10 Ways to Improve Your Small Business Media Pitches

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Contacting the media and garnering coverage can be intimidating, and sometimes tricky business. Maybe you’ve tried it before with no results and don’t want to face the rejection (or being ignored) again. I’m here to tell you to do it again, and again, but in a more intentional, strategic way. Because attention means more visibility for your company.

The inBLOOM team has tons of experience pitching media and gaining great coverage, but we’ve also learned some lessons the hard way. Today I’ll share some of what we’ve learned on the job, with some bonus inside knowledge from the media trenches. (Some of us are even former journalists, so we’ve got some insight into why some pitches fall flat, while others get a quick call back.)

Here are 10 ways to make you and your business stand out through the barrage of emails media get on a daily basis:

1. Have a compelling story

Not every idea is newsworthy. Ask yourself what is unique and different about your story and make that your angle. Example of something not newsworthy, you’re moving your business to a new location. This is a fact you need to advertise, but it’s not a news story. Crafting a pitch around that is a waste of your time and a reporter’s. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a news nugget in that moving story. Does the new location have a unique history? Are you significantly changing your services? Are you being forced to move because of changes in the town or the industry?

2. Focus on people and narratives, not products

If your company founders have deeply rooted qualities that shape the organization – patriotism, innovation, risk taking – then there are stories to tell around their business decisions. Unique angles can come from anywhere. Think about tapping employees and customers to help determine the most newsworthy and creative story and ask them to help you tell that narrative. Like, why did you even start this business? Or why did you close your storefront and move your operation online?

Once you have an angle, it’s time to use narrative to tell your story. In Entrepreneur Magazine, Al Lautenslager uses Nike as an example of a company whose culture and marketing is shaped by stories. “Stories create buzz,” he says. “The more buzz about a product or service, obviously the more awareness there is about that brand.”

3. Offer up thought leaders

Members of the media love to talk to experts in whatever field you’re pitching them, and often won’t consider taking on a story without them. Thought leaders are people who have innovative ideas in their respective industries, and know how to talk about those innovative ideas. Figure out where your thought leadership lies by looking at your business experience. Is it software? Design? Manufacturing? Healthcare? Where ever you are invested through your business is an opportunity for you to be a thought leader. Use your blog or social media, or even your email newsletter, as a forum. Write about what’s bugging you in your industry or comment on the changes in the economy around your industry. If you can relate it to a current event you’ve given a reporter the news hook she needs to pay attention to your pitch.

4. Be a grammarphobe 

An email that comes through riddled with grammar mistakes is the first one tossed out. All the more reason to spell check, double check, and even triple check your pitch. As small as they may seem, mistakes using your and you’re, their, there, and they’re, and other common errors can make or break a pitch. The writers at inBLOOM have years of editing experience and are happy to create tailored pitches free of grammar errors for you and your small business.

5. Avoid over the top language  

Clichés are an everyday way of speaking, and sometimes they can even make their way into writing. But phrases like these — along with over-the-top language, such as world acclaimed, first of its kind, and cutting edge — can clutter a pitch. While these phrases may sound great, journalists can sniff out marketing buzzwords and chose not to pursue the story. It’s best to keep things short and succinct, and most of all, clear.

6. Consider a listicle 

What’s a listicle you say? Just what it sounds like. It’s a list of your main ideas, most commonly in bullet points (kind of like this blog you’re reading). Breaking out the pertinent information can be a great way of getting a reporter’s attention without losing relevant info in wordy paragraphs. If a busy member of the media can glance at your email pitch and pull out the necessary information, along with the unique aspects of your story, they’ll be more likely to pick it up and run with it.

7. Be responsive and available 

The last thing you want is an interested and ready reporter trying to contact you with no response. Just like you, reporters are busy and will move on to another story with someone who answered that phone call or email. Make sure to give the reporter the best means to contact you, whether that’s email, phone, or even Twitter. Once they contact you, be willing to answer their questions and provide any additional information they may ask for. (And don’t ask to review the story before it’s published. Just don’t.)

8. Target the right contacts

Your story isn’t a fit for every media outlet out there, which is why a good strategy is to research specific publications or broadcasts that deal with the topic of your pitch. Own a restaurant? It’s useless to pitch to a boating magazine. The same is true for a reporter. Before you pitch a media person, find out their area of expertise. Read their past stories so you don’t pitch something they’ve done. Your story should be one related to their past experience but focuses on a new idea.

