4 Questions to Ask Before Launching Your Brand on Snapchat

This article originally appeared here

Snapchat users send more than 400 million disappearing “Snaps” per day, making it the most popular photo sharing service in the world. Although the company has remained silent about the exact number of users it has, nobody doubts its popularity, especially withthe coveted group of 18-29 year-olds. It’s a highly personal and direct medium, as Snaps feel more like text messages than widely broadcasted shared posts that appear on other social media networks.

It’s no surprise, then, that brands have attempted to get in on the action. With the introduction of Snapchat Stories—a months-old feature that allows the photos and videos shared via Snapchat to live for a full 24 hours before disappearing—using the app has started to make a bit more sense for brands, whose Snaps now have more staying power.

Brands like the HBO TV series Girls, the New Orleans Saints, Acura and Taco Bell all use Snapchat to tell their unique stories. The stars of Girls recently used Snapchat to give a sneak peek at the premiere of their latest season, while the Saints’ account tells candid, compelling stories that would never make it into a game-day broadcast. Acura used the app to show a sneak preview of a new prototype, while Taco Bell has used the platform to announce the return of a popular menu item.

But Snapchat isn’t for every brand. Questions remain about the ROI for brands using the app, as it has no built-in engagement metrics such as retweets, followers or likes. Not to mention, the accounts of close to 5 million users were compromised in late 2013.

Should your brand be on Snapchat? Here are some questions to ask when thinking about crafting a strategy for Snapchat, courtesy of Amy Schoenberger of Cone Communications:

  • Who are you? Personify your brand. What is your point of view, and what can you say that no other brands can say?
  • Who are you trying to reach? Define your target consumer as more than a gender and age range. What are their habits, likes, dislikes, needs and wants? Look at the latest eMarketer report and find out what motivates your consumer.
  • Where are your consumers most active? Do they check Twitter or Facebook first when they wake up in the morning? How are they receiving information? Are they OK with fleeting messaging, or are they looking for deeper engagement?
  • Do you have the right team in place to set yourself up for success? Marketing roles are going to shift completely, and we will see more of an investment in people with highly specialized skillsets. For Snapchat, you’ll need someone who has photography or visual editing skills. Do you have enough manpower to manage the platform?
Posted in Blog

5 Tips for the Bootstrapped Company

Written by: Inna Kraner, Managing Editor of The Expert Institute

Sometimes, the startup environment feels like a lot of people mimicking Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Maguire. That is, itching for someone to show them the money.

With the rise of accelerators and incubators, the prestige of seed funding has many entrepreneurs focused on wooing investors, rather than developing their business plan and strategy. Making the mistake of allocating a great deal of time and energy towards chasing down venture capital and accommodating the needs and desires of investors may ultimately detract a business from focusing on what’s actually valuable: a sustainable and desired product.

Resources are just a small portion of what it takes to launch a successful business. Regardless of whether you’ve scored venture capital seed funding or are bootstrapping your business, other factors will make or break your entrepreneurial success.

1. Hire a Strong Team

You are only as good as the people who you are around. Hiring can be one of the most challenging aspects of starting any small business. A strong company culture, comprised of intelligent, hardworking, and cooperative individuals can lead to break-through ideas and top-notch service. It’s very difficult to source candidates who are extremely dedicated, committed to their work and enjoyable to be around for long, sometimes stressful, work days. In a startup, what matters is not so much educational background, but rather the talents, skills and personality that can be utilized to help scale a business. Applicants with experience in tech, digital marketing, sales, and growth strategies are very attractive to a start-up. An HR manager typically isn’t around early in the game and hiring can be a time consuming and costly undertaking. Sites such as Hire Vue, Spark Hire, and Take The Interview, have developed video interviewing platforms to expedite this process.

2. Delegate Appropriately

Managing a startup can be overwhelming, especially when there are a million and one tasks to do, and they all need to be done yesterday. Carefully plan out your goals on a short-term and long-term basis by delegating responsibility and operating on a task-by-task basis. Provide action plans for each employee and a timeline for completion. This method not only keeps employees focused and motivated, but it will make your company run efficiently and smoothly. Tools such as Pivotal Tracker, Trello, and PMRobot track the progress initiatives with lots of moving parts. These programs work well for software development, design and marketing projects.

