Walk into any store and you will be reminded that the holidays are just around the corner. Halloween, Thanksgiving and yes, even Christmas decorations abound.
For businesses, that means wrapping up the fourth quarter and setting your sites on a new year and hopefully new clients/customers.
If public relations and marketing have not been part of your business plan, now may be the time to consider adding it into your budget. The good news is, it doesn’t have to cost you a lot and some of it you can even do yourself.
If you don’t have a social media presence, what have you been waiting for? Start posting. Where you shine most brightly will depend on your business. Instagram is perfect for companies with a lot of photo opportunities. Facebook translates across the board, you can share photos and information. Twitter is a great place to communicate with customers or potential customers. Regardless of what kind of business you are in, you should be on LinkedIn. This is where you can tell people about you and your company. If you already have a personal LinkedIn page, create one for your business as well. Wherever you post, make sure it’s consistent and be responsive to those who communicate with you via social media.
Graphics are like eye candy, they make whatever you post standout and create a more engaging post. You don’t even have to be an artist to create some awesome graphics. There are a number of simple design programs such as Canva that make it easy and inexpensive. Infographics also are a great way to tell a story in pictures.
It’s one of the most powerful and effective ways to get your message across and you don’t need expensive equipment to do it. If you have a steady hand, you can even make a video using your IPhone. I have shot and edited videos using my IPhone and IMovie in under an hour for posting to Facebook and the hits just kept coming. The videos can be serious, funny, quirky and informative. It’s all up to you.
Although still a staple of the business, press releases are best used when you have something significant to announce. For example: Your company is launching a great new product, or your nonprofit just awarded a significant grant. Press releases can be overused, so consider whether what you have to say is worthy of one. This is where a PR professional comes in. They are the ones with the connections to get your message across.
This is a great way to reach out to existing customers/clients. You can use a newsletter to tell them what’s new with your company, what new products or services you are offering, what deals you may be offering. You can include coupons. If you are in a service industry, they also can be used to inform clients about developments that might impact them or their business. Newsletters are a great way to keep in touch, but don’t over use them, otherwise people will unsubscribe. To get new subscribers, add an opt-in option on your website.
As 2018 nears, now is a good time to consider what tools you will use to grow your business.
Susan R. Miller is founder of Garton-Miller Media, a full-service, South Florida based public relations firm. Susan is a former journalist with more than 30 years of experience. In addition to public relations, she provides web content writing, press releases, social media, photography and videography. She has two daughters, three golden retrievers, two cats and a chatty parakeet.
Walk into most stores today and you will see Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations vying for space on store shelves. It’s become a race to the finish line as one year comes to an end and a new one is right around the corner.
For companies, it’s a reminder that it’s time to start budgeting for the next year. Regardless of whether you are a small business or a large corporation, if you want to continue to reach your intended target audience then adding PR and marketing to your budget is essential.
Where to begin?
In a world filled with digital media, the opportunities continue to evolve, you just need to start taking advantage of them. The two biggest complaints I hear from small business owners is “I don’t have a budget for that” or “I don’t have time to engage in social media or public relations opportunities.” My response: “You can’t afford not to set aside even a small portion of your time and budget.”
If you have not even begun social media and PR outreach efforts, then you are already losing out to the competition. Google your competition, take a look at what they are doing. Are they on LinkedIn? Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? YouTube? Yelp? Do they have a blog? Is their website fresh and up-to-date, while yours was created years ago?
So many options, so little time
Yes, there are a ton of social media options available today and you can’t be on all of them (well, you can, but it’s best to start small if you are just getting started). Pick one or two and go from there.
If there’s one thing I do a lot, it’s write. I write press releases, blogs, website content, marketing material for brochures, advertorials, the list goes on. Each has its own style and often, as in the case of blogs for my clients, its own voice.
Sometimes the writing comes easily, the research goes well, my thoughts flow, and my fingers fly on the keyboard. Before I know it, the first draft is done. On other occasions it can be like giving birth – slow and painful – but when it’s done I feel like a proud parent.
Regardless of what I am writing, I always try to give my writing time to breathe. Depending on my deadlines, this can be for a few minutes, a few hours, or even for a day or two. Novelists tell tales of letting their writing sit for weeks. Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury.
During the course of writing I might be interrupted by a phone call from a frantic client, an e-mail, a text message from one of my kids, or a dog that just can’t wait any longer to go out. Ah, the pleasures of working from home!
While it can be a bad thing, because such interruptions can cut into the flow of my writing, it also can serve as a stopping point for me to review what I wrote and perhaps revise my work. (A little insight here, I often pause after writing five or six paragraphs and review what I wrote, making revisions along the way).