9. Use visuals

Our society is a visual one, and our eyes are drawn to pictures or graphics that get our attention. Consider including an image with a pitch. If you have a great photo of your story in action, include a high-resolution image with the pitch. Don’t have a photo? Think outside the box. Maybe a graphic related to your idea will suffice. If your pitch is regarding a process or product, an attention-getting way to illustrate it might be using an infographic showing the method or development. Be sure to always include proper credit for images as well as a caption.

10. Follow up is key

Once your pitch is perfected and sent to the right contacts, your work still isn’t done. The key to media pick up is most always in the follow up. Emails get lost in the shuffle and voicemails sometimes get ignored. Following up ensures that you stay on a reporter’s radar, and a phone call can allow you to explain the idea in more detail, potentially sealing the deal.

Pitching the media isn’t complicated, but it does require attention to detail, thoughtful execution and time. A quick hit email once in a while isn’t going to garner the media attention you’re hoping for. When we pitch media on behalf of clients we start first with relationships. We nurture our media contacts by keeping in touch regularly on social and via email offering helpful connections, story ideas and feedback, even when it doesn’t benefit us directly. Nurturing those relationships today gives us the privilege of the media’s attention in the future.

If your business has a story to tell (and they all do) we can help you shape, pitch and promote it to the right media, so you can get back to business. Not sure if your story is newsworthy? Drop us a line and we’ll help you figure it out.

cover photo: ceBIT Australia

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Turn Employees Into Brand Ambassadors On Social Media

Turn Employees Into Brand Ambassadors On Social Media

“Employees are a company’s greatest asset…” – Anne M. Mulcahy, Former Chairperson and CEO of Xerox Corporation

Employees are an organization’s greatest asset, so why aren’t more companies tapping into their greatest resource? The lines between personal and professional social media accounts are becoming more and more blurred, making it possible and even ethical to promote organizational successes on personal pages.

Employee personal social media accounts can serve to enhance your brand, and more often than not those employees are proud of the work they, and their company are doing and they want to shout that pride from the rooftops. Just think, their reach can be your reach. So if you have that enthusiastic employee base, why not use it!

Here are some things to consider when turning employees into brand ambassadors:

1. Make a goal and communicate it

Think about what your organization’s overall goal is and how it can be satisfied by using employees as brand advocates. Is your goal to increase brand awareness? If so, give employees the tools necessary to introduce your brand to their audience. Is your goal to get more unique visitors to your website? Then give employees a way to share or retweet posts that link directly to your site. Goals come first, and they must be communicated to employees, especially if you want them to be an ambassador for your brand. These goals should be measurable and relate directly back to the organization’s business plan.

2. Give employees the training and tools they need to be successful

We all know posts on social media can turn ugly in the drop of a hat, but with the proper training and tools at their disposal, employees can become amateur social gurus in no time. The training needs to be face-to-face, the guidelines need to be in writing, and the tools need to be easily accessible and full of content. There are several online resources that can help organizations compile content for employees to share on social, such as Addvocate, Command Post, and Everyone Social. These tools can help guide you on your organizational social media journey. Also, it doesn’t hurt to make it clear that the organization encourages employees to use social media at work for organizational posting. Communicate the importance of sharing content on Facebook, posting blogs to LinkedIn, and using hashtags on Twitter. The more you teach them, the more excited they’ll be to become a brand ambassador, and good ones at that.

3. Encourage open conversation

Trusting your employees with organizational content can encourage open and honest dialogue on social media channels. This, in turn, can create confidence in your brand with a wider variety of audiences. Publics who see organizational content shared on personal accounts may view the brand as more authentic.

4. Measure, measure, measure

Understanding how employees are using social media is vital to understanding how successful an employee social media campaign is. And to do this it is absolutely necessary to measure everything. Make sure you’re using analytics to track social media activity. LinkedIn posts low? Facebook shares up only in the winter months? Analytics can help you pinpoint where your strengths and weaknesses are and allow you to make a plan based off real numbers. Hashtags are also a great way to measure employee activity on social media, and are an easy way for employees to keep track of what they’re posting. Once you have a few month’s worth of numbers to crunch, you’ll be able to see which employees are having success with their social media use. These staff members would make great social media champions for the company and can encourage other employees to promote the brand on social. Don’t forget to tout success stories with the entire company, it can be a boost for morale!

