Tag Archives: pr tips

Six Goals of PR

WSJ_CoffeeThe goals of PR are many but all come back to a desire to grow the business. For many small businesses and startups, PR is seen as a luxury, an activity better pursed by larger, well-funded companies, which is unfortunate. Why exactly? Some of the best stories in the news concern startups and small businesses. Indeed, the benefits of a well-timed story can move the needle for a smaller business in a much more dramatic way then it can for larger ones.

So what exactly are the goals of PR? Here are six good reasons why you may want to talk to a PR agency sooner than later:

Awareness: your brand should take a quantum leap forward in awareness. A good PR campaign can help you get placed in local or national media outlets, depending upon the marketing goals of your business. Sure, an ice cream shop may want to get into the local TV news in hopes of driving new business but what if you swing for the fences and get into a Food Network show? Imagine the attention you’ll receive after that! People will travel long distances just to try something they saw on Food Network. It’s called food tourism. A tech startup focused on cybersecurity, on the other hand, may not care a whit if a local paper writes about it but what if that leads to an investor discovering the startup and leading a 7-figure seed round? Awareness comes in many shapes and sizes and good media coverage can help in both the short and mid-term.

Higher search engine rankings: nothing provides a better boost to your search engine rankings than articles in popular online media outlets with backlinks (URLs pointing back to your website) to your website. Search engines like Google value backlinks from popular, well-trafficked media outlets way more than less credible blogs used by SEO practitioners to get easy, low-cost posts. It’s common knowledge that higher search engine rankings also lead to more website traffic, sales leads and new business.

Leadership: PR can help establish a brand’s leadership status in an industry or geographic market. In marketing it’s called top-of-mind and it leads to more word-of-mouth referrals and fans.

Expert quotes: if you develop a reputation as an expert in your field, you are more likely to receive calls from reporters to comment on trends and breaking news impacting your industry. That reinforces your image as an industry leader and makes you more desirable in the eyes of customers and media alike.

Social sharing: while not a goal of PR per se, a byproduct of a strong PR campaign is buzz in social media. News outlets help feed social media’s voracious appetite for fresh content. Your write-up in local and national news could lead to mentions on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other platforms.

Revenue growth: many businesses see increases in qualified sales leads and new revenue as a result of PR campaigns. Unlike sales campaigns, which have a short-term goal of generating leads based on a purchased list of raw leads, PR campaigns have a long-tail effect. For example, prospective customers doing research may find an article about a company several months after it’s published. That is exactly what happened to MicroAssist, a custom mobile app development company I worked with in July of 2014. I helped MicroAssist announce an app it had developed for the Texas Department of Public Safety that tracks Texas’ most-wanted fugitives, among other things. Eight months later MicroAssist received inquiry from another state in the southwest that wanted to create a similar app for its citizens. With a price tag in the 6-figures per project, getting a new client as a result of a PR campaign is a massive win, not to mention an astronomical ROI.

To sum up, PR is as much about the long-tail, generating awareness and high-quality leads over a longer period of time, as it is about a short-term bump to gain awareness about a new product launch or a new restaurant in town. The ROI is there, it’s just not easy to quantify.

There are a lot of goals for PR to be sure. But at the end of the day it’s about the survival and long-term financial health of your business. Companies that consistently invest in PR over time stand a better chance of attaining market leadership than ones that ignore the inherent value of media coverage.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin tech PR agency specializing in communications & strategic inbound marketing for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. If you have any PR or content marketing questions about your business, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.

When should you start a PR campaign?

PR is about timing, preparation & persistence.

PR is about timing, preparation & persistence.

There’s no right or wrong answer about when to start a PR campaign.

Actually, there’s definitely a wrong time. It’s after something newsworthy happens, something important for your brand with a degree of popular appeal or relevance to a trending topic, and you are two weeks late in getting the news to the local or national media and don’t have any timely pictures or video to share. When that happens, what you typically hear from most reporters and editors is “geez, I wish you had called us the day it happened or given us some prior notice.” Then all you hear are crickets, because you just blew it.

So when should you start a PR campaign? Is there a point in time in the build up to a big event or announcement when you should bring on outside PR help?

A lot depends upon the nature of the news itself (hard or soft), as well as what kind of media (print, TV, online) you want to pitch.

Soft News:

Soft news concerns itself with less urgent matters related to the community at large. Say, for example, you are small retailer in your hometown and you are opening up a 3rd store. You are planning a grand opening and ribbon cutting and have invited the mayor and town council to attend. In this case, your news is tied to an event and because it involves some VIPs like the mayor and is about a local business doing well and expanding then there’s a good chance it will be of interest to a local reporter.

