Archive for the ‘How we work’ Category

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.

Achieving your 15 minutes of fame: is this really effective publicity?

press camerasMedia exposure is great – but not if it’s achieved for its own sake.

When you put together your media contact list, think carefully about your target audience. Who are they, where are they, what are they likely to be reading or listening to when they are most open to your products / services, and who do they trust?

Getting a spot in The Age is fantastic – but not if you’re target audience is overseas. Being seen on morning TV is a real buzz – but only if your audience is at home in the mornings.

This is obvious – but it’s only the first step in narrowing down your list. Not only should you stick to the media most likely to be accessed by your audience, but you can also seek out less ‘public’ media with a more direct reach.

For example, one of our contacts was trying to reach a particular retail segment, so he placed a flier in their industry newsletter for just $200. OK it’s not free editorial, but he had reached his audience for a fraction of the cost of more general consumer advertising.

We have also achieved free publicity in regional newsletters because the content was directly relevant to – and genuinely useful for – the readership. In this case, the newsletter editors didn’t see our request as a plea for free promotion, but a helpful piece of information.

What’s great about this kind of publicity is that you’re going directly into media that is already trusted by your niche audience, and you’re getting to them directly via their physical or online mailbox.

No 15 minutes of fame on national TV or newspapers, but potentially much more effective.

5 ways to build trust through publicity

Anna Pollock of Desticorp recently highlighted the changes in the way consumers are making choices.

She quoted statistics from FutureLab that reveal the soaring mistrust of brands and advertising, and pointing to peer reviews as being the most trusted influence in the decision to buy:

“Peer reviews are preferred over expert reviews by a 6 to 1 margin,” she told us.

She also pointed to the change in what makes a successful brand. No longer are we looking to brands that express an identity or image. It seems we’re now looking for those that appeal to our aspirations: “how does this brand make the world a better place?” (Think IBM’s ‘You can innovate to make a difference’ and BP’s ‘green’ logo.)

This is reflected in the world of online marketing, where a business is more likely to succeed if it:

  • convinces us of its credibility through customer reviews, testimonials or stories, and
  • regularly publishes useful content that addresses our problems and aspirations (a flashy website dedicated purely to image is less likely to convert).

As consumers, we no longer rely on a one-way flow of information via static websites, ads, brochures etc. We look for peer reviews and someone who understands our problems or desires, and who is willing to help us by providing information and resources.

A conversation is taking place.

Underneath the conversation lies a series of supportive ‘resources’ – or products and services that bring the business its revenue. Trust in the business leads to acquisition of the customer – or sales.

This set me thinking about what this all means for PR, and publicity in particular.

Publicity has always been a way to create a story and inspire a conversation around a product or service, and this is why it’s becoming an increasingly important part of the marketing mix. It’s the closest form of marketing to word-of-mouth, which is the most trusted.

My advice is to give your audience what they’re looking for – a conversation around the relevant issues, with engaging stories from satisfied customers.

Here are my five ways to build trust through publicity:

  1. Steer clear of promotional messages. The journey is from conversation to conversion. Trying to sell during the conversation is similar to interruption advertising, and is less likely to succeed.
  2. Start a conversation by putting out interesting, newsworthy, issues-based messages.
  3. Find satisfied customers who are willing to be profiled or tell their aspirational and inspirational story.
  4. Put more stories and articles on your site and make them freely available to the media and your prospects.
  5. Be genuine and responsive in your intention to offer free advice and support through all your media channels (including your own site) – readers and listeners are becoming very good at sniffing out a fake, and will expect a conversation, not a pitch.

How many media contacts on your PR firm’s database?

Many PR firms or news distribution services will attempt to win your business by boasting a database of hundreds or thousands of media contacts. Impressed? You shouldn’t be.

Long Tail author, Chris Anderson, recently declared that he was fed up with being spammed by PR people, and had decided to block all but those who contact him for the right reasons:

“I only want two kinds of email: those from people I know, and those from people who have taken the time to find out what I’m interested in and composed a note meant to appeal to that,” says Anderson.

Here are responses from marketing gurus Seth Godin and David Meerman Scott, both of whom explain the value of keeping media contact lists small but targeted.

