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Shark Tank Pipe Dream… A PR Pro's Perspective Post-NYC Baby Show

 

After attending both the Mamas Expo in Queens and The New York Baby Show on the NYC Piers in May, it was clear that many of these small baby and kids’ products businesses had one thing in common: They all need social media and public relations guidance.

The good news is that these entrepreneurs made the first step, which was attending great shows and starting to network with others in the industry. Tradeshow offer a solid way to expand one’s network and gather ideas to progress a business.

Where’s My Shark Tank Moment?

I noticed that many of these small business owners were waiting for a Shark Tank-type opportunity – an impressed tycoon to catapult their brand into instant stardom.  We all realize this type of opportunity is rare, so it is surprising that many of them were placing hope in this one in a million chance encounter.

I would argue that although it isn’t Shark Tank, social media and PR provides a kick start to get a new brand on the map or launch a mid-sized brand to the next level.  It often takes one nice review placed in a well-read publication or a celebrity Twitter mention to get the balls rolling and other influencers and media noticing the brand.

It was clear that even if these business owners understood the intricacies of a PR and/or social media campaign, business leaders are just too busy developing their sales leads and products to have time to network and send product to bloggers for a review or draft a Twitter social media calendar.

The marketplace is over-crowded with large companies and “mom & pop” shops – both with niche followings.  The interesting dilemma about this industry is the rapid turn around. Babies grow up so fast and so the companies have to quickly appeal to the next group of sleep-deprived parents of infants.

Baby Industry Shows Increase in Technology

Another trend I witnessed at both shows was the increase of tech within both baby and children’s’ products.  The most interesting companies (to me anyway) incorporated innovative tech offerings within traditional tools of the trade.

Take Mimo Baby. This MIT-student designed device was fixed upon a basic ‘onesie’ and maps the baby’s sleep patterns.  Parents can review the sleep patterns from the next room (or from afar) on their phones.  In the future, a bottle warmer will turn on and mobile will adapt to baby’s movements in the crib.  Look for the product in Babies R Us the end of this month.  

Apps also fascinated me.  Mommy Nearest is a cool app that showcases parent-friendly information and locations (think changing tables) in key markets nationwide.  It is like a Yelp specifically for parents of young children.   

Service-based companies also interested me, perhaps because of the novelty and the notion that you can pay someone to do just about any not so pleasant job.  Clean Bee Baby is a company that will disinfect your stroller or car seat.  Simply schedule a pick up and you are one step closer to clean baby equipment.   

The two shows offered a great learning experience both in the process of running a business and also a refresher on the baby products and services industry.  I can’t wait to check out the expos next year to see the newest innovations in the marketplace.

Anne Meets Rosie Pope at NY Baby Expo

How to Get Attention for Email Subject Lines in PR Outreach

 

Subject lines matter when doing PR outreach via email

There’s nothing more important than the subject line of an email. You could spend all of your time crafting the perfect email pitch to a reporter, but none of it matters unless the email is actually read. What exactly makes an email approachable and ready to read? How do you ensure that you’ll get a response?

Below are some tips from our PR agency on how to make certain your email gets a chance and doesn’t land in the trash folder.

What’s in a Name?: One word, personalize. If it’s not personalized, it is delete-worthy. Without personalization, your email could be looked upon as just another generic pitch or press release blast that has gone out to every reporter under the sun. Let them know otherwise and specifically address it to them.

Read Up: Try to brush up on your knowledge of the reporter you are pitching. Find and read previous stories they have written that are in line with what you are pitching. Once you’ve found one you particularly enjoy that you can tie into what you are pitching, include it in the subject line. For example, “Enjoyed Your Story on XYZ, Another Idea”. Reporters appreciate that you are actually reading their content and not blindly pitching them.

Pay Attention: Did you just read an article in the paper with a headline that caught your eye? Stay up to date by paying close attention to the most recent headlines, as you may be able to incorporate them in your own headline (aka subject line). This will ensure that what you are presenting is timely.

Get to the Point: A subject line offers a limited amount of space, so be sure to use your limited words to get directly to the point. Don’t put the entire pitch in the subject. Instead, use your words to entice the reporter to open your email. They should be able to read just enough, similar to a newspaper headline, to determine if they want to read it or not. Always aim to have about 5-10 words in length, to ensure your subject line doesn’t get cut off.

