8 tips to keep your meetings productive

I read with interest a blog post on PR Moment which cites meetings as a waste of time.

Although the article, written by Hacked Off Flack, is tongue in cheek to some extent (at least I hope so – he states falling asleep as a way to keep your meetings short!) I can’t help but come back with a rebuttal.

Having started a new job two weeks ago, building client relationships is one of the most important things I need to do in order to effectively manage my client’s accounts. I am passionate that this can’t be done without regular face-to-face contact.

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How to get great PR for your event

A client has an event coming up and you’ve been tasked with publicising it.

What’s your approach?

  1. A brief paragraph outlining the event sent to a few key journalists for their diary pages?
  2. A press release with event details and a quote from your client sent to every journalist in a 100 mile radius?
  3. OR a full-page feature in the relevant section of a publication which is in the event’s immediate catchment area?

It doesn’t take a genius to work out what the best option is. And the good thing is – if you’re holding an event, then you most likely already have ample material to make a feature happen.  

After all, if you’re planning on keeping people’s attention for an afternoon, or even a full day, then your topic must be fairly interesting!

So, how can you make this approach work for you?

You already have your topic:

If you’re holding an event, then you already have your content. If it’s an advice seminar then draft a feature which tackles the main issues, and then offer hints and tips on how to overcome obstacles. If it’s a debate then it’s even better – do a pro and con piece with first person pieces from each spokesperson.  

Example:

 A client recently sponsored a debate on a controversial rural business funding programme. The area’s main newspaper was approached and a full-page ‘for’ and ‘against’ article appeared. It featured arguments from the key-note speakers along with a quote from the client, and event details. This was pitched to the rural section editor.

Make it even more local:

News is about people – and a feature is even more likely to be commissioned if you can show real life local examples.

Example:

A client was offering a free event, in two different locations, on the benefits of working from home. By finding a relevant case study of home-based businesses in each area and using them to illustrate the topics which would be covered in the event, two features were secured – one in each target area. This was pitched direct to the business editors.

Don’t be biased:

Perhaps the topic is there but your client can’t add enough weight to make it stand as a topic on its own? Involve third parties. Not only does this give the journalist a better and less biased article, but it also gives you an opportunity to hunt out a potential new business lead.

Example:

A firm of solicitors was offering free advice clinics to families whose child was suffering from a health condition. By partnering with the condition’s main national charity and including a case study of a real local family who had been affected, a double page feature was secured in the paper in the solicitor’s key catchment area. By pitching it properly to the journalist, a legal fact box was included complete with clinic details, website and phone number. This was pitched to the health and lifestyle editor.

Statistics:

To some extent the event is what makes the piece newsworthy, but this can sometimes be a tenuous link, even with case studies and advice. What statistics can you find which back up your points? Make sure they’re from a reputable source and as localised as possible. Contact local industry bodies if necessary.

Choose your publication and section:

Where is the event being held, and how much of a pull will it really have? In my view, most events, unless they are huge industry affairs only pull in delegates from a 20 mile radius of the venue. Target the publication with the biggest and most relevant circulation – and preferably one with a strong online presence. Make sure you know the publication – if it’s a business event approach the business editor, a health story approach the health editor etc.

Pitch it properly:

This isn’t a hit send on an email and keep your fingers crossed job. Phone the editor responsible for the section you feel the story is most suitable for and explain who you are and what the feature will include – explain that it will be an exclusive for them and that it will be completely  localised.

If they’re interested, explain the structure you’d like the article to take – do they have any concerns or suggestions on this? How many words would they like? What date can they publish and when would they like the copy? What about photos? You can hopefully provide some but are they happy to take one of the case study if necessary?

After the conversation, if they’ve said yes to the feature, send a synopsis outlining the agreed publication date, the deadline date, the word count, who will be providing the photography and also detailing, in bullet points, what will be included and the structure it will take. Make sure you follow this when it comes to drafting the article so you give the journalist exactly what was agreed.

Deliver it on time:

You’ve already shown that you understand what their readers want. Don’t undo all of that hard work by not delivering it on time. Do whatever it takes to get what you’ve promised to the journalist on time.

Follow up:

You’ve delivered the copy on time, the  feature has appeared, you’ve got a fantastic piece of coverage for your client, and hopefully the publication has replicated it online to.