Some of the comments on Anderson’s post complained about the difficulty of tracking down media contacts and creating a tailored database. Much easier to buy a list and spam it. But Anderson’s response is a good example of why this is a bad idea.

As a former magazine editor, I can sympathise with the spammed, and this is one of the reasons we have established a policy of creating shorter, more targeted media lists and take the trouble to find out who to send our releases to.

Sometimes this is all but impossible and publications insist on all press releases being filtered through a ‘newsdesk’, and that’s their prerogative.

But when a PR agency takes the trouble to research publications and channels that match a press release with the audience demographic, build a targeted list, include a personalised email message to the top contacts showing how the release is relevant to the target audience, and encourage a dialogue, the results are much more impressive.

Why your PR focus should be on media releases and search marketing

Publicity is all about attracting attention to your business from your target audience. It’s the core of public relations – the relationship between you and your public.

In my experience as an editor and now a publicity manager, the best ways for a small business to achieve this are:

  1. Press release campaigns: sending specific messages to targeted media contacts.
  2. Search marketing: optimising your site so that journalists and your public can find you.

We have just seen coverage in Australian Traveller magazine and The Age travel section for one of our Hidden Jewel winners – Auswalk. These features are examples of how a business can benefit from being linked to an authoritative article relating directly to their business. The content of the feature is likely to draw interested readers – and the recommended businesses are likely to be their first port of call when they decide to book.

So how do you become a source that journalists choose to recommend?

In this case, the Australian Traveller article was a direct result of our May 2007 press release campaign, and shows how a press release can continue to bring results even months after distribution. Even if a media release isn’t picked up immediately, many editors will file releases that contain useful background and links for future articles.

The Age article demonstrates how publicity isn’t always a precise science. While our contacts at The Age did receive the press release, it is quite possible that the feature writer used online search to obtain their information. We may never know because asking a journalist where they sourced their information is something we rarely do – they are very busy people after all.

However, we do know that, increasingly, journalists are using Google to research their articles. I used to do this myself when I worked as a travel writer and editor, and the information and leads I obtained from the sites would then form the basis of my research. The more authoritative and useful the information, and the more helpful the leads, the more likely they were to be recommended in my features.

Assuming a journo writing about walking holidays in each state would use ‘walking holidays Victoria’ as a keyword (a word or phrase typed into a search engine), a quick Google search turns up Auswalk in the top 3 links, below the sponsored links. So it would only take a few seconds to find the best source for this information.

This is why online marketing is important not only to attract your public directly, but also to enable journalists researching on a particular topic to find you. Publish your media releases on your site, along with lots of other optimised, authoritative content, and your chance of coverage increases even further.

So take your keyword analysis seriously – being found by the media can result in a multiplied effect if they include your business in their publication, significantly raising your credibility and your public’s awareness.

Resources to help launch your summer press release campaign

GerberaHave you thought about planning your pre- and post-Christmas press release campaigns?

Christmas lead-up is a great opportunity to create content that captures the imagination of the media at a time when they are looking for light-hearted and captivating stories. Catch your audience when they are feeling high-spirited and generous!

The post-Christmas period is notoriously slow for news, so the press will be glad of stories that fill the gaps – a great chance to jump in with a message that can be turned into a good read.

Then it’s time to kick-start your 2008 publicity plan – what’s the most important news you want to convey as the new year shifts into gear?

We’ve put together a guide – 7 Steps to Creating a Press Release Message for the Media – to inspire you to get started.

And we’ve developed a special Summer Publicity Campaign Offer. The offer is available to everyone on our new Offers List, so if you’d like to join the list, send us an email with the words “Offers List” in the subject line.

Being on the list means you’ll be the first to find out about our special offers, which will then be publicised via our blog and newsletter. It’s worth getting the heads-up because, like all good special offers, ours are always limited in some way. They will either need to be taken up by a deadline, or they will only be available to a limited number of businesses.

Once you are signed up to the list, you will receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription by clicking a link. This is a necessary step in our list management, and is there to protect you from unwanted spam. Details of our Summer Publicity Campaign Offer will be sent out to you as soon as you click to confirm.

My next post will give an entertaining example of great publicity, explaining why it works and linking it directly to our 7-step guide.

What you need to know about advertorial

Have you ever sent out a press release only to have someone from the publication call and ask you if you’d like to place an advertisement?

Frustrating isn’t it? You’ve given them a story that would surely enhance the editorial content of their publication, but they still want your advertising dollars.

Advertorial is magazine or newspaper content that looks like objective editorial but is in some way endorsed by the business or organisation being written about – usually through placing an ad or paying for the editorial space.

Some publications are completely up front about this: they will only run editorial about you if you pay for an ad. Others will give priority in their editorial pages to advertisers, although they won’t guarantee coverage.

Here’s an explanation of the various kinds of advertorial you may come across:

  1. You can book advertorial in exactly the same way as you’d book an ad. The advertorial is written and designed by you, so readers can tell that it’s not a standard editorial piece. The cost depends on size, just like an ad (e.g. half page, full page, double page etc).
  2. You can write the advertorial and have it designed by the publisher’s in-house designers. This will make the advertorial fit with the style of the publication, but it will still look slightly different or be labelled as ‘advertorial’. The publication may charge you for both the space and the design cost.
  3. Most publications will have their own staff write and design the advertorial. This means you don’t have complete control over what is written, or the style in which it is written or designed, but you do have the opportunity to approve content before it is published. This type of advertorial will look more like editorial in the magazine, using similar fonts, editorial tone, style etc. The publication may charge you for the space, the design cost and the editorial cost. Others will have different ways of costing this type of content, so make sure you know what you’re getting, what the charges are for and how much control you will have over the finished piece.
  4. Instead of paying for the advertorial space, you place an ad in the publication, and receive editorial space as part of the deal. This is strictly advertorial, although it is likely to be created in-house, sometimes using content supplied by you.
  5. With online publications becoming more popular, new rules are emerging. For example, one online magazine plans to allow advertisers to place a link in their ads to editorial about them. So a feature may appear in one issue only, but all subsequent ads can link to it, bringing the content up again in later editions.

Advertorial is a contentious issue, because it means that the editorial isn’t strictly objective – it has a promotional intention behind it. Some publications, such as Australian Traveller, don’t run any kind of advertorial. They don’t even accept invitations to experience tours or accommodation, because they believe that editorial written on that basis is biased.

Advertorial can certainly be damaging when it isn’t handled well. I have seen articles that are clearly supplied by an advertiser, and they are so badly written and so blatantly promotional that no self-respecting reader would waste their time reading on. This can work against you, creating an impression of incompetence and suggesting a lack of respect for the intelligence of your audience. Don’t be tempted to do it.

On the other hand, I have seen businesses spend money on advertising in order to receive a fabulous feature that comes across as pure editorial. For them, it’s worth the spend.

A good editor working with an established advertorial policy will always ensure that advertorial is clearly labelled, and is useful and relevant to the readership. Because in the end, if the readers get nothing from the story, the publication as a whole loses out. And it’s in the best interest of the advertisers to see good editorial content in the same publication. So check out the publications you are sending your release to, and make sure the editorial content is good quality.

At PublicityShip we don’t get involved in advertorial deals as we believe that authentic, objective editorial more effective than advertising. While our clients are completely at liberty to buy space for their story, we try our best to achieve editorial coverage without the need to pay for the space.

Getting the most out of your press release

It’s great to see some of our clients really making their press releases work hard for them. Once we’ve prepared a release for a client, they are free to do whatever they want with it, from hanging a framed copy in the dunny to worldwide distribution!

We distribute releases to a carefully targeted list of media contacts, and our results speak for themselves. Even so, it’s worth being opportunistic with your release.

One of our tourism clients took copies to a trade show, resulting in an Australian tourism commission PR manager in Europe picking up on the story and distributing it to her media contacts there.

There are also opportunities to make use of a release when you are contacted by advertising departments wanting you to part with hard-earned dollars. Send them the release with thumbnail images and you may get editorial as well – which is generally considered to be significantly more effective than advertising.

Press releases don’t always have to go direct to the press either. Include them in promotional packs, send them to potential distributors or wholesalers, and post them on your site for customers to read. A well written release provides good, informative content that helps to build knowledge and trust.

7 reasons for the success of our press release campaigns

We have run eight press release campaigns for the winners of the PublicityShip Hidden Jewel Awards for small tourism operators.

