The Matchbox.

Sep. 29

Press Contact a Must: “Who You Gonna Call?”

ghostbusters-1515155_640pixabayThe digital marketing evolution as well as the ease of use in sharing information via social media channels has clouded the need and relevance of the online press center, the place where reporters and others can go for a one-stop shop view of company news, facts and relevant contacts. No longer, it seems, is it deemed a ‘must have’ when there are so many other ways to share company news and facts.

However, what often gets lost when the press center goes away is the PR contact – the name, phone number and email for the person in your organization who reporters can easily reach to discuss press opportunities. Many companies today (except public companies which must disclose IR contact) no longer openly share the names of the press contact, much less their email address or direct phone number due to spam, telemarketers, etc. The problem is that this can make it hard for reporters to connect with the right company spokespersons – especially when on deadline. Unfortunately general PR email addresses and voicemail boxes get crowded quick and it is easy for timely requests to get lost or misdirected.

The role of the PR contact – or any company spokesperson – is to help ensure that correct and consistent company information is shared and so the company has a chance to decide if they want to participate in a media opportunity. Without a clear company press contact – reporters may try to get any company employee on the phone.

Do you want growth goals that were shared in a town hall meeting broadcast to a reporter? Do you want to use resources on an opportunity that may end up being pay for play? Is there an opportunity to segue a reporter inquiry into a larger story or share an upcoming development? Or, is your PR team already working on strategy for this story or news outlet? These are all good reasons to ensure you have a PR or media contact listed on your website. This should be the person responsible for the PR program or your external PR team lead – someone who knows media relations protocols, company sensitivities and facts and can and will respond to the reporter in a timely manner.

So, go now. Check your website. Has this detail been overlooked at your organization? Who are reporters gonna call now?

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Sep. 08

Ready for Analyst Relations?

Industry analysts hold significant power across many markets. Big-budget enterprise buyers often take their vendor and product advice and recommendations as gospel and rely on Magic Quadrants and Wave reports to create short-lists of vendors to consider before making purchases. It’s no wonder that companies want to establish close relationships with key analysts.

However, simply getting in front of the analyst community doesn’t guarantee a favorable recommendation. Many analysts hold strong opinions and if your product or service doesn’t wow them, your company may never recover from initial lackluster first impressions.

An essential part of analyst relations success is establishing a rapport with analysts including ongoing dialogue around their view of the market and how your product will fulfill demand in the long term. Here are four tips to help evaluate your analyst relations readiness.

1) Tell Your Story – Can your executive spokespersons quickly and clearly articulate your business offerings, the problem or issue you address in the marketplace, and the key differentiators of your product or service? Get the nuts and bolts of how you describe your company straight before presenting to an analyst.

2) Secure Customer References – Often analysts will be curious to hear directly from customers – or at least see a list of customer names – to demonstrate the real-world applicability of your products and how they mitigate their pain points. Even if it is a pilot program or beta customer, showcasing how your offering works in a real way is invaluable.

3) Know the Competition – A major piece of an analyst’s job is to survey and understand the greater marketplace, including becoming familiar with the competitive landscape. Do your research on competitors before engaging with analysts and be prepared to talk to your strengths, but steer clear of blasting the competition directly.

4) Be Open to Criticism – Forging a productive relationship with analysts requires two-way communication. You may be great at presenting your company’s vision, but are you ready to hear analysts’ feedback – including criticism? They may identify a hole in your overall strategy or challenge your product direction based on what they are hearing from marketplace customers. Listening to their feedback and productively discussing your organization’s direction can help you drive growth opportunities for the future, if you’re open to it.

 

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Aug. 29

Ten Tips for When the News Well Runs Dry

Every organization experiences a lull in corporate news. That doesn’t mean PR efforts should go dark. In fact, these quieter periods represent an excellent time to reconnect with journalists with fresh article ideas or about upcoming stories to determine if a spokesperson can be a resource.

Here are ten to-dos to help energize PR initiatives when the news well runs dry.

  1. Send quick touchwaterfall-77676_1920-base emails to close reporter contacts to determine if they need a resource based on one of your key subject areas.
  1. If a client is willing, pitch a customer case study article to a target publication. There is nothing better than a client testimonial.
  1. Try reaching that journalist you haven’t quite been able to connect with via a short introductory pitch presenting how you can work together.
  1. Use this time to develop a contributed byline article based on a strong viewpoint or industry trend.
  1. Review target journalists’ recent news stories and pitch a follow-on story if you or a client can provide further analysis or a new take.
  1. Take a look at any key organizational milestones over the last six months and develop content for a half-yearly or annual achievements press release.
  1. Review HARO newsletters closely for any potential media interview opportunities.
  1. Check editorial calendars to ensure you aren’t missing a chance to contribute to a target publication.
  1. Monitor Twitter in the event journalists are seeking content via social media.
  1. Recharge at the gym, salon or happy hour and start fresh in the morning.
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Aug. 11

Content Marketing Run Amuck?

