Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Help A Reporter Out

This morning I bounced out of my springing and budding farmland wonderland into the Burlington metropolis to hear Peter Shankman speak. My awesome PR apprentice, Emily Bellmore, went as well. Hosted by Fuse Marketing - the hip, innovative leader in youth marketing - this event was well attended by many in the VT PR scene - many of whom belong to said Google Group - VTPR.

Peter Shankman is a sort of PR Lord in my opinion because he is so real, says it like it is, and is just plain right. As a fan and active proponent of these qualities, I found it so awesome that he was saying what I have been saying - social media makes PR have to be real, honest, and a true conversation!

And if you don't believe me or want to squabble about the integration of social media into your PR, this guy stood on a NYC street corner in the late 90's with a cardboard resume on and handed out resumes all day in the NYC cold (not the same as VT cold, but still cold when dressed in a suit and cardboard resume). Um, yeah, he got like 400-something phone calls, 70-something job interviews, and 30-something job offers. Kind of reminds me of one of my most fantastic interns who mailed out a pillow case with her resume ironed on it and said, "sleep on this."

Anyway, Peter Shankman, operates the website and media/PR service - Help A Reporter Out (HARO). For those of you who have been getting random media leads from me and wonder where I get them - from Peter Shankman.

His entertaining speech this morning at Burlington's Courtyard Marriott touched on four aspects of what social media is and how it has affected traditional public relations (these are Rachel Carter PR interpretations):

1.) Transparency - There is no more hiding behind the marketing of what you say anymore because it's all about what others say and who hears them. Admit it when you're wrong or you'll be crushed.

2.) Relevance - Stop telling people crap they don't want to hear!

3.) Brevity - The average person moves on from your message in 2.7 seconds so not only will the page long pitch be too long, the paragraph one has runs its course as well. In fact, if you're still reading this blog you are a sought after statistic!

4.) Top Of Mind Presence - I feel much more at ease at the fact that I never seem to have any time because I am always spending so much time networking an chatting and hanging out with peeps online. It's all about being top of mind!

Thanks Peter for liking Vermont and clarifying what seems to me should be obvious, but obviously isn't! You rock!

PS - I had to share this picture I found - the essence of Peter's great personality he displayed today and what great PR for Harrah's Resort.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lead Times

I am so grateful and thankful for the awesome press I have gotten lately. I guess if a PR person can't do well getting their own press than how can they do well getting others? With all of this great press comes a lot of inquiries which rocks! It is awesome and I am so very thankful for all of the interest.

I feel I must put a note out to those interested in my potential services and as I reiterated at the VT Travel Industry Conference, PR (whether it's traditional or social media) takes time and patience.

Think of it this way, if you are a paying client, and I tell you I need to push one of your deadline driven projects or cannot respond to the media and their lead times and deadlines because I have to go to a bunch of new business meetings, how would that resonate with you as your PR provider? I would imagine not very well.

It is for this exact reason that I work on longer lead times for new business.

I don't know everything and I certainly don't know everything about running a business, but I do know if I neglect my personal life and health so I can fit everyone in, than my reasons for starting this business in the first place are completely in vein. I also know that all of my wonderful paying clients have made a commitment to me and I to them and I must honor and respect that even if that means a new potential client's deadlines do not become number one.

Rachel Carter PR is a one person operation. I have assistance from my fantastic significant other who acts as my mailroom assistant, courier, banking assistant, photographer, and sometimes research assistant, but that can only go so far and I want to make sure our engagement and commitment to each other is not secondary to my business. This is a continuous struggle that I am tackling as my number one priority this spring and summer.

I have had interns in the past and currently am working with an apprentice to be able to take on some of the work load, which is at my discretion, not at the request of a potential client. I do not currently have any openings for interns.

I also do not want to grow into a larger structure, but want to focus my business on being sustainable as a one person operation so I can be true to my values and life goals.

There are many reasons marketing agencies with PR departments exist and one of those reasons is to offer clients with limited wait time because there is the staff structure to support new business opportunities.

To all prospective clients - I want to help you with your PR efforts and I want to be able to work with everyone who wants to work with me. To do so, I need some help on your part. Here are a few guidelines to help me help you:

1.) Do not wait until you are ready to start implementing PR to try to make an appointment. There are two reasons for this - one is so you can get on my schedule and the other is because you should be thinking about PR as you get other marketing efforts coordinated.