Next up – say thank you!

A quick, one line email to the journalist to say thanks will go a long way. Not only have you shown the ability to really deliver targeted content suitable to their readers, but manners too!

Hopefully, by following these steps you’ll not only get some great results for your clients, but also build strong relationships with journalists and demonstrate that you are a trusted and reliable source.

What do you think – have you tried this approach? How has it worked for you?

Twitter for business – beginners guide

In my day job I deal with a lot of businesses who are unsure about social media, and Twitter in particular. The questions and the opinions are usually the same – they feel ‘it’s a waste of time’ or they ‘don’t understand how it works.’ 

Hopefully this post will explain the basics of what all this ‘tweeting’ is actually about – and more imortantly, how it can benefit your business. 

Anything to add let me know! 

What is Twitter? 

Twitter is a ‘micro-blogging’ site. It allows users to post updates of no more than 140 characters. You can follow people who interest you, and people can follow you – and with over 140 million active users world wide, it is a huge online networking opportunity. 

Twitter dictionary:

  • Tweet: Updating your status in 140 characters or less
  • Follower: People who are interested in you ‘follow’ what you say. Your followers are effectively your audience
  • Re-tweet: Someone is interested in what you’ve said and tweet it to their followers
  • Direct message (DM): Private message sent from one person to another. You need to be following each other to do this
  • At (@) reply: A public reply to something you have tweeted
  • # (hash tag): A hash tag can be used in front of a word to make relevant posts easier to search for
  • Tweep: a combination of ‘Twitter’ and ‘people’. Commonly used to refer to followers
  • Trending topic: A trending topic is the most popular topics on Twitter that day. They often use the hash tag i.e.: #budget
  • Lists: The list function allows you to create a ‘group’ of people you want to follow. I.e.: ‘businesses in the South West’ or ‘UK football clubs’

Profile page - this is the page that your followers can see. backgrounds can be changed, and you can add a biography and website details. This is where your 'tweets' appear.

 

 
 

  

This is your private home page. Only you can see this.

What is Twitter used for?

Although you do get people who use their accounts to tell the world that they have ‘run out of milk’ or they are ‘feeling tired’ (not surprisingly, no one follows them), in a business environment Twitter can be used for: 

  • Sharing company news
  • Sign-posting articles that are of interest to your followers
  • Replying to customer questions and complaints
  • Monitoring your competitors
  • Seeking out business opportunities
  • Building trust with your consumers

Useful Twitter tools:

There are hundreds of tools out there to help make using Twitter even easier. Here’s just a few. 

Hootsuite – this website allows you to update numerous social media accounts at once, have multiple users, shorten URLs (meaning links take up less of your valuable 140 characters), provides statistics on click throughs, allows you to set up automatic searches for key words and phrases and lets you schedule tweets.

Social Mention – allows you to track your tweet and see how many people you have reached 

Twitter Search – people often forget about Twitter’s own search facility 

Tweetdeck – similar to Hootsuite but needs downloading to your desktop 

What are the rules? 

Well, there are no rules – but there are things that will make you popular, and things that will make followers delete you before you’ve even hit the ‘tweet’ button. 

Do: 

  • Develop a voice. Twitter is an opportunity for consumers to hear from you, the face behind the business. Show a sense of humour!
  • Listen and engage in conversations. There are tons of online tools to monitor conversations on Twitter (such as Tweetdeck). Search for words related to your business and join in the conversation.
  • Follow people who are of interest to you and your industry. With any luck they will follow you back and voila! you’ve started to build your audience (it’s worth noting though that just because you follow someone it doesn’t mean they have to follow you)
  • Say thanks. If someone ‘re-tweets’ something you say, or asks you a question, make sure you reply. You wouldn’t ignore someone in person and it’s sometimes just as rude online!

Don’t: 

  • Constantly tweet about the boring things you’re doing. Unless you’re about to sit down and have dinner with Richard Branson then no one wants to know. 
  • Don’t ignore your account. There is no point setting up an account if you’re going to update your status once every fortnight, but at the same time you don’t want to ‘shout’ at your followers by tweeting 50 times a day. Balance is key. 
  • Constantly promote yourself. The rule with Twitter is that you need to offer your followers something which adds value to their online experience. If you have something you want to promote then that’s fine, but balance it out with industry news and third party articles. 
  • Don’t get too personal: Once you’ve hit the send button whatever you write is in the public domain permanently. Be sure of what you’re saying and don’t mud sling in public. 