JUST SAY NO TO ALL CAPS: Never use all capital letters in a subject line of a pitch. You may think you are going to grab attention by using all caps, but instead you’ll grab the attention of spam filters. Plus, using all capital letters does not represent a professional approach to pitching.

Keep all of the above tips in mind when conducting email outreach. Remember, an amazing pitch doesn’t mean much when the subject line fails to lure the reporter into opening it. When it comes to a PR outreach campaign conducted via email, subject lines can make or break your PR success.

Want ideas on how to find PR pitching success? Read our ebook, Five Ways to Get Your Next PR Pitch Read."

Are SEO Firms Circling the Drain? Why PR is King... Again

 

Today I was asked by an SEO firm to take down a link on my article about how SEO impacts a PR agency's efforts. I looked at the link and realized I never linked to them in the first place - it was a spammy link a SEO firm wrote on my blog that I ignored long ago.  

Now it seems this firm is trying to clean up its act - perhaps it was penalized by Google for leaving comments on blog posts as a link building tactic - shady, right? (I am just speculating, I don't know why they asked me to remove the link.) (UPDATE:  The agency said someone else left the comment - hmmm, that seems shady too and not sure I believe it?!?)

Here is the comment they asked me to detele:

Post and link left by spammer on my site

And here is the email they sent me asking me to remove the link:

Email from Spammer

Because some of the SEO stuff is a bit over my head, I decided to turn to Google for a little advice and came across this article.  The author was, too, asked to take down a spammy link someone left on his blog.  He talks through whether he should take the link down or let the spammer suffer.  I love his reasoning:

Source: Wordstream.com

Ultimately I decided to delete the link from my PR agency's blog. I don't like that the Red Jeweled Media blog was the target of a spammer and I'm glad to rid of that nuisance. What would you do?   

What is the Difference Between a Press Release and a Pitch Note?

 

Many individuals are confused whether they need a press release or a pitch note in order to get press.  My answer is always, "It depends on what you're trying to achieve."  

A pitch note can help you get press in the handful of outlets you really want to be in (if written well and personalized to that specific reporter and media outlet). A press release can be an easy way to broadcast your news online.

To learn more about the differences between a press release and a pitch note, please read my blog post, "What is a Press Release." I am a guest contributor to the Think Global Institute blog today!

The New PR Agency Landscape: Paid vs. Owned vs. Earned Media

 

There has been a lot of talk lately in the PR agency world about paid vs. owned vs. earned media.  In the past, all PR agencies worked toward getting "earned" media. That meant a third party, typically a journalist, wrote an article about about you or your company. You earned the article by doing something newsworthy, interesting, unique or even outlandish or illegal. Whatever the case, a third-party authority wrote and published a story about you. You didn't pay for the article to run, nor did you have control over the content.

However, today, the lines are blurred and PR agencies might as well be called "media" agencies as they are charged with helping their clients secure a hybrid of paid, owned and earned media these days.  

I'd like to take the time to discuss the differences of paid, owned and earned media in today's digital media world.

new media graphic

Paid Media:  Paid media is advertising. Most paid media comes in the form of an advertisement in print media, a commercial on TV, or a banner ad on a website. However, paid media comes in new forms today - including a sponsored blog post or advertorial (paid content should always be marked as "sponsored" or "paid" content as to not fool the reader/viewer).  Paid media is the easiest to get (if you have money, of course) and is the least credible of all the media. It's basically you telling the world about yourself - most people see it as sales talk and not a credible third-party endorsement of your business. That said, if done right and with a generous budget intact, a paid media strategy can net extraordinary results. Just ask Coke, Redbull, P&G, etc.

Earned Media:  Earned media is the hardest media to get. You can't buy "earned" media, you, of course, must earn it.  Earned media is what keep PR agencies in business. Let's say you have a product you want people to know about, or a story to share.  You would then pitch that story to reporters, producers, bloggers and other influential third-parties to try and get them to write about you. Earned media is the most credible of media because it's hard to get and weighs more credible in the eyes of consumers. It will cost you the fee of working with a quality PR firm, but the budget is a fraction of what you'd spend if you enlisted a paid media strategy instead. 

