Marketing and Publicity on a Tight Budget

If you need to rev up your company’s marketing and publicity efforts but face the constraints of a tight budget, come to a breakfast seminar I’m speaking at next Tuesday, November 17th, to pick up some practical, budget-wise tips for marketing smarter and getting mentioned in the media. My co-presenter is the terrific and knowledgeable Charlene St. Jean, owner of Purple Diamond LLC (www.Purple-Diamond.net), a marketing coaching company and advertising agency based in Beverly, MA. Together, we will show you how to get the most mileage from your marketing dollars, explain what makes an effective press release, and how to work successfully with the media.

The seminar, “Marketing and Publicity on a Tight Budget,” is presented by the Beverly Chamber of Commerce (www.beverlychamber.com) and takes place at Blueberry Hill Healthcare, 75 Brimbal Avenue, in Beverly, MA, from 7:30 to 9 AM on November 17, 2009. Cost is $8 for Beverly Chamber members, $13 for non-members, and includes continental breakfast. Registration is required; contact the Beverly Chamber of Commerce by email director@beverlychamber.com or call 978 232 9559. Hope to see you there!

For many people, the word “publicity” conjures up thoughts of a press release that’s sent out to print and digital media, but there’s a host of other techniques to use to get publicity for your company, organization, or event. For instance, you could grow a mustache. Seriously. I just learned this morning that men all over the world are growing mustaches during the month of “Movember” to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues (www.movember.com). A shout-out to Tyson Goodridge, principal of South Hamilton, MA-based social media education and consulting firm Dialogue (www.enterdialogue.com), who is bravely growing a “Movember” mustache – you grow, bro!

Make a Mess Now — Clean Up Later

NaNoWriMoFor fun, this month I am participating in National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo), which means I have made a pact with myself and thousands of other NaNoWriMo participants that I will write a 50,000-word first draft of a novel between November 1 and November 30. Tonight I got that word count up over 10,000 words, so I’m one-fifth of the way there.

Is it deathless prose or great literature? Not at all, not yet — it’s presently a glorious mess of characters and plot threads that skitter off in contradictory, unexpected directions. And that’s what makes it so much fun. Because this is my third year doing NaNoWriMo, I know that whenever my inner professional editor pipes up and starts fretting about sentence structure or plot continuity, I simply need to remind that editor and myself that my goal is to pound out the draft this month. I reassure the editor that I can clean up later, during the revision process, and then get back to writing that draft.

I think of participating in NaNoWriMo — or the drafting phase of any writing project — as being much like a kid who has been allowed to take out the art supplies and create, without worrying about whether she’s wiping up the spilled paint or erasing the smudges as she goes along. The time for cleaning up is after the party. Earlier today, I was talking to a book editing client who told me how helpful she found this analogy when she was in the process of revising and reshaping the manuscript for the second edition of her book. It helped to free her up to just write new sections and rearrange others without getting stuck in “self-edit mode” when she needed to be creating. Yes, the editing is vitally important for a polished end product, but trying to edit and draft at the same time can bring a project to a standstill.

So have that messy party first — you can clean it up later! And if you want to know more about National Novel Writing Month, visit www.nanowrimo.org for more info.

Why Writing is Like Learning to Play the Trombone

The process of writing anything – whether it’s a book or an article for a professional journal in your field – has quite a bit in common with learning to play the trombone (or any other musical instrument, for that matter). Your first efforts don’t sound so great, but eventually, if you keep at it, you can produce some fine sounds.

What prompted this analogy? My daughter just started learning how to play the trombone. While the sounds at first veered between comical and ear-splitting, it didn’t take long for a few actual musical notes to emerge from the happy din. Over time, I expect the music-to-din ratio to improve.

So too, with writing: The first draft of any piece of writing — be it a book chapter, blog post, or brochure text — is likely to be full of not-quite-formed ideas and rough prose. If you Google “Hemingway on first drafts,” you’ll find his famous opinion on what all first drafts resemble. A crummy first draft is actually a good problem to have – because it means you have something you can revise, edit, and polish.

