How-To Public Relations: Capitalize on the New Year!

There are natural news cycles that occur throughout the year, some more conducive to public relations efforts than others. One of those natural news cycles is just around the corner – January 2013.


Here are three tips and ideas to help you take advantage of the New Year. The links below are examples of how my clients executed these ideas.


1.    Predictions: Everyone loves predictions as the New Year begins. Use this time to get your name out there as an expert by providing predictions for your industry. What are the five (or even three) main issues that will impact your industry next year? How should the industry respond?


  • Collateral to consider:
    • Press release to define the five predictions with wisdom and insight.
    • Video interview of a talking head walking through the three predictions.
    • Blog post on your corporate blog.
    • Contributed article in one of your industry’s trade publications.


 2.    Resolutions: Resolutions are part and parcel of the New Year, and there are tons of stories being written about New Year’s resolutions. From weight loss to exercise to a new outlook on life, we all think about what we resolve to do better next year. For your business, use the opportunity to engage your community/industry to see what resolutions are on people’s mind and be the thought leader that brings it all together.


  • Collateral to consider:
    • Press release about resolutions that are important for your industry
    • A online poll inviting folks in your industry to weigh in on what matters most to them
    • A white paper with thoughts from 4-5 leaders in your industry providing prescriptive guidance for your customers going into 2013


 3.    Year-end summaries: January lends itself to previous year retrospectives. News outlets and reporters are hungry for data and information that helps encapsulate the previous year. What was the most popular song? Who were the 10 most popular people? If you have data within your organization that can help add some perspective to the conversation, you significantly increase your chances of press coverage.


  • Collateral to consider:
    • Press release announcing a year-end summary based on your organization’s data
    • Infographic that shows the data in a visual and informative way
    • Blog post on your corporate blog


Hopefully this post will generate a few ideas. Have fun and be creative!


Posted in How-to, PR 101, Public Relations | Tagged , , ,

Jump Start Your Social Media Marketing On the Cheap

“Thirty-six percent of SMBs spend on median average $845 a month on software tools for social media management.”

If that figure makes you gasp, then this next one probably will too.

“Another 22% of SMBs use consultants to aid with their [social media marketing] efforts.”

Both figures recently appeared on the Duct Tape Marketing blog and are from a survey conducted by Vocus, a provider of cloud-based marketing tools.

While I’m not doubting the findings – I’ve priced many of the social  media marketing tools and you’ll spend $845 per month faster than you’d like to know – I also know there are a lot of small and medium businesses out there maybe spending that quarterly or annually. Certainly not monthly.

So what is a small business like yours to do if $845 per month for social media marketing tools plus the budget for consulting services isn’t in the cards? The only thing you can do: put on your do-it-yourself boots.

There’s way more than one blog’s worth of ideas for tackling do-it-yourself social media marketing. And don’t worry; we’re going to explore them. But to get you started, here are four things you can do this week to jump start a social media marketing initiative.


  1. Set up Google Alerts. Start seeing what people are saying in blogs and other online media about your brand, your biggest competitor and your industry. You can receive this in your RSS reader or via email and it is entirely free.
  2. Comment on blogs. Select a couple blogs or local media outlets that are relevant to your business and industry. Start reading them regularly and commenting constructively on posts. This will get your name in front of the writer as well as other readers.
  3. Set up a Twitter account. Either for your company or just for you, set up a Twitter account and start becoming familiar with platform’s norms, functionality and your opportunity to use it for business purposes. It may or may not be a good long-term fit for you, but exploring is one of the first steps to making that determination.
  4. Follow brands on Facebook. Follow a brand or two you love and a brand or two you compete with on Facebook. Start making mental notes of the things they do well and not so well.


These steps will all help you get a lay of the land without spending a dime. Check back here next month and we’ll go into a few of the tools available for managing your social media marketing. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much is available no matter how tiny your marketing budget is.

Posted in Social Media | Tagged , , , ,

Why Can’t A CEO Reach Out To Press?

I was having coffee the other day with a CEO of a small but growing business here in Austin. We talked about a number of things, but the conversation inevitably turned to public relations at some point. We discussed the value of public relations, how best to use public relations for a growing business and media outreach. As a passing comment, I told her she could reach out to the press directly, at which point she seemed a bit surprised (in a good way).


If you have a story to tell, are running your own business, are operating on a limited budget, doing some very targeted press outreach is a very feasible solution to try and get press coverage. The press love hearing from CEOs directly, and I’ve found that CEOs that develop a relationship with the press have companies with much stronger brands.


Want to take the leap and reach out to reporters? Here are a few tips for CEOs.


