Creating PR for Your Small Business


Public Relations consists of current, consistent, and accurate communications to your target customers and beyond.  The goal is to create and convey a message that convinces your audience to trust you and ultimately buy your products.

Many companies hire professional PR firms to supplement their in-house communications staff, but it’s possible for you to do your own PR if you have the time and know what steps to take.

Years ago PR focused on publicity stunts, free samples, surveys, and catchy advertising.  Today it’s more sophisticated and employs a variety of methods to get out your message, including: media commentary, bylined articles, community involvement, media relationships, and public speaking.


Create a plan
Your PR plan doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive to implement.  Here are the building blocks to be considered.


Goals – Define what you want your PR to achieve and set measurable objectives that you believe are achievable.


Perception – How you initially position yourself in the marketplace will have a lasting effect.  How do you want your business to be known in the community?  Are you the low price option, or are you going for a high-end clientele?  Is excellent service your number one priority?


Messages – Outline and prioritize the most critical facts that you want people to know about your business.  Refine the top three into short, crisp bites that are easily communicated and remembered.


Audience – Don’t think of potential customers as your only audience.  Broadly defined, this should include any person or entity that may have a stake or interest in your business.  Since word-of-mouth is one of the best forms of advertising, your audience should encompass current and former employees, friends, neighbors, suppliers, local and national media, civic organizations, and government officials and agencies.  Even your competitors have the power to spread a message about you, friendly or not.


Strategy & Tactics – Develop a blueprint for accomplishing your objectives.  This should include steps you’ll take to establish your position in the marketplace.  Tactics are the specific tools you’ll employ to
communicate your message to your audience and should include community outreach and selected media outlets.  Performing public service and participating in charitable events are excellent ways of obtaining free publicity.  Consider donating products and services to worthy community organizations.


Local Media – The local media can make or break a business.  Newspapers, community papers, radio
stations, and local cable channels are always on the lookout for a new angle or story, and fresh
approaches to business concepts.  Make sure you invite them to grand openings, open houses, anniversary events, and special promotions.  Let them know when you secure an important customer, solve a community problem, or win a business award.  Don’t be intimidated by reporters as they can help carry your message in exchange for your time and expertise.  That message can be as simple as what you know and what you do better than anyone else.


Implementation
While the internet has dramatically changed the marketing and advertising landscape, there’s still nothing more valuable than a positive mention of your business by an unbiased third party.  If that third party has tremendous trust and reach to millions of potential customers, it can be a life-changing event.
A great example of this is the recent hit song recorded by Carly Rae Jepsen of Canada.  When Justin Bieber tweeted to his millions of followers that Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe was “possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard,” it became an instant mega-hit.  While most of us will never enjoy that kind of superstar endorsement, you can mimic it on a smaller scale through energetic self-promotion of quality products.
If you open a new restaurant, an enthusiastic write-up by the local newspaper’s food critic can provide you with a jumpstart that paid advertising can’t easily duplicate.  The key is to capitalize on it and make sure that positive news gets the widest possible dissemination.


The List – Find the best five to ten journalists and bloggers who write about your type of business or your city.  Put Google Alerts on each one, read their articles, and find out their individual expertise.  You can demonstrate your expertise by commenting on their writings and make a name for yourself in the process.  This is one way to present yourself as a go-to expert should they need one.


Networking – The internet provides a simple and inexpensive way to insert your business into the forefront of other people’s minds.  Build online relationships by sponsoring Facebook promotions, engaging in online forums, trading links through Twitter, and maintaining your own blog.  Social media provide you with unprecedented access, and demonstrating your expertise will get you noticed
as a potential resource for future journalistic needs.


Press Releases – These allow you to control the message and frequency of your formal announcements.  Issue them to highlight important news and events, but don’t overuse them to the point where they become irrelevant.  Online distribution resources include PitchEngine and PRWeb where your releases will be picked up by search alerts and news aggregators.


Self-promotion – Suggest stories to your list of journalists and bloggers that show how customers are
benefiting from the products and services you provide.  If you’re having a positive impact on the community and its citizens, take the initiative to get that message out.  Cultivating the trust and respect of journalists is very important, so take the time to do it personally and professionally.