Public relations is not just about getting your name, or the name of your organization, mentioned in the media. It goes far beyond that. As I explain to clients, public relations also has a lot to do with establishing yourself as a credible expert in your field.
Reporters and bloggers are always looking for experts to quote in their stories. And, while those in your field may consider you to be an expert based on your knowledge and experience, getting others outside of your field to recognize your expertise may take a little more work.
Using the following strategies can help you to build your reputation as an expert, which eventually will lead to increasing your media visibility.
Blog: Writing a regular (notice I said regular) blog is a great way to share your knowledge. Many business owners tell me they don’t have the time to write a blog, which is often why they hire me. Others love to write, but don’t necessarily have the skill. If you love to write and can, then go for it. If you can’t, you can always be interviewed and have someone else write the blog for you. Or, you can take a crack at writing it and then have someone else edit it. Whatever you choose, just make sure you blog regularly. Regular blogs are not only great for search engine optimization (SEO) but can serve as a great starting point when trying to get the media to learn more about you and your expertise. As you reach out to media contacts you can send some of the links to your blogs and tell them that if they are ever writing about such-and-such to give you a call. Blogs can be posted on your own website, or you can guest blog for others. You can also share your blogs on your other social media channels.
When I was a journalist one of the things we were told to do is to keep it simple. In fact, the rule of thumb was to write at an 8th grade level. While in practice that may not always work, the idea is to avoid jargon and to take difficult concepts and make them simple.
As someone who wrote many articles relating to complex legal, business and healthcare issues, that often meant conducting a lot of research and then boiling down the concepts into understandable, bite-sized nuggets of information.
The same holds true for bloggers. Usually, bloggers are writing for customers and clients, not for their peers. Often, while doing research, I come upon other blogs that are so complex, and that use so much jargon, they are understandable only to other experts in that particular field. Just because a topic is complicated, it doesn’t mean you have to write your blog in a complicated way. In fact, it’s often harder and more time-consuming to break down complex subjects. However, I can assure you that your readers will appreciate it.
There’s been a lot written about the importance of having a blog. But once you have managed to get one started, and more importantly keep it going past a few weeks, how do you get others to read it?
First and foremost, share. Does your website’s blog have a share button? It should. Not only does it allow you to share, but it also allows others to do so without having to copy and paste the link. While you don’t need to share on every social media site, select a few where you think your target audience might be. I share mine on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. Always add art to your blog, this makes it possible then to share it on such social media sites as Instagram and Pinterest.
Ask others to share. This can be tricky as you don’t want to become a pest. Find someone who you think might be interested in what you are writing about and ask them for their opinion. You might then suggest that if they think it’s worth it you would appreciate their sharing it with others.
You’ve got your company up and running, you have a beautiful website, the content on that website is optimized for search engines and now you just sit back and wait for customers to come knocking at your door … right?
It’s a start, but your website is missing something that likely will make the difference between being seen by potential customers and becoming just another pretty face in a crowded room.
In today’s world a static website without updates or fresh content is like a neon sign without electricity. Plug it in and it glows – day and night. Adding high-quality content to your website on a regular basis is the power that your website needs to draw in customers.
The more often you add fresh articles, blogs, or other content, the more often a search engine will swing by and visit your site. And, the more those search engines drop by, the greater the chance your website will achieve higher rankings.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a page out of my own experience. I blog regularly – at least I try to when I am not writing blogs, press releases, handling social media or media relations for my clients. Usually, I try to write blogs that are informative and hopefully useful.
We work as strategic partners with clients, learning about their business, creating a PR plan and develop key messages. If there is a product or service involved, our job is to create and build awareness. If there is the possibility of something bad happening, we work with clients to mitigate the damage. This doesn’t mean we try to whitewash a problem, rather we help them to find ways to respond in the best way.
Why blog? It’s a question I hear all of the time. As someone who, for the last few decades has done a lot of writing – first as a journalist and then as a public relations professional – the answer comes easy. Businesses blog because it lends them visibility, credibility and sociability. What many business people lack is the ability part of it.
Let’s start with visibility. It’s one thing to spend a lot of time, effort and money on a nice looking website, but if you don’t have the kind of written material on it that will generate solid search engine optimization, then you might not be found. It’s like building a big beautiful house and then putting a big wall around it and never inviting anyone inside. Who is going to know it’s there?
Garton-Miller Media is a full-service, South Florida-based public relations firm. Founder Susan R. Miller has 30 years of experience as a writer, journalist and PR professional.