Archive for the ‘Publicity’ Category

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.

Methods that are helping tourism businesses acquire overseas customers

Cable Beach fishingRead about the challenges faced by small tourism businesses marketing to the world – and ways to overcome them – in my new article. I will post in more detail on each of the marketing issues tackled in the article. But for the impatient, here’s a link to the full version: Marketing Niche Accommodation & Tours to Overseas Visitors.

The challenges and solutions come from 12 tourism operators plus my own experience of working with tourism and small businesses in general.

If you are faced with other marketing challenges that aren’t mentioned in the article, if you’d like to add ideas from your own experience – or if the ‘solutions’ don’t cut the mustard for you – please feel free to add a comment to my posts or contact me directly.

Thanks to the following tourism operators for their input:
Sharyn Rogers, Seppeltsfield Vineyard Cottage
Tony & Julie Smith, Rawnsley Park Station
Miriam Cooper, Granny Rhodes & Mulberry Cottage
Jason Miller, Rich & Lingering
Wendy Deighton, A River Bed
Jane Morgan, Cosmos Centre & Observatory
Anne Grebert, Anangu Waai!
Phil Walcott, The Rainbow Connection
Elizabeth Fleetwood, Hobart Historic Tours
Fiona Reddaway, Bright Brewery
Jeff Rivendell, Huon Valley Apple & Heritage Museum
Neil Schults, Prime Mini Tours

I’ll be writing profiles of each of these businesses for our new site devoted to online marketing for tourism – a work in progress, soon to be launched.

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.

A great example of effective publicity

I’ve just published a 7-step guide to Creating Press Release Messages for the Media, and during my research I came across a wonderful example of effective publicity produced by Harrods, the famous London department store.

The image alone, with just a short explanatory caption, is enough to tell a story and communicate a promotional message.

Following my 7-step guide, here’s how the message works:

1. Think of publicity as giving

Harrods has gone to a lot of trouble to provide entertainment in the form of a good laugh and a bit of a scare (in a good way!), while telling its audience that there’s something here worth seeing. For women who love shoes (aka women in general), this is a great story. It certainly added something to my day.

Notice that Harrods isn’t asking their audience for anything – i.e. come to our store, buy our shoes. They are giving you an entertaining story with no overt expectation that you will reciprocate in any way.

2. The million-dollar marketing questions

Why should I listen to Harrods?
Because this isn’t something you see every day, and I’m intrigued to know why they have gone to such lengths to publicise the great value of these shoes.

Why should I trust Harrods?
Well, an established name like this doesn’t need to worry too much about gaining trust.

Why should I do anything about it?
Because this is clearly the ultimate shoe collection, probably with some scarcity involved, and shoes are my life. Even if I can’t afford 62,000 pounds for a pair, I can at least salivate over a collection prized by celebrities. It’s a story that’s also worth forwarding to my friends for their amusement.

Now we look at these questions in more detail.

3. Why should I listen to you?

The curiosity and intrigue mentioned above comes from what I would call a ‘surprising scenario’ – and this is a very effective technique for getting an audience to pay attention to what you have to say.

The image makes me want to know more – a good example of using images well. It tells a story, it’s simple and it includes a human face and an animal – both attractive to an audience.

4. Creating a message

Digging deeper into the message, Harrods has created a story through the clever use of an image, which has attracted journalists and producers to the store to find out more. Who designed the shoes? Why are they so valuable? Who on earth would spend that much on footwear? Why the snake? Is it really deadly? etc etc

The juxtaposition of a snake and a pair of shoes suggests the value of the shoes, has a hint of sexiness and danger, and conveys the essence of the message – which is that these shoes are so valuable that they’re worth protecting – seriously.

So the message rides on a surprising scenario, and raises intriguing questions that drive the media to create a story around the message.

5. Why should I trust you?

As I said before, Harrods doesn’t have too much of an issue with creating trust in its audience. The name is enough. We already trust Harrods staff to know value when they see it. We associate the name with top quality goods and service. So we listen.

This is the position you want to reach – not necessarily the heights of Harrods – but a position of trust in your niche area. Then your audience will listen more carefully and will be more likely to act on your advice.

Until you reach this pedestal, your messages need to include endorsements, testimonials or case studies, as well as background on you and your business.

6. Why should I do anything about it?

This is where the psychology of persuasion comes in.

The suggestion here is that the shoes – being designer label – carry scarcity and are therefore worth having as an investment as much as a fashion item. There is also a certain social proof involved, because we’re told that these shoes are favourites of celebrities. In the fashion world, that makes them desirable.

Even if you don’t have thousands of pounds in your back pocket, it’s worth going down to Harrods to breathe in the same space as these shoes – and to be able to tell your friends you saw the Harrods snake. Harrods has given something to you that you can enjoy and pass on.

Finally, getting right to the issue of conversion, how likely is it that anyone going down to the store will end up buying something – a slightly cheaper pair of shoes perhaps? No doubt Harrods has in-store marketing set up in readiness for the extra visitors.

7. Tailor your message to the media

This message is perfect for print, TV and online media because it’s so visually compelling (there’s even a link to a video for those who want to know more).

It’s also the kind of story that online audiences are likely to forward to their mates – encouraging viral marketing (publicity that spreads naturally). I did it myself!

Read our 7-step guide for further advice on preparing and tailoring your message.

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.

B2B publicity – tips from an editor

If your business provides services to other businesses, you’ll be looking at a variety of media outlets for publicity, including small business publications.

One such is Dynamic Business magazine, which targets small and medium businesses (SMEs) with guidance, resources and profiles – an excellent vehicle for promoting your services.

I interviewed Deputy Editor Rebecca Spicer about the publicity process at Dynamic Business, and asked for her advice to SMEs on how to get her attention and maximise your chance of getting editorial space in the magazine or on the website.

What came out of it for me was that businesses need to be thinking about publicity as part of their service offering. So if you can offer expert advice, comment on a current issue or provide solutions to common problems, you are more likely to get coverage than simply by talking about your services.

The emphasis needs to be on the reader and the problems they want to solve, not on your business and what you want to gain from publicity. Once they view you as a reliable source of advice, they will click on your contact details or web address to find out more.

Here’s a quick way to get publicity and boost your email database

Looking for ways to generate news coverage?

Run a competition. People love the chance to win something – it has something to do with the thrill of the gamble and the joy of getting something for free.

Media and industry networks are often happy to publicise a competition when they would be more reluctant to simply promote your business.

At the same time, you raise awareness, you get your name out there with contact details, and anyone who registers for the competition goes into an email database which you can legitimately use afterwards to keep them in touch with your news.

Keep the competition simple to avoid time-consuming administration. Ask your target audience to send in photos, or write something, or come up with an idea that relates closely to your business. For example, one of our clients – Surfwest magazine – invited amateur photographers to send in surf photos, with the winner getting their pics published. The story went out through regional papers and generated a lot of interest in the new magazine.

You’ll need to make a quick call to your state lottery and gaming authority to make sure you abide by any regulations for promotions and competitions. If your competition involves demonstration of skill rather than sheer chance, then you shouldn’t have any problems, but do check to make sure. Sometimes a prize value restriction is imposed.

Once you have your parameters, it’s a case of deciding how your prospective clients can compete with one another, and what an appropriate prize would be. Publicise the winner too, and if the prize involves your product or services, you have created an opportunity to showcase what you do.

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.

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