Online presence
Your website should include an online newsroom where you can direct the media to go for information.  Provide easy access to professional photos, videos, logos, press releases, product announcements, and multiple contact options.  Include links on your website to other resources and trade articles related to your business niche or industry.  The media need this information for researching potential news articles.
Put together a prepackaged media or electronic press kit that contains background information on your business, timelines, and important facts and figures.  Such a kit will save you time in the long run, make it much easier to respond to media inquiries, and ensure your message is clear and consistent.  Make sure the kit shows off your products in a compelling way that’s designed to generate maximum buzz.
Show off testimonials and positive customer feedback regarding your products.  Include a real simple
syndication (RSS) feed on your website that updates company news and product developments.  It’s free and easy to set up.


Summary
If you don’t have the money to spend on professional PR, don’t ignore the need for it.  It’s critical to creating lead generation for your business and building customer and brand loyalty.  Apple didn’t get where it is by being shy about promoting itself.
If you have a company vehicle, add professional graphics with your company name and contact
information.  Other important assets include convenient hours and a commitment to customer service.  If you don’t work from home, maintain a polished office to meet customers.Be an expert in your field and invite interviews from the media.  Before you know it you’ll be sitting on industry advisory boards and enjoying your business success.


Geoffrey Michael (www.geoffreymichael.pro) is a freelance writer specializing in business, marketing, personal finance, law, science, aviation, sports, entertainment, travel, and political analysis.  He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and is also licensed to practice law in California and New Hampshire.  Geoffrey wrote this feature article exclusively for DebbieMay.com, an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.

How to Build Your Business Using Social Media (and Keep It Organized!)


You’ve heard of the benefits of using social media to market your business, but how do you execute an effective strategy that doesn’t require you to be a web guru—or consume your time? Here’s the lowdown on how to support your business with social media effectively, and strategically.

Facebook. Creating a Facebook page for your business, and building a fan following by suggesting that email contacts and existing Facebook “friends” like your page is the first start to a business presence on Facebook. Additionally, you should direct your website visitors to your businesses’ Facebook page with the “official” Facebook button, to build traffic to your page. With the fans you’ve secured, you next job is to stimulate your audience to “like,” comment on, and share your posts with others. The more fans interact with your page, the more you’ll show up in their newsfeeds, and in those of their friends via shares. Give your fans a reason to respond: Ask questions, offer “fan only” promotions, contest, and sweepstakes, and post images and ideas that strike an emotional chord. According to Facebook user engagement research by Buddy Media, posting between 8 p.m. and 7a.m., will increase the likelihood of“ shares,” too. To schedule posts automatically, select the clock icon to the left, when you’re in the status update tool.

Twitter. Unlike Facebook, Twitter is public information, but you should add your Twitter account to your businesses’ website, to gain followers. Though Twitter provides space 140 character updates, limit yours to 120 characters so others can easily retweet your message. Use bitly to bookmark and shorten Tweets you want to share.  To market your business on Twitter, become familiar with its basic functionalities: Hashtags (# followed by a word or phrase), and @ symbols. Twitter hashtags categorize information to help users find information relating to a specific topic, and to connect to users with similar interests. They’re also a great way of networking with other businesses, and their followers.  Unless you are specifically trying to promote a contest, sweepstakes or trend for your business (a great way to engage users on Twitter), keep hashtags to the point, and general. The @ symbol is used to direct messages on Twitter-- but placement is key. If you want to broadcast a Tweet to a specific person, place an @ followed by their username in the front of your message; it will be seen only by people who follow both of you. To broadcast to the “Twitterverse” including a specific person, place the @ username anywhere BUT the front of the message. If you want to retweet a message, use RT@ followed by the orginator’s username. Install TweetDeck to your desktop or smartphone to organize Twitter activity, and automate Tweets.

Pinterest.  The more interesting your “pin” (image) is on Pinterest, a virtual pinboard, the greater your odds of reaching the 24 million unique Pinterest users who might “like” or “repin” your pin to their own boards. Such sharing is the key to building your “pin” exposure on Pinterest.  Focus your pin on interesting and appealing images of products, ideas and tips that are natural extensions of what your business is about. Pinterest images should ultimately link back to the original source (which is your site, if you originated the pin), but you can also reference your site link in the pin description to ensure you get the credit you deserve. To market products you sell on Pinterest, type a $ symbol followed by the number amount in the description. 

Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer turned stay at home working mom, yoga instructor and freelance writer covering personal finance, small business,consumer issues, work-life balance and health/wellness topics for ForbesWoman, Minyanville , SheKnows , Mint , Intuit Small Business, Investopedia and several other online properties. She is also the founder of Wellness On Less and Om for Mom prenatal yoga. Stephanie wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie May.com (www.DebbieMay.com), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.

Taming the Bully Within


Taming the Bully Within

Most of us have witnessed or experienced the affects of bullying or being bullied in children; it can be devastating.  But the bully experience is not limited to children; adults are bullied too. It happens in the workplace as well as in personal relationships. 


An adult bully will attempt to gain power over another person to make himself the dominant adult. The bully may come to you in form of the customer who refuses to play by the rules, always pushing the limits by demanding more and paying late. Or he may be the guy in bumper to bumper traffic who beeps at you incessantly even though you can’t possibly get out of his way. Hopefully, you don’t experience this behavior in others and surely you do not treat others in this way – but how do you treat yourself? Is it possible that the bully in your life is – you?


Self-bullying is one of the most negative, destructive behaviors to engage in, yet it’s not all that uncommon in the uncertain entrepreneur.  Do you demand perfection from yourself? Do you shoulder the burden of responsibility when things don’t work out quite as you’d planned? Do you sometimes call yourself names and entertain the voice within that constantly tells you that you “should have done this and could have done that”? Perhaps you negate your achievements and criticize yourself for not doing more, noticing the slightest imperfection in nearly everything you do. If any of these behaviors ring true, it’s time to have a chat with your inner-bully.  


But first let’s take a look at one of the reasons that this bully within you exists. Consider this: if you criticize your efforts, tell yourself that you “can’t” do something, and put yourself down on a regular basis, how likely are you to try new things or take further risks? For the self-bullying personality progress can be slow, if at all. But your subconscious mind doesn’t see that as a bad thing because it’s there to protect you from your worse fears. If your worse fear is failure, then your well-meaning subconscious mind will send messages to your brain to talk you out of taking risks; it will bully you into submission. It means well, but at a conscious level it seems counter-productive, doesn’t it?  

But your subconscious mind is only doing its job. It is protecting you from being let down and experiencing the failure that you fear so much. And to some degree that feels just fine because as long as you don’t take the risks associated with success, you still have hope – and hope is something we all want to hold on to. 

With that in mind, you have a new goal:  to teach your subconscious mind and your brain that the inner-bully is no longer needed and that hope is yours to keep, no matter what.  Here are some tips to curb that bullying voice within.

When the inner-bully gives you negative feedback or creates worrisome thoughts ask if it is real. For instance, if the inner-voice is telling you that you will only fail if you do x,y, and z, ask yourself if that’s true? How do you know it’s true? Can you state without a doubt that you will fail? Probably not. But if you are convinced that you will fail, move forward with this next question.

What will happen if it happens? Then what? 

Usually when we ask this question, we can come up with logical and reasonable solutions for the next step. It helps us to see that this “bad thing,” like failing, isn’t the end of the world. We can move on to the next empowering step. Lastly, identify and initiate one small step to challenge the inner-bully and achieve something that you can feel proud of. What is that next step? How will it feel to take a step toward your goal? Even if this step feels small and relatively insignificant, that’s okay. Each little step will give you more and more momentum and will get you to your vision much faster than doing nothing at all!

Marla Tabaka is an entrepreneurial coach who inspires entrepreneurs around the world to attain what she calls, The Million-Dollar Mindset. As a result, many of her clients have achieved – even surpassed – the million dollar mark in annual revenues and are living the life of their dreams. In addition to running a thriving practice, Marla is a columnist for Inc. Magazine on-line, and hosts two international on-line radio shows, The Million Dollar Mindset and Million Dollar Mindset Tapping. Marla wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie May.com (http://www.debbiemay.com/), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed. If you would like to consult with Marla to learn how she can help you grow your business and better your life, contact her at Marla@MarlaTabaka.com