3. Choose Great Software

Selecting cost-effective and appropriate software solutions is critical to smooth business operations. The right software will properly maintain and monitor your services and communications. Certain computing software, such as Oracle, may be prohibitively expensive and overwhelming for your bare-boned operation. Consider out-of-the-box solutions such as Salesforce, a cloud-based CRM (customer relationship management) tool that tracks leads and contacts throughout all the stages of the sales funnel. E-mail marketing tools such as Mailchimp, allow you to build professional looking email campaigns at an affordable price-point. Ultimately, it’s important to select efficient solutions that will help to support your company as it scales and develops.

4. Seek Guidance

Venture capital funding generally comes with access to the investor’s knowledge base, networks, and resources. Venture capital firms and start-up incubators have significant experience with optimizing a company’s operations and applying business models that have already proven to be successful in a similar space.

Luckily, there are a variety of cost-effective options available to level the playing field and gain access to industry leaders. Websites such as Elance, oDesk, Quora and Clarity.fm provide access to a large pool of highly experienced and talented professionals from all facets of business including Sales & Marketing, Development & Design, and Technology.

Prior to embarking on a new business initiative, scan these websites for the highest rated individuals and tap their brains for advice and new ideas. Such experts can provide valuable guidance at a reasonable price.

5. Not Everything Must be Outsourced

Just because you’re not an expert, doesn’t mean you can’t do a great job. Too often, people feel pressured into hiring a third-party to perform a service such as logo design, content creation, sales, or marketing. Yet, trusting an outsider with important element can be a waste of time and money. Don’t be scared to attempt a project by just seeking guidance and giving it the good ole beginners try. In fact, fresh eyes and a personal attachment to the product can be necessary in producing something of great value.

About the Author

Inna Kraner is the Managing Editor for The Expert Institute, an innovative technology-driven start-up seeking to change how organizations such as law firms, private equity funds, and hedge funds connect with experts. The Expert Institute custom recruits the world’s preeminent subject matter experts, specialists who are authorities in their field, such as tenured professors from Ivy League universities, medical directors at top tier hospitals, and senior level executives. Learn more about The Expert Institute by visiting our website and connecting on Google+.

Posted in Blog

Start-Up Businesses And The Dangers Of Legal Self-Help Websites

Entrepreneurs naturally have to watch their capital closely. You have a limited amount of capital to get started with and legal fees are high. The option for many new businessmen and women is to opt for legal self-help websites. To save on the cost of dedicated legal advice, they’ll search for an online guide and clumsily apply it to their situation.

This is the wrong thing to do. Entrepreneurs should stay away from these websites, apart from for general interest purposes.

Here are some of the reasons why.

General Guidelines

A self-help website can only offer a limited number of examples where they apply general legal principles. If you’re lucky enough to own a business that matches these examples perfectly, self-help websites are fantastic. For everyone else, these general guidelines will only offer you context. They won’t offer a solution.

When you employ a legal professional, you’re not employing them for their legal knowledge. You’re employing them for their practical ability to take their legal knowledge and use it for your specific situation.

Legal Requirements and the Changing Law

A website that offers free legal advice won’t constantly update itself each time the law changes. Furthermore, there’s no telling what laws the site follows. They might focus on Federal laws only, as opposed to laws that only apply in a limited number of states.

They aren’t watching out for you. It doesn’t matter to them if you get yourself in a legal tangle, so they have no incentive to follow-up on any enquiries. And if you do find yourself in a difficult position legally, it can cost much more than you initially expected to start putting it right again.

Ruining Companies

If you’re working with someone else in your company, a legal mistake can rip relationships apart. Whether you’re unsure as to who gets paid what, or what chunk of capital was designed for what, everything has a potential legal implication. The added stress of attempting to deal with these issues will only make the splitting up of a partnership more likely.

A legal self-help website can’t help you. In fact, it’s probably going to lead to every person involved employing their own legal representation. This will only lead to conflict and spiraling legal costs, regardless of who comes out the victor.

It’s not only conflicts between partners that can ruin companies. It requires a lot more time and effort to concentrate on legal matters alone. Think about how much time this takes away from running your business.

The Fees

We’ve spoken about what can happen if things go wrong. You can find yourself in a position where you lose your case, or commit a legal faux pas, and end up paying out far more in legal fees and fines.

