Saturday, April 20, 2019

Hospital closing? Control rumor and go public with the news ...


The news about a hospital having financial woes and potentially closing is pretty devastating to any community. 

With changes in the medical world and how bills are paid, this news is becoming more common place. It's a sad state of affairs and isn't the type of news anyone wants to discuss. 

So what do you do if you are the hospital? You have two options. You can either let local rumors fly or you can address the issue head-on. 

Rumors are just plain bad. Departing doctors share information with their patients and the rumor mills start. Poor service and empty parking lots signal more. 

To offset that mounting bad news, leadership has an opportunity to go public and be honest. You've always heard that "honest is the best policy." Well, it is. By going public, hospital leadership can ward off most rumors and build community consensus. After all, no community wants to lose a hospital. The next closest one may be a good drive away; patients can die in the meantime.

MARKETING TIP: If your organization affects the public in any way and is facing a rough go of it, embrace your local media and share the news with them. They will let the public know. Work closely with your local media and be honest about the situation. Don't sugar-coat it. Don't hide it. Be up front and honest. The end result will open doors that will help remedy your situation. 

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Remember direct mail? It's in demand again ...

The Small Business Agency just put out this report - direct mail is the place to spend your advertising dollars.

Why? Millenials, in particular, are flooded with phone messages. They don't get much mail. So the market for post cards, pamphlets, brochures and catalogs is increasing. You develop a campaign that ties your snail mailed piece directly to your website. You have a landing page on your website that is tied directly to the message on your postcard, or whatever.

I am thrilled to see this report. I have said for years that direct mail is the way to go, particularly if you are trying to reach people who live in areas not served by traditional media.

But when you do this, you need to hire a graphic designer who can create something that will attract the attention of the millenials. As the 4th grade teacher found in her classroom study, Instagram is a great place to be. So you design your ad as if it is an Instagram post. We don't have a long attention span anymore, so sell your item with photos. Include a millenial in them. Hire a commercial photographer who can capture the image to make it sell your service or product. Where do you start? Check this out ...

MARKETING TIP: Old is new again. Revisit it. Tweak it. Target a new audience. 


Reaching kids by advertising on Instagram

How do you reach kids today? By phone.

This 4th grade teacher's record of how her students used their phones during her class was brilliant. Each time a phone went off with a notification, she noted it for the students to see.

Yes, we all know this. But do marketeers? Do they really pay attention? Kids have money because the parents will give it to them. 

Look closely and you will see kids are conversing via text, Instagram, email and Twitter. Use of Facebook, Snapchat and direct phone calls has decreased, according to this anecdotal survey.

MARKETING TIP: If you are trying to reach kids, take note. You need to be online. I suggest you start looking at buying ads on Instagram. Here is how you do it ....

Friday, April 5, 2019

Always be up front and honest with your media ...

This blog was originally designed to help festival and event organizers. Since, it has expanded to small businesses and non-profits. My view is  that all of these must function as a small business.

But so should vendors who attend festivals. That includes star attractions - bands, hot air balloons, cooks, etc. Today, I found this interesting post about why hot air balloons should not fly at festivals. It's all about safety. 

Weather and terrain of the land play a huge factor when pilots go up. Winds could suddenly change. I saw that happen in Statesville, North Carolina, years ago. The wind on the ground was still. But 100 feet up in the air, there was a dangerous current of wind that gave pilots a real challenge. 

So how do you handle this with your public relations? Be honest. Always be honest and have the message come from your point person. TV stations love to show hot air balloons in flight. They are beautiful. But, the science behind it is that safety comes first.

MARKETING TIP: Always be up front and honest with your media. They need to know what is going on so they can share it with their readers and viewers.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Not all public relations firms understand their job ....

I have been in the PR business for a very long time. My background started in radio, went to print, to TV, to print and back to radio. Then I went to the other side - public relations. I continued to keep my toe in print. Yes, I've learned thing or two. I have had reporters camp out on my doorstep to brainstorm story ideas on a slow day. I have had them come to me wanting jobs. I live to work with members of the press.

So, it blows my mind when I hear of PR people who don't know where their local media outlets are physically located, what the assignment editors and producers look like, what their deadlines are or when their planning meetings are held. It pisses me off that PR people think they don't have to give priority to the needs of reporters, photographers, videographers, producers and editors.