5. Monitor

While giving employees the training, tools, and trust to be brand ambassadors on social media is important, management should also monitor social media channels. This is true not only for employee posts, but for entire organizational social media accounts in general. Have a screening process in place to ensure quick action if something goes awry. This will allow you to get out ahead of a potential crisis quickly.

6. Don’t force employees to be brand ambassadors

No company should require employees to share posts on social media. This action should be voluntary, but there is no harm in providing incentives or rewards for those who feel comfortable using their personal social channels for professional posts. Check with your Human Resources department before you do anything.

Have questions about how you can turn your employees into brand ambassadors? Ready to take the plunge but not sure where to start? Contact us and we’ll help you navigate the waters of employee social media use.

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5 Summer Strategies for Your Blog

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The lazy days of summer are here. But bloggers, summer just might be the prime time for you to get ahead of the eight ball. Sure, relaxing on the beach all summer may sound tempting, but this time of year is a good time to get inspired, get creative, and get writing!

Here are a few tips for the small business owner or nonprofit leader on how to make the most of your summer blog schedule:

1. Think ahead.

The last thing you may want to think about in the middle of the summer is school starting, winter coming, or Christmas shopping, but thinking ahead to holidays, season changes, and big events coming down the pike can keep you on track, ensuring that you don’t miss any relevant topics for your blog. Kids will head back to school before you know it, and with it comes school shopping, football practice, and choir concerts. The leaves will change soon after, and with it comes a busy fall, packed with festivals and outdoor activities. The weather will start to get cooler, and we’ll dust off our jackets and scarves and start craving hot chocolate. All of these topics are jam-packed with ideas that could relate to your blog, or the people who read your blog. Think about how you can creatively tie in products that relate to whatever topic you pick. There’s always room for cross-marketing in the blog world.

2. Recruit a guest blogger.

This summer doesn’t have to be all work, however. If you feel like you need a break, think about recruiting a guest blogger. Guest bloggers can bring new audiences — audiences that can become a part of your loyal following. A new writer can bring a fresh perspective on a topic and even spawn new blog post ideas. Make sure you trust the person you pick and don’t go overboard on the guest blogs. A nice sprinkling between your posts is sufficient. But how do you find these guest bloggers? You can post a call for writers on your blog, making sure to list the requirements and responsibilities. If you have a specific topic, you’d like a guest blogger to write about, search out a respected person in that field and ask if they’d like to write for you. They’ll gain exposure and introduce themselves to a new audience. Or you could let the writers come to you by creating a ‘write for us’ page for people to submit a request to produce content. This allows you to screen for quality. Once you find the perfect fit, you can sit back and put your feet up for a bit!

3. Expand your creativity.

Summer is the time for vacation and play, and these things make us more relaxed — mind, body, and spirit. When we’re less stressed, our creativity can soar, opening up a new world of possibilities. This is great for keeping blogs fresh and interesting. Try to set aside time each week to jot down a few ideas that may pop into your head once your troubles start melting away. Then when things start to ramp up again, you have a list of new, fresh, and creative ideas to get you writing!

4. Tell your story.

Like we’ve mentioned, summer is full of exciting and new adventures, and you should write about them! Your audience reads your blog because you have something interesting to say, and they want to see what you’re up to and what new escapades you’re having.

5. Don’t forget the important things.

Just because things get a little off kilter in the summer, doesn’t mean you should drop the ball on the important things. Don’t forget to: Email your contacts a link to the blog.
Linking to a blog and including a teaser email featuring your blog posts is a great way to build buzz on your blog and increase readership. inBLOOM sends weekly emails to our contacts highlighting our latest posts.

We give a brief overview of the post (about one to two of the best lines), include the main image hyperlinked to the post, and provide a call to action, such as “read it here.” In Constant Contact, we keep track of our open and click-through rates and also take note of which blog topics attract the most interest. Continuing to write about a topic that falls flat is a waste of your valuable time.