Even if you represent yourself using your very limited legal knowledge gleaned from the Internet, it doesn’t protect you from any fees. Professional lawyers have an obligation to try to limit the costs you have to pay.

In the long-term, they will save you money.

James Whitaker is one of the most highly regarded individual at a very prestigious law firm. He shares law related news and advice through his posts. He says when you need a good attorney to fight your messy legal battles for you, contact www.bfw-lawyers.com.

Posted in Blog

4 Content Marketing Tips For Law Firms

4 Content Marketing Tips For Law Firms

Content marketing has been hyped in the internet marketing space during the last few years, with its popularity only increasing. Just about any law firm with ambition has started employing content marketing to improve their online visibility. While content marketing is definitely still very important for law firms to improve their online marketing, the fact that everyone is doing it means that you have to be doing it better than everyone else. This often takes a lot of time and effort and doesn’t usually show immediate results. In order to improve your firm’s content marketing efforts, you need to make sure that you are producing the right content and distributing it online where prospective clients will actually read it. We’ve gathered some tips that can help your firm more effectively use content marketing.

Find Your Niche

This goes for your entire practice as well as your content marketing. If you want to be known for being the best, you need to niche down. No law firm (especially not a small one) can be the best in every legal area. Focussing on a very specific niche doesn’t mean that you can’t take on any other types of cases anymore, but for your content marketing efforts you should focus first on the legal area(s) that you have the most experience and expertise in. It will be much easier to find the inspiration to write on topics that you have a lot of knowledge on. Once you have defined a small (profitable) niche that you want to focus on, create a content marketing plan for creating extremely valuable content related to this niche.

Tailor Content for Different Publishing Platforms

Different publishing platforms have different types of readers, which means that you need to tailor you content to suit the readers of a certain platform that you publish on. For example on Facebook your audience will likely be interested in a very different type of content than the audience that an online legal magazine attracts. By knowing what type of content people enjoy on different platforms you’ll be able to create a much more successful content marketing campaign.

Use Video Marketing

Video marketing is the new content marketing. Not everyone likes reading, especially not long articles. A lot of people, especially online, prefer visual content. It is for this reason that more and more business are focussing on video marketing. Keep your videos short, because people’s attention span on the internet is generally very short and share your videos in as many places as possible.

Be Responsive

If you are writing a blog or guest blogs and people comment on them with questions or remarks, make sure that your respond promptly. This will show your audience that you are engaged and want to provide value. Try to avoid getting into any heated debates however.

Content marketing is hip and happening so if you haven’t reassessed your content marketing goals for 2014 yet, now is the time to get started. If you are feeling overwhelmed with all the work it involves, you may want to hire a content marketing firm to help you out.

Zane Schwarzlose is a writer at Alamo Injury Attorneys, a personal injury law firm in San Antonio, Texas. Zane thinks that content marketing is aespecially effective in the legal field.

Posted in Blog

10 Reasons Why Your Social Media Campaign Isn’t Working

Disappointed by traffic or sales figures? Been putting extra effort into your social media campaign and still not seeing any changes? Here are ten things that could be going wrong, and what you can do to resolve them:

1. Too much skepticism

If you’re approaching social media with the opinion that it doesn’t work, doesn’t sell, and doesn’t make a difference, you’re not going to have much luck. How can you put your heart into something you don’t believe in? A little open-mindedness can go a long way here.

2. Poor understanding of platforms

Many DIY social media marketers are aware that they need to have an online presence, but aren’t sure how their Twitter presence should differ from their Facebook or LinkedIn one. Learn your platforms, and find out what works best for each. For example, Twitter is best for growing awareness, but Facebook may be better for advertising products.

3.  Forgetting that communication is a two-way street

Talk to your customers, not at them. If you’re constantly advertising, customers will switch off. Open up dialogue, start conversations, and engage with what’s going on in the world. Make yourself relevant.

4. Inconsistency

If you start the week tweeting ten times a day and then trickle off into nothing, customers won’t see social media as a viable way of communicating with you. If finding time is a problem, spend a few hours scheduling posts at the beginning of the week, and then just spend a little while each day responding to customers.

5. Not using images

Image-based posts are shared far more than text-based ones. If you’re asking a question to your Facebook fans, just add a relevant image to the post to boost engagement.