If it weren't for the press, PR people would not exist. So we need to work closely with them, forming relationships and partnerships. We also need to guide them to good stories.

So this brings up my next point. True story. While I am in the PR business, I continue to be a member of the working press. I string for a newspaper. I have for a long time. I receive a lot of emails with story pitches.

Here is the latest ...

PR PITCH: "Would your readers be interested in learning about new farming equipment?
ME: "This is an agricultural area. Yes, I would be interested in writing about new equipment. Do you have a farmer here locally who is using what you are selling? I would like to interview him about his techniques and results. I need someone local."
PR PITCH: "When you say local, does that mean anywhere in the country?"
ME: "No. It means local to Randolph County, North Carolina."
PR PITCH: "Here is a link to our services. Will that help?
ME: "No. I need a name and contact information of a local farmer. Can you provide that for me? Do you use a PR company?"

PR PITCH: "We ARE the PR company!"
ME: "I wasn't aware of that. When I said 'local,' you should have known what I meant. A local farmer means a local farmer here, not across the country.

MARKETING TIP: Members of the press are your client. They need to be respected and treated as a client, not as an afterthought or a bother. Successful PR efforts build a strong relationship between you and your media. They will help you and work with you - as long as you earn their trust and respect. The lack of willingness to work with media can kill your business or project.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Protecting your online assets ....

Here's a real scenario ... A small business owner hired a marketing company to create and manage a website and social media sites. Well, the customer never received the access information. Phone calls, emails and texts to the marketing firm were ignored. To avoid this from happening, there are some things you should do before hiring a company.... 

1) Check out the company. Get references. Ask for samples. Do a Google search for complaints.
2) Get everything in writing. That includes all access codes and information.
3) Make sure the sites are in YOUR name, not the name of the company.
4) Make sure the bill for those sites is in YOUR name, not the name of the company. That includes website hosting and any social media ads you buy. YOU want to be the one who pays the bill. If not, your site may go dark from lack of payment.

MARKETING TIP: In today's world, your online message is your most important sales tool. Protect it and your wallet.

Monday, February 11, 2019

This blog supports classroom activities

If you're looking at this blog from a phone, you are missing half of the information. For that, I truly apologize. Blogger is trying to help me fix the layout. 

If you are using a tablet, desktop or laptop, then you see that this blog has repeatedly been tapped into by students and faculty from classrooms worldwide. I see that in analytics that are not public.

So if you're on a phone, I invite you to check out this blog from a computer. But the main thing is to scroll through and see if there is anything that trips your trigger. Is there something here you can use? If so, do! It's free. I am always looking around for educational information to post.

That's why I'm sharing my own challenge. We all face them. Right?

MARKETING TIP: When you are creating a website, be sure to see how it looks from IE, Chrome, Opera and other platforms. Also look on different phones, as not all are set up the same. Be sure that your message if fully visible. 


Sunday, February 10, 2019

How often should you post online?

Are you using the Internet to tell your story? Make sales? Get noticed? Then you need to spend time posting engaging, interesting and useful information. It may be a few sentences, a video, a link or a photo. 

What does that mean? If you're on Facebook, you should post once day. If you have a business account, and you should, then you can look at your analytics and see who is visiting your site. Usually you will see that 3/4 of the visits are women during lunch, at night, on weekends and on holidays when they are relaxing. You want your posts to spark conversation, as that is the basic premise of Facebook - conversation and dialogue. Posts that develop threads of discussion are successful.

If you have a website, you need to update it weekly. Monthly is okay, but the more you do it, the more visits you will get. Search engines like websites that are kept active. Again, you can do it by changing photos, videos and text. A website that sits there and isn't changed does you no good.

MARKETING TIP: Your online presence is critical for the success of your business, your festival attendance, your fundraising efforts and your community awareness. Post away!


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Retailers should consider selling online, too

If you're a NASCAR fan, chances are you once visited the Richard Childress shop and gift store in Welcome, North Carolina. Years ago, there were some store items that just didn't sell. So the manager put them online. Wow. They sold out in a hurry. So he started adding more items to the online store. He raised the prices back to the regular price. Items kept selling. The manager couldn't believe that he wound up selling so many items online. Yes, he wound up with two stores - a bricks and mortar store and one via the Internet.