Think about SEO and keywords.
The more you post, the more exposure you get. And the better your search engine optimization (SEO), the better your traffic will be. To ensure you’re getting the most bang for your post, make sure you know the right keywords to use to increase your SEO. But you’re not all on your own here. Tools like Yoast, Moz and HubSpot can help you with SEO and get you started on the path to SEO success.

Still want to sit in your beach chair and soak up the sun and let the waves wash your stress away? No worries, inBLOOM can take care of all your blogging needs. With our team of expert writers, you can rest assured your blog is in good hands with people who understand the importance of promoting your brand, keeping your audience engaged, and responding to rising trends. Contact us to find out more.

cover photo: pic jumbo

 

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Crisis Management and PR in a Viral World

Do’s and Don’ts of Crisis Management and PR in a Viral World

In a world gone viral, bad news can spread in the blink of an eye. Literally.

Companies and organizations both big and small are at risk for potential crises that may hamper profits, destroy reputation, and cause general harm to assets. When a public relations crisis strikes, there are things organizations can do to help minimize the negative effects of a negative situation.

But first things first…

Are you really in a crisis?

Just because another electronics store opens down the street from your electronics store, doesn’t mean you’re in a crisis. That’s just how the cookie crumbles sometimes. W. Timothy Coombs, a leading guru in the public relations crisis management world, defines a crisis as “an unpredictable event that threatens important expectancies of stakeholders and can seriously impact an organization’s performance and generate negative outcomes.” That being said, a crisis is perceptual. If your organization’s stakeholders believe the company is in a crisis situation, you are, and you must act accordingly.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

No organization should be caught unprepared for any crisis. And these days there are more opportunities for crises to arise than ever before. Social media escalates the rate at which undesirable news spreads, and online review sites can spread negative comments like wild fire. A crisis management plan can ease the pain of dealing with a crisis, and possibly prevent the situation from crippling an organization. Identifying potential crises is a good place to start. Is your organization at risk for a widespread impact from a flood or another natural disaster? What would reports of employee misconduct do to your company? Murphy says anything that can go wrong, will. So prepare for it.

Once potential crises have been identified, a crisis management plan, complete with a communication strategy, designated crisis team, and post crisis plan, should be created. When a crisis occurs, this complete plan will prevent many headaches, and serve as a guide for handling negative situations.

So you’re in a crisis. Now what?

The Do’s

  • Yes, social media can work against an organization in crisis, but it can also work wonders to connect audiences and stakeholders. When Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, energy company Con Edison took to the Twittersphere to communicate power restoration efforts to its anxious customers. Over 1,650 tweets went out, and Con Edison was able to communicate directly with those who used Twitter to get in touch with the organization. Twitter, along with other social media platforms, allow organizations to communicate quickly and effectively with large audiences, which is vital in a crisis when time is of the essence.
  • Public relations professionals must keep their fingers on the pulse of public opinion at all times, and during a crisis this is especially true. People talk, good or bad, and responding to questions and comments is a good way to be transparent and honest in trying times. Know what’s happening before, during and after a crisis.
  • Any good communication plan has an entire section entirely focused on post-crisis, where all the lessons learned from dealing with a negative situation can be evaluated. Then a plan for the next potential crisis can be made based on those lessons.
  • Image restoration tactics should be implemented once a crisis dissipates. After the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP rolled out a multi-level image repair campaign, focusing on its connection to the people impacted most by the disaster. The hope was that the campaign would rebuild trust with publics and restore its image with stakeholders.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t wait; deal. If a crisis arises, the first reaction can be to ride it out until it goes away, but often it does not. Begin to communicate with the public early and work to reassure them that the issue is being resolved.
  • Don’t lose focus. Crises can snowball quickly. Don’t lose focus on the crisis at hand, and make sure your communication efforts are firmly grounded in your communication plan.
  • Don’t forget about employees. Employees can be the best resource for spreading the good word about an organization, and they are usually eager to do so. Image restoration efforts should include employees, who can be used as brand ambassadors.
  • Don’t take advantage of consumers. Many businesses, such as American Apparel and Urban Outfitters, showed a lack of sensitivity to the citizens affected by Superstorm Sandy, using marketing ploys offering discounts for those impacted by the storm. The backlash from these gimmicks was harsh, and hurt the companies’ images.
  • Don’t say ‘no comment.’ Saying ‘no comment’ to any question implies guilt and is often just a bad as saying nothing at all. Stick to a crafted message until more details about the situation emerge.