6. Spreading yourself too thin

If you’re using every platform you’ve heard of, you’re doing it wrong. There’s no need to be everywhere at once — it’s far better to focus on the platforms that count. Find out where your customers are, and focus on that.

7. Too much self-promotion

On Twitter, only a third of your tweets should be promotional. The rest should be engaging in conversation and retweeting others. The same more-or-less applies to other platforms, too — keep the advertising to a minimum, and you won’t look like you’re spamming.

8. Lack of direction

Being present on social media is not the same as having a campaign. Believe it or not, you’ll actually make your life easier by planning your strategy — it might seem like more work, but it’s easier than bumbling along then panicking about what to post.

9. Not being flexible

If your social media campaign isn’t working, adjust it. In fact, even if it is working, you’ll still need to adjust it now and then – the internet moves extremely fast, and you’ll quickly find yourself outdated and overtaken if you don’t keep your eye on the ball.

10. Not enough patience

You need to be open to change, but on the other hand, you don’t want to be scrapping campaigns every five minutes. You need to stick with a campaign in order to tell if it’s working, and if you keep changing trajectory every five minutes, you’ll look disorganised and unprofessional. If you haven’t got any faith in what you’re doing, your customers won’t have faith in you, either.

Featured images:

By Sam Wright

Sam Wright is a freelance writer specialising in small business. He’s currently working for Brand Republic.

Posted in Blog

Three Great Instagram Tips For Using Hashtags

Hashtags are a huge part of social media today and there is no site that uses them as much as Instagram. Instagram is a photo sharing site and you can make up any hashtag that you want in order to get it trending. There are some common etiquette rules for using hashtags like not using too many, making them relevant to the photographs and others that you probably already know. There are other tips that are just a bit outside of the normal realm that can help you use your hashtags with more flare. Below are three great Instagram tips for using hashtags.

No Hashtags in the Caption Field

One of the biggest mistakes that are made by just about everyone is using the hashtags in the caption field of the photo. But, wait, aren’t you supposed to hashtags and where else to put them other than the caption field? When you post your photo, leave out the hashtags and then put them in the comment field instead. They will still trend and offer all of the benefits of hashtags that are in the caption area but they look cleaner and your caption can be used for keywords that are searchable too. Having said that, keep in mind you still don’t want to use too many hashtags even if it’s not in the caption area.

Create a Note or Document for Common Hashtags

Anyone who uses a wide variety of hashtags but uses them consistently needs to have a way to preserve these hashtags. Even if one letter is off, the hashtag wont trend and cannot be searched because of the error. One way the really great Instagram users get their hashtags organized is by using notes on the phone or a document on the computer to store and save all of their hashtags. When they want to use them, they simply copy and paste it into the comments section of the photo. This saves so much time and saves you from posting hashtags that are incorrect.

Don’t Forget to Share Other Content

The whole point of Instagram, beyond sharing photos, is getting followers and following others. When you have followers they will share your photos. So what does this have to do with hashtags? Well, when they share your photos, they will use your hashtag but you can’t be selfish and just expect them to do all the sharing. Unless you want to buy IG followers, then you need to share and comment on your followers’ photos. People will know very quickly if you are genuine and if you are just there for your own benefit. They’ll drop you very quickly if you are not sharing their photos as much as they are sharing yours.

Hashtags are a vital part of Instagram and many other social media websites so it’s very important to understand how to use them effectively. Don’t put hashtags in the caption field and make sure you always have a note or document that lists your favorite hashtags to keep them organized. Finally, share other people’s hashtags and photos to keep them sharing yours.

Featured images:

Tina Imintoo has been writing a blog for nearly ten years and has become an expert at all forms of social media.

Posted in Blog

White Hat Marketing: Tips From The Good Guys

Search engine optimization is an essential online marketing tactic. It is the tactic you need to earn visibility for your website and help reach a larger target audience.

If you’re unfamiliar with SEO, you need to know that there are a variety of different tactics you can implement. Unfortunately, not all of them are morally right.

When it comes to SEO, there are two categories of tactics you can choose to implement: white hat tactics and black hat tactics. White hat tactics include the strategies that are considered “good” by the search engines. This tactics typically take more time to marinate and to show results, but the search engines will eventually praise you for your efforts.

