Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Publicising your Festival or Event

Rosalie Writers FestivalInvolved in a festival or event and looking for a low cost way to publicise it?

Creating an event site based on a blog is a simple and effective way of doing this. Our local primary school is running the bi-annual Rosalie Writers Festival.

Jane and I helped set up the blog being used the festival. Now while we know what we are doing, keep in mind that a blog can be set up for free by anyone. And that includes web site pages to provide information about the event.

The blog being used by Rosalie allows different members of the organising committee, participating writers and students to contribute to the site. While it isn’t trying to promote the festival – as in selling tickets or anything like that – it easily could be.

A blog is a useful – and enduring – way of getting information about your festival or event out there. And that is what publicity is all about.

Blogging as online publicity

Fingers on keyboardWhen you plan your publicity campaigns, look carefully at your objectives – what do you want the outcome to be?

In general, most businesses are looking to:

  • raise awareness of a service or product with a view to
  • increasing bookings or sales.

Your longer-term objectives might be to:

  • raise your business profile,
  • establish yourself as an authority in your niche, and
  • build trust among your target audience.

By definition, publicity means attracting public attention – raising awareness. Effective publicity will also have a positive effect on your bookings or sales.

As for the longer-term aims, profile, authority and trust take time to build. To achieve these results through publicity means getting stories published or aired regularly.

No doubt you know where I’m going with this, given the title of this blog post. Blogging is increasingly considered one of the most effective ways to publicise a business, because it not only attracts attention from a target audience – it also builds a profile over time, establishes you as an authority, and increases trust.

Take a look at the video in Glenn’s blog post – Why a Blog Is So Important – which clearly explains why the blogging medium is taking over from traditional media as a way to reach an audience.

In today’s Tips of the Week, Publicity Hound Joan Stewart says:

If I had to choose only one strategy that would help Publicity Hounds [that’s you!] pull more traffic to their websites, establish themselves as experts, build a loyal following and sell more products and services, I’d choose blogging – without hesitation.

You’ll be able to read the full story in her Tips Archive soon, so keep an eye out for it.

I have seen small businesses experience a significant change in the attention they receive from their target clients as a direct result of online marketing, with blogging a large component of their activity.

Once you realise you can publish your own stories without going through the editorial vetting process, there’ll be no stopping you!

A model for small business publicity ideas

Fingers on keyboardGetting publicity depends on having something to offer that’s different and can’t be had anywhere else. This in turn relies on a unique blend of personality, innovation and expertise. In fact all the qualities that form the foundation of a successful enterprise.

So what are you waiting for?

Many businesses find it hard to go past first base when it comes to publicity for many reasons. Planning and running a press release campaign takes time, creative energy, and lots of perseverance.

Knowing what you want to achieve with a campaign is the easy part. Even defining your target audience isn’t too much of a challenge for businesses who understand their clientele. But brainstorming to come up with a newsworthy message that the media will want to run is a big hurdle.

Here’s a publicity planning model that will work for any small business.

Instead of getting stuck at the hurdle, try removing it – at least for the time being.

What if you didn’t have to get the media hooked at all?
What if you could put your messages out directly to your audience?
What if you could harness your enthusiasm and expertise – and that of your staff – to communicate directly to each prospective client one-on-one?

This is the kind of publicity that is now possible through blogging on a search-optimised site. Commenting on, a blog-enabled website set up by OM4Tourism, Undara’s Marcus Brady said:

What we love about it is the ability to have a two-way conversation with our target audience. We can talk to them whenever we need to communicate anything.

How do you know they’re listening? Because you can measure sign-ups to your blog, and you can use integrated analytics to see how many visitors come to which pages on your site and how long they stay – this includes your blog posts. Marcus reported:

Last week we broke our daily visitor record with 174 in one day, and over 70 per cent of our visitors are finding us for the first time, which is great. The more visitors we get, the more opportunities we have to sell.

Yet this isn’t marketing – this is telling your story, in the same way that an editorial or broadcast tells a story. Marcus again:

Instead of talking like a marketer, I’m appreciating the value of presenting authentic personalities, which reflect what we do so much more effectively.

The long-term effect is to build your authority in your niche area, so not only are you more likely to convert visitors to clients, but when a journalist is researching a story, or a relevant news issue arises, they are more likely to turn to you for additional story content.

Business blogging is therefore an excellent publicity strategy in its own right. But this is only part of the publicity model.

Your blog is a new source of publicity ideas.

Once you get into the swing of blogging about your news, new products and services, industry issues, innovations and the story behind your business, media messages will begin to jump out of the screen at you. Your blog becomes a natural springboard for media campaigns.

When you realise you’ve blogged a message that the media will want to hear, turn it into a press release and shoot it out to your media contacts. Do this regularly and they’ll start to sit up, take notice and come to your site to find out more.

