Lunch with Chase Murdock of Dress Code

I had a great time getting to know my 3rd complete stranger in as many weeks: Chase Murdock, CEO of Dress Code. I first heard about his company through a friend on Facebook, and since I’ve been trying to get in better shape and dress more stylishly, I was really intrigued by their model; from their site:

Dress Code is a custom menswear brand – but we don’t operate a single storefront. Instead, our Style Consultants meet individually with each New Member to take measurements and personalize each order one-on-one.

It sounds different, but by doing this we’re able to offer a much more personalized experience and bring it all straight to you.  We like to learn about our customers’ personal style and current wardrobe before we build a custom product for them.

To me, that sounded like the best of both worlds of high fashion for a great price. Some of the things we talked about were investments, where his company is headed in the next 4 months, Forbes, suits, Michael b, PR strategies, SEO dying, his engagement, and hiring smart people.

I think Chase and his company are going to do really well, so I was excited to meet a fellow Utah entrepreneur. I had the Tuscan chicken salad, and Chase had the Cream of Broccoli soup.

Lunch with Josh Steimle of MWI

Today I had lunch with Joshua Steimle of MWI, an SEO firm. Josh and I had lunch at NY Pizza Patrol in Draper. I got the eggplant parmigiani,

and Josh got a calzone. We swapped stories about growing up, he in CA, me in ND. Then we talked about home school, he does that for his kids, and I was home schooled for 7 years growing up.  Then we talked about his plans for his family (they’re moving to Hong Kong next year), how much he loves the adoptions he’s been able to go through, and his plans for his SEO firm and his Self Storage company. Yet again, taking a complete stranger to lunch was really fun since I didn’t have any agenda other than to try and spend lunch time with someone new as much as possible in the coming months. I also learned that Josh’s dad was a rocket scientist, and that he’s related to the most famous pool making people in the US. Random facts yes, interesting nonetheless. Anyone who wants to get to know Josh, here’s his Linkedin profile

Lunch With Erica Hone of IHC

I had the pleasure of taking Erica Hone to lunch today. I had never met her, and we connected on Linkedin first, which is how I even knew who she was. Let me back up a little bit. I’m kind of an anti social person. I don’t like going to big or small networking events. I grew up in a small town in North Dakota, was homeschooled, and kind of had to teach myself social skills in college. Being that my line of work doesn’t require me to talk face to face to many people, I kind of fell into what I’m doing naturally. However, I decided that I wanted to change my habit of eating lunch alone (which I figured was a waste of time unless I was actually talking to someone and hopefully expanding my network a little). So I started reaching out to total strangers on Linkedin (I found them by going to my local chapter of the PRSA Linkedin group, and sending friend requests to about 100 people there). I had joined the local chapter of PRSA previously, figuring that was how I was going to grow my network, but I was always too scared to talk to people 1 on 1 at those events they had. But I’m fearless online, and so I have about 10 lunch appointments set up with people I have never met before. And I’ll be blogging about each one. So on the experience with Erica. First of all, and I kind of expected this, I didn’t recognize her from her Linkedin profile picture. She was much better looking in person 🙂 Secondly, we quickly fell into some rather personal conversation. I was kind of expecting this as well, and I totally opened up to her about my father, brothers, sisters, mother, personal goals, and all over the place. And she filled me in on her family life, her husband, school, work, and all the things that make up her life. And I learned something from her that I never would have realized on my own. We were talking about goals for our future selves (I want to do non profit work) and she said: “So do you like fundraising?” to which I replied “Not at all”. She then told me: “Everyone is good at fundraising. You just have to align the goals of the potential donor with the things your non profit does; show them what their money will do for your organization. Tell them ‘With your help, and this donation, we can accomplish this project’.”

That may be old hat to some of you, but I have always viewed fundraising as this door to door exercise much like my days of knocking on doors for 2 years in Sacramento on my LDS mission. She also explained some of the nuances of the healthcare communications problems and opportunities in Utah Valley. Many of the doctors and nurses don’t naturally exude a wonderful bedside manner 100% of the time. They’re human just like the rest of us. So Erica spends time working with the hospital staff on excellent customer service skills basically. That’s something I never would have realized.

And to end this all up, I’ll be going to lunch with random people I’ve never met except through Linkedin over the next couple of months. My goal is to take 50 brand new people to lunch that live within 30 miles of me and have a similar job description. I’ll write a blog post about each lunch. Things I learned, places we went, and the outcomes.

Erica and I went to the Tower Deli at Thanksgiving Point. Marshall, the manager, is a good friend, since I’m there just about every day.

What Is, And How do you do, Content Marketing?

Firstly, what is content marketing? It’s getting your content (video, text, music, etc) syndicated across lots of sites online. Alternatively, it can involve simply driving a lot of traffic to one version of your content. Either way, it involves other sites (a network if you will) linking to, embedding, or generally mentioning your content piece. The reason for doing content marketing is important to understand so you can figure out how to do it ( b2b vs b2c content marketing tactics can vary).

Why Do Content Marketing?

Unless you’re a major brand, most people are never going to read your latest blog post, facebook post, twitter post, etc. Even my own content never gets seen unless I market it. This is just something you have to understand right now, and don’t get all up in my business about it. Next question.

How Do You Do Content Marketing?

Strategy 1: Like I said, it involves a network of people (real, relevant people I might add, not Indians or Philippinos) who are willing, and wanting, to read and possibly share your content around in their own circles/social networks. You can buy access to such networks via outbrain.com or taboola.com, and pay a cpc price for relevant clicks to your article on your own site, from each network starting at about .10 cpc. I have used both, and the jury is still out as to how effective they are in the long run if you don’t continuously spend $100s of dollars a day.

Strategy 2: The other way to get your content noticed is to get it placed in an already established site (like forbes, wsj, msnbc, cnn, etc) and rely on those power house sites to drive the views and shares for you. The upside to this is the huge brand recognition you receive by being associated with such trusted sites (this is btw what Online PR is also about). The downsides are 1) It takes time to get such placements, and you have to know someone at the site (90% of the time) to get anything published mentioning you/your company. 2)You receive a fraction of the traffic to your own site (if you even get a link out of it)

So the real question is: What is your goal? Do you want to drive lots of traffic to your own content and create a strong brand over time (of course you do). How much is that worth to you? You have to invest the time and money it takes to create that awesome article, infographic, video, etc. Then you have to drive large amounts of traffic to that particular piece and hope that people then share it to help offset some of the huge expense of driving people to it in the first place.

On the flip side, do you want to rely on another site to get brand exposure for you, and receive lots less traffic, but an instant credibility boost? (yes again). It’s a balance as to which one you do more of; but my advice is to use both tactics. And above all: Test, Test Test. I’ve seen first hand what an article on Forbes can do for the amount of new business you can get, even if you didn’t get a link to your site from it.

I’ve also seen incredible organic ranking increases on sites from excellent content that was  promoted, which then went viral.

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.

index

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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My dad the unemployed clown

Coming from a comedic heritage (see my dad in the video below) allows me to have a great deal of fun at times when some people find life hard. I just want to say thanks to my dad for giving me a good sense of humor, and helping me be creative in my writing and content creation.

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:

index

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.

index

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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