Black hat tactics on the other hand are those tactics that are frowned upon by the search engines. These tactics tend to generate results more quickly, but they are also considered a form of cheating the system. If you are caught using these tactics, the search engines will likely punish you for it by deindexing your site from their results pages.

If you are looking to implement an SEO strategy into your online marketing, the following are some great white hat tactics from the good guys.

Use keywords.

When search engines crawl through your website, they are looking for keywords. If you truly want to improve your SEO, you need to add keywords to your content. But before you go throwing a bunch of random keywords in your copy, you need to keep in mind that these keywords need to flow naturally in your text. If you keyword stuff your content, the search engines will flag your site as inappropriate. Make sure to have a list of appropriate keywords and place them naturally in your content to ensure SEO success.

Optimize your site for mobile.

Search engines today are relying heavily on the use of mobile, so it’s very important that you optimize your website for mobile. If users cannot access your website through a mobile device, they will leave your site and visit another one. This will decrease your website traffic, and this will have a negative impact on your SEO.

Add conversational content to your website.

Search engines are putting a major focus on conversational content. The more conversational your website content is, the better it will rank on the search engine results page. However, most website owners do not have the time, money or manpower to change out all of their website copy—and you don’t have to.

An easy way to add conversational content to your website is to add an FAQs page. Think of the questions your audience is likely to ask, and create a page on your website that contains these questions and answers. If these questions are asked in a search query, your conversational content through the FAQs section will generate results.

Add local content.

Search engines are also utilizing geolocation technology. A great way to increase your SEO is to add local content to your website. Add descriptions, such as nearby destinations, roads, buildings or landmarks. You should also be sure that your physical address is listed on your website. This way, when users perform searches close to your location, your website will be more likely to appear in the results page.

IN order to increase your location content, try to join local directories, such as Google Places or Yelp.

Transcribe audio or video files.

Having strong keywords on your website is extremely important. Unfortunately, if you have audio and video files on your website, they will not do much for your SEO. Search engines cannot read what’s being said on these files, which means the content being spoken will not benefit your SEO. However, if you were to transcribe these files and place the transcription on your website, the search engines would have content to crawl through. They could then use this content to rank your site more appropriately.

Featured images:

Guest Author: Travis Biggs is a freelance writer and an online reputation management consultant. Travis shares his experience and tips by writing articles that are educational and entertaining.

Posted in Blog

The Ultimate PR & Publicity Secret


What’s the secret to getting free publicity? It’s not a fancy press kit. It’s not having a superstar spokesperson. It’s not hiring the world’s biggest PR firm. Actually, the ultimate insider secret is quite simple:

You need to think like a reporter.

That’s it. Told you it was simple.

Of course, this is the first-place winner in the “easier said than done” Olympics. Most of us are too tied-up in our own world to really look at our businesses objectively and come up with a newsworthy story angle that can lead to free publicity.

That’s why millions of trees are needlessly slaughtered each year to produce press releases that will never lead to a single news story. Reporters have a special place in their circular file for puffery, flackery and hyperbole. If you want to avoid this fate, then you must learn to think like a reporter.

This means:
  • Being able to separate real news about your company from promotional puffery
  • Being able to deliver a sharp story angle that will be of real interest to the news reading or viewing public
  • Being able to deliver this angle in a professional, courteous way.

OK, so now we’ve seen the holy grail. Let’s get to work. You can always download the COMPLETE report here:

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For The Sake of This Report, You’re the Vitamin King

You own a website. Let’s say, for the sake of this report, it’s theplace4vitamins.com. (It could be any sort of business or website. As you’ll soon see, Publicity Insider techniques can be applied to just about any business.)

Your goal — getting your website featured in newspapers around the country.

Some Basic Truths

Here are some truths that you ignore only at your own risk:

  1. Reporters don’t care about helping you.
  2. Reporters are hassled all day by PR people and they’re pretty much sick of it.
  3. Reporters don’t care about your website, your book, your products or your life story, unless……

…..you are providing something that helps make their job easier — that is, a really good story.

In that case:

  1. Reporters love you.
  2. Reporters are happy to take your call.
  3. Reporters are fascinated by your website, your book, your products and maybe even your life story.

So what’s the bottom line here?

When you design your public relations campaign, develop your angles, develop your media materials and begin contacting the press, always think:

“What can I do at this step that will make this more useful to a journalist?”