So take some of the creative energy you’ve been expending on brainstorming publicity ideas, and channel it into blogging about your business in your own voice conveying your contagious passion for what you do.

Not only will you attract attention online, but creating media messages will become much easier, and the hurdle won’t seem insurmountable after all.

Getting publicity for your products

AusPen SiteGetting the media interested in products is hard, because editors and producers are looking for stories, and generating a story around a product can be quite a challenge.

Even when you have a great story, there’s a good chance your press release will be passed to the advertising department who will try to sell you ad space or advertorial.

Look at it from their point of view: why would a publication or program devote valuable space or airtime to promoting a product for free?

So what are the alternatives?

Think laterally

  • Send free samples to journalists and offer more for readers – editors find it hard to resist giving their readers something for free.
  • Generate quirky or appealing photo opportunities – animals and children always go down well.
  • Run a competition with your products as prizes – surf magazine SurfWest achieved great results by running a photographic competition just before launching their first issue.
  • If your product solves a problem, address this as an issue and ask the journo to print your web address at the end so that readers will then be led to your product online.

A great example of a product getting publicity by raising an issue is the Dove promotions that challenge our view of real beauty as a backlash against anorexic models.

Blog about it

In our experience, publicising products online is more effective than traditional press release campaigns. Here’s your chance to get the word out by blogging about your product.

Beware though – simply using your blog to promote your product will switch readers off almost instantly.

Tell stories and engage readers in a genuine conversation. Reckon you don’t have much to say about your product? Take a look at the AusPen site: these guys have been live for just a few months and have a Google PageRank of 3 thanks mainly to their regular posting of authoritative content about … whiteboard markers.

And guess what happens when you do a Google search for whiteboard markers in Australia – Auspen comes in just below Faber-Castell. Pretty good going.

As well as telling stories, encourage your readers to contribute ideas that you then take on board and run with, such as a label design or a product name (think McDonald’s Backyard Burger). Ask for genuine feedback – both positive and negative – and respond with genuine solutions.

There are huge opportunities here for businesses working with social (interactive) media.

User-generated reviews

It’s also vital for businesses to understand how peer reviews are becoming the most powerful marketing tool.

Computer World published this article about user-generated product reviews, showing the power of peer reviews in the marketing process.

Encourage satisfied customers to post reviews on user-generated product review sites such as ProductReview and CNET Reviews. To find the sites most relevant to your products, simply go to Google and search. Choose the sites that are easy to navigate and have a high PageRank.

There’s no trickery in this. If a customer genuinely likes your product enough to write you a testimonial, they’ll be happy to tap their review into a product forum.

Ads and advertorial will get you print coverage, but peer reviews are likely to knock these into a cocked hat in terms of results.

2 steps to getting journalists interested in your story

Rolled magazineOne of the hardest parts of publicity is finding a good strong message that leads to your story getting published.

We can spend hours banging our fists against our foreheads trying to find a good story about our business. And if the journos don’t run with it, the disappointment is hard to recover from.

Here’s a better way to find your media messages, and get journalists interested in you.

1. Allow stories about your business to emerge naturally from your day-to-day online marketing.

We know that one of the most effective ways for a small business to build trust is by continually publishing content. This means regarding your website as a magazine and you as the editor.

Along with new product or service launches, there are so many things you can talk about on your site – draw on your experience and expertise and offer advice, comment on issues that relate to your business, talk about trends, tell stories about clients who have succeeded (with their permission).

Once you get into the habit of doing this, media stories will begin to jump off the screen.

You’ll find yourself saying, that’s a damn good story I just published. I know my audience will love it, so it makes sense to give the media a chance to publish it.

2. As well as putting out the story as a press release, send journalists links to your blog or newsroom, so that they can pick up the stories that interest them.

Include high-resolution images (upload them in hi-res, insert a thumbnail on the page or post, and link it to the hi-res version for download), and they’ll love you even more.

This kind of resource is invaluable to journalists, and bringing them to your site enables them to see that you are an authority in your niche. Chances are they’ll come back for more.

Online forums: a way to interact with prospective customers?

Participating in forums is an interesting activity for many businesses. To take the world of travel as an example, there are so many travel forums out there now that the online chatter is almost deafening.

The good thing about these user-content sites is that they give perspectives from real people who’ve really been there. Readers are also hungry for information. They will search until they find exactly what they’re looking for, and they will read lots of content.

The majority of the chatter on travel forums is from travellers themselves exchanging information, but there are a few travel businesses who manage to make a useful contribution and attract customers in the process.

HOWEVER – it’s really important to understand that forums are meant to be a platform for the exchange of information, and not a marketing tool. If you do add content to a forum, be sure that you are adding value and not just trying to sell your services or products. Entries that are clearly sales messages will be moderated out, and you may even be banned from a forum if the moderator believes you are using it for commercial purposes only.

Think about the readers’ reasons for browsing the forum and you’ll realise there’s no point in posting sales messages – in fact this could even work against you. Forum participants are looking for helpful content, not ads. So if they sense an ulterior motive in an entry, they’ll skim past it.

The benefit to this style of communication with your audience is that you are presenting yourself as a genuine and helpful source of information – just as you do in your blog – which means readers who are interested are likely to check your profile and find out more about you. It’s also a useful way to find out more about your target customers – what questions are they asking, what are their concerns, problems, worries, etc. You can learn as much as you contribute.

Here’s an example of a forum entry from a business that’s written in a clear and informative style, with a straightforward comment at the end designed to raise interest in the business.

Notice that the final comment isn’t pushy, it doesn’t come across as a sales pitch – it’s just informing readers that this experience is available. Some forums won’t allow this kind of comment. But you can still post good content without adding a call to action. Just be helpful, informative and clear and interested readers may well end up at your website. Include lots more helpful information on your site, and they’ll stick around for a bit longer.

A good way to find forums that are relevant to your business is to set up Google Alerts on specific keywords. You’ll find that many of the links that appear in your inbox are forum entries, and this will lead you to the best forums in your area. Make sure you rummage around the site to get an idea of the readership and the quality of the content. This will help you decide whether you can genuinely add value and attract the readers who are likely to be interested in what you do.

Ten Reasons Bloggers Can Help The Environment – Blog Action Day

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Blog action day is an experiment in the power of a very new media – blogs. Blogs are very different to most print media – they are not as dependent on advertising revenue to exist. Blogs provide a lot more freedom to write about topics that don’t necessarily serve the interests of advertisers or big publishers.

Because bloggers are not as dependent on advertising revenue as newspapers are, we can encourage people to consume less, and not tread on the toes of our advertisers.

Bloggers do not depend on donations from wealthy sponsors as political parties may do. So bloggers are able to advocate for the environment rather than the interests of a lobby group.

Bloggers do not have to report on what already exists, but are free to explore sustainable possibilities.

Bloggers are innovators, willing to connect with other and share ideas. In this way bloggers can encourage a co-operative rather than competitive model of solving environmental problems.

Bloggers know how to network – how to connect like minded people and get things to happen.

Bloggers can communicate quickly with their audiences and in this time of global crisis action is needed right now.

Bloggers know their audience and know how to write about environmental issues so that everyone can participate in change.

Bloggers are individual thinking people who want a future. We are free from the pressures faced by corporations with balance sheets, governments with voters, media with ratings and pressure groups with short term agendas.

Bloggers have demonstrated that they can adapt to new technology. It is likely they can embrace and encourage the changes in thinking that will stop global warming.

Bloggers are many. We have the numbers to bring about change.

I urge all bloggers to realize the power of this new media and consider ways in which you might inspire your audience to participate in political and personal changes to stop global warming. Blog action day is just the beginning.

Postcript: check out The Web Is Coming Alive, at The Action Blog to see what else is happening on Blog Action day.

Inviting a Guest Posting from ChrisG

ChrisG’s BlogChris Garret is offering a number of guest posts to help build his Technorati ranking. While Technorati ranking isn’t a focus for us, a guest post from Chris definitely is. So Chris, I hope our invitation reaches you before the queue is well and truly full.

Our blog is indexed in Technorati, so the invitation will appear there. And I’ll include this pingback Get Your Guest-Posts Here for good measure.

As many of our online marketing and blogging clients will recognise, Jane, Julia and recommend ChrisG as an excellent source of information on blogging. Brian Clark at CopyBlogger and ChrisG are the top two blogs on this topic, closely followed by Daniel Scocco at Daily Blog Tips.

To Blog Or Not To Blog – Take 2

To Blog Or Not to Blog That Is The QuestionJane pointed out an interesting post published in The Age titled To Blog or Not To Blog.

Disclosure: I like The Age :) Having lived in Melbourne for 6 years I came to appreciate its independent editorial streak.

The post on blogging has some really good points. But I want to take up two of the points the author (Kristen Le Mesurier) makes in relation to business blogging:

  • Blogs cannot be used for marketing purposes
  • Blogs must be written by ‘the blogger’, and only the blogger. Do not hire someone to write your blog. Write it yourself.

I’d like to make the case that many Australian small businesses can – and should – use blogs as part of their marketing. If you run a small business and want to know why, you can call me and I’ll explain in person. I also guarantee I’ll show you a way you can start a business blog with zero capital outlay and start to benefit immediately. Blogging isn’t suitable for all small businesses, but it is for a lot of them.

