Tis’ the season for pumpkin spice, Autumn leaves, peppermint, and eggnog everything. But there’s more to running successful holiday campaigns than slapping a red and green bow on your products and expecting them to sell. Here are three communications secrets to creating compelling holiday messaging that speaks to your audience, drives more conversions, and creates life-long customers.
Whether you run a startup, a mid-size consumer product company, or another kind of successfully growing brand, you know how competitive the holiday season gets. Here are three tips to making your brand stand out during the holiday season.
Face it; there are a lot of emails that will never be read. Don't let yours be one of them. Here are seven deadly mistakes email marketers make.
1. Your Subject Line Is Pointless.
The first few words have to compel the reader to keep reading and open your email. If you're having a 25% off sale, lead with the words: "25% off." Don't lead with the words: "Today only, get a special, once-a-year promotion for 25% off your entire purchase."
2. Your Preview Text Wastes Space.
You've seen it; that text that previews an email's content. Too many n00b brands and some established ones waste that space with boilerplate, unsubscribe text, or other, non-essential information. This is often a remnant of the email sending service you are using. Send a test to yourself before sending the email to a group. If the preview text is not your immediate content, modify your template so that information is placed elsewhere. Preview text should always be compelling. -- mac windows, gmail, outlook, iPhone Android
Makers are talented at their craft, but sometimes they can use a little help with marketing. Here are seven pro marketing tips to help makers maximize their sales and engagement.
1. Make a Calendar.
Whether you're a cosplay prop-maker, a quilter, a knitter, a carver... plan your year out and give your audience something fresh every season (or more often if you can).
Every marketing director thinks their promo videos are great, but when was the last time you sat through another company's entire video ad and actually cared?
Don't waste your target market's time or brain power. Here are 8 tips that will make your next promotional video more successful, profitable, and compelling.
You've survived the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and even earned your startup a few media mentions in the process. You're finally taking off. As far as you're concerned, your name belongs up there with Musk, Zuckerberg, and Curie.
You may think the bulk of your PR work is done for the year, but it's only just begun. The difference between startups that flicker and fade and those who become household brands is all about media presence–continued media presence. Here are the most common PR mistakes startups make after CES.
1. Subscribe Reporters To All Of Your Company Communications.
You know that weekly wrap-up email sent your team when everything was new? You filled it with witty insights, inspiring quotes, charts, and a rundown of your team's progress. Now, you've taken the liberty of sending that email to everyone you've ever met and after an event like CES, you subscribe every reporter you meet to the list–whether or not you ask their permission.
Why You Should Stop: A. Nothing "newsworthy" happens every week, so you're waisting the reporters' time. B. Sending random company communications to reporters, that obviously goes to everyone you've ever known, looks unprofessional. C. They didn't ask to be subscribed to non-news information.
2. Stalk The Reporters You Met.
You bug them on social media, phone calls, and texts with every tiny, non-news thing your company does, and sometimes just to see what they're up to. They hear from you every other day. You're a constant presence in their lives.
Why You Should Stop: A. If you bug reporters when there isn't news, they'll learn to tune you out and ignore you, even when you have actual news. B. Constantly bugging reporters is a great way to get blacklisted. Reporters talk with each other and you don't want to get the reputation of the shameless self-promoter. C. Reporters know they're not your best friend, and if you try and contact them constantly, it's obvious you're doing it because you want something.
3. Do Nothing At All. Ever.
This is one of the most common PR mistakes startups make after CES; they meet interested reporters and they never follow up in any way. Utter silence isn't golden.
Why You Should Stop: A. It makes you look lazy. B. The reporter may forget your company completely. After all, they met hundreds of companies at CES. Why should they remember you if you don't you make an effort? C. You've wasted a great opportunity.
Instead, connect with the reporters you met at CES on LinkedIn, and be sure to send them polite company announcements a few days in advance incase they want to cover it. Make an effort to connect and get to know them on a professional level.