That means:

  • developing story angles from a reporter’s perspective, not a business owner’s
  • conducting yourself in a manner free of hype, clichés and puffery
  • Using proper etiquette when contacting a reporter or editor (we’ll get to that in just a bit)

Developing an Angle

What does it mean to “develop a story angle from a reporter’s perspective”?

Have you ever met someone who has gotten way too absorbed by his hobby? He can go on for hours about his model trains or his coin collection. He can’t possibly imagine why you, or anyone else, wouldn’t be riveted by his in-depth discussion of Peruvian 19th century coinage.

He’s far too close to his hobby to be objective. As it turns out, most business owners are the same way about their company. If you spend all day absorbed in the world of vitamins — or golf clubs, or health insurance, or any other field — you can lose sight of the realization that most of the rest of the world doesn’t really care.

In my consulting practice, I can’t tell you how many calls I have with clients that go something like this:

“Adam, we’ve just released the new X251 and I think we should really push this hard to the media with a PR campaign. How about a press conference?”

“Well, how is the X251 different from the X250?”

“It’s got a new right-angle flange and it’s blue. I’m telling you, this will be big!”

Now, rather than simply counseling my client to lay down, take a rest and forget about seeing the X251 in the Wall Street Journal, I took another step.

I thought like a reporter.

I asked my client: “Does this new right-angle flange give the X251 a use that the X250 didn’t have — one that would really make a difference in people’s lives?”

“Does the new blue color have any purpose, or is just for looks?”

Who knows, maybe it turns out that the right angle flange allowed the X251 to be used in third world hospitals at a fraction of the cost of what they were using now. Maybe the blue color was to prevent endangered birds from bumping into it when it’s used in the rainforest. (As you can tell, the X251 is a figment of my imagination, not some new amazing outdoor tropical hospital gizmo.)

Of course it might also turn out that the right angle flange only has some obscure use and it’s blue because that’s the CEO’s favorite color.

But at least I tried to extract a real story from what was only a promotional PR pitch. You MUST do the same when it comes time to develop your main publicity angle.

Step away from your business. View it as a reporter looking for an interesting story. Remember, he’s looking for a story that will satisfy his editor and his readers. He’s not interested in promoting you, only in crafting a story that will make readers stop and say “Hmmm, I never knew that. Now there’s something I can use!.”

With that in mind, let’s look at the example of theplace4vitamins.com.

Taking Stock of Your Attributes

There are probably hundreds of sites in the Internet that sell vitamins (just as there are most likely hundreds of places that sell whatever your company does). So simply announcing that there’s a new venue to buy herbs and vitamins will get you nothing.

You need to break down your current attributes, and determine if you have anything that’s newsworthy.

Here’s a way of looking at it that may be useful: for every attribute, try to honestly rate its news value. Use these categories:

NO DICE
Not newsworthy. Too common, too promotional, too boring.

INSIDE STUFF
May be newsworthy within my own field (trade publications) or to hardcore customers (serious vitamin junkies) but not attractive enough to the general population to build a story.

GETTING THERE
Potentially of interest, but not quite meaty enough.

STOP THE PRESSES!
Meaty, hearty news that journalists eat up.

OK, let’s look at some of what you think makes theplace4vitamins.com special (this is a very important step. When making a list of what makes you special, take the time to get it right. What you say here can be mined for gold, as you’ll soon see):

  • Low prices NO DICE. Too common and will probably be viewed as promotional puffery.
  • Great service. NO DICE. Ditto.
  • Wide Selection. NO DICE. Ditto, Ditto.
  • You specialize in weight-loss formulas and books. INSIDE STUFF. Decent topic, but is there enough there to build a story?
  • You specialize in books and products that promote a healthy lifestyle for teenagers. GETTING THERE. Now you’re standing out a bit.
  • You started the company with money you stole from a pension fund. STOP THE PRESSES!

OK, the last one was a joke, but it demonstrates the gulf between what you think is newsworthy and what a reporter thinks is newsworthy.

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So, what have we got to work with? Three NO DICES, an INSIDE STUFF and a GETTING THERE. Not bad — we might just have enough to build a public relations campaign around..

Does NO DICE Mean No Story?

Just as I wasn’t ready to give up on the X251, neither should you simply throw in the towel on your NO DICE attributes. Heck, maybe we can salvage something.