Hard News:

If, however, there is an urgent news story about, say heavy rains and flooding Main Street, and it turns out your business was impacted by the flooding, then the media will be on the lookout for interviews with local business owners. Your chance for media coverage is immediate and requires prompt action.

Media Lead-Time:

When you should start a PR campaign also depends upon the kind of media you are targeting. If you own a specialty hearing aid store, then you would be smart to go after TV and print news rather than online media as many retirees tend to spend more time watching day-time TV and reading the newspaper compared to millennials.

Each media outlet, however, has its own lead-time when it comes to accepting suggested story pitches. Here are a few examples:

TV News: TV news is still a wonderful way to get your business or nonprofit noticed by thousands of viewers looking for what’s going on in the community. The lead-time it takes to pitch your story to a TV news reporter is typically not longer than a week, possibly even just a few days, as many TV stations don’t know what they will cover until each morning’s news meeting. [Radio is similar to TV.]

Newspaper: if it’s a daily newspaper, then plan on a lead-time of one to three weeks depending upon whether your news is tied to an actual event like a product launch or just an evergreen story that is tied to an annually reoccurring event like Spring Break, Labor Day or Halloween. If you want to be included in a list of tips like “Spring Cleaning Tips” or “Where to Plant a Tree on Arbor Day” then it pays to contact a reporter one to two months in advance depending upon how big the holiday is on the calendar – Christmas being the 900 lb. gorilla of holidays.

Blogs: blogs can be very nimble and turn out content fast, especially ones like Mashable and TechCrunch. But some smaller blogs are not as well staffed and may take longer. A typical lead-time on a submitted news pitch could be anywhere from 48 hours to two weeks. Best to err on the side of caution and at least give yourself a week.

Magazines: the bigger and glossier they are, the longer it takes to get published. I once heard of People Magazine taking over a year to publish a story. Now that’s an extreme case, to be sure, and there were some odd events surrounding it but what is true is that magazines source content for upcoming editions as far out as 4-5 months. If you have a nifty educational toy for tots and want to be included in a list of suggested Christmas gifts, then you would have to start pitching in June or July. If it’s a local magazine, the lead-time may be less, but not by much. Bottom-line: allow yourself a three-month margin when pitching local glossies.

Final Answer:

When considering how soon to start a PR campaign, you should clearly identify your target audience, where it resides and what media outlets serve it. Also, decide whether you will pitch locally, nationally, or a mix of both.

I always encourage my clients to start one month in advance of a major announcement or event to allow enough time for media research, message design and media outreach. After all, it can take several weeks to get an email answered by, or land a coveted phone call with, a busy reporter. Why, I just got off the phone with a business reporter in Dallas after three weeks of emails and voicemails. PR isn’t called “earned media” for nothing!

Moral of the story? Start early, don’t expect immediate results, and keep plugging away.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin PR & content marketing agency for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. He specializes in highly integrated PR & inbound marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. If you have any PR questions about your startup or small biz, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)manzercommunications.com.

PR can be profitable for nonprofits

KBenz_8x10_colorBy Guest blogger and speaker, Kevin Benz:

About 15 years ago I sat on a non-profit marketing workshop as a “media panelist.” I got the usual questions — how do we get media to actually read our press release? How to we get information to a reporter? Why won’t the news media come to my press conference / gala / event? They are the same questions I still get from well-meaning, passionate non-profits, start-ups and even big business.

What’s important about all of these questions is the theme they represent: “We don’t have (or we don’t want to spend) money for traditional advertising and we know there must be a way to get coverage of our awesome work.” The good news is — there is.

Here is the hard part, “earned media” may be free in terms of dollars, but it requires a commitment of time and energy. This can also be a challenge in small businesses and non-profit organizations already doing too much with not enough.

“Earned” media is called “earned” for a reason, you have to work for it, and here are the first steps you need BEFORE you start pursuing it:

  • A strong, consistent message that enhances your expertise and gets media attention.
  • A working knowledge of how the news media works and a deep respect for how hard the job is.
  • Meet and develop relationships with them
  • The willingness to answer the phone.
  • The skill to present your message in a consistent way.

All of this may seem a bit daunting, but the payoff of this work can be amazing. Imagine becoming the public, media voice for your clients and customers, imagine being the first call from a reporter looking for expertise in your area, imagine getting meaningful coverage that reaches not only your current customers and donors, but a huge pool of potential new ones.