  • Target your list: You are not trying to become a public relations professional, so don’t reach out to 100 different reporters. Identify the top 5-6 (or 1 or 2 if that’s all you can do) reporters that you think are the most important to your business and begin a dialogue. There are a few you probably already read on a regular basis, so that’s a good place to start.


  • Reach out: Don’t be afraid to reach out to reporters, introduce yourself, your company. Read recent stories the reporter has written and send something insightful or timely based on what they are writing. Here is a list of tips to help with outreach.


  • Be accessible: A quick and thoughtful response to a reporter goes a long way. If a reporter needs something from you, make it a priority to be available and responsive. Being accessible pays dividends in the long run.


  • Be smart: All of these suggestions come with a caveat. It’s important to have a CEO that is media savvy and knows when to enlist the help of people around her. If a reporter is contacting the CEO directly about a crisis situation facing the company, a response from the CEO may or may note be the best approach. For the most part, direct access will lead to increased positive press coverage, but knowing when to NOT say anything can be just as important.


Posted in How-to, Opinion, PR 101, Public Relations | Tagged , ,

August Communications Round Up

The dog days of summer are winding down but there’s still plenty hot in marketing, communications and public relations from the past month.


Around the Web


On DIY PR Shop

Posted in News | Tagged , , , ,

2 Writing Tips That Really Work

During a recent #blogchat (Sundays at 8p CT) the topic was “tips to be a better writer.” Goodness knows we can all use tips and tricks to be a better writer. In my many years of writing, I’ve tried all the writing tips out there: outlines, stream of consciousness, hand-written edits, track changes, peer reviews. You name it, I’ve tried it.


Two writing habits however consistently perform for me and my writing. I’m going to share them with you here, totally for free, which is worth noting since the second tip cost me a year’s college tuition when I got it myself.


  1. Write, Walk, Review. Write your initial draft, walk away, preferably overnight, and then review. This is the best way to assess if your angle is interesting, if your opinions are well backed and if your grammar has any merit.
  2. Word Count Cut. When you come back for that review, task yourself with reducing your word count by 10%. Now you can’t cheat and write verbosely to start with. You need to write that first draft concisely and then edit it to be REALLY concise. You’ll be amazed by how much more clearly you articulate your ideas. I thank my Writing 201 professor for this mandate; years later it still makes my writing better by the day.


(Originally written 8/19/12 at 245 words long, reviewed 8/21/12 and reduced to the 218 words you read above.)


Posted in How-to | Tagged , , ,

Twitter Hashtags for Small Businesses

Twitter hashtags are an ideal way to follow and engage in Twitter conversations that really matter to you. Whether it is to collect competitive intelligence, connect with clients or learn about business strategies to grow, hashtags (which are also often Twitter chats) can help you find the right Twitter conversations and be an important part of your social media strategy.


Since every business and industry is different finding the right Twitter hashtags for the first two (market research and connecting with clients) will be a unique exercise for each company. However for the third goal, learning strategies to grow your company, I can share a few trusted and true hashtags.


  • #B2Bchat – The live chat is Thursdays at 7p CT and covers a broad range of topics helpful for a business-to-business oriented company.
  • #PR20chat – The live chat is Tuesdays at 7p CT and participants discuss public relations 2.0, ie the intersection of traditional public relations and social media marketing. This Twitter chat moves fast so be ready!
  • #Smallbizchat – The live chat is Wednesdays at 7p CT and the topics are tailored to small business success, often including a guest speaker.
  • #AGBizTip – Based on the “Ask Gerber” video segment of, entrepreneur Scott Gerber answers and questions and shares tips specific to entreprenuers.
  • #PRTips – This is an ongoing stream of simple, clever tips for succeeding in public relations. The content is concise and easy to execute on.


Posted in Social Media | Tagged , ,

The CEO And Brand Identity

Quickly! Name three strong brands.

My guess is you can also name the CEOs of those strong brands. In my years of experience, I’ve usually run across two types of CEOs – 1) the CEO who’s really a closet COO; 2) the CEO who is the public voice of the company and loves schmoozing with the press.

Typically, companies that get the most press coverage and the best press coverage are the ones that have a CEO who will mix it up with the media and is strongly connected to the brand. Steve Jobs? Check. Carly Fiorina? Check. Jack Welch? Check. Meg Whitman? Um…most definitely. Larry Ellison? Check. Jeff Bezos. Without a doubt. You get the idea.

Companies that get less press coverage and tend to have weaker brand identity have CEOs that tend to function more as a COO and are much more internal facing. Each company needs to bring in a CEO that fits its culture and will help achieve its business objectives, but since we’re here to talk about the CEO as the poster girl for her company and industry, that’s where we’ll focus.