Owned Media:  Owned media comes in the channels you own and which you control all the content. For example, Johnson & Johnson own BabyCenter. That is their owned media - albeit an extraordinary example.  Other less drastic forms of owned media may come in an email newsletter you create regularly to communicate with your customers. You own that customer list and newsletter content.  It is also your blog content, website, social media pages (although today, many are wondering who owns their Facebook community - them or Facebook).  Owned media has components of paid and earned media too. You have to create remarkable content to earn engagement on your content (likes, shares, retweets, etc.).  You often have to pay to advertise on "owned" social media too.

I hope you found this information about paid vs. earned vs. owned media useful.  I think you'll also see why "earned" media is valued so much and why working with a trustworthy PR agency partner is essential to earning ongoing, credible media. Of course, we recommend a hybrid approach to net the best possible outcomes for your brand.

5 Tough Lessons We Learned from the Coming of Facebook Zero

 

In case you've been living in a bunker the past few months, if you work at a PR agency, you've heard about Facebook's changes in how it allows brands to engage with its fans. Over the course of the last few months, Facebook's changes have been drastic. Some argue the changes started long ago and we just ignored the flashing signs (mainly in disbelief) until we could ignore them no more.

In February 2012, Facebook restricted organic reach of its content on fan pages to 16%. Red flag, right?  By February 2014, the organic reach of a post averaged 6% of fan eyeballs. Larger pages of 500k+ fans had an average reach of 2%. Most marketers believe Facebook is in the works to reduce organic reach to zero. That's right, the big fat 0 may be coming soon to your brand's Facebook page.  It's being called, "Facebook Zero," and its an inevitable doom facing every brand big or small.

Many of my clients have called me to discuss this - most in disbelief, some in distress. They want to know what they should do, after all, they have spent several years cultivating a loyal fan base on Facebook, and now Facebook won't let them reach those fans without paying up.

While I don't have all the answers on what brands should do as we circle the drain toward Facebook Zero, I have pondered what lessons PR agencies, social media marketers and brand marketing professionals should learn from Facebook's bait-you-for-free and switch-you-to-pay strategy.

Lessons learned by Facebook Zero

1. We Don't Own Our Social Media Communities. Yes, it's true honey, you don't "own" your Facebook page, nor do you "own" your Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter or Google+ pages. You simply borrow those platforms to interact with fans, but you don't own nor control them and never have.

2. Facebook is Only the First.  Any marketer who has jumped ship from Facebook only to invest in building a Google+ stronghold (or a large presence on another social media platform) is one I am silently smirking at.  Why?  Because they have learned nothing from the Facebook debacle.  If you really think Google+ and Twitter, etc., won't follow suit and monetize how you interact with your fans, you're crazy.  It's just a matter of time.  

3. Nothing is Truly Free.  Ah, for years brands thought marketing was free. Is this sweet justice for advertising, PR and other marketing execs?  Perhaps. For many years people asked why they needed advertising and why they needed PR if they could simply connect with their fans through social media. Brands were so thrilled to lead people to their Facebook communities that they used the Facebook icon in their advertisements, on their websites, in their email signatures and on billboards (you're welcome Facebook, glad we could provide a boatload of free advertising for you.) Well, guess what, Facebook is now in the business of taking those advertising dollars.  For years companies have been pulling ad dollars from newspapers and magazines, and for years we've seen newspapers dwindle down to nothing, and magazines unravel at the seams. Facebook is now staking claim to those advertising dollars it once claimed to help brands save. Yes, my friends, new media pulled the wool over us and laughing all the way to the bank. My deepest apologies to the long list of now defunct old media - including Newsweek, Whole Living, and Parenting.

4. Owned Content Rules.  Isn't it nice to know that no one can make you pay for promoting content on your website, blog or newsletter? You own those mediums.  Enjoy it. They are free unless Al Gore tries to charge us for using his Internet invention. 

5. Capture Content Elsewhere.  We are all guilty of this... we've put all this content on Facebook and no where else. We didn't repurpose the content on our blogs or website.  Now that we realize Facebook "owns" our brand pages, we feel silly, right?  Do this from now on:  Put any content you create for social media on your own website and blog.  Now you own the content and it's accessible and searchable always (and on your terms, not theirs.)

What other lessons have we learned from the coming of Facebook Zero? Please leave me a comment and let me know.