2.) Understand I work on a month lead time to schedule new business meetings. This is because I bill monthly and have my scope of work planned out for the month and need to allow for last minute deadlines and issues for my clients as well. Please remember, I do not have mini me's to help out in time crunches. It is never too early to schedule a new business meeting, but it can be too late.

3.) If you would like me to help with event promotion I require at least a six month lead time (a year is preferable). If you bring me on from the beginning, it will be more cost effective and way less headaches for all involved. This is going to be true for anyone you are looking at for PR - events need lots of lead times and they need PR to be integrated with all other marketing efforts. PR is no longer a stand alone marketing effort!!!

4.) Please consider all aspects of potentially working together. A longer term, less-up-front cost relationship is going to be far more beneficial for you in the long run than the hurry-up-and-wait syndrome. This does not necessarily mean I am trying to get you in some long term retainer relationship. I am trying to help you think of other ways to handle your PR. Could I provide longer term consulting to help keep you on track with your PR efforts? Do you have or should you have a marketing assistant I could train to handle your PR and provide a minimal supervisory role with them over the long haul of your PR? Both of these services I offer and both have been very effectively executed with clients.

5.) Are you looking at PR as a cheap alternative to advertising? Are you trying to promote something to get funding first so you can continue? Are you trying to publicize before you have anywhere for the public or media to get any further information? Do you have no idea what your target audience is or what you are trying to say? If you answer yes to any of these questions, than Rachel Carter PR is not a right fit for you.

Thank you for listening and hopefully understanding. Love and Light to All.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Social Media at the VTIC

I apologize for the lack in postings! And right after I teach two workshops on social media at the Vermont Travel Industry Conference. How very bad. But, in my defense, it is because of the social media workshops that I have been slacking. Those were two mother load of workshops to pull together - they were like research papers pulled into presentations after the research paper had been written!

The first workshop I taught - Alleviating the Fear of Social Networking: The Basics of Social Media - was geared to the 1.0 crowd. I wanted to cover social networking and social media in a very basic way - from history to current applications to help folks merely understand why it showed up and how it is used. And I think it worked! The feedback I have received has been very positive. One woman even wrote, "I learned more in your workshop than I have in entire conferences."

She was definitely NOT referring to the Vermont Travel Industry Conference. That was by far the best conference I have ever attended and for so many reasons. The Equinox is stellar and just being in Manchester was a delight. Cindy Delaney and her crew from Delaney Meeting & Event Management did an absolutely spectacular job. They even dealt with me exceptionally. I had to be the pain-in-the-butt presenter who got all nervous when there wasn't a projector in the room and asked the Equinox for help, when of course the Delaney crew had one all along. Guess I know what I am asking for next Christmas. Thank you very much to all who helped.

There was fantastic networking and excellent exhibits as well as a bunch of workshops besides mine that were chalk full of varying levels of pertinent information to a multiplicity of niche groups within Vermont's vibrant travel industry. I was especially keen on the Orvis dinner event - the Orvis flagship store was turned into a networking outdoor department store with wine, beer, pasta, salad, and desserts being served between the fishing hats, dog beds, and uberlicious Vermont clothes. Here I am (wearing my new Orvis hat) with Vermont's Commissioner of Tourism, Bruce Hyde.

The second workshop I tackled has a much longer name - Implementing New Media Marketing: Practical and Cost Effective Ways to Integrate Social Networking & New Media into Current Marketing Plans - and that is because it was a much meatier workshop than the first. I do not feel the need to explain because the ridiculously long title should be enough! But I do want to share some of the tips I presented and offered in hand outs to my loyal blog readership. Hopefully we picked up a few more after the conference!

Marketing Tips for Utilizing Social Networking & New Media Tools:

