Archive for the ‘Updates’ Category


Getting to online marketing

Since we launched, I’ve been constantly refining the online marketing approach we use for our publicity offerings. The biggest change occurred over the Christmas break in the form of an improved ‘long copy’ description of our services. At the same time, we introduced an autoresponder based education series covering the material from our publictity workshops. This has led to a definite increase in the traffic to our website and our conversion rate, and a range of interesting new clients.

The online marketing approach we use is finding its way into our service line. I am finding that in talking to clients about the kind of on-line marketing we are doing they want to add this into their site as well. Some are keen to launch a new site altogether. When I am talking about on-line marketing I am talking about key word research, adwords campaigns, dedicated landing pages, education via email auto responders and effective offer pages … etc. Its a long list, and helping people understand these marketing tools and how to use them takes more than one conversation.

Putting these elements together into fixed price services that our clients can tap is what I am currently working on.

I’ve been involved in sales and marketing of services for fifteen years. What is currently happening is a change of the rules of marketing for services. The on-line environment offers real opportunities for small players. This is one of those periods of time when everything about sales and marketing is changing. This is not always clear for people who are in the middle of it. Personally I find it very exciting. I’d be interested to hear whether you are getting a sense of these changes too.


Revealing the Hidden Jewels of tourism

Hidden Jewel logoI’m delighted to announce the winners of the PublicityShip Hidden Jewel Awards – one of the most enjoyable tasks I’ve had so far as Managing Editor of PublicityShip!

The winners are tourism operators who remain relatively unknown and poised for growth. They all have an edge that sets them apart, offering some exciting editorial and broadcast opportunities, which means they are likely to benefit from their prize – publicity! And they have something extra – passion.

The national winner is Ningaloo Blue Charters, situated on Western Australia’s Coral Coast.

Ningaloo Blue LogoThe Ningaloo Reef is a hidden jewel in itself. Much of it within wadable or swimmable distance of shore, it harbours a huge variety of marine life. Most importantly, it is the only place in Australia where visitors can swim with a whale shark – the biggest fish in the sea – and Ningaloo Blue Charters records the most reliable sightings in the world.

But it was also Ningaloo Blue’s passion for what they do that attracted the judges.

“What swayed us towards Ningaloo Blue Charters was a dynamic and unique experience that could translate well to the television screen. That, coupled with a professional and passionate team, made Ningaloo Blue a standout entry.”

This comment from Alex Ristevski, Hidden Jewel judge and travel series producer for Channel Nine, sums up the essence of Ningaloo Blue and that extra something that is likely to get you noticed too.

The combination of professionalism and passion make for great TV – and this also applies to print media, especially when there are stunning photographic images involved.

Now to the state/territory winners:

NSW: Tribal Warrior
NT: Anangu Waai
QLD: Undara Experience
SA: Bookabee Tours Australia
TAS: Live History
VIC: Auswalk
WA: Faraway Bay – The Bush Camp

We will be running publicity campaigns for all the winners, and setting up a travel blog for Ningaloo Blue to attract more visitors to the region and the tours offered by the team.

Congratulations to the winners, and thank you once again to all our entrants. A big thanyou also to my diligent co-judges: Channel Nine‘s Alex Ristevski, Australian Traveller‘s Greg Barton and AAT Kings‘ Les Cox.

I’ll leave the final word to Greg Barton: “It was an extremely difficult – but thoroughly enjoyable – judging process, since there are so many operators out there worthy of attention. Bring on next year’s PublicityShip Hidden Jewel Awards!”


Getting the media excited

Well, we’re in full swing with judging the PublicityShip Hidden Jewel Awards for small tourism operators.

press camerasWe’ve chosen our national winner – but I can’t tell you who it is until the information on all the winners is released on Friday.

What I can tell you is we already have two travel magazine editors who are pretty excited. And when an editor gets excited, you know you’ve hit the jackpot! We’ve achieved this by creating a story of value to the media.
Now we’re in the throes of choosing a winner for each state and territory.

Other exciting news is that one of our judges, Postcards series producer, Alex Ristevski, is currently working on a brand new national travel series.

Alex is one of those media people who believe in bringing quality ventures into the limelight. He’s been impressed by the Awards entries and is always on the look-out for fresh material, so the new series could provide more publicity opportunities for the hidden jewels of tourism.


Sifting for publicity gems

Work on the PublicityShip Hidden Jewel Awards is seriously happening.

Hidden Jewel logo

We are in the middle of judging the entries and will be choosing the national winner this week. The state winners will be finalised next week, with all the results to be announced on 16 February.

We’ve been really thrilled with the standard of entries, particularly from South Australia and Tasmania, and the large number of quality Aboriginal enterprises right across the country.

I’m really enjoying the whole judging process, although it’s harder than you’d think. The awards aren’t just about what’s new and different. We’re also looking for who would really benefit from publicity. Often this means having the potential for more than one story angle.