A side benefit: sometimes writing badly is fun and freeing, especially in the world of fiction – Exhibit A would be the winners of this year’s Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (see www.bulwer-lytton.com/2009.htm to read the winning entries). The exuberantly bad writing warms the heart – congratulations to overall winner David McKenzie, and to the winners of the individual categories, particularly the Vile Puns division. Go ahead, take a minute or two to read some of these deliberately terrible opening lines of novels – then get back to work on your writing project.

Give yourself permission to write badly, to pound out a messy first draft. Once you have something on the page or on the screen, you can start revising, and keep on revising, until your writing says what you mean it to say.

Somewhere, in a heaven where fictive meets factual, Professor Henry Hill and Papa Hemingway are smiling, as 76 trombone players trade tips with writers …

Be Clear and Compelling to Get Press Coverage

With so many messages vying for attention, how do you get your company noticed in the press, whether it’s digital or print media? One key is crafting your message so that it catches the attention of the media gatekeepers like editors, reporters, and bloggers, and appeals to your target audience.

Tomorrow, September 23, I’ll be conducting an “Ask the Expert” session at the Enterprise Center at Salem State (www.enterprisectr.org) on “How to Get My Business the Press Coverage It Deserves.” Having sat on the editor’s side of the desk for 17 years as a B2B journalist, I know what members of the media want to see in a press release or query, and I’ll be talking with session participants about how to get their businesses noticed. (Tomorrow’s session is full, but please contact me if you’d like to learn more about this topic.)

Many factors play into a company’s “media appeal,” but today I’ll focus on one that may seem painfully obvious, but is all too often overlooked when companies send out press releases:

Are you sending a clear message in the headline and very first paragraph about:

  • Who you are?
  • What your company does?
  • What your newsworthy event or quotable expertise is all about?
  • Why it matters to a particular audience?

Trust me – the last reaction you want a media gatekeeper to have to your press release is “Gah! What are they talking about?” It’s just too easy to hit the “delete” key – and that’s what is likely to happen if you leave out or are unclear about any of the above.

Remember, the media folks out there do want your news if it is relevant to their target audiences, and they do want to tap you as an expert source if you have credibility and a unique perspective. But it’s up to you to make it easy for them to quickly recognize your company’s newsworthiness, credibility, and relevance – and that all comes back to crafting a clear, concise, and compelling message for your press release.

Two Terrific Online Resources for Aspiring Authors

One purpose for this blog is to spread the word about the excellent resources available online for anyone hoping to write and publish a book. Here are two blogs I’ve come across recently that I think you’ll find extraordinarily helpful, whether you are pulling together a business book or writing the next Great American Novel.

Literary agent Nathan Bransford, with the San Francisco office of Curtis Brown Ltd., offers an entertaining, terrifically informative blog about the ins and outs of query letters, finding an agent, and negotiating the process of getting published. He also keeps his readers up to date on publishing industry news and trends, and encourages lively discussions via the comments. Check it out at: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/.

Over at “The Book Deal: An Inside View of Publishing,” consulting editor Alan Rinzler offers his own information-packed take on writing and publishing books, covering topics like the changes in the publishing industry, how to build your author platform, and a whole lot more. Visit Alan Rinzler’s blog here: http://www.alanrinzler.com/blog/

Please let me know what you think – and share links to your favorite online resources on publishing.

How to Help the Media Find You, Oh Quotable One

In the early seventies, Doctor Hook and the Medicine Show had a hit song about a musician’s ambition to see his “smiling face on the cover of the Rolling Stone.” Solopreneurs and owners of small companies also crave national recognition, but get their thrills (not to mention increased credibility) from mentions in major business media.

Two North Shore businesses were featured recently in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal– how’d they do it?

Nancy Black, owner of Organization Plus in Beverly, MA (www.organizationplus.com) said the NYT reporter found her website and liked it. The result? Nancy was quoted in a feature article about organizing a home office. (See the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/26/garden/26office.html?_r=1)

Ruth Sheets, owner of Ducks in a Row Consulting in Newburyport, MA (www.ducksinarowconsulting.com) said her company’s name came up in the WSJ reporter’s Internet search. The result? Ruth was quoted in Kelly Spors’ July 13, 2009 advice column for small businesses. (See the article here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204119704574237921738340590.html)

For both these businesses, having an effective online presence led to exposure to a national audience. And by “effective,” I don’t necessarily mean flashy with lots of bells and whistles. What’s most important is having a solid, professional website filled with content that clearly conveys what your business does and includes keywords the members of the media might search on when they’re looking for experts like you.