4. Communicate To Every Reporter The Same Way, At The Same Time.
Not all media is the same; Print magazines have a 3 to 6 month lead-time. Daily newspapers need daily stories. Contributors and feature writers often work on stories for a long time and get various points of input. TechCrunch needs to be the first to write about a company announcement (and they don't honor embargoes). Some reporters have more time to network than others. Some reporters cover a dozen topics, some cover one. Treating every single reporter the same doesn't make for an effective PR effort.
Why You Should Stop: A. It makes you look unprofessional; like you don't care about a reporter's needs. B. It makes it unlikely to get your story featured in any of the long-lead-time publications.
5. Ignore Reporters Or Take Your Sweet Time Getting Back To Them.
When a reporter does reach out to you, you take your time getting back to them or you don't get back to them at all. Sometimes a reporter will ask for your input or opinion as a quote for an upcoming story they're working on, but you decline because you don't think it's worth your time.
Why You Should Stop: A. If you don't help a reporter when they ask for something you're comfortable doing, you're waisting a great opportunity to get your company's name out there as a thought leader. B. Reporters have deadlines. If you take more than a day to get back to them, it's often too long and next time they won't contact you at all. C. Talking with reporters about your industry is one of the most important things you can do with your time.
6. Don't Tell Your PR Firm Which Reporters You Met and Know.
It's your PR firm's job to know everyone right? So why shouldn't you get some alone time with reporters when you want to without the firm having to know? This is a common mistake a lot of entrepreneures make; the assumption that they're doing themselves a favor by having secret communications with reporters, keeping their firm in the dark.
Why You Should Stop: A. You hire a PR firm to help you know reporters. At least tell your firm the 5 or 6 reporters you've met that you'd like to reach out to. Chances are, they'll have good advice as to what to say (and what not to say). B. If you're chummy with a reporter, telling them about your company's upcoming launch, and then your firm pitches the reporter the next week, with the same story, it looks unprofessional, both to the reporter and to the PR firm.
7. Assume That Your Startup's PR is Done for the Year.
Your startup was mentioned by three bloggers. You've been on TV for thirty seconds. A known online publication has interviewed you. What more could you want until the next CES?
Why You Should Stop: A. If you got quality press coverage from CES, great. But remember, you were lumped into the CES bundle of stories, and these stories will likely be soon forgotten unless you continue to get quality press mentions throughout the coming year. B. CES coverage alone is not enough to show that you have the staying power it takes to garner investors in six months, or partner with another company next quarter. C. Use these stories to launch your company's next move. Making CES coverage your stopping point wastes opportunities for future stories.
Introducing the media to your startup is an important job–one that shouldn’t be done without careful research and consideration. Knowing what to expect from a potential PR firm is often challenging for startups. Here are some must-ask questions to address with any PR firm your startup is thinking of working with.
Who will do most of the daily work of promoting my startup?
Large PR firms often have interns and in-experienced people on-hand to conduct research, preform initial pitches, and manage smaller accounts. Since you’re paying a PR firm to represent you, you should know what you’re paying for and how much of your account will be handled by “underlings” versus senior management.
How often will I see “top leadership” after the initial meeting?
Top leadership in PR firms are often very good at “selling and closing deals” with clients, but are sometimes MIA from your regular meetings. This can be cost-effective for startups, but it can also be a sign that a PR firm isn’t a good fit for your startup.
What kind of reporters will be pitched for my stories?
Unless your startup is incredibly limited and specific, chances are, it will appeal to many “verticals” of reporting. If a PR firm says they’ll focus on only “tech reporters” or reporters who cover “the startup space,” you’re limiting your potential. Look for PR firms that focus on specific reporter verticals that encompass many significant areas of your startup’s potential. Examples: Health-tech, Android, iPhone, Mobile Computing, Telecommunications, Early Childhood Education, Cardiology. Get specific.