Let’s look:

  • Low prices. Yeah, just putting out a press release saying you have low prices won’t get you anywhere. But what if there was something special about those low prices? Maybe you give huge discounts to child care centers who buy kids’ vitamins in quantity. Maybe you sell vitamins at cost to health clinics in poor neighborhoods. Maybe you provide a big discount on multivitamins to disabled people? These are all publicizable angles, and they take a worn out angle and make it fresh. Take advantage of programs you already have in place, or create new programs to provide publicity opportunities for a public relations campaign.
  • Great Service. If great service means you’re nice on the phone, it ain’t gonna work. But perhaps you go above and beyond the call to serve your customers. Remember that Saturn commercial in which serviceman flew to a remote Alaska cabin to fix a customer’s car? That was a graphic example of this sort of angle. Now, you probably don’t have anything so extreme to tell, but perhaps you do something no competitor would be willing to do. Or perhaps you should.
  • Wide Selection. Sheer quantity won’t turn this into a news angle. But if you carry some products that no one else does — and those products are in some demand — you might be on to something. Which leads us to….
    • You specialize in weight-loss formulas and books. If there’s something special about the way you choose your products, you might have a story. Let’s say you only carry weight-loss products from manufacturers that can provide double-blind studies that prove effectiveness and safety. This addresses one of the prime concerns of consumers (and reporters) about these products, and sets you up as a conscientious shopkeeper. Think about how the Body Shop’s refusal to sell animal-tested cosmetics and soap has made that chain stand out.
    • You specialize in books and products that promote a healthy lifestyle for teenagers. This is interesting, because it starts getting into issues, which can get you into a newspaper’s Lifestyle section. Now, just specializing in stuff for teens won’t be enough. You need to find a way to make this commitment come to life, in a non-promotional way.

God Bless the Internet

Ten years ago, the solution to the above problem would have been hard to come by, and probably expensive. Maybe a media tour, maybe sponsoring a teen pop act, maybe paying big bucks for a survey of teens about their eating habits.

Now, thankfully, all of that is out the window.

Thanks to the Internet, you can use your website to position your angles to have mass newsworthy appeal.

The answer is to design parts of your website specifically to provide a newsworthy element to your story. Message boards, chat rooms, surveys, feedback pages and so on can all lead to publicity. Is a leading health guru willing to be a guest at a chat sessions for teenagers? Did an online survey you conducted about kids’ favorite foods offer some interesting revelations? These, and other offshoots of adding newsworthy elements to your site, can all provide the basis for outstanding publicity opportunities.

So, you mull it over and decide on the perfect solution:

You’ll create a message forum for teenagers to discuss health issues, vitamins and herbs, exercise and more.

Now, simply creating the forums and offering a place for teens to go may be enough to get you some press. But it’s still a little vague, and there are probably other places like it around. Let’s sharpen this idea and make it work.

Go back to your attribute list. What can we combine to create a tighter, more specific angle?

See it yet? You specialize in weight-loss products. You also specialize in serving teenagers.

Your forum should be about teenagers and weight issues. Your health guru chat sessions should be about teens and their weight. Your survey should be on the subject, too.

Now you’ve got something! With this approach, you can have a number of solid newsworthy topics to take to the press:

  • What do kids think about a “thin is in” society?
  • What are they saying about eating disorders?
  • Are overweight kids ridiculed? And if so, how are they handling it?
  • Are teens using supplements to lose weight? If so, which ones — and are they safe?
  • What are young athletes doing to build muscle mass — and is it always the safest way to go?

See what we’ve done? We’ve taken your boring little vitamin website and turned it into a news angle machine! And we’ve turned you into a spokesperson, who’s looking out for teenagers by giving them a place to seek information, choose from safe products or just vent.

Your PR Campaign: Taking it to the Press

A story about helping overweight kids cope with ridicule, based on discussions that have taken place in your forums, is a natural for a “lifestyle” section of a newspaper.

So, you want to get an article about it in a major paper (let’s say The Denver Post).

First, you’ve got to find out who the appropriate editor or writer is at the Post. If you live in Denver, just read the paper on a regular basis and clip out the columns that deal with parenting, health or kids’ issues. But if you live in Rhode Island, it’s more difficult.