Media coverage compares to standing center stage in a stadium full of potential donors, clients and customers and you’ve just been handed the mic.

And here’s the crazy secret, as intimidating as they might seem, the news media is looking as hard for you as you are for them. Good stories need experts and witnesses. Your job is to be that person, the go-to, the expert, the one a reporter can count on. If you can do that, your job becomes easier — reporters love to include those people who deliver, over and over again.

If you are willing to do the hard work up front — it won’t cost anything but time — the payoff can take you and your business to another level.

About Kevin Benz: Kevin Benz (@kbenztx) spent 30 years in broadcast and online journalism launching two entrepreneurial journalism efforts you might recognize — News 8 Austin (now Time Warner Cable News) and Culturemap Austin. A few years ago he launched i-media Strategies, a company dedicated to helping nonprofit organizations and businesses large and small build their public profile and promote themselves to and through the news media.

Six fun summer PR tips for small businesses

IMG_3089

The media loves themed story ideas that can be tied to trending topics. The summer is one big basket of PR opportunities for the enterprising small business owner seeking more buzz for their products and services.

Here are just some free-form PR tips to help you grab the media spotlight during the summer in hopes of growing your customer base and revenue stream:

Summer ingredients: if you are a restaurant, bar, café or food biz then put a little summer sizzle into your products. Build out a summer-themed menu that you can promote to local cultural blogs to emphasize the fruits of the season. Watermelon mojitos, fried green tomato pizza, peach-vanilla ice cream with drizzled with peach vinegar – all can entice a magazine or TV news station to have you prepare a meal or share a recipe.

Collaboration: you can always do a combined event with another innovative small business in a way that complements both of your businesses. Are you a yoga studio? Reach out to a local kayak rental company on a lake to organize yoga sessions using stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) celebrating the peaceful, luxuriousness of summer.

Healthy benefits: summer brings a cornucopia of healthy benefits, from swimming and hiking to fresh veggies and lemonade stands. Local organic farms can promote healthy eating by letting kids learn how to be farmers. Fitness professionals can promote Men’s Health Month by sharing a list of easy exercises or diet tips to help men find ways to stay in shape and keep their cholesterol in check. National Rip Current Awareness Week is in early June, a perfect time for beach-related businesses to get on the morning TV news shows to remind vacationers to watch out for dangerous rip swimming conditions.

Contests: summer is also a perfect time for businesses to have contests – for young and old alike. A local craft brewery or brewery supply store could hold a summer beer competition pitting amateur brewers against one another with the winner getting to brew a limited batch at the brewery. What if a bike shop held a 4th of July bike decorating contest and parade benefiting a local veteran’s organization? Summer is prime time for birding, so a local bird watching store could encourage kids to learn about birds by holding a bird identification contest in a local nature preserve. What if local grocery store held a lemonade stand competition allowing underprivileged kids to learn how to make and sell lemonade to foster a sense of economic empowerment?

Safety: BBQ is popular during the summer so what if a BBQ supply store shared grilling safety tips to make sure families avoid common accidents involving kids and pets? How about an outdoors store talking to a TV morning anchor about the 10 most common outdoors accidents and how to keep them from happening? An organic sports drink maker might contribute an article on dehydration to make sure people know the symptoms of heat stroke and how to act quickly to avoid potentially fatal results.

National pastime: baseball is the sport of summer so anything promoting the love of the game might get interest from the media. Organize a ‘Baseball Ball’ (as in Cinderella and the glass slipper) to raise money for a good cause with guests dressed in baseball uniforms enjoying baseball food, beer and a silent auction filled with baseball memorabilia. During the MLB All Star Game, a local bakery can organize an all-star softball game involving other bakeries contributing baseball-themed baked goods and fielding softball teams.

Helpful Resources – try these websites for fun summer ideas to incorporate into your next PR campaign:
Monthly cause list
50 fun summer activities checklist
101 fun things to do with kids this summer
Wikipedia’s list of commemorative months
As you can see, the sky is the limit on what you can do to get some white-hot publicity this summer. The trick is getting creative, irreverent, and cheeky enough to push past the norm in hopes of making your event grab headlines.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech startup PR firm for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave about the PR over Coffee blog, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

How to win more Awards, Recognitions and Top-10s for your company

When was the last time your company won an award? Were you called up to a pedestal during a formal ceremony, or sent a beautifully embossed certificate to hang on the office wall?

Do you remember how it felt? Did the congratulations pour in from customers and vendors, friends and family? Did you get a couple new customer referrals in the weeks after the announcement?