Who have you recently worked with that’s like my startup?
You don’t want to be a PR firm’s “first rodeo.” Look for past and current clients who have similar business structure, audience, or outlook as your startup. They don’t have to be a competitor, but it shouldn’t be a stretch for a PR firm to work with your startup if they’ve worked with similar brands in the past.
How do you define success for a startup like me, in say, six months?
This question will get you on the same page, fast. If they say they imagine you’ll have an article or two in a prominent blog in the coming months, that’s pretty slow. On the flip-side, if they promise thousands of media placements, that might be over-promising. Look for a PR firm that listens to the kind of business goals you have, and can align their PR expectations to your goals. Of course, PR firms can’t guarantee that reporters will “write” but they should be nimble enough to adjust strategies and tactics to get your startup media attention.
What is it about my startup that makes you want to work with us?
Of course, PR firms need to make money, but that can’t be the driving reason for a firm to work with you as opposed to other brands. PR firms should have specific answers as to what it is about your startup that they find refreshing, interesting, sell-able, and compelling. If they can’t answer this, they don’t know “you for you.” Don’t work with them in this case, because they’re not a good fit.
Are there any concerns you have with working with a startup like mine?
This is a good “catch all” question that may provide insight into something you missed or that they weren’t otherwise comfortable talking about.
The bottom line:
Working with a PR firm is a partnership built on communication and honesty. Find a firm that is easy to work with and that knows how to work with you to get the results your brand needs. Like any good lasting relationship, it’s worth the time and effort.
- By Jennifer L. Jacobson, Founder of Jacobson Communication
1. The best PR firms are really big.
Choosing a big PR firm can be a dangerous choice for a startup for three reasons: 1. Big PR firms are expensive for cost-conscious startups. 2. Big PR firms are focused on their big, name-brand clients, because they look good, and they pay well. 3. Most big PR firms don’t specialize in the nuances of startups. While they may have fancy reports and a fleet of underlings to meet with you regularly, big PR firms don’t usually understand the specific needs of budding entrepreneurship associated with startups. You’re better off looking for PR firms that specialize in, and have results for companies of a similar size and focus to yours.
2. Celebrities and big brands work with this firm so they must be good.
The PR needs of celebrities and established brands have little in common with the PR needs of startups. Endorsements, damage control, product launches within an established brand, and ongoing brand maintenance are their primary focus. Startups usually need PR that introduces them to the world and establishes them as a thought leader in their industry. Popular brand names may sound sexy, but the PR strategies that make them successful have little in common with the PR strategies that make new startups successful.
Also consider that celebrities and big brands spend millions annually on communications, marketing infrastructure, market research, endorsements, and public relations. The work of their PR firm only plays a small part in their success.
3. A PR firm should operate without much input.
PR is not a one-size-fits-all solution to getting your startup noticed. Each startup is unique, and a good PR firm will need to get spend time with you and get to know your brand, your goals, your industry, and more, in order to make you identify what makes you special and help you stand out from the competition. Expect to meet with them regularly and don’t be surprised when they ask questions about why your startup exists, what problem you solve, and how you’re different than others.
4. My startup is too secret to talk about with the PR firm.
PR firms need to know what your company does, how it does it, why it exists, and how it’s better than the competition. While you may not need to disclose each of the secret sauce ingredients directly, your PR firm needs to be able to talk with reporters and make a solid case as to why your product is better than the competition. Warning: Reporters can see through vague marketing speak, so get specific. If your startup has a secret product or solution still in development, and not yet ready to be made public, be sure to tell your PR firm when it can be made public.