How much time and money do I need to spend? 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Twitter is easy and quick. It requires time and dedication to get a decent amount of followers – but more than that, a decent amount of followers who engage with you on a regular basis. 

Set yourself goals – 5 updates per day, add 5 new followers each day etc, to make it seem more manageable. 

How do I measure return on investment? 

Now this is a question which always gets asked and one where there is no black and white answer. It’s incredibly hard to measure tangible results on Twitter – and almost impossible to measure the effect it has on your bottom line. 

Although you can take a quantitative approach – how many followers do you have, how many click throughs have there been to your website etc, it can be much more beneficial to take a qualitative approach – who is engaging with you, are people re-tweeting your content? Is what you are saying having an impact? 

Whatever approach you decide to take, it’s important to remember that despite Twitter being the buzz word on everyone’s lips at the moment, that doesn’t mean it will work for your company. 

Think seriously about your objectives and goals; research, and listen to the conversation – are your target consumers on Twitter? What are your competitors doing? before you invest any time.

How do you measure your PR?

You’ve got X amount of newspaper articles, a few double-page features and a ton of online coverage – but what does it actually mean?

In this increasingly austere financial climate there is huge pressure to prove the value of marketing, but when it comes to PR, how do we measure the return on investment? 

In June this year the second European Summit on Measurement was held in Barcelona – which attempted to define just that.

Presented by AMEC (International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) in conjunction with the Institute for Public Relations, the conference brought together five global professional measurement and evaluation bodies, as well as nearly 200 delegates from the world’s top PR agencies and measurement firms. 

The outcome was seven measurement principles – the first ever global standard for measurement – which was published earlier this month: 

  1. Goal setting and measurement is key for any PR programme 
  2. Media measurement requires quantity and quality
  3. Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) don’t mean anything
  4. Social Media can and should be measured 
  5. Measuring outcomes is preferred to measuring media results 
  6. Business results can and should be measured where possible 
  7. Transparency and the ability to replicate are paramount to sound measurement 

Now, is it me, or do these principles not actually mean much (just like the crudely calculated AVEs that PR has relied on for the last two decades)?

The principles have been criticised for being too ‘pedestrian’, and I have to say I agree. Take point four for example – it’s saying we should measure social media – but not actually giving any practical advice on how to do it. 

The more in-depth report does justify the points further saying things such as “media content analysis should be supplemented by web and search analytics, sales and CRM data, survey data and other methods.”

But to me, it’s still a bit hazy, with no definite actions we can put into practice. 

In principle (sorry!) the principles are a good idea, and will go some way to ensuring that measurement is no longer an afterthought – as it currently is for many in the industry. 

But do we really need a global preference when it comes to measurement?

Perhaps the approach should be to educate and encourage PR practitioners to be up front and frank with their clients at the start, and to discuss every form of measurement available to them.  

After all, each client is different and each campaign is different. So surely the way results are measured should be different too?

Whether the client prefers to quantify results by analysing key messages within articles, count the number of re-tweets on Twitter, measure the amount of direct sales or even old school AVEs, as long as we fully brief them on the pros and cons of each method it should be about the client and their needs – not about the industry attempting to justify itself through hazy bullet points.

The importance of photography for B2B PR

Let’s face it – a lot of business news can be pretty boring.

So what? There’s been a new acquisition, or a new board member, or an increase in turnover.

You need something to make your story stand out – and a decent photograph could be just the ticket. By commissioning a bespoke photoshoot for your story you could end up doubling your coverage.

Here are some hints to help make it work for you:

1). Use the photo wisely

Not every story needs a professional photograph – whatever shots you have to hand may be enough, or indeed no photo at all. But there are times when a photo is the story. Think about your story visually – the story itself might not be that strong, but a photo could make it get snapped up by journalists. If you can persuade your client to spend that little bit extra (time and money) on a photoshoot it can really make a difference.

