your audience must operate;
  • Pro-actively reaching out to reporters, analysts and bloggers who follow your industry to volunteer as a source of information, insight and perspective;
  • Taking (and promoting) advocacy positions and offering perspectives on industry trends and issues that are bigger than your company;
  • Speaking at key industry forums and events – and focusing on your audience’s concerns, not your own key messages;
  • Working to generate media coverage in the outlets and platforms that your audience already uses and trusts. No need to reinvent the wheel — the implied third-party endorsement that comes with positive media coverage in trusted media is invaluable. (For example, one story in BusinessWeek magazine generated a C-level meeting and ultimately millions of dollars of new business for one of our clients.); and
  • Leveraging opportunities to secure and share endorsements, testimonials, likes and shares throughout the various media platforms that your audiences uses,  to harness the amazing power of endorsement.

Credibility doesn’t come quickly … or easily. And that’s exactly why it is invaluable to your content marketing and your customer relationships.





The Missing “C” of Content Marketing

24 09 2013

In a recent blog post (http://tinyurl.com/pnu7erq), Gartner research director Jake Sorofman – an expert in digital marketing strategy, trends and practices – introduced The Three Cs of Content Marketing:

  • Creation—is the collaborative, often distributed process of generating original ideas and creative output in the form of text, images, video, infographics and the like.
  • Curation—is when marketers find, filter, organize and annotate third-party content to advance their storyline by adding value to someone else’s point of view.
  • Cultivation—is the practice of inspiring your audience to contribute content back to your storytelling efforts, often in the form of comments, gamified or contest-driven contributions.Loose Diamonds

While these are all key to a successful content marketing campaign, think about a diamond. There are four factors that affect a diamond’s value: color, cut, clarity and carat weight.

Similarly, if you want your content to be highly valued, there’s a fourth C you should be focused on, as well: Credibility.

If your content – your message – doesn’t have credibility with your audience, all the blood, sweat and dollars you put into the creation, curation and cultivation of content won’t really matter.

In a world where we are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages and claims a day,  and where technology has turned anyone with a smartphone or a laptop into a publisher or “citizen journalist”, it’s harder than ever to know exactly WHOM to believe.

The philosopher Aristotle studied the credibility of speakers and found that an audience was more likely to be convinced if the speaker was seen as:

- Being competent – having a good knowledge of the subject

- Having sound character – being honest and trustworthy, and

- Having goodwill toward the audience – that is, having the audience’s interests in mind.

There’s the rub: Credibility originates with the receiver of the message because it is based on the receiver’s perceptions.

You can’t create it by yourself. You earn it, just like trust and reputation, over time.

As Gartner’s Sorofman said, content marketing is hard work. Make sure that while you’re working on the creation, curation and cultivation of content, you work even harder at earning the credibility needed to get your content seen and believed.

We’ll offer some thoughts on building credibility in our next post.





Want to be a successful marketing storyteller?

4 09 2013

Many marketers approach storytelling backwards.

They create their story based on the facts, features and benefits they want to convey to the audience … they focus on what they offer, what their expertise is, how their product or service works … they select or create a platform they’d like to use to tell that story … and they hope they’ll find and engage their audience.

Then they wonder why it falls flat.

Why?

The simple truth is: Your target audience really isn’t interested in you. They ARE interested in themselves.

So, the best way to be successful at storytelling is to start with listening to your audience. Identify who you really want to reach and what makes them different. Uncover what’s important, interesting and engaging to them. Explore and ask them:

  • What do they want and need?
  • What problems, issues or concerns do they have?
  • Who do they identify with or relate to?
  • Who do they believe or find most credible?
  • What point of view are they operating from?
  • Where do they get their information?
  • What will make an emotional connection with them?
  • What is their personal payoff from your story – that is, what’s in it for them?
  • What format, vehicle and media do they prefer to receive their stories in?

To be a successful storyteller, build your story around your audience’s preferences … not your own.

Tell it in a way that meets their wants, needs, desires and interestsnot your own.