-->The Blog
• Is Not A Way to Publicize What You May Want in a Press Release
• There is no place for marketing mumbo-jumbo
• Blogs are used to spread news, but news that is pertinent to the audience, NOT what YOU want to be pertinent to your audience
• The audience often changes from what you originally thought it would be
• Blogs are a great way to act as a reporter in your community
• Before you try to start a blog, begin by getting engaged in blogs; take an area you are personally interested in outside of your work and find a few blogs on it, subscribe to them, tinker with using social media bookmarks like DIGG and Delicious, and comment on the blogs while figuring out how to share with others in your social networks, like Facebook or Twitter
• Do not fear the blog – if your messaging is consistent, it will not be lost
• Blogs can be free to set up, or paid for if you want them to feed directly through your website
• You do not need to now HTML to blog, only how to insert hyperlinks, insert photos, and insert already created HTML codes from social networking sites
• Whoever is the blogger must like writing!!!!
• Blogs are so worth it when done right because they have free search engines the marketing of your business is done through SEO placement in the wording on the blog.
-->Get really comfortable with SEO keywords, do not just leave it to the computer professionals, they need to be consistently used in all marketing efforts; they are the backbone of creating links that bring people to your website
-->Sign up for Google Alerts
-->Subscribe to RSS feeds in areas of your own personal interest
-->Start “photoblogging” which is really just using Flickr or Photo Bucket to index your photos
-->Create a YouTube account and spend some time checking out videos and seeing how it works, also share some videos with friends so you know how to do it
-->And yes, join Linked In & Facebook!
-->Engage! Join user groups that relate to your interest, give your email when asked, post on message boards on sites you visit, make public profiles instead of hiding or “trolling” – your public profiles are public, so don’t put up info that you don’t want to be public
-->If you have a tough boss to crack, there is even more of a reason to engage in new media because then you’ll have examples to back up why you need to utilize new media.
-->Accept that there is no quick fix in online marketing; it is an ongoing process, no matter what else you want to believe.
-->You must engage! There is not a cheap or costly solution, it is all about time and engagement.

Marketing Tips for Incorporating New Media into Existing Marketing:

-->SEO > Marketing Consistency
• Consistent Content > keep the message the same, keep the message easy to understand, keep it under a 10th grade reading level, and synchronize it with your Search Engine Optimization, website descriptions, and metatags
• Get the advertising adjectives out of your descriptions
• Google search your own SEO terms and competitors for new opportunities
• Integrate your direct mail campaigns into your e-campaigns so they support one another in theme and message

-->Incorporate with Public Relations
• Use social networking and new media to help tell your story
• Utilize links to boost your web presence!
• Make your press room more of a media center, not just for traditional media, but fill it with your own social media endeavors
• Do not use traditional public relations to promote your social media work! Use them to support one another
• Pick a few social/new media avenues and do them well for your audiences
• Let the information you discover going through this process drive your advertising and public relations and get the two of them in sync!
• Do not think of marketing as linear any longer! Public relations should never come at the end – you should get those tools up and running while you update the website and all of your messaging!

• You WILL NOT SAVE MONEY if you do the web work by yourself!
• What you need to outsource is the technology, but not until you have a clear idea of what you want to get out of new media, which you will not be able to determine if you aren’t using it yourself. And when outsourcing, be collaborative! Are trainings and ongoing consultations going to be more beneficial in the long run so the work can be more effectively and financially distributed?
• Before hiring someone to update the website, get your messaging in all areas of marketing and SEO words in collaboration. And before you do that, get a few unofficial consultations from people who use your materials, both internal and external and some who have never used you materials and get some feedback. Review and integrate before you determine the final outcome. Research websites you like while engaging yourself in new media – make note of these so you can share once you do hire someone to update your website

-->Bring In House
• Create a new media type of position - A new media type of position should handle researching and updating all social networking and new media components (including photography and video skills) and as they are an ongoing engagement, not a quick fix, it is most cost effective to have someone on board – have that person work with outsourced experts to get your social or new media components up and running
• Integrate social networking into the culture of your business. Do not block social networking sites!

-->Audience Integration
• Think about your different audiences – the more options/services/amenities you offer, the more audiences you are going to have; NOT the larger your audience is; use this in determining what new media outlets will work best for different audiences
• Create your own word of mouth marketing campaign - the key is the message CANNOT BE CONTROLLED, but is messaging is consistent, the conversations will be consistent
• Look at your existing customer lists – don’t overuse the e-newsletter that targets your audience as one big mass every time you have information you want to share; instead think about using different social media tools to get the same information out so it resonates with your different audiences
• Once you have customers/guests/clients engaged with you through social networking, ask them to send you YouTube and Flickr/PhotoBucket links from their experiences and ask if you can use in your marketing efforts and then integrate into your marketing

Hope these come in useful for folks! Brought to you direct from Rachel Carter - owner of that corporate hippie driven Vermont public relations firm.