5. PR should be cheap because I'm a startup.
Public relations is often the first thing people see when they meet your startup. While you can save money on things like office supplies and company lunches, public relations, can be an embarrassing place to scrimp because it’s so very “public.” It’s like wearing a ragged dirty shirt to a pitch demo. Sure you can do it, but it’s not a good idea. Think of a PR firm as you would a dentist, a lawyer, an accountant. You want good results, which come from experience, intelligence, and the ability to get the job done right. Price is a very small part of what is truly important when hiring a PR firm. According to one article: “Retainer fees for starups tend to range between $5,000 and $10,000.”
6. I should only pay for placements.
Many startups hesitate to pay for public relations work, as it is not a guarantee of media placements. As a result, some startups consider a pay-to-play option. Pay-to-play means a firm only gets paid for the media placements they get a client. Most publications frown on the practice. Some publications will even blacklist PR people who get paid per story, so don’t ask your PR firm to do it. If you need eyeballs, consider straight-up advertising or paid placements. The downside; the audience will know you paid to get the story and control the message, so it won’t feel as genuine as real PR.
7. The intern can do it.
Don’t ask a fish to climb a ladder and don’t ask an intern to pitch your startup. Interns can be great for getting coffee and some even have the capacity to contribute to well-envisioned, well-guided, well-monitored campaigns. You may find an intern that is so good they eventually become a valued employee. But would you really trust an intern to be your company’s sole ambassador, pitching your startup to Fortune, or TechCrunch, or Ellen? Keep in mind, most reporters get hundreds of pitches a day, the odds are slim that your intern knows who to approach a reporter and what to say to make put your company in the best light possible.
Go to your company or nonprofit's news page. What media placements are listed? Are they more than a couple months old? If so, this article is for you.
You: But I was featured on our local tv station last year.
Me: Doesn't count.
You: But we were featured in TechCrunch for our launch.
Me: Six months ago. Doesn't count.
You: But my press release got 80,000 impressions according to BusinessWire.
Me: Exactly. You're a ghost. But fortunately, you don’t have to stay this way.
What is Ghost PR Syndrome?
Ghost PR Syndrome is when the media hasn’t mentioned your brand any time in the last month, and it’s killing your business reputation.
How Is Ghost PR Syndrome Dangerous?
1. You’re Helping the Competition:
Not being actively in the media gives your competition a chance. When customers are conducting research for your type of product or service, they’re more likely to favor brands that have a variety of positive, credible media endorsements. If your brand isn’t current, you’re missing out on potential customers and revenue.
2. You Don’t Care About Your Appearance:
Relying on old PR placements shows that staying relevant isn’t important to your brand. When media placements for a brand are more than a month or two old, it’s the same as wearing dirty laundry to work; it looks bad, people notice, and no one will tell you.
3. You’re Wasting SEO Opportunities:
One of the number one ways people research new products is online, and media placements are a great way to drive SEO for your brand. If you’re not actively getting your share of media placements, your brand is missing some meaningful web-traffic.
4. You’re crippling your sales team:
Sure great salespeople can sell “anything” but if you have Ghost PR Syndrome, your forcing your team to trot out the same horse time, after time, trying to sell to leads, who are becoming more and more familiar with the competition. Current media placements can go a long way to lending credibility to your product and that can speed-up and unburden your sales team.
5. You’re Isolating Your Customers:
Lack of PR makes current customers less confident in the best of times and more skeptical if they have a problem. Hanging out with the “cool kids” is still a thing. Even if you have won customers and they’ve been with you for a long time, they may decide to go with the competition if the news is raving about how wonderful a similar product is. For customers who’ve had a problem, (as long as that problem is handled in a favorable way), positive media stories can help them have faith in your company while their problem is sorted out, leading them to believe that their issue is isolated, and not the tip of the iceberg of doom for your brand.
Is Ghost PR Syndrome Preventable?
Yes. You need to make PR a priority for your brand. Work with a firm that understands your desire to stay relevant in your market. Talk with a number of firms who represent brands of a similar size and industry to yours. Talk with fellow founders, executives, and colleagues and ask who they recommend. You can overcome Ghost PR Syndrome and get your brand back on track.