Steve Jobs was so effective and helped build the Apple brand because he was a very public visionary for the company and a rabble-rouser. He spoke his mind; he talked to the press on a regular basis; he challenged the status quo in a very public way and oftentimes gave his naysayers the middle finger. What would Apple have been like if Steve was more of a COO-type CEO that rarely spoke to the press or spoke out publicly? Right now, Apple is still riding the wave of Steve Jobs mystique, but it will be interesting to see what happens to Apple the next few years with Tim Cook steering the Good Ship Apple.

You want to build your brand? Take your company to the next level in terms of public relations and public awareness? Find a CEO (or become that CEO) with charisma, chutzpah, a strong sense of vision and a willingness to shake things up in a very public way. It can make all the difference in the world when telling the story you want to tell.

Posted in Opinion, PR 101, Public Relations

July Communications Round Up

While you’ve been hard at work improving your product, serving your clients and climbing to the top, a lot has been happening in the world of public relations and marketing. Just look.

Around the Web

On DIY PR Shop

Posted in Marketing, News, Public Relations, Social Media | Tagged , , ,

Know Your Rights! Public Relations 101

You’re sitting there minding your own business, feet up on the desk, reading an email conversation between two of your VPs about supply chain challenges and two very different ways to solve the same problem — a public relations conundrum is the last thing on your mind. You’re lost in thought when the phone rings.

There is nothing about the ring to suggest any nefarious intent from caller on the other end. Boy, are you in for a surprise. You answer the phone just like you do any other time, but it’s the Wall Street Journal. The reporter has a few questions about one of your clients and their operations in China. Just a couple simple questions, really (yea, right). At this stage, you have a few choices, similar to a Choose Your Own Adventure story. Does your character die a horrible death or live to be the heroine? We’re about to find out.

Putting on your public relations hat, do you: a) hang up and pretend there was static on the line? b) Speak in another language and pretend not to understand the reporter? c) Refer the reporter to your closest competitor? d) Break down and give the reporter the story of her life?

You probably won’t do any of the above, but what will you do? Being in an interview situation where you are prepared and ready to have a conversation with a reporter is one thing (and often can be challenging), but being completely caught off guard is something else. Here is one public relations ground rule you can remember regardless of where you might encounter a reporter – on the phone, at a tradeshow, at a birthday party, etc.

Rule #1 (and only rule I’ll share today): You don’t have to talk to anyone about anything (your significant other may disagree, but that’s a different blog and blog post altogether). You are not obligated to answer any questions a reporter poses.

I’ve seen CEOs panic and spill the beans on customers, partners, vendors, etc., simply because they were fearful they would never have another shot at being in the Wall Street Journal (and you’ll be tempted, I know you will be). Resist the temptation. There will always be other chances and other reporters and other ways to tell your story through public relations. Ultimately, you have to do what is in the best interest of your company – and as hard as it may be, that sometimes includes NOT talking to the press.

Posted in How-to, PR 101 | Tagged , ,

A Lesson In Public Relations From Penn State

Since I’ve written recently about crisis communications, I’m going to continue in that vein since we have some fresh material to mine. And I realize I’m treading dangerous water here with the post I’m about to write, but it’s a real-world case study that’s worth exploring. Of course, I’m talking about the Penn State situation.

If you step back and take a look at the entire scenario, it’s an incredibly sad and despicable situation. Those poor children who were subjected to abuse by Sandusky must have feared for their lives and will never be the same again. The lack of response from the leadership at Penn State (including Paterno) has tarnished both the image of the school and the legacy of a football program and coach.

For all intents and purposes, if I put on my objective public relations hat, this is a perfect example of a situation gone horribly wrong that could have been managed very differently. I’ve talked numerous times about owning the story when a crisis hits versus the story owning you. This story has owned Penn State, not the other way around. Look at the Tylenol situation from the 80’s (which I’ve referenced before) to see an example of a horrible situation handled extremely well.

And I don’t, for a minute, suggest that public relations should be used as a tool to lessen what the people who perpetrated those horrible actions did on that campus. Sandusky should be punished. Individuals who withheld information should be punished. But there are teachers, students and other administrators who depend on Penn State for their livelihood who were in no way involved or in no way complicit with the actions of a few. Yet they are likely being affected in some negative way because of the pall it casts over the entire university.

The best thing that could have been done – and this extends beyond just public relations; this is just good business practice – is for those involved to have reported to the authorities, punishment meted out and the university to move forward. I can guarantee you that if the standard “crisis communication” guidelines had been followed at the appropriate time, we wouldn’t be reading about Penn State today (or not in this way).

Posted in Case Study, Opinion, Public Relations | Tagged , ,