This was a good case study that I have shared with students in my small business promotion classes. 

Why just have one door into your store when you can have two? Wouldn't you like to double your money? It can happen. But when you do something like that, you need to really plan your promotional strategies. Always include your bricks and mortar store address with your online store address. Mentally believe that you have two stores, not one. Chart the items that sell and don't sell. Does your graph look the same for your physical location as it does for your online location? These are things to watch.

MARKETING TIP: Got a retail store? Want to make more money? Open one online. Promote them both. Let your customers know they have options. Hey, Walmart has done a pretty darned good job showing us the way ....

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Have a new PR job? Get to know your local media.

Well, it's been a while since I posted. Since August, I have been working on a huge, HUGE project that has diverted my attention from this blog. I have been handling the public relations for the closing of Business 40, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The 1.2-mile stretch of road was the first portion of Interstate 40 built in our state, in 1955. 

It's old and worn out and is being replaced. The Business 40 Improvement Project has truly been a community effort which started some 12 years ago. New bridges. New highway. New beautiful entrance into Winston-Salem, the city of arts and innovation.

So when I started, the first thing I did was to get in touch with my local media. I went to see them. I am surprised how many PR professionals have never been to a newspaper, TV station or radio station. They have never seen the people who work in a newsroom, except when they show up for an interview.

That is so very wrong. If you're in the PR business, you need to put the media first on your agenda and work with them. Give them story ideas. Help them get interviews and those necessary images. There is never a need to fear anyone in the press. Embrace them. Help them. Nurture your relationships. They are your friends and should be treated as such.

MARKETING TIP: If you want to succeed in your PR efforts, get out of the office and go meet your local news crews. That includes the assignment editors. And be sure to thank them all.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Please accept my apologies ....


Image result for uh oh meme
I really do apologize. Only half of this site works on mobile. If you are using your phone, chances are you cannot see the 100+ schools and universities - and companies - that have repeatedly visited. You cannot see a lot of the information I have on the right side of the screen. 


I apologize. I have set this blog to be mobile-friendly, but the design must not work.

I am working to fix it.

Greta

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Bad websites ...

Every now and then I find an incredibly bad website. Check this one out

The goal of a commerce website is to make money. The site needs to be something the viewer, or shopper, can use. Photos and text should  be easy to see. 

A website should be viewed by others before going live. Mistakes can be caught during that time.

I feel for the owner of this site. He is either clueless about how bad it is or doesn't care.

MARKETING TIP: Make sure your website is useful, has good content and can be read easily.

Friday, August 17, 2018

When a parade fails ...

I love a parade. I love the floats,  the clowns, the bands, the girls in their crowns, the antique cars and the positive energy that comes from such an event.

Successful parades need strong leadership, a pot of money to spend and a desire, backed by energy and community support.

I recently learned of a parade in a small town which fell apart this year. The 129-year old event lasted 15 minutes. Attendees madly posted their frustration on social media. 

City leadership said it wasn't their event, that the merchant's association was doing it. 

When things fall apart like this, it is time for new leadership. Either a grass roots effort by local volunteers or an organization that needs recognition should step to the plate.

MARKETING TIP: Everyone loves a great event. When it falls apart, negativity spreads like wildfire throughout a community. That puts a dark cloud over the entire city. To blow that cloud away, and foster a positive atmosphere, new leadership needs to be identified to carry on the event tradition. When that happens, people will return and the result will be the influx of more money locally.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Do you have an action plan for your business? Are you employees aware of it?

Do you have a plan of action for your event or small business? Some people may call this a business plan, but it's much more simple than that.

Event planners need to have a calendar of deadlines for activities, such as contacting potential sponsors, recruiting volunteers and training them and getting the advertising together.

Small business owners need a calender to share with employees about activities within the company. For example, if there is a deadline for a shipment to go out, employees need to know that. Many companies do provide that information, but not everyone does.

A plan of action helps everyone understand, and support, the mission. A published plan, to all employees, help them understand their roles. That is incredibly important. Too often leadership keep the calendar at the top of the corporate pyramid and underlings have to figure out their roles by themselves.