I’m not the only one finding it tough. Greg Barton, a fellow judge and editor of Australian Traveller magazine, sent me an email saying, “Some wonderful entries in here. Choosing only a few seems unfair!”

But the struggle is an enjoyable one, and as I’ve been poring over the entries it’s reminded me what gives one small business an edge over another, what makes one more newsworthy than another.

It is about having something that sets you apart, that’s original or that fills a gap in the market. And ideally, you need have a product or service that is constantly creating new stories for you.

This is how business blogs can also work really well. Each blog post can focus on a different point of interest that keeps more life into your business.

So ask yourself: What makes you special? What are the kinds of stories that would make someone want to do experience your product or service? What are the special changing sights, tastes, smells and feelings you offer your customer?

For many people in the travel industry it is their local region that will feed them new publicity angles: e.g. seasonal migrations for animals, the wildflower season, a glut at harvest time leading to more and new products, new itineraries going to rarely-visited spots, client stories of new experiences.

All of those who entered the PublicityShip Hidden Jewel Awards have potential to create publicity, so congratulations on getting your entries together – and good luck!


New services in the pipeline

Wow. January has been a cracker for us at PublicityShip. I’ll give you a brief update.

Publicity services are changing. We started our business with a press release service, and quickly added services around that to cover planning, distribution and monitoring. We’re just launching a new service called Get Newsworthy. We’ve had a few situations where the best angle we can come up with isn’t good enough to warrant attention in the target media. So, we are borrowing from Guy Kawasaki who advises (I think from The Macintosh Way, but its a lot of years ago) that if all seems grim, ‘get better reality’. Our Get Newsworthy service is all about helping small business figure out ways to do things differently and become more newsworthy.

New online marketing services are about to be released. Our publicity and blogging services are useful tools for companies that want to get their message out. Running an online business now opens up an incredibly wide range of marketing options. So we plan to offer services in bite size chunks, building on our journalism and copywriting skills.

Registrations have continued to come through for the PublicityShip Hidden Jewel Awards. We are approaching 300 entries. We didn’t have any real idea of how many would enter, but this is a fantastic result. Jane has worked her magic in terms of getting the message out to all the right places. We get a buzz out of hearing from so many small tourism ventures around Australia.

We are working with a significant proportion of clients from NSW and Victoria at the moment – not surprising really. Its a great sign for us, new clients are approaching us directly from the web, with a good understanding of what we do and what they want.

Our new email based publicity course is steadily building subscribers. We aren’t getting feedback from everyone, but those who have told us about their experience have been really positive. Its an 8 part series, and we were worried it would be too long. Feedback to date has been its spot on. After we launched ours, I noticed that Joan Stewart at PublicityHound recently launched an email publicity course as well. Her material is always very interesting, and at 89 parts, this is one of the longest autoresponder courses I’ve heard of. I’m thinking we will see more resources of this nature appear.

Paul and Jenny’s blog is coming along hugely. Traffic is growing consistently, and they are getting new bookings directly from the site. Once we have enough stories collected, we will help publish their first eBook. Julia and I really enjoyed a comment from Jenny last week “I’ve been so busy today I haven’t had a chance to look at AdWords”. Paul and Jenny have a small (but very effective) AdWords campaign running, and are both expert with Google Analytics.

Angie and Shelley at Mardon are so busy its just amazing. They are operating a flourishing recruitment company in a boom economy, so its not a surprise. Blogging for recruitment is a lot harder than we thought. We’ve talked about what we can do differently – content is key. A trail is definitely being blazed here.

Janet Shaw’s blogs are both travelling exceptionally well. For some reason Google took quite a lot longer to index Janetshaw.com than it did to index BeyondTheRedDoor.com. While we aren’t pure SEO specialists, we pride ourselves on our sites having strong SEO fundamentals, so its surprising to see a delay like this. I am constantly inspired by Janet’s determination to get past barriers – she does this with her sport, her writing, and her approach to blogging.

New blogs that we are working on include an integrated photography blogsite, and we’ve advised recently on a number of wordpress.com startups. I feel the WordPress platform is on a growth curve of extraordinary proportions – now I’m no statistician, but surely Google Trends on blog platforms suggests there is some basis to this. I’m convinced that many people haven’t realised exactly what WordPress has achieved in terms of bringing together a blog platform with a content management system. Sure it might not be the *best* content management system in the world – but its very good. Very good coupled with very easy coupled with an open source community tells me that WordPress is going to dominate blogging and user-editable websites (in fact, they will merge). Pity you can’t buy shares in it.

Our publicity work is going full tilt right now – travel, fashion, cosmetics, and personal coaching are some of the main industries.