Please share this post with anyone you know in marketing, advertising or PR. Thanks!

5 Tips PR Agencies Can Use to Avoid #Hashtag Bashtags

 

After the huge #epicfail fiasco over the NYPD Twitter campaign earlier this month, it’s timely to offer some tips to help avoid future embarrassing (and costly) hashtag blunders.  In fact, a quick review of the eight year social media history will dig up other similarly failed campaigns – such as #AskJPM and #McDStories.

Below, please find some helpful ideas for brands wanting to use hashtags to mobilize the troops:hashtag blunders

Be An Active Social Listener - If you are taking the time to listen before your campaign, (including monitoring international sentiment) you’ll be aware of the approximate percentage of negative feelings toward your client, brand, product or service.  If the negative feelings are high, proceed with extreme caution. There is nothing like stirring the pot of negative resentment toward your brand.  For tips on active social listening, please see our ebook, The Art of Social Listening.

“What the NYPD did is fail to see that if there are things that can be dredged up in your environment, the louder voices of discontent will tweet them, and they’re right not to back down,” said Anthony Rotolo, a social media strategist and professor at Syracuse University.

Test Your Hashtag - Surprises are best under the Christmas tree.  In social media, it is best (to try) to anticipate a social media campaign’s realistic response ahead of time.  So, before the proposed campaign, you can execute a pilot or test on the proposed hashtag with a small select audience to evaluate the reaction and make changes, as necessary.  Ensure this feedback is positive before continuing.  If there is negative feedback, beware and shift gears.

Study Similar Campaigns – Make it routine to study similar campaigns in similar environments/industries to see successes and failures of others before you put a lot of money into a hashtag campaign. A little research can go a long way.

Be Wary of Trending Topics – Don’t be over-eager to jump into a trending conversation if it isn’t relevant to your brand.  First, be sure your remarks won’t be offensive.  If you’re not sure, don’t jump.  Always watch out for sensitive or controversial trending topics.

If You Make a Mistake, Apologize Immediately - A simple ‘sorry’ can go a long way and may smooth things over before they unravel in our lightening speed virtual world.  It is usually best to send out a general apology tweet and also tweet customized apologies to individuals who were upset by your original hashtag.  Be sincere, and don’t get defensive.

At the end of the day, social media allows end users to be as vocal as the brand or organization that starts the initial conversation (and puts money toward the campaign.)  Proper research will always compliment good intentions in making a winning social media campaign.

PR is Most Effective in Impacting Consumer Decisions, Nielsen Report Says

 

With the proliferation of social media, content has never been more readily accessible to all of us. But what content is trusted most by consumers? Is it third party news and reviews (PR), user generated content (review), or branded content (content published by brands)? 

A new Nielsen study found that PR is 88% more effective than Content Marketing when it comes to driving consumer decisions.

PR vs content marketingThis study, commissioned by inPowered, sought to understand the impact various types of content played in influencing a consumer's purchasing decision. The study compared familiarity, affinity and purchase intent across multiple product categories when it came to various content.

The study found that consumers rely most on third-party content, such as press coverage, and then user reviews. Brand generated content was rated as least reliable in influencing consumer decisions (albeit, still influential).

These findings support what PR agencies and PR professionals have known for years... that PR generates the most credible content around, building authority, trust and confidence in a brand like nothing else can. Whereas SEO firms try to inflate this kind of authority with link-building tactics, but nothing beats earned press coverage published on an authoritative news site. This study supports the case for brands to seek out earned PR coverage.

You can download the entire study here for free.  

How to Find and Create Great Visuals in PR and Social Media

 

We (as PR agency pros and social media markters) know that in order to do good marketing we must get up to speed on how to create graphics, as well as understand what graphics are legal to use in our own posts, tweets and social platforms.

We also know, because HubSpot reminds us, that social media posts with images are 94% more likely to get shared in the social space.

tweets with imagesIn a recent and big industry shift, my colleague Maris Callahan explained how Getty images did an about-face earlier this month; the company removed its watermarks on its photography collection in early March, allowing its images to be public domain. At first, it appeared that an endless (and free) visual library was at our fingertips. Did I mention free? A closer inspection reveals there are many strings attached with these embeddable photos.  In fact, it is best to avoid using Getty images (in my opinion). What if you posted it wrong?!?