And tell it in the form, format, media and channel that they prefer to view, listen to, read and/or follow … not your own.

Before you start creating your story, put yourself in their shoes. And remember, it’s NOT about you or your product, it’s about them.

To succeed, make their story yours.





13 Lessons Learned in the PR Agency Business

7 06 2013

Back in ’92, when I started my PR firm, I had more than a dozen years of PR experience – and more than half of that with another agency – so I thought I knew pretty much all I needed to know.

I was wrong. Really wrong.MC900437062

And as Bianchi PR heads toward its 21st anniversary, I realize just how much I have learned over the past two decades … and thought it might be helpful to share a few key lessons.

Here’s my baker’s dozen list:

  1. If your staff needs a pool table or basketball hoop in the office in order to have fun at work, either they’re doing it wrong or they are in the wrong business … or both.
  2. If a prospective client or employee is problematic or inconsiderate at the very start, they’re just going to get worse.
  3. It’s good to take PR, your job and your client seriously; it’s not good to take yourself too seriously.
  4. If a prospect won’t give you a budget figure upon which you can base your proposal, they probably don’t have an approved budget.
  5. Toxic employees are not worth all the pain. Neither are toxic clients. Move on.
  6. No one is irreplaceable, not even you. Really.
  7. If you spend the client’s money and time as carefully as you would spend your own, you’ll both be better off.
  8. Monthly PR retainers are not necessarily evil. Some clients actually need and prefer a predictable budget spend and a steady, consistent effort.
  9. If you take care of your clients, they will take care of you. Same goes with your employees.
  10. It’s not our job to be the hero. It’s our job to make the client the hero.
  11. It’s okay – even beneficial sometimes – to make mistakes … as long as you own up to them, fix them, learn from them … and don’t make the same ones twice.
  12. Listening is the most important skill in PR. If you’re talking more than you’re listening, you’re broadcasting, not communicating.

Oh yeah, one more thing ..

13. It’s not as easy as it looks.





12 Things to Expect from Your PR Agency – Reprise

29 05 2013

In an earlier post, we outlined a list of seven things a client can do to make its PR agency great – our thoughts on how a client can make its PR firm more effective and a better partner ( here’s the link: http://wp.me/ppqb5-iF).

Based on our firm’s 20-year history – and a few client relationships that have lasted more than 16 years – we’ve learned there are also a number of things an agency should do to make its relationships with clients mutually beneficial.

Of course, results are ultimately the most important thing in the client-agency relationship.

Generating solid results, however, is just the start of a great relationship, according to many of the clients we’ve talked with over the years.

If you’re a client, your peers think you should also be able to expect your PR firm team to:

1)      Be attentive – they should be responsive, accessible and pro-active, and they should feed the relationship

2)      Think long-term and strategic – not just about short-term activities or easy billings

3)      Offer ideas and opportunities that are good for your business – even if they are outside of the PR realm and don’t add any revenue or work for the agency

4)      Be a good steward of your budget – they are prompt and fair with billing and are thrifty with your money

5)      Keep you informed – they strive for transparency and no surprises

6)      Anticipate your needs – and they work hard to meet them before you’ve asked them to

7)      Provide a realistic view of what you can expect – honest, accurate, puffery-free predictions about cost, timing, impact and/or results

8)      Demonstrate that they are always thinking about you and looking out for your best interests

9)      Make you the hero – and not seek or take credit for a program’s successes

10)   Know, and cater to, your preferences and priorities – instead of forcing you to accept theirs

11)   Communicate with you candidly, honestly and frequently – better too much than too little

12)   Make it pleasant, friendly and fun for you to work with them – everyone does better in a positive environment.

I’ve always believed that if we, the PR agency team, take care of the client, the client will take care of us. So far, in the majority of cases, that has proven true. It can for you, too.

Clients: What other expectations do you have for your PR agency?





You Don’t Need a PR Firm

21 05 2013

A few times a year, some former PR exec or recovering journalist writes an article or a blog post  with a title like “6 Reasons You’ll Regret Hiring a PR Firm.”