2). Be clever with your client

Some stories might not be directly linked to your client, but a photo can make sure they get a mention. For example, I recently did a press release on a law firm who helped a woman – who was the first person in the UK to use thermal imaging on pets – with the t’s and c’s on her website. The story was the woman, not the law firm – but by organising a photoshoot with her and the solicitor (not to mention a very cute Huskie dog), it was guaranteed that the law firm would get a mention in any coverage. And they did – the picture came out great and the story was used in every major business publication in the south west and numerous national veterinary titles.

3). Have respect for the photographer

We have an idea in our head of the sort of shots we need from a shoot, and a decent photographer should be able to get these. But, in the same way we work as consultants to our clients, photographers work as consultants to us. If they have an idea, or think that your idea wont work, discuss it and work through it together – use their expertise to get the best results.

4). Brief your client

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking a photoshoot is a few quick snaps on a digital camera. If you haven’t briefed your client fully and then a bossy (they’re usually the best) photographer turns up with flashes, backdrops and props, barking at them to smile more, then it can be a recipe for disaster. Even if it’s a simple head shot you’re after, ask your client to clear an hour in their diary and remind them to dress smartly (you may think this will be obvious – but trust me, it isn’t to everyone!)

5). Ask the newsdesk

Worried you might shell out £150 (approx $230) for a photoshoot and then the story still won’t get picked up? Call the newsdesk at the publication you’d most like to get coverage in and ask if it would be of interest if you provided professional photographs. It’s even worth asking if they would like to take photos themselves. What with all the redundancies in the past year or so it’s not as likely as it once, was but I’ve still hit gold a few times with this approach – especially in regional newspapers.

6). Do you even need a press release?

Perhaps you don’t even need to bother writing a story to go along with images. Great exposure can be got through an image alone. Without sounding too corny ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ and all that. Send pictures with a simple photo caption and short paragraph outlining the story – this works especially well for the ‘social’ pages in magazines.

7). It’s not just for press

Don’t think of the photo as a one hit wonder. It can be used on websites, uploaded onto social media sites, in marketing collateral and even potentially in future press material. It’s always worth checking the terms with your photographer though to make sure you have exclusive and unfettered usage.

8). Please! No more head and shoulders!

If I see one more ‘man in a suit’ staring back and me from the business pages I think I might scream. Of course these shots are sometimes necessary but try and make them a bit more exciting – if you have funky artwork in your office try and pose in front of that. Perhaps you work in stunning scenery, or on the waterfront? Get outside and have your photo taken. Anything apart from that stark white background.

Why have some businesses taken so long to blog?

It’s been a busy week in the office with four of our clients taking up an exciting opportunity to blog on a regional business news website.

Blogs were one of the first forms of so-called social media. They offer a platform for commentary, an opportunity for reflection and, of course, encourage comments and discussion among peers.

But ultimately, a blog is there to make you a thought-leader, to get your name out there and boost your SEO.

So, why has it taken so long for some businesses to catch on?

Writing a blog can be a scary experience fraught with questions: what do I say? Am I good enough to say it? Who is going to want to read it? How can I talk about my business without giving away too much?

All of these are valid questions and ones PRs have to tackle on a daily basis when persuading clients of the potential of these platforms.

But they are questions that can be answered easily by examining your objectives and looking for examples from those in your industry that are already using blogging to their advantage.

Like all social media it can seem a bit daunting or confusing. Alot of businesses perceive it as a ‘fad’ or something the ‘kids’ do.

But don’t underestimate the power of blogging, or indeed other social networking methods like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

It’s not a fad – it’s a fundamental shift in the way the world communicates.

And it doesn’t matter what your business is, whether it’s a PR agency, a firm of solicitors or a paper clip factory.

Somewhere, there are people who want to read about your company, your news and your opinions.

There are over 9 million blogs out there with 40,000 new ones popping up each day.

Some of them are primitive, but a lot of them are incredibly powerful, and if you utilise the skills of the communications and IT professionals around you there is no reason why your blog can’t become one of your greatest assets.

Oriella survey – are the findings really that surprising?

A report, which studied over 770 journalists from across the globe to find out how digital technology is affecting journalism, has been issued by Oriella PR Network.

 A lot of the findings are to be expected; nearly half of journalists surveyed expect the print press to decline even further, and many realise that future editorial opportunities exist online.

 There were a couple of stats that made me chuckle though.

Around 46% of journalists said they were expected to produce more work, 30% said they are working longer hours and 28% have less time to research stories.

So, realistically, 54% of journalists are working the same amount as before, 70% are leaving bang on 5.30pm and 72% have loads of time to research stories!?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining.

A busy journalist is far more likely to accept a (decent) PR story than one who is brimming with their own ideas, and the time and resources to develop them.

The Guardian breaks down the report quite handily into ‘the good’, ‘the bad’ and ‘the ugly,’ and for me there were two findings that I found particularly interesting:

1. PRESS RELEASES STILL THE BEST WAY TO PITCH STORIES TO JOURNALISTS

Surprisingly – in my view – The Guardian has put the fact that 75 per cent of journalists still want emailed press releases and photographs into the ‘bad’ section of their report:

Journalists are less interested in receiving multimedia content from PRs; 75% want emailed releases and half want photographs. Does this mean less imaginative and experimental editorial?

Now, I know there has been all this talk about ‘the death of the press release’ but for me, and the clients I work with, it’s still a vital part of a successful PR programme.

As long as it’s done well and features targeted content, a strong news or local angle and a decent supporting photo, it can, and does, get great results.

2. PAID FOR CONTENT COULD BECOME THE NORM

There was huge controversy when The Times announced they would be charging for their online content (check out my previous post here).

But it looks as though, despite the outcry from The Times’ competitors and readers, that more newspapers may be set to follow, with 30 per cent of publishers exploring paid-for websites and 22 per cent looking at charges for smartphone apps.

Personally, although I don’t like the idea of having to pay (when I can still get it for free), the fact that journalists contributions are being given a tangible value I actually find quite refreshing.

Good marketing or bad customer service?

I read an interesting story today about the founder of My Voucher Codes, Mark Pearson, who is under fire after offering the new Apple IPhone 4G for £99 on his website Groupola.

Groupola were offering the IPhone 4G at just £99

Sounds great right?

Especially considering they are retailing at a massive £499 in normal stores – most of which are already sold out.

The site had just 200 of the handsets on sale, but when the deal opened at 9.30am this morning 5 million users attempted to log in to get their hands on the cut price phone.

Subsequently the site crashed – resulting in problem number one.

This lead to an outburst on Twitter, with many consumers assuming the deal was fake – becoming problem number two.

But, as Real Business reports it’s not the deal, or either of those problems that is under scrutiny – it’s the way in which the site went about advertising the deal in the first place.

They say:

Consumers’ main gripe is that they had to pre-register their interest for the iPhone 4 by signing up to Groupola’s daily alerts. This is the main problem. If Groupola had just held it as a regular daily deal (where you don’t have to pre-register for Groupola’s marketing emails), I’m fairly confident the backlash would have been less strong. Don’t forget that Groupola claims to have received over five million hits this morning – so that’s a lot of people signing up to Groupola’s daily email alerts.

Fair point I suppose (though if the site hadn’t  frozen would the backlash have happened at all?)

To be honest I feel a bit bad for Groupola – it was a great deal, but one where supply would always be far outweighed by demand. But they were very honest with the terms – there would be a limited amount available and to have a chance you had to sign up to the email alerts.

A two minute online form and a daily email (which you can unsubscribe from easily) seems to me a very small price to pay for the chance to win, and I’m sure the 200 lucky winners aren’t complaining.

But it does create an interesting question.

When does a good marketing ploy become bad customer service?

Budget day could be easier this time round – for PRs at least

MPs are to be asked to agree to an earlier sitting of the House of Commons next Tuesday, so the emergency Budget can be held at the earlier time of 12.30pm, according to the BBC.

This is great news for business PRs and journalists alike.

I moved to the B2B team from consumer about three months ago and was lucky (!) enough to experience my first taste of budget day fairly quickly after starting.

Usually the budget is announced at 3.30pm and having to juggle numerous clients and get their comments together in time for close of play can be a nightmare.

This move to 12.30pm should be a huge relief for both PR’s and business journalists in the region – giving more time to source good quotes, case studies and reactions.

The only thing left to find out is are the reactions from businesses in the region going to be good or bad?

With previous threats of ‘painful cuts’ from the new coalition government , and George Osborne set to announce additional public spending cuts or tax increases of £34bn a year, I have a feeling it might be the latter.

Cameron and Clegg set to announce 'painful cuts'