For a new business (well, we’re nearly a year old now), this is just such an exciting period. Making sure we are able to grow and maintain our level of service is going to be tough. We rely heavily on our freelance journalists and writing skills, so we have to keep on getting better at finding good freelancers and getting their skills applied at the right time and the right place. If you know of journalists who might like to do some additional freelance work, please get them to contact us, we would love to hear from them.


New PublicityShip Theme

We’ve rolled out our new PublicityShip theme (version 1.1) today.

For those of you interested in WordPress Themes, it is based on Kubrick, but with a considerable set of extensions. As you know, we aren’t into blogging for blogging’s sake, we are all about using blogs to support a small business. And a small business needs to establish its presence online, build traffic, establish conversations with prospects, convert them to customers and provide excellent follow up! Whew! So our blogging focus is all about making sure that small business people who are very busy are able to focus on working with their customers, not the mechanics of blogging.

The PublicityShip Template is a special WordPress template that we use that turns this philosophy into a reality.

So, if you’re interested in the details ..

Description of new extensions to the PublicityShip Theme v1.1

Subscriptions

We’ve made it easier to add email subscriptions capabilities, either for your blog (via FeedBurner – have a look at the email box in our menu bar), or for Aweber autoresponder lists.

Improved captions for images

There are now easy ways for bloggers to add captions to their photographs.

Example of styling headings using the PublicityShip Theme
Example showing headings being styled in the new PublicityShip theme

Heading improvements

You may know you can improve search engine friendliness through better use of headings. Most WordPress sites use H1 for the site title, and H2 for the page headings and sidebar menus, but that is about all. We’ve made it easy to use H2 and H3 for additional headings in your pages and posts, and bring out key benefits in subhead style using H4. We’ve tried to make it very easy to have your site make sense for readers as well as search engines.

Sitemaps everywhere

Plugins are in place to make sure that in addition to submitting Google Sitemaps automatically after each post, there is also an internal sitemap that links to every category, post and static page.

User configuration options

We’ve added a lot more user friendly look and feel configuration options. These don’t need any updates to CSS files or theme files, which is not only hard, but makes it much harder to upgrade in the future without losing your styling. Its now easy to choose the font, colour and size for your main pages, choose colours and sizes for Headings 1 to 4, and other tweaky details (warning: fiddling with colour pickers can be addictive.)

Heading bling

With the new theme you also get more options to tweak your header and top menu, with configuration options for images, borders, fonts and font sizes, colours and positioning.

Menus

There are new choices for your menus – you can still use automatic menus, either Split (with parent pages showing up in the menu bar and sub-pages in the sidebar) or Sidebar (all parent/child pages in the side). You can also switch off auto menus if you want. New suport for Custom Menus means you can place just the links that you choose), as well as integrating special items into you menu bar (like our Feeburner subscription options in the menu bar).

Sidebar

Your sidebar is an important part of your site for customer interaction. You can already switch on/off your blog search, category and monthly archives, and with the new theme you now have ‘freeform’ text at the top and bottom of the sidebar. This is so you can include banner links, forms, or other blogging widgets. For examples, see the Newsletter subscription and Google Search for Online Marketing in our sidebar. If you want to use features like this, you’ll often find you have to copy and paste code into your site – well, you now have somewhere to paste it without any changes to the theme or your CSS. This makes it a lot easier for you to work with online marketing partners.

Online marketing copywriting

For those of you interested in crafting landing pages and sales letters, there are now a range of standard styles that make it easy to structure these pages.

The Google March

We’ve made it very easy to register your site with Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools. So if you want to use those tools to monitor your site, just follow their instructions and paste what they tell you into the fields we’ve provided.

Speedy blog

Performance is always something we monitor – while our sites were fast before, they’re even faster now.

Cross browser beauty

Styling has been improved to reduce instances of cross-browser ugliness. This is such a boring topic, but important for your online presence.

Thats it!

All in all, quite a lot of changes. There is no impact on your current site. We’ll be walking all our blogging clients through how to take advantage of these changes to help them build traffic, establish conversations and bring on new customers!

All the best for the New Year!


Newsletters and autoresponders

Email Response
We are now using Aweber to manage our monthly newsletter. In addition, we’re using it for several other tasks, such as helping manage the continuing stream of Hidden Jewel entrants, and providing more detailed educational information about publicity and blogging.

If you are blogging and offering an RSS feed, you are providing a way for your readers to register their interest and stay involved beyond their initial visit. But if you are using your blog to help run your small business, then this is only a starting point, and you should be aware of what email autoresponders are, and how they can help you provide information to readers that request it. They’re a great tool for letting your interested prospects opt in to get more detail, while leaving those who are just reading your content in peace.

If you’ve signed up for our Hidden Jewel competition, you’ve already experienced an autoresponder as a reader. If you’d like to know more, I’ve written a longer article on blogging and email autoresponders. We are part of the affiliate programme for Aweber, for reasons explained in the article.


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