Very sensationalized. Very negative. And often, very bad advice.

In practicing PR for more than 30 years, I’ve seen how PR firms can deliver great results for their clients. I’ve also seen that, yes, there are instances where a client may regret hiring a PR firm … but usually, it’s due to one of three reasons:

1) The client didn’t really need a firm,Young Man with His Hand on His Forehead

2) The client hired the wrong firm, or

3) The client didn’t live up to its end of the relationship.

In this post, let’s look at Reason #1 – whether or not you really need a PR firm.

There are generally a few trigger points that may signal you need to hire a PR firm. These are times when you’re making a major change  … times when your PR dollars can help  ensure a significant return on investment and help your organization meet its immediate goals … times when your staff lacks the time, the manpower and/or the expertise to hit the mark … and times when you can’t afford mistakes or do-overs.

When might hiring a PR firm be a good idea?

You might need a PR firm when your company or organization is:

  • Launching a new product, service, pricing scenario, promotional campaign or social media presence
  • Changing your name, logo/identity, direction/strategy, mission/vision
  • Naming or promoting a new CEO or other high-level executive
  • Facing the prospects of some potential negative media coverage due to strikes, litigation, plant closings, layoffs, accidents, product recalls, environmental spills, etc.
  • Acquiring or merging with another company or organization
  • Breaking ground for, or opening, a new facility … or entering a new market
  • Exhibiting at a trade show or having a key executive speak at an important industry event
  • Missing major media opportunities because your communications department was downsized or  eliminated during the downturn
  • Reviewing or revamping your communications strategy, website, key messages, and/or social media approach
  • Finding that many of your target prospects don’t know much about your organization
  • Noticing that your competition is getting more than its fair share of positive media coverage and online buzz
  • Experiencing wins that are worthy of being shared … such as new contracts, expansions, community donations, awards, environmental achievements, equipment investments, employment increases, etc.

But what does a PR firm offer that your internal staff may not?

Here’s how a PR firm may help you:

  • Provide an objective viewpoint; act as a sounding board; offer strategic and/or tactical communications expertise that you won’t get from one of your employees
  • Apply broader experience/lessons-learned from other clients/industries
  • Leverage established credibility/knowledge/relationships with important reporters and bloggers
  • Provide additional experienced manpower and expertise when and where you need it
  • Tap into an established infrastructure for distribution of information and feedback
  • Train executives to maximize the benefits of media interviews or presentations
  • Stretch your marketing budget with stellar ROI.

So, if your situation fits any of those mentioned above, it may be time to start the hunt for the right PR firm.

Check out our “Finding a Perfect Agency Match” tipsheet on our PR & Social Media Resources webpage (http://www.bianchipr.com/pr-social-media-resources.html ) for help. We’ll tackle how to help your PR firm succeed in a future post.





How Journalists Find Quotable Experts

7 05 2013

Ever wonder why one of your competitors – perhaps even someone who is less experienced or less knowledgeable than you – is frequently quoted as a “subject matter expert” in news stories? 

In many cases, as in other situations in life, it’s not so much a matter of what you know or who you know … but who knows youreporter

A reporter’s livelihood depends upon developing good sources. And today, good sources are more important than ever, as reporters are expected to produce more stories in less time, because of smaller newsroom staffs.

Here are six methods reporters use to find the expert sources they quote:

  1. PR people they trust – Often, reporters will go to the PR people or firms that have delivered quickly and appropriately in the past.
  2. Online searches – Journalists sometimes conduct Google or Bing searches to see what experts are tied to the subject or issue they’re writing about.
  3. ProfNet – Reporters sometimes turn to ProfNet (http://tinyurl.com/bsrgswh), an online database of experts  companies or agencies can use to expose their experts to a wide array of reporters.
  4. Conference speakers – Reporters like to note which executives have spoken (or are speaking) at major conferences related to the topic at hand.
  5. Other reporters – Many times, reporters will turn to the same sources their colleagues, competitors and trade publication counterparts are quoting.
  6. Trial and error – Sometimes reporters will go to new sources because they just stumbled upon them, met them at a reception or sat next to them on an airplane.