I also want to look at the notion of the importance of who writes a blog. For me, authenticity and trust are two of the most critical elements of good business blogs. As many of you may already know, one of our services is a ghost blogging service. If this notion suggests that I may be clueless (haven’t I read Naked Conversations?), I’d like you to hear me out for a sec.

Experts in a field often produce ‘thought leadership’ articles for publication in newspapers and magazines. They are excellent for building awareness. Do the experts have to write the entire article themselves? What if they dictated the core of the article, and a professional writer tidied it up – better grammar, checked references and citations, organised the article using headings. Is the expert still the author? Definitely. (If not, journalists could hardly claim a byline when an editor is involved). Publishers use editors all the time, and a good editor will retain the author’s meaning and ‘voice’.

Well, its the same with blogs. Its entirely possible for an author to draft, dictate or otherwise ready some content, and to have an assistant or editor bring the article (or post) into shape ready for publishing. If the author reviews the edited copy and approves it prior to publishing, even better. That is exactly how we help business owners with their blog posts. They are often very busy running their business, so a phone interview is the most common way of getting the initial content. We edit, include links or images they have specified, edit grammar/punctuation and so on. And leave it as a draft post, ready for them to publish when they have reviewed. In practice, not everyone is fluent on a keyboard, and the process of using a ghost blogger actually results in the author being able to express themselves with greater clarity than when they try to type it themselves.

Picasso said “Art is the lie that tells the truth”. If that is the case, then a good ghost blogger is also a liar, able to convey someone else’s truth through words.

So, a business owner doesn’t have to pen their own blog posts to be able to have an authentic blog. Its exactly the same with CEOs of large businesses. It would be a brave person who would disregard a memo from the CEO as not being authentic because they felt the CEO only dictated it, whereas the PA wrote it. Truth comes in many forms.

Now, back to my other point. Kirsten asserts don’t let blogs become a PR or marketing tool. Promoting yourself, your company and its products or services is self-defeating. You’ll lose credibility.. If a business was to publish a blog that was nothing more than a series of self-promoting ads for the company and its products, I would agree. People don’t watch ads, why would they read ads on blogs? What many bloggers understand however is that good content will find an audience. If you write interesting content, people read it. Just like they read interesting articles in newspapers and magazines. If you are consistently authentic and truthful, many of your readers will trust you. In many situations people are looking for someone who knows what they are talking about, and who they can trust.

If you can write a blog that shows you know what you are talking about and that you are trustworthy, you aren’t going to need ads. Definitely not the sort of ads that Kirsten is envisaging when she talks about losing credibility. I agree 100%. A business blog is a fantastic way to talk about what you really know, to describe what you really do, and to let your clients get to know you a lot better than they might if you didn’t write a blog. Its a lot of disclosure, and prospective clients can make up their minds with a lot more information to hand.

Now of course some people will blog and not tell the truth. Same as the way some journalists or newspaper owners will publish and not tell the truth. You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time .. etc etc.

Some people discuss the ‘rules’ of blogging. Like any media, the real rules are often more complex than we would like. In the case of blogs, the ‘rules’ involve the publisher and the readers, and are constantly changing. Blogs (which are just websites, but usually with a more personalised and conversational style) are similar to other media. You can have blogs that are like newspapers, blogs that are like magazines, blogs that are like TV or like radio. Does an audience trust any of these media? Depends. And its the same with blogs. Blogs let small businesses become publishers. If they become good publishers, then their blog is a powerful part of their marketing tool set.

Ok, to wrap up this very long post, David Meerman Scott has written an excellent book called The New Rules of Marketing and PR that describes the role blogs can play in marketing and PR. Its a great read, and I recommend it thoroughly. Follow David’s advice and ‘Think Like a Publisher’.

[Late Addition: on the topic of blogs as a marketing tool, Seth Godin makes the point far more eloquently than I can: Looking for Trouble]

Footnote: After starting to write a comment on Kirsten’s post, I realised two things. One, the comment was too long, so I made it a post. Two, the Age’s Terms and Conditions for comments (yup, they have them and I read them) ask us not to promote any goods or services. A bit hard for me not to promote blogs … lets see if the The Age get blogging enought to support trackbacks :)

Reading blogs and RSS feeds

If you read blogs, you are probably aware of RSS feeds. But what feed reader do you use?

On my Mac, I’ve was using Shrook – very quick, and I could sync my subscriptions across my laptop and desktop.

Google ReaderBut I’ve since moved across to Google Reader. Browser based, so accessible from any computer. Fast, easy to read. Perhaps Shrook has a better keyboard interface, but overall its just so much easier for it to be in the browser.

You can try Google Reader for yourself.

And if you like keyboard shortcuts, make sure you check out the Lifehacker tutorial Getting Good With Google Reader.

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