Awards and industry recognitions help a brand stay top-of-mind and among an elite group in a given industry. Awards solidify a reputation, cement a legacy and build a brand.

If your company isn’t going after awards then you are missing out on one of PR’s best ways to gain valuable media mentions. The irony, however, is that only a small, shrewd percentage of companies pursue awards on a regular basis. Granted, some awards are won based at large selections but most are based on applications carefully prepared well in advance of the award announcement.

Heck, even Academy Awards are based on an a form that must be submitted by December 2 every year and proves a given film meets certain basic criteria set forth by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The beauty of awards is that there are so many of them and they’re easy to find and apply to.

Here is a list of ideas to consider as you look to put your brand on a pedestal and attract well-deserved attention from media and onlookers.

Industry awards: every industry has them. They are annual events, sometimes tied to a conference or trade show, and winning is a big deal. Addys for ad agencies, SWSW Gaming Awards for cool new video games, kids toys and board games, fashion awards, startup awards, mobile apps, consumer product awards. I once helped a pet store get a media write-up for a pet store industry award it received. Research your industry to find awards most closely related to what you do and be sure to give yourself plenty of time before the deadline to create a compelling case for your brand.

Inc. 500/5000: The annual Inc. 500/500 list is the much-anticipated list of the highest-growth private small and mid-sized companies in the U.S. Getting on the list conveys an imprimatur of success, profitability and huge upside potential. The challenge of getting on the list is you have to be able to substantiate a four-year track record of revenue growth, albeit not based on audited financials, with minimum annual revenue greater than $200,000. Still, landing on the list is well worth the effort. Heck, your name gets added to the magazine’s list, which is one of the most anticipated editions of the year. Just don’t go overboard buying all the swag, trophies, plaques that end up costing an arm-and-leg above what you expected.

Business journals awards: American City Business Journals holds annual awards in the 40 or so metro areas they serve. The list of awards ranges from Fast 50, which recognizes the 50 fastest growing small & mid-sized businesses in a particular metro area, to commercial and residential real estate awards, to its Best Places to Work award for small, medium and large companies. Find your city at this [link] for more information.

Chamber of Commerce awards: many chambers of commerce hold annual award galas to draw attention to their most outstanding member companies. It’s a great way to gain recognition from your peers in a community, publicity and more business.

Community newspaper awards: many local newspapers hold annual awards for a wide variety of topics. Some I have seen in Austin from the Austin American-Statesman and Austin Chronicle include social media awards, music awards, restaurant awards, workplace awards, healthiest employer awards. Your community will undoubtedly have similar awards so do a little research to find the ones you are most suited for and go for it!

National Small Business Week award: every year the Small Business Administration (SBA) recognizes the special impact made by outstanding entrepreneurs and small businesses. Because it’s a national award, the competition is intense but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time to apply. After all, just like Wayne Gretzky said many years ago: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t make.” To learn more, click [here].

The Crunchies: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention The Crunchies as a separate award category. The Crunchies is put on by TechCrunch, long the leading voice on all topics related to startup and established technology. The annual award event is billed as the Oscars for the tech industry. It’s where you see Enfant Terrible CEO’s like Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and apps like Yik Yak used by Enfant Terribles to bash and bully one another come together in one star-studded night at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco.

Top 10 lists: lists of the top 10 of everything abound online. You can even write a top 10 list for your own blog, or as a guest post on another blog. If you provide a product, whether B2B or B2C, then getting into a top 10 list is an effective way to gain credibility and more website clicks. Find out which online publications have created top 10 lists in the past and email them to suggest your businesses as a possible contender for the next list.

Final tip: Don’t forget to self promote your honors and accolades and get your fans to do so as well. After all, the award is the perfect excuse for your social network to gush about how great you are at what you do, effectively becoming an extended referral sales network free of charge!

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech startup PR firm for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave about the PR over Coffee blog, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

What are the goals of PR anyway?

PR is such a catch-all term in business these days. For some, it means getting into a newspaper by buying ads. For others, it involves social media and blogging. Still others think of PR in more traditional terms involving media coverage in print, online or TV news by “legitimate” reporters guided by an editorial staff.

So who’s right? And what are the goals of PR anyway?

Turns out everybody’s right in some form or fashion – except for the one about buying ads in a newspaper, which (last time I checked) is still called advertising.

The fact is PR impacts brand awareness in so many mediums and formats that it defies easy categorization: blogs, Twitter, magazines, listicles, forums, speaking opportunities, TV news, Facebook, print newspapers, tech trades. The list goes on.