Faraway BayThe campaigns continue to run, with more publicity expected later this year, but the publicity achieved so far is worth both celebrating and examining to discover the reasons for the success.

Whenever you experience success, do remember to celebrate, but also ask yourself what you did to deserve it. This is just as important as working out why something fails. So here goes:

1. We worked hard to find a hook for each story. For example, the health benefits of walking brought attention to Auswalk’s tours from a different angle, while Faraway Bay focused on the corporate market to grow that part of their business.

The message here is that just talking about your product or service isn’t usually enough. The story needs to take a new perspective, offer something different or be carefully targeted.

Bookabee2. We harnessed the passion of tourism. This worked wonders for Bookabee Tours’ Haydyn Bromley, whose genuine passion for his tours into the Flinders Ranges helped win him a feature in an international trade magazine.

Our recent interview with the magazine’s editor also draws attention to this quality of passion – something that even the most hardened journalist can’t resist!

3. We insisted on good quality, compelling images. This was definitely a factor in much of the coverage – including Faraway Bay’s stunning coastal camp, Live History’s costume drama, and Bookabee’s experiential tours.

Again, we have heard from more than one editor that images can make all the difference to a decision to publish. For many campaigns, especially in tourism, they’re just as important as the press release itself.

Live History4. We applied writing experience to produce press releases that could be easily turned into news stories without further research or pressure on journalists to completely rewrite the story.

News publications, both print and online, will often run stories that are virtually ready to publish without making too many changes. We saw this happen for four of the Hidden Jewels.

5. We included enough links and contact details to make it easy for a journalist to extend the message into a full feature without too much hunting around. Quick responses to enquiries are all part of that process.

This worked particularly well for Bookabee Tours and Faraway Bay, with features on other Hidden Jewels in the pipeline.

Anangu Waai6. We tapped into the zeitgeist – or spirit of the times – by understanding what tourists are looking for and linking our Hidden Jewels to those wants. For example, Ningaloo Blue and Undara Experience appeal to the increasing number of visitors wanting an engaging and moving encounter with the natural world; and Anangu Waai, Tribal Warrior and Bookabee Tours offer the cultural authenticity that is now in high demand.

The message here is, keep your finger on the pulse of your industry and tap into growing demands, needs and trends.

7. We didn’t give up easily! Some messages will hit the editor’s desk at a busy time or simply get overlooked. Far from being disheartened, when this happened to us, we sent out follow-up messages and/or extra images with friendly emails, and made a few calls to discuss stories with our contacts.

This made a big difference, getting us attention from contacts who had previously placed our message on a backburner.

To find out more about the campaigns, go to our Client Gallery.

Online publicity – how blogs get you attention

Bloggers are rapidly taking on a similar role to traditional press editors in the world of online publicity. As blogs become more prolific, there’s an increasing number of highly authoritative ones being trawled by the search engines and subscribed to by a quality audience.

ProBlogger Darren Rowse’s 13 tips on asking other bloggers for links struck me as remarkably similar to the approach good publicists take when talking to the traditional media.

Replace the word ‘links’ with ‘press releases’ and the fit is almost perfect… which makes sense, because the intent is the same: you want the editor, or blogger, to notice your story, read it and publish it (or link to it) so that their audience gets to see it.

It costs next to nothing for a blogger to publish your content, so it’s very unlikely you’ll be asked to advertise in order to get editorial exposure, as is often the case with traditional media. Good quality content is the priority, and if you can provide this, you stand as good a chance as anyone else of getting attention.

This means including blogs in your publicity strategy, in the same way you would target other media. When you carry out your initial research, check out the content and readership of relevant blogs, and offer them good quality information that isn’t purely promotional. The kickback to you comes in the link at the end – it’s the authority of your content that attracts the publicity.

Not only that, but the link is a valuable part of your search engine optimisation: attracting links to your site from authoritative sources will help to bring you up in the search rankings.

Even better, posting news regularly on your own blog will also help your search optimisation, and including links to your target blogs will encourage those bloggers to sit up and take notice.

Suddenly you become one of the editors generating your own authoritative content and attracting your own readership.

It’s this authenticity, interactivity and ownership that gives Internet publicity the edge over traditional media, where the editor or producer is all-powerful and advertising dollars are paramount.

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