So… now what is a PR professional to do if we want to share images alongside our social media posts (and we're not designers at all)?

Many options remain, even for the technically-challenged.

On his Elegant Themes blog*, Kevin Muldoon shares some great (read: legal) resources to find images for your blog, website or social platforms. Here are Kevin’s TOP 5 RESOURCES to get you going:

1. Flickr – This is home to more than a billion photos and a large majority of the images can be used as long as you credit the photographer.

2. Public Domain Pictures.net – This is a big collection of images available for free however, some of them have restrictions for commercial use, so be careful to read the fine print.

3. FreeFoto – Over 130,000 images can be found within this archive.  You must create a link back to the image (commonly called attribution link) in order to use the images on your site or blog.

4. DeviantArt – A large online community for artists and photographers, who, in some cases allow their images to be used if you link back to their profile.  Check out creative-commons.deviantart.com or do a Google search, “This work is licensed under a Creative Commons” site:deviantart.com.

5. Pixabay - Free, high quality public photo directory. It isn’t necessary to use an attribution link when you post these photos.

For Purchasing Images: A good site to purchase membership to is iCLIPART.com. This site contains millions of downloadable royalty-free images including clipart, photos, photo objects and web graphics.  A subscription will cost $13 for the week, $25 for the month or $100 for the year.  If you plan on using the images in a lot of printed materials (think printed postcards, pamphlets, etc.), you’ll want to purchase the annual membership.

Use PicMonkey to create visual PRFor Editing Images: Once you have your photo or image selected, PicMonkey.com is an excellent online photo editing service (just make sure there aren't any restrictions on changing photos you've licensed to use). You can add filters, frames, text and effects in minutes. A subscription costs $4.99/month or $33/year.

For Creating Graphics from Words:  If you wish to turn quotes, expressions or words of wisdom into graphics, you can try Pinwords, an app that lets you instantly add captions and text to your images. Note, the app is free, however, each picture has the Pinwords logo in the bottom right-hand corner.

Another free app, Quozio turns meaningful words or quotes into images in seconds. You can then share your masterpieces on your social platforms.

The bottom line: People don’t read plain blocks of text anymore. An image or visual has been proven to draw the reader in.  Mastering some of these graphic resources is a way to engage and entertain more fans, viewers and readers.

What is the Difference Between Marketing and Public Relations?

 

what is the difference between marketing and Public relations?

The terms marketing and public relations seem to always be intertwined and thrown around together. While they do compliment each other, there's a vast difference between the two.

Marketing is what I often refer to as Image Development. This includes your website, logo, branding, advertising, networking, writing, social media development, press kit creation and professional bio. I recommend always using an experienced marketing professional for this work and remember when getting quotes...if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Experienced design professionals are worth their weight in gold and while it may be costly, you will save money in the long run by not having to pay someone else to "fix" what wasn't done correctly the first time.

On the other hand, Public Relations is Image Management. This includes media outreach (print, tv, radio & online), social media management and promotion, blogger campaigns, charity/non-profit outreach for partnership development, obtaining endorsements, industry and community awards and the distribution of press releases and press kits. Many people think that public relations is an area where they can save money and do the work themselves. Writing press releases and sending them to media outlets isn't quite as easy as it sounds. Think of the time involved in writing the releases and researching the correct contacts. Do you know the techniques involved in writing an eye-catching press release and how to obtain the correct contacts to submit your release to? Or how to "pitch" your story so that those reading it are eager to hear more and feature you?

Here are some tips on how to know when the time is right to hire a professional Public Relations expert or team:

  • You have a solid marketing plan in place.

  • You need more time to focus on income producing activities in your business.

  • You want to utilize a professional who has existing relationships with your target media contacts.

  • You understand the value of hiring a team experienced in executing successful PR campaigns.

  • You realize that while you may know (insert your industry or profession) you are not a PR professional and they can bring added value to the table with their ability to think outside the box in bringing awareness to your product or business.

The Power of PR is an amazing thing when done correctly. Why waste your time, efforts and money if it isn't going to be successful? Start with a solid marketing plan using experienced professionals, then launch an effective PR campaign with professionals who have the needed contacts and expertise. Next, watch the magic unfold as they do what they know how to do and you are free to tend to the day-to-day needs of your business.

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