In recent years the lines between PR and marketing have blurred in large part because the Internet has created new ways for a brand to engage with various publics. Ten years ago PR limited its public engagement to the media, which is to say engaging with the media in hopes of getting them to say favorable things about a brand.

Today’s PR professional is as likely to pitch a reporter at the Wall Street Journal as create a series of tweets supporting a product launch in advance of SXSW or write a contributed article for a trade publication.

Whereas marketing is about filling a sales funnel with leads and clicks, PR is about getting a future buyer passionate about a brand after learning about it from a variety of “objective-leaning” sources.

The goals of PR are many but all come back to a desire to grow awareness for a brand by building its credibility, reputation and authenticity. The results of a PR campaign can and should be measurable; as such, included in the definition of PR goals are some of the following:

  • Website clicks: every PR campaign should result in additional clicks to your website or another online assets
  • Social media: there should plenty of social engagement which lead to tweets, Facebook posts likes, LinkedIn visibility, even Instagram likes
  • Traffic: PR can stimulate good old-fashioned foot traffic and phone calls for a retail or services company
  • Speaking: one goal of PR is still to book speaking opportunities as part of a thought leadership campaign
  • Expert quotes: solicited interviews and expert quotes happen when a PR thought leadership campaign creates relationships with media outlets interested in content related to a brand
  • Industry, business and community awards: accolades in the form of awards bolster a brand’s credibility and put it in the eye of potential customers and media.

The last goal of PR is perhaps the most important? Revenue growth!

Caveat: every penny you spend cannot be tied directly to specific leads. You will, however, notice over time an incremental growth in revenue due to the influence PR has on your brand. Nothing fires up interest in a brand, be it a product or a person, like glowing coverage in the news and its corresponding buzz in social media.

The extent to which a brand benefits from PR is always determined by how skillful the PR campaign is built and executed and also by how daring a brand is at courting attention through its various marketing activities.

So now you know that the overarching goal of PR is nothing short of your business’ growth and market domination through the skillful use of stories that media and customers can get excited about.

The next step is up to you.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin PR & content marketing agency for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. He specializes in highly integrated PR & inbound marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. If you have any PR questions about your startup or small biz, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)manzercommunications.com.

How to become a media whisperer

IMG_0714There are lots of ways to connect with media professionals, but not all of them will help you get in the news. Much like a horse whisperer, you have to approach reporters and bloggers with a completely different mindset than if you were trying to sell a product or purchase a newspaper ad.

Much like wild mustangs, media professionals fiercely defend their independence, in this case editorial independence. They live by rules and standards that preclude them from taking payments or favors in exchange for news coverage. They have a tendency toward idealism, or at least toward righting the wrongs perpetrated by those in power. They like a good story, a strong human angle, a long shot fighting from behind.

Because a very small number of stories pitched to the media will see the light of day, you will want to adopt some of the practices of a good media whisperer. With that in mind, follow some of these techniques when pitching your startup or small business to a busy reporter or editor:

Be selective: discover which media outlets and reporters are most likely to be receptive to your story idea. Not every reporter is going to cover you, but if you are lucky you will strike pay dirt with a couple influential ones.

Simple message: keep your pitch simple and don’t run on. If pitching by email, answer the who-what-where-why question as quickly as possible. Don’t use long paragraphs, either, as the eye prefers white space when taking in content.

Trust: just like a wild horse must trust before it can submit, media professionals will throw off a story idea if it feels forced. Be sure you communicate a sincere desire to help a reporter educate or illuminate its audience.

Consistency: you will have more luck getting news coverage if you keep reaching out consistently over time. While you may get lucky the first time up, it’s far more likely you won’t succeed straight away.

Respect: treat media professionals with respect, even if they are hard to get a hold of and appear a tad brusque on the phone – it’s often because they work in a newsroom that is understaffed and over worked.

Charitable: it’s not a bad idea to help reporters out even when you don’t have a pony in the race, so to speak. Tip a reporter off on a hot trend or bit of news you overhear that you know could benefit the reporter. It will earn you a great deal of appreciation from a reporter, who relies on the help from friends when sourcing good material.

Reward: just like rewarding a wild bronco once it ceases to buck, be sure to offer a hearty thanks to any reporters who cover your brand. Remember, reporters are not obligated to cover your news and very likely they passed up some equally interesting news to cover your company.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech startup PR firm for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave about the PR over Coffee blog, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

1 2 5
%d bloggers like this: