Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Evaluation

No, not an employee evaluation. Luckily now that I am a self employed public relations consultant, I no longer have to suffer through such tasks that can cause blood vessels to burst and overindulgences in office bagels. I am speaking of the evaluation of a public relations program. I think it makes all PR people shudder a bit, but the answer as to how to evaluate is ALWAYS a question that comes up and can be the deciding factor over getting business - regardless of how many nifty ideas you and the intern pulled together. Oh, I do love the tip lists...

1.) Address the evaluation of any program (PR, marketing, sales, etc. - it all fits) BEFORE it is brought up to you.
2.) Generate a discussion about the nature of evaluation and for results to be measurable. Public relations is a long term process, NOT a quick fix and it's important for folks you do work with to understand that.
3.) Of course there is the traditional "ad equivalency" which is attributing a dollar amount to the editorial space based on how much it would cost to have placed an advertisement of that size. However, as the media landscape is changing so drastically and so much of traditional advertising is becoming obsolete and community relations becoming more and more a part of PR, this is not necessarily the best way to "evaluate" a publicity program.
4.) There is also the sheer quantity of editorial through public relations efforts which is one of PR people's largest headaches. This is because we generally do not have the tools or man power to search through the vast amount of placements our efforts can garner. Sure, we know about a lot of the stories because we're working with writers on them, but the only way to get all of the "clips" is for a client to pay for a clipping service which is often times more costly and hassle than it's worth.
5.) So, what do you do??? Implement some evaluation programs at the beginning.
---Set up initial surveys or research and then conduct it again at the end to see what has changed, increased, ended, etc.
---Work with the IT folks to set up online tracking systems or advanced URLs - especially for the traffic PR can generate to a website.
---Determine very clear objectives with a client or business partner at the beginning so expectations are met at the end.
6.) Of course, making for a successful evaluation system may cost the client extra time and money that they do not want to spend which is why trust, honesty, integrity, and positive relationships is what public relations is all about. And in the end - long after a PR program has run its course - it will be deemed successful if those attributes are how the public feels about the company, organization, or individual who benefited from a public relations program.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What is a Press Kit?

A press kit is one of the most utilized tools in public relations ad publicity efforts. A press kit is information that is pulled together and written for the sole purpose of providing the media with the story details they want and need. It should not be the same thing as a sell kit or something provided for customers. While some of that information may be useful, the most productive press kits are tailored for the media - and that usually involves some research as you want to offer information that can't just be found by looking at a website. You also don't need to spend a bunch of money in design, the media want good, easy to follow, and well-written materials, not fancy brochures that are trying to paint a picture. A press kit should include:

~ Photos (small versions are fine, the media will contact asking for large files when they are ready)
~ A basic fact sheet
~ A backgrounder or history sheet
~ Bios of key people - not just the bigwigs, but those who have interesting stories behind them
~ A story idea sheet offering the media the different ways you might be able to be incorporated into a story
~ Current newsletters
~ Contact info
~ Recent news in the form of press releases or articles
~ An online component that is interactive with a video, blog, or podcast in addition to the items listed above

That is just a very basic guideline, but the first and most important thing to do is to prepare information the press will want, not what you want the press to want - this is one of the trickiest areas of PR!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

How to Balance "the sale" and "keeping it real"

That is a tough question and I guess those salespeople who are both successful and happy have gotten it figured out. I can't really give "tips" here, but I can give insight as to how I try to balance it. And I keep trying...

First of all, it is important to note that public relations is a sale because it's the selling of a concept or idea, yet I try to steer far away from the salesperson approach to PR - ICK! But how do you network and start building relationships that are business in orientation without coming across as being a pushy business pain-in-the-ass?
And here folks - I give you a list!

1.) Alcohol and Humor - if you are lucky enough to have a sense of humor and are surrounded by others with senses of humor and alcohol is involved - you are golden! You can yap away all night, solve the world's problems, and look forward to seeing each other in a boardroom one day. Unfortunately not everyone is funny and not everyone gets witty when they drink.
2.) Smile and mean it! There's nothing worse than those surly faced business gals and those guys that undress with their eyes. Sometimes it baffles me how these types of people are successful. If you're bopping around at a business function of some sort, chances are most people are just as uncomfortable as you. I enjoy getting people into conversation just to know that I helped make them feel less uncomfortable, but I could never do it if I wasn't actually happy with who I am and what I'm doing.
3.) Balance between Ego and Humility - ahhh, so difficult to balance! Yes, egos have to stay in check, that is obvious. But, with business networking, people do want to know what you do and what your strengths are, so finding that balance between bragging a little about what you do and being able to make fun of yourself is so key!
4.) Business Cards - Bring 'em and get 'em! Hand them out and get whatever you can get but then you MUST follow up!!!! This allows fun chit chat, shooting the breeze, skimmin' the foam - whatever! But then a business conversation can follow when people are back at the drone of computer monitors and too many bagels.
5.) Embrace the Marketing Golden Rule in whatever you do! And what is that rule you ask? You Cannot Be Everything To Everyone - EVER. The sooner people, businesses, concepts, organizations, etc. learn that rule, the more lucrative they will see marketing and publicity efforts become! This gets into targeted audiences and I think my PR students at Champlain College should be able to give a good talk on this area. Some people will not like you, your product, your idea, your hair, or your shoes. Get over it and move on to someone who does without getting pissy!

Ok, comments time!! What are some of YOUR tips to selling, networking, schmoozing, etc.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Simpsons...

Ok, so has everyone heard that Springfield, Vermont is where Bart, Lisa, and the gang have been hanging out for such a timeless amount of time? I remember when my little brother (who is now like 28) wore skidz and Bart Simpson hair gel!
The question I pose for my marketing friends today is this:

How will Vermont use this to their advantage?

I can think of endless possibilities to capitalize - in an integrity driven way - on this fun and wonderful opportunity to shed a positive light on Vermont, boost Springfield's economy, and really let the world know that while Vermont is small, simple, and the true home of the Simpsons, it is also a place that is filled with heart and people who really get what life is all about as well as a state that knows how to get its shit together when faced with such a tremendous challenge and opportunity.

Vermont certainly proved themselves with making the best movie which helped us win - public relations and promotions Vermont! And may you please not be like the Vermont political candidates and use out of state marketers... This will be interesting to say the least.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Marketing without Spending a Dime

So, my old friend Jen McColgan - a former Ski Vermont marketing gal and now Colorado marketing maven - posted a comment which inspired this next post. Here are some tips for how to market yourself, product, business without spending a dime:

1. Ask friends and customers how they FEEL about your product/business/service and why they like it. Be open to hearing things you may not think are true - because they probably are!

2. Use that feedback and pay attention to news outlets that reach the audience that enjoys/uses your product/business/service. Make note of the writers who write about possible competitors or who you think would be interested in writing about your business/service/product.

3. Contact those media folks and talk to them about your business, etc. Don't tell them what they should write about, rather start a conversation and ask what they would be interested in writing about and be prepared with background information and photos for them.

4. If you're having an event of any sort, research all the places that list events and send a brief calendar listing to make sure your event is included - just write it exactly how they print it and you're golden.

5. Collaborate! See what other businesses/organizations/individuals have a similar mission or audience and see how you might be able to work together.

6. If you earn any awards or receive any designations or hire new employees and they receive any awards or recognitions, send a short press release with a photo to local business publications to make sure you get included.

And those are some public relations tips you can use right here in Vermont or wherever you are trying to get free publicity! Feel free to use the comment section to ask a question as well!