An action plan helps internal communication.

MARKETING TIP: People on the outside of an organization can see if it is running smoothly and that everyone is "in the know." Outside perception is critical to the success of non-profits, events and small businesses. Others want to support organizations that are strong, successful and have a well-oiled engine of supporting and knowledgeable employees. 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Mobile?

If you are mobile, consider changing to your web browser to see all the information here.

Laugh a little!

I teach classes about how to write and distribute press releases. Along the way, I meet some fabulous people.

I recently met a laughter therapist. She is hired by companies and schools to help loosen the tension and help the work flow. She gave us a short class.

She told us to think outside the box. She made us make funny faces at each other and try to move our teeth, cheeks, tongue, nose and lips at the same time. Then we all raised our arms, shook them and laughed.

The tension slipped right away. None of us knew the other, so this was a great icebreaker.

MARKETING TIP: Have fun in life. Have fun with your promotional pieces. When you have fun with them, the person who sees them will have fun too! 

Make your print ad work for you!

Normally I don't make a post this BIG. But, with these two graphics, I had to show you the details, or lack thereof. 

Here is the tale of two ads for two events. The ads were published on the same day. They ran in a community newspaper which has won all kinds of awards for its layout, design, news and sales teams. 





Which one looks better to you? Which one was created by a real designer? Which one wasn't?

If you were wanting to participate or attend, which would catch your eye? Which one is compelling? Which ones provides you enough information to make a decision?

MARKETING TIP: When you are putting together an ad of any kind, lean upon the professionals to help you do it. Make sure it contains a compelling look, one that tells your story. Be sure to include contact information, a web site of some kind and an actual street address.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Bad grammar can hinder your bottom line

I recently received a newsletter from a real estate company. Do you see anything incorrect with the wording? 

I and my team at XXX in XXXX want to welcome the XXX family into our community


Can't find it? This line should read "My team and I..."


When you use poor grammar, it is a reflection upon you and your company. 


MARKETING TIP: Have someone eyeball your communication before you send it out. Make sure it is correct. Your income can depend upon it. Look at it this way. If you cannot write something correct for yourself, are you going to do it correctly for your client? 




Monday, June 4, 2018

What is your #1 sales tool? Your business card!

In my classes, I talk a lot about business cards. They are your #1 sales tool. It is what business people exchange and keep for reference. Your sales kit may go by the wayside, but information from your card will usually be kept.

So to reiterate what I have said before ...


  1. Keep your business card a standard shape of 2 inches x 3-1/2 inches. Odd sizes just don't work.
  2. Make your font large enough for people to read without having to squint or put on their glasses. 
  3. Keep your font legible. Oh, I could scream how many times I have seen an artsy-fartsy cursive font that no one can read.
  4. Put the basic facts - your name, phone, email, address. Yes, people want to know where you hang your coat.
  5. Use a heavy card stock. A flimsy one says you are not reputable and that you are a here-today, and may gone tomorrow person.
  6. Logos are nice, but not necessary.
  7. Keep the back available to jot a message on it.

MARKETING TIP: Your business card is your #1 sales tool. Put some thought into its design. Please.

Sending photos for print publication? Don't edit them.

I've had the pleasure of working with many fantastic photographers in my life. I enjoy getting all the necessary elements together for them to set up a fantastic shoot. Along the way, I've learned quite a bit.

One of those things is that when you're sending a photo for a newspaper publication, don't "fix" the photo first. One of my dearest friends was over the United Press International (UPI) bureau in Miami for years. I got to know him when he was the chief photographer for the Wilmington Star News.

He gave me a piece of advice I have always remembered - and that continues to be echoed by newspaper editors. Send the original photograph. Don't edit, fix or doctor it up. The paper will do that. Newspaper folks know when a photo has been doctored. They really don't like it, but will probably use it anyway. 

Photographers may or may not know the printing requirements that the paper follows. That is why it is best NOT to fix a photo before sending it. 

Make it easy. Send it as a jpg attachment with the story or the cutline.

MARKETING TIP: Keep your newspaper folks happy. That business isn't dead yet. People are still reading papers - online and hard copy.