You think you know all about writing a professional press release. So, why aren’t you hearing from any of those reporters on your mailing list? The answer is simple. Your press release is competing not only against other companies trying to get their story in print or on the air but with actual news events. Yes, actual news trumps your story. So what can be done to increase the odds that your press release won’t end up in the trash?
1. First and foremost, your press release should be timely. Don’t send a reporter a press release about an event that has already happened. This is old news. They are looking for fresh stories to tell their respective audiences. Do send them a story about a future event and be sure to include the date and location in the subject line of your email or press release. Remember, if you want to get a story in a monthly publication, you will need to send your release at least eight weeks before the event to meet publication deadlines.
2. Send your press release to the right people. If you are sending a story about opening a new business in your area, your release should be addressed to the city and/or business editor. Similarly, if you are promoting a community health fair, you’ll want to send your press release to the health editor, and so on and so on.
3. Don’t expect to hear back from everyone who receives your press release. Chances are, unless your story is the next cure for cancer you may not get a single response. Don’t let this stop you from getting results. Instead, pick up the phone and call the individual recipients. In some cases, you will find that they have not read your release yet. Use the call as an opportunity not only to pitch your ‘current news story’ but to establish a relationship with the reporter or editor for future releases.
4. Remember that print, broadcast, radio, and the internet are all different mediums. If your story does not have much visual appeal, it is less likely to turn a broadcast journalist head. Think about it, why do so many five and six-car crash pile ups end up on TV newscast.
5. Make your releases look professional and if necessary ask someone else to proof it. There should be no mistakes, typos, etc. in a professional press release. Make sure your contact information is at the top and your headline tells exactly what your press release is about.
Have you ever found yourself struggling to make a decision regarding marketing your business? This happens to all of us. The trick is to identify your message, set goals, and a strategy to achieve them (commonly known as a marketing plan). You wouldn’t take a vacation without knowing when, where, and how. Would you?
Think of your marketing plan as a road map. Only instead of knowing your starting point and final destination, you should know what you want to say, to whom, and how your message will reach your target audience.
In my last blog, the focus was on SWOT analysis. If you have performed your SWOT analysis, chances are you have identified the four ‘P’s” of marketing: product, price, place and promotion. Each P has several components and thus each should be dealt with in detail in your marketing plan.
In addition to the 4 P's, your marketing plan should also include who will be responsible in your organization for carrying out each task. In some cases, it may be wise to hire an outside professional.
One of the biggest challenges I have discovered among small business owners is that they have big marketing ideas and small budgets. Further hindered by the lack of staff required to effectively follow through on marketing.
Speaking of budgets, a well-formulated marketing plan will include an evaluation of the costs of each item in your marketing plan. Not just out-of-pocket expenses (such as advertising dollars or printing feeds) but how much time will be needed to achieve your goal.
Keep in mind how these costs will impact your profit margins and cash flow. Recently, I worked with a retail client who had a great promotional idea. After doing a budget for the promo, the idea was scratched because the costs outweighed the likely return on investment.
Promotions are just one aspect of marketing to consider. Promotion is the actual presentation of your business and its products/services to the public. Every business should strive to present a professional, consistent image, targeted to a specific market. In other words, the image you create should provide you with a unique identity and set you apart from your competitors. This is often achieved through logo design and branding.
Advertising. This is where most new businesses fail. It is easy to get swept up into a great sales pitch. Stop! Ask yourself these important questions before you sign on the dotted line. Who is going to see the ad? How many times will they see it and over what period of time? Am I selling the right product or service to this audience? Do I have the money in my marketing budget?
If you had a marketing plan you would be able to decide ahead of time which advertising sales pitches you are interested in hearing and skip those that don’t meet your goals. Remember, there are no short cuts to marketing and advertising. You must be consistent with your message, placement, and committed to a period of time to achieve maximum results.
Lastly, the internet is playing a major role in marketing businesses of all sizes. When crafting your marketing plan, look for ways to leverage your website and social media.
While it may take sometime now to plan your marketing strategy, the time you invest should save you time and money in the long run, and help make those tough marketing decisions a lot easier.
Recently I was hired by an established law firm to evaluate their marketing efforts and advise them on how the could achieve better results. I sat down to interview each of the key attorneys to see if everyone had the same vision for the firm and as I suspected, each attorney had varying opinions about what practice areas were in the best interest of the firm and how they needed to market themselves to achieve success.
This is not unusual for any business, regardless of age or size. Often times organizations spend time and money on advertising and marketing without a communications strategy or marketing plan. To the credit of the law firm, their former in-house marketing director had a marketing budget and spreadsheet tracking their expenses.
As a seasoned (older) marketer, I still believe in “Marketing 101.” More specifically, creating a balanced marketing plan based on a SWOT Analysis.
The SWOT Analysis is a great way to identify your organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Thus, providing a blueprint for creating a strategic and balanced marketing plan.
SWOT Analysis Format
The SWOT format can be approached in different ways. However, for the sake of this exercise, start with 4 squares on a piece of paper with enough room to write 5-6 points under each. These don’t have to be detailed, but they should be well thought-out to get the most value. Note the diagram above for reference.
The first row should be internal strengths and weaknesses. Think about your company and things you can control. The second row (opportunities and threats) should include external factors, such as market trends, other companies, competition, and other factors that you may not fully control.
Now that you have created your square, let’s delve into more detail.
Strengths - SWOT Analysis
Defining your strengths is an important part of this exercise. For some, writing down strengths can be uncomfortable, but for others they may end up with a long list. If you fall into the latter category, try to pair your list down to the 4-6 strengths that define your brand. This helps to prioritize your strengths. Remember, strengths should be based on your company and should be internally focused.
Each strength should focus on a single area of your brand. See below for some examples.
Writing down your weaknesses can be difficult, but believe me, you will find this part of the process very revealing. It is essential to understand what your business lacks to help you make sound marketing and business decisions about things such as: your marketing message, target audience, workflow, staff and other resource needs.
Here are a few examples of weaknesses:
When considering opportunities, I find it helpful to review the organization’s strengths. Often times, the strengths help me to brainstorm opportunities. Sometimes the list of opportunities can be lengthy and daunting. Your goal is only to identify opportunities, it is not a to-do-list, so don’t be afraid to think big! Later when you are creating your marketing plan, you can prioritize your opportunities.
Here are examples of opportunities:
It is important when evaluating threats that you look beyond the obvious, such as competitors or economy. This does not mean that you exclude these from your threat list. However, you should expand thinking to include other threats, such as changes in political policies and new traffic patterns that may affect your businesses location.
Here are a few more examples:
· Internet. Provides potential clients with free access to marketing advice and
low cost graphic design and print resources.
· Profit Margins. Lower rates to remain competitively priced due to increase competition from local marketing businesses and online services.
· Facebook. Small businesses and start-ups are using Facebook to promote their services as opposed to hiring an agency to build their website.
Having a clear understanding of both internal and external factors is essential for any business to survive in today’s fast-paced, high-tech world. Whether you use the above
4-square format, or simply type your list of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, or threats, on a single paper, you are on your way toward a more efficient marketing plan.