Nearly every corner of the Internet today offers self-publishing platforms that give mere mortals instantaneous thought leadership status, or so they think.

The opportunity to publish content and the ever-increasing consumption of content has reached a crescendo — according to Google News, 18 million+ online articles were published in Q2 2016. And with it has risen a crowded market of content marketing agencies and professionals touting their services to make anyone and everyone into an overnight guru. Even prestigious online publishers like Wired and Forbes have gotten into the game.

While there are some admittedly talented agencies and professionals out there, I have seen on too many occasions lately the fever-pitched drive to over-produce content for the sake of getting it published, regardless of the platform or more importantly the meaningfulness of the content.

For BtoB technology-driven organizations, of which we have represented a diverse and large number, their content investments should be strategic and driven by a goal to ultimately encourage a qualified reader to learn more about their organization, the industry and its innovations. Content should be developed with an overall endgame in mind that is more than a check mark off the list.

*Note: A version of this post also appeared in the July 2016 issue of The Spark newsletter.

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Jul. 11

The Art of the Phone Call – It Still Matters

phoneIn today’s technology driven world many of us rely on email, messaging apps and texting to communicate with clients, vendors, media, family, friends. Even my 7 year olds love to text their grandparents. With work, we are lucky to no longer be tethered to an office, or even a specific desk, to communicate (although my FitBit tells me I’m tethered in other ways).

But something is lost in not actually talking.  You can spend a lot of time crafting what you think is a detailed, well-articulated email or text – only to have it misunderstood or skimmed by the reader.

Much of the art of communication can be lost in the written word. Picking up the phone has become an anomaly today. But it is amazing how much a quick phone call can clear up confusion, articulate tone and more effectively deliver a message – you have someone’s focused attention.

So, as summer continues to fly by, and when no doubt more people are working remotely and trying to do more with the daylight hours, I vow to pick up the phone more. Let’s not lose one of our best ways to communicate – with our voices – and truly connect.

*Note: A version of this post also appeared in the May 2016 issue of The Spark newsletter.

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Jun. 27

PR 101 for Start-Ups

Start-ups are an interesting breed when it comes to public relations and thought leadership. On one hand, they are in growth mode and have a lot of activity – and often great progress – to share, whether executive team hires, new office openings, major technology releases or industry partnerships. However, they are often trying to raise rounds of funding or boot-strap their growth without overspending, which can result in limited PR investment options.

I recently attended Boulder Start-Up Week and had the opportunity to hear from local early-stage company leaders and network with some impressive local entrepreneurs. While clearly of the innovation mindset and developing solid products and service offerings, many of them were unsure how to establish their brands without plunking down the equivalent of their quarterly operating budget for a big or trendy PR firm.

Instead of going with a discount PR shop or hiring an intern to manage PR, start-ups should consider a strategic, targeted PR program from an experienced PR partner. A focused, core PR program can help elevate a new brand while developing a voice in the marketplace. Here are some ideas:

— Get Your Brand Messaging Right – One of the keys to a successful PR and thought leadership campaign is the ability to clearly articulate what your business does, the demand it fulfills in the marketplace (including what problem or pain points it helps solve) and your main differentiators versus competitors. A sound PR team will take the time to get these elements right before engaging with media or industry analysts, including gaining consensus from the founders and/or senior leadership team, as the core messaging should be used across all marketing efforts for brand consistency.

— Commit to Your Audience – It may sound cliche, but if you’re trying to be everything to everyone, then you’re nothing to no one. Savvy buyers – whether enterprise or consumer – want to do business with companies that specialize in what they’re offering. They seek out the experts who can deliver real advice to match their needs. Take the time to identify which segments of the market you’re currently serving and squarely place your marketing emphasis there. It doesn’t mean you’ll never expand beyond the initial audience targets but it allows you to put a  stake in the ground and to build your business around specific buyer profiles, e.g., company size, buyer titles, vertical markets, etc.

— Showcase Real-World Case Studies – The best way to prove your product or service’s effectiveness and establish industry clout is to share success stories from users who trust your brand and can present real-world results. It is common with start-ups to showcase customers who have helped you evolve your product – these initial customers or beta users are often willing to tell their stories if you’ve been a solid partner that has helped them improve their business.

In the world of start-ups, PR should be an evolving initiative that helps the business progress by building clear market reputation and visibility. Founders and leadership teams will be best poised for a successful market entry if they focus on the core PR elements – the ones that are most impactful for startups looking to make it to the next stage of the game.

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Jun. 09

PR from 2004 to 2016 – Celebrating 12 Years with Y&A

This month marks my 12th year with Young & Associates. As I reflect on the last decade, it is certain the PR industry has evolved its fair share. While a lot has changed from how consumers digest content to how we conduct meetings and communicate with clients, there are a few things that remain the same:

1) Tenacity is a key tenant of PR

A tenacious, hardworking agency devoted to its clients is necessary to produce results. Meeting clients’ needs, requests and deadlines is imperative for maintaining success. How do you find an agency like this? When you engage with a potential PR partner, ensure that you will be working with the individuals who initially present the program and carefully review their activities and results with current clients.

2) Strong relationships with reporters are key to success

Potential touch points with journalists have multiplied, but reporters’ schedules seem to be busier than ever. While today there are more ways than ever to connect, e.g., Twitter, LinkedIn, HARO, thoughtfully building a connection with journalists is always the best bet for securing positive media coverage down the road. That means closely following journalists’ stories, their social media presence and reaching out from time to time with brief emails to determine if you or your client can serve as a resource.

3) Writing is always at the core

Writing will always be the foundation of an effective PR program. A decade ago, our focus might have been on press releases, byline articles and case studies. Now we have the luxury of producing a greater variety of multi-faceted content pieces. From eBooks to infographics to blog posts, our communication channels continue to grow allowing us to bring even greater visibility to clients.

Cheers to the next decade! I can’t wait to see what is in store.

 

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May. 18

Shaking Up Your PR Program

lightbulbWe’ve all been there – your PR program starts to feel like Groundhog Day with the same press releases, pitch angles and bylines year after year.

And while publications may still be receptive to your news and ideas, you are likely stuck in a PR rut. Here are a few tips to shake things up and reinvigorate your efforts to maximize results:

1) Hold A Brainstorming Session – Pull in your marketing and sales teams for a brainstorming meeting to get those creative juices flowing. Discuss new tactics – Are there new trends that haven’t been exercised? Sometimes good ideas come from unlikely sources.

2) Interview Unconventional SMEs – Similarly, set-up calls with senior leaders who aren’t traditionally tapped for their expertise to gain an alternative perspective on trends or customer issues the organization is solving.

3) Conduct a Competitive Review – How do your PR efforts stack up against your main competitors? Take a few hours once a quarter to investigate their marketing and PR tactics and coordinating results.

4) Reconnect with Reporters – Even when you have no news or trends to share, drop a friendly line or pick up the phone and remind a reporter that you are glad to serve as a trusted resource.

 

*Note: This post also appeared in the May 2016 issue of The Spark newsletter.

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Apr. 07

3 Tips to Pump Up Post-Conference Buzz

With March in the rearview mirror and with it SXSW, LeadsCon and a number of other key digital marketing conferences, it is time to start prepping for the next series of trade shows (regardless of the industry, it seems conferences always come in batches). Many companies like to issue press releases pre-announcing their sponsorship or speaking role at industry events (hey, we’ve even recommended it). While beneficial for SEO and marketing purposes, it doesn’t maximize media buzz. Instead, consider ways the post-event takeaways can generate additional interest via contributed articles, a blog series and press releases that offer actionable analysis.

Here are a few best practices:

notes-macbook-study-conference-medium1) Act as a Reporter – Even if you have limited time to participate in the conference sessions, pick a few noteworthy discussions to attend. Review the common themes and trends that stand out and how your business or industry can further those trends. *Bonus: Spend five minutes with the presenter following the session for follow-up questions.

2) Chat Up the Competition – Engaging in conversations with other vendors at a show can reaffirm or conversely negate certain hypotheses you might be developing as they relate to your industry. You might even be surprised to uncover partnership opportunities for mutual industry gain.

3) Grab Some Stats – Most meaningful presentations include industry research to introduce or support a trend. Make sure to take note and credit such research in your post-event content development.

* A version of this post originally appeared in Y&A’s The Spark newsletter.

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Mar. 22

Journalism’s (Positive) Disruptors: Freelance Reporters

It’s become the antidote to the shrinking newsroom—throngs of freelance journalists covering stories ranging from business to industry-specific articles. This growing trend has disrupted the journalism landscape, where editors still need to cover the 24/7 news cycle with relevant, in-depth content without the expense of a full bench of staff reporters.

While a bit haphazard when freelancers aren’t 100% familiar with their coverage topics, the new dynamic has improved publications’ content and offered fresh perspectives. Why? Editors are still serving as outlets’ editorial leaders and determining the direction of stories, but there are now more flexible reporter options. Also, freelance journalists can hone their expertise in multiple areas and apply it across relevant publications, giving them more consistent and predictable work as well as requiring high-quality reporting to generate follow-on assignments.

From a public relations perspective, we’ve certainly broadened our media relationships to include more freelance journalists, while also maintaining existing relationships with publications’ editors and on-staff reporters. It has become the new normal of media relations. And while this hybrid approach to journalism may have risen as a means for media outlets to survive, it has also given journalism new branches to evolve forward as a profession.

*This post originally appeared in Y&A’s Spark newsletter.

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