So that’s one way to “pull” the media to you — here’s a bonus tip for getting the word out about your notable and quotable expertise. If you’d like the chance to serve as an expert source for the media, sign up at Help A Reporter Out. This service was started by marketer and PR strategist Peter Shankman, operating with the motto “Everyone’s an Expert at Something.” If you sign up at www.helpareporter.com, you’ll get up to three emails a day that aggregate 15 to 30 queries from reporters (print, broadcast, and online) who need expert sources to interview.

The service is free and simple, with the main rule being this: Reply to a query only if you truly have the expertise the reporter is looking for (or if you are a PR person and one of your clients has that expertise).

If this sounds great, but you’re a business owner too pressed for time to scan these emails, I’m developing a service where I’ll scan these opportunities for clients, and with the “pitch” response as needed. If you’re interested or have questions, contact me at kate@bluepencilconsulting.com.

And, by the way, when you DO get that mention in the national media, like the song said, don’t forget to “buy five copies for your mother.”

Quick Tips for Getting Good Press Coverage

At my recent talk to the North Shore Business Forum on “Getting Good Press Coverage,” I offered a number of ideas for successfully sharing your news with the media. Here are four ideas for you to try.

  1. Make a list of current trends or topics in the news on which you feel you could serve as an expert source. Can you describe your expertise in the proverbial 25 words or less, or in a 30-second elevator pitch? If you can do this, terrific — you’re on your way! If you can’t, get to work — being able to quickly establish yourself as an expert when you’re pitching the media is essential.
  2. Develop a list of the media outlets that serve your clients or prospective clients. Some should come to mind immediately, but go beyond the obvious and do a little online research to find others. And remember to ask your clients where they get news. Media outlets may include:
    · Local media: newspapers, TV & radio stations, magazines
    · Regional/national media
    · Industry or trade journals and magazines
    · Web sites of news outlets, plus trade associations, networking groups, etc.
    · Blogs or Twitter feeds about your field
    · Social networking sites
  3. Find opportunities to meet the local press. The newspapers serving your hometown and region may hold periodic “open houses” at which you can meet editors, writers, and photographers, and learn how to pitch stories. While the local papers are not the only media outlets you should contact, I’d encourage you to take advantage of these “meet and greet” sessions as a way to form relationships with local media folks. A reporter is more likely to tap you as a source for a story if he or she has met you and knows you’re an expert on a particular topic (see tip #1, above).
  4. Check The Publicity Hound’s “Tips of the Week” for creative ideas about getting coverage. Publisher Joan Stewart wrote recently: “Online publicity — from direct-to-consumer press releases to pitching bloggers and using the social networking sites like LinkedIn to promote — can produce far greater results than the biggest pile of clips. Smart Publicity Hounds cover all the bases by pitching traditional media and participating in social media. Read more about how to use LinkedIn to promote at http://tinyurl.com/5zvzyd.“ (Visit www.PublicityHound.com for more of Joan’s great tips.)

Thanks for reading — and let me know if you have success stories you’d like to share about getting good press coverage for your company or organization.

Getting Good Press Coverage – NSBF Talk on March 13, 2009

Give me your tired, your dull, your muddled press releases yearning to be seen…. (with apologies to Emma Lazarus)

How do you get your press releases to generate attention for your business – not prompt an editor to hit the “Delete” key? I’ll be offering practical tips for crafting press releases that get results during this hands-on mini-clinic at the weekly breakfast meeting of the North Shore Business Forum (www.nsbforum.org) on Friday, March 13, 2009, at 7:30 AM. I’ll also be explaining why “getting good press coverage” encompasses more than just your local newspaper in this brave new multimedia world.

If you’re in the area, I encourage you to stop by the NSBF breakfast this week — it’s at the Danversport Yacht Club, off Route 62 in Danvers, MA. If you can’t make the meeting, I’ll post the handout after the meeting.

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