The Bottom Line:
If you want your company to stand out, attract new customers, and stay relevant, active PR should be one of the most-valuable, most-used tools in your marketing toolbox.
Have you ever had a PR campaign that just didn't work? Are you planning a new campaign? Here's the top 8 reasons PR campaigns fail and what you should avoid.
1. You're Starting Too Late
Do you have a story that has to "go live" this week? Next week? You're too late. Sure, you can try and see what happens, but you need to have sent out your stories at least two to four weeks in advance.
Looking to get coverage in a print magazine, try three months or more in advance.
Looking to get your new product/service on a major TV show? That could easily take 6 months of hard work and dedication.
Do you have a holiday campaign coming up? Start in August or September. After that, it's too late.
Starting with a new PR firm? Bring them on, at least a month before you need to start pitching anything.
2. Your Story Is Not Really News
Did your startup just get a new logo? Unless you're Uber or Apple, nobody cares. Get over yourself.
A story has to include something new and noteworthy, as well as how it impacts customers, and the larger world.
3. You Chose the Wrong Hook
If you're talking about your hot new algorithm, but fail to connect that to how it will save PC users billions of hours a year, you're doing it wrong.
Consider the biggest impact your story will have on someone who does not care about your brand already. That is your hook.
4. You Don't Pitch Enough Reporters
What's that you say? You pitched a whopping total of twenty reporters across publications like Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Kotaku, The Verge, etc? That's ADORABLE! Good luck!
This kind of strategy only works if you're already famous. Unless these reporters have told you when they will drop your story, don't hold your breath.
You should be reaching out to hundreds of reporters (at least), and paying for a press release on one of the known distro sites to kickstart your story. Not sure how to contact hundreds of reporters? Hire a PR firm.
5. You Don't Pitch the Right Reporters
Not every story is something TechCrunch will break to the world. If you have a "lifestyle" story, go to lifestyle-focused blogs, websites, writers, shows, etc. Consider who your customer is and what media they consume. Start there. Sure, pitch to TechCrunch too, but don't expect them to break the ice for you.
6. You Ignore Reporter Requests
If you've pitched a reporter and they ask you for further information, an interview, images, etc., and you ignore them, or take several days to get back to them, you're missing out.
You don't have to fly across the country for a tiny TV station interview with a viewership of 50 people (unless you want to), but you should have the decency to write back to reporters who ask this and more of you. If you don't have time, again, consider hiring a PR firm or a PR manager.
7. You Pitch at the Wrong Time
Pitch early in the week, at a time that works for all time-zones. Don't pitch on a Friday and expect anyone to write same-day. Don't pitch at midnight. Don't pitch on a major holiday.
Did a disaster just happen? Is something else consuming the news cycle. Hold your story for a few days if you have to. Wait for things to cool down. Then pitch.
8. Your Pitch is 100% Wrong
Most people start here, but I've saved this one for last because everything else has to work, in order for the pitch to work.
A good pitch:
• Is short, and to-the-point, complete with supporting links, and no attachments.
• Is sent at a respectful time of day, to the right reporter.
• Is not typically sent randomly over social media (unless the reporter requests it).
• Is not presumptuous, rude, or manipulative.
• May follow-up on the same story once or twice, but no more, unless the reporter replies.
Most failed PR campaigns occur because they ignored one or more of the steps above. Get these steps right, and your campaign will be much more successful.
Jennifer L. Jacobson is a communications strategist who helps brands advance in growing industries. Her clients have been on The View, The Today Show, in TIME Magazines’s best site of the year, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Popular Science, Scientific American, USA Today, and thousands more.
Jacobson Communication is a Pacific Northwest boutique public relations firm that helps startups, upstarts, and emerging brands get the attention needed to drive positive brand engagement. From sales, to biz dev, to company enrichment, you'll be surprised what better communications can do for your brand.
Copyright 2018 Jacobson Communication