Go to your local library and take a look at Bacon’s Newspaper Directory in the reference section. Under The Denver Post listing, Bacon’s should provide a name for the Features or Lifestyle editor. It might be outdated, so call the Post’s main number and ask the receptionist “Is Joan Smith still the Features Editor?” The receptionist will then confirm that Joan is still in her position, tell you the name of the new person in this role, or transfer you to the newsroom to ask someone else. With the editor’s name in hand, you’re now ready to make your call. (It’s also worthy trying the newspaper’s web site. Increasingly, full editorial staff listings can be found online.)

Here are some “etiquette” secrets that can help you effectively work with journalists in generating bushels of free press…..

  1. Don’t call to “see if they got your release.” Journalists hate this. Folks send out mass mailings and then call to see if the release made it there. If you really want to get a story in the Post, call first to pitch your story and then follow up with your release, photos, etc.
  2. Plan your call around their deadlines. Most papers are morning editions. Thus, journalists’ deadlines range from 2 p.m. local time and on. Don’t call during this time! The best time to reach a newspaper journalist: 10 a.m. to noon local time.
  3. Don’t start pitching right away! If you get Joan Smith on the phone, don’t just dive into your pitch. This is rude, as Joan may be on the other line, working on a story, entertaining guests or who knows what else. Start by saying something like, “Hi Ms. Smith, my name’s Adam Torkildson and I have a story suggestion you might find interesting. Is this a good time for you?” Joan will reply “yes”–which is a green light to start your pitch, or “no”– to which you reply, “When would be a good time to call you back?” Your courtesy will be greatly appreciated by the journalist…which can only help your chances.
  4. Pitch to the voice mail. It’s fine to pitch your story to the reporter’s voice mail. Keep it very short and end the message with your phone number. If you don’t hear back, try again until you get the actual reporter or editor on the phone.
  5. Don’t read from a script! The bane of many journalists’ existences are 22-year-olds sitting in cubicles in big PR firms reading pitches off a sheet of paper. If you’ve ever been called by a telemarketer doing the same thing, you know how annoying it can be. Practice your pitch so that it seems natural and spontaneous.
  6. Give them a story, not an advertisement. Newspapers do not exist to give you publicity. They exist to provide readers with interesting stories. Your job is to give the journalist what he or she wants, while getting the free exposure. Make your pitch newsy, exciting and relevant. How about: “Ms. Smith, as you probably know, obesity among children is growing at an alarming rate. Because of the ridicule they face from other children, millions of overweight young people are being marked with lifetime scars that can seriously damage their self-esteem. I host a unique website, were overweight kids can anonymously express their feelings and discuss this issue. I think I’ve learned some important things about a very serious subject.” That’s a whole lot more interesting to an editor than: “Ms. Smith, I have a website where overweight kids post messages. Would you like to do a story about me?”
  7. Follow up immediately. If she’s interested, Joan Smith will ask for more information. Be sure you have a press kit (including news release and photo) ready to send . Send it out via priority mail, and write “Requested Information” below the address.
  8. Call again. Now it’s appropriate to call to see if Joan’s received your stuff…after all, unlike a mass-mailed release, she asked for it! Ask if she’s had a chance to look through it, and what she thinks. If she likes what she sees, you’re about to get some very valuable free publicity!

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Posted in Blog

Personal Finance Tips with Vine

Watch the video:

Then think about this:

The things in the video are worth an estimated $50k. Can you tell which ones?

Posted in Blog

Tom Post, Forbes Editor, Recap at UTC Members Meeting

I had the opportunity to hear Tom Post speak, and meet him, at the Annual UTC Members Meeting in SLC today. Tom’s speech was very powerful and not something you would normally hear coming out of a successful businessman’s mouth: prepare for disaster. He cited his own industry as the background for his pronouncement. 100s of newspapers and magazines have been going out of business; journalists have been laid off right and left; the shift in how people consume information (on mobile devices; which he called a grenade with the pin pulled out)

He posed the question to the crowd: What is going to disrupt your industry in 5 years? He then proceeded to walk around the room with a mic and ask people point blank if they were the best at what they do; who was going to steal their success (out of their current competitors) and how they were going to prepare for it.

I think the greatest opportunity for someone to make a lot of money from Forbes right now is the person who can monetize their mobile traffic the best. That’s Tom’s (and Forbes’) biggest headache right now.

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