In short, reporters first go to sources that are known and visible, because they’re the easiest to find.

As a business-to-business PR firm, we spend much of our time and effort positioning key executives as experts with the appropriate trade, local, regional and national media.

We make introductions; we identify the topics, trends and issues these experts can address; and we strive to keep these experts top of mind with the right reporters, because, sooner or later, we know each reporter will be looking for an expert source.

But beyond that, once you’ve connected with a reporter, what else can you do to enhance your likelihood of becoming a “go-to” expert for key journalists?

  1. Credential yourself – Demonstrate how your education and experience give you authority and a unique perspective.
  2. Make it easy – Be responsive, make it easy for the reporter to interview you, and offer good, useful quotes and information, quickly.
  3. Be accessible to talk – Reporters want more than just emailed responses to their questions. They want a conversation, so they can ask follow-up questions, they want the nuances and tone that can’t come through on email.
  4. Deliver the real deal – Reporters want expert sources who shoot straight … and don’t play them or make them look bad. Burn them once and you’ll move from “go-to” status to “never again” status.
  5. Offer depth – Journalists want experts who go beyond their basic talking points or key messages to provide real background, perspective and insights.

There’s an old American adage that an expert “is someone who is 20 miles from home.” To that definition, we might add the words: “… and is widely quoted by the media.”





Are You a Thought Leader?

29 04 2013

Since the term “thought leader” was coined in business circles some 20 years ago, many business-to-business companies and executives have yearned to be thought leaders in their industries.

By definition, a thought leader is a person (or entity) who is recognized by peers for having progressive and innovative ideas, and who shares these ideas and helps to effect change with those ideas.

Note the key words “recognized” and “share.” scarecrow-wizard-of-oz

It’s not enough to develop great ideas. To be a thought leader, you need to be recognized for having great ideas, and you need to share and champion these ideas through effective communication.

Of course, in today’s world, this communication includes a full range of earned and owned media activities – PR approaches such as publicity, social media, speaking and blogging, to name just a few. And ultimately, recognition of a thought leader builds and gains momentum as media coverage and visibility are generated and sustained.

Here are seven things that can help you (or your boss) to become recognized as a thought leader:

  1. Create a viewpoint – Thought leaders have a viewpoint that helps shape their story and puts the facts and numbers into context. They provide insight and perspective on key issues, they offer opinions, and they foster a discussion around an issue.
  2. Lead a movement – Thought leaders become advocates for a cause that can help a group, an industry or a country. They educate us on a problem or issue, shed some light for us on the pros and cons, and lead us to explore the possible solutions. They urge us to take action.
  3. Show us the future – Thought leaders show us their vision, offer a forecast or make a prediction … and they persuade other people to share it, embrace it and support it.
  4. Make it personal – Thoughts leaders build their viewpoint and vision around their personal beliefs and life philosophy. They are credible because they are authentic; they don’t just talk about someone else’s solution, they own it, they feel it, they live it. They are committed.
  5. Get yourself out there – Thought leaders are pro-active; they put themselves out there. Their PR teams can help them find opportunities to push their viewpoint – such as speaking engagements, op-ed placements, guest columns, articles, blogs and vlogs, news releases, media interviews, etc.
  6. Make yourself available to media – Thought leaders take on the mantel of experts; they make themselves accessible to journalists and analysts and are ever-ready to provide quotes, color, context, clarification and perspective.
  7. Capture their attention – Thought leaders use word devices to gain attention and stay top of mind. They prepare sound bites, use controversy and paint mental pictures. They employ plain language, analogies and anecdotes to bring their point to life. They create a buzzword or catchphrase that capsulizes their view in a memorable way.

Think of the executives you view as true thought leaders. Which of these tactics do they use? And which of these tactics could work best for you?








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