When disaster strikes, take a deep breath, keep a cool head, and delve in to the issue. Guided by a strategic crisis communication plan and an ace crisis management team, a public relations crisis will be much easier to handle.

cover photo: Kriston Lewis

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Gain Clarity By Letting Go: Public Speaking Tips From a Pro

Ted Coine at TEDxNavesink: Accelerations by Jennifer Bennett Photography

cover photo: Ted Coiné at TEDxNavesink: Accelerations by Jennifer Bennett Photography

Whether you’re making a presentation in front of a dozen people or thousands, public speaking can be nerve-wracking. The anticipation of making it through the entire speech without a flaw can put so much pressure on a person that stress levels go sky high. But what happens when you let go of the stress and expectation of perfection and live in the moment? You may just achieve speaking gold.

At the recent TEDxNavesink conference, two dozen speakers gathered to share ideas worth spreading with an audience of over 700 people. Topics ranged from patient advocacy as part of health care innovation to impatience as an accelerator in life, from the most mysterious questions about the universe to how breakups can actually be a good thing. The speakers practiced and rehearsed for months, fine-tuning their talks to create the perfect presentation.

Now everyone knows perfection is an unattainable goal. Stuff happens. And sometimes that stuff is funny. Sometimes that stuff is eye opening. Sometimes that stuff is better than what was written down on paper and rehearsed over and over again.

MK Harby, owner of MK Harby Public Speaking, is dedicated to making speakers great communicators. She believes ideas are shared most efficiently when they are conveyed with creativity, warmth, and humor. As the speaker coach for the TEDxNavesink presenters, she helped get the most effective message out of the talks and assisted the speakers in presenting in an engaging way. But that doesn’t mean things went off without a hitch or that every speaker stuck their original material. And those moments going off script? Some of the most memorable moments of the event.

TEDxNavesink speaker Ted Coiné enjoyed a spontaneous moment during his talk about the positive power of impatience. And for Ted, and arguably the audience, that moment stood out as a great one from the day.

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For all those who strive to stick to the script, MK has some advice.

“How do I rehearse for a speech but try to sound “unrehearsed?” This is not easy advice to give. While you do not prepare for the actual “off the cuff/impromptu talk,” there are some things that will help you deliver an original message,” she said.

1. Have a clear objective.

An objective is a purpose, or what you as the speaker want to accomplish.  Stick to your objective throughout your entire speech.

2. Listen to others. Read the room.

Take in the verbal cues as well as the non-verbal cues from your audience. If you speak to a group and you see that they are relaxed and smiling they probably will be more receptive to your message. If you look out and see hungry and annoyed members of the audience, you may want to try and break the ice with an interesting question or an empathetic statement.

This was exactly the case at TEDxNavesink for speaker Dr. Don Lincoln. As the last speaker before the lunch break, the audience was indeed hungry and most likely ready for a break. Instead of delivering his talk as rehearsed, he opened with a joke about lunch. “Being the last speaker before lunch, it’s hard to compete with that!” he said. The audience responded with what might have been the biggest laugh of the day.

3. Become a better listener in life. 

Observe people. Watch how others react. Keep your mouth closed and listen….and listen more. Intuitive people are good listeners. It’s easier to stay in the moment and read an audience if you are listening.

4. Take a moment. Be in the moment.

Look at what is going on around you. Do you ever wonder why someone can fill  an entire room with joy? These people are observers of life. They spend time watching people, listening to people and observing reactions. Their humor comes from observation. No, not everyone has to be a comedian during their speech;  I don’t recommend it at all. But there is a saying by Victor Borge, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”

5. Tell a story.

It is easy to stay in the moment when you are telling a story. You have already lived it. Make sure that it has a clear beginning, middle and end, but allow yourself to improvise the lines in between.  Be your authentic self and connect to the audience by being a good story-teller.

6. Trust yourself.

This is probably the hardest thing to do, but you will be very well received if you trust yourself. If you stick to your objective, smile, connect, listen, tell a good story and trust yourself, what can go wrong?

So the next time you’re speaking in front of an audience, go with the flow and see where letting go takes you. You might just find that you gain clarity, and maybe a laugh or two.

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