Big dreams, big anxiety?

Well, once again, I’ve been experiencing this mix of great excitement and excrutiating fear. I mean, it’s a great feeling because it moves people and I guess it means that I’m doing the right thing. I’ve heard it said that if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. Mine keep getting bigger and bigger and I’m not sure how much more of this (good) fear I can handle.

This time though, my fear isn’t so much about PR. It’s about grad school. I’ve decided to pursue a new media journalism degree from Full Sail University. I’m only a few clicks and a fax away from starting classes on Monday. I am rather excited about it all while feeling apprehension. What if my work is not as good as other students? What if I cannot keep up with the material? What if I come across something completely foreign and cannot figure it out?

So many questions, so little time.

This is the part where I have to jump head first into my decisions and try to make the best of everything, learning useful leasons along the way that I will look back on, fondly remembering when I thought I would not be able to overcome. Yeah, that’s great.

Today, I had to go to my undergrad campus for my transcripts and ran into my computer professor. He was sitting in the library, misplaced due to the construction going on around his office. We chatted for a little until he stopped, looked me in the eyes and told me that there were many people he’d spoken to and that they are proud of me for graduating despite all of the obstacles. I certainly had some overcoming to do and, by God’s grace, I did it.

And I’ll do it again and again.

I doubt he knew that this was something I needed to hear today more than most other days. While my dreams scare me and there are a few hurdles to jump in order to make it, I’ve done it before and it can be done again.

There are people silently watching and cheering me on.

Advertisements

I spent my days in a Starbucks.

There will always be those entrepreneur stories that begin with tales of hours spent in a coffee shop, utilizing the space as if it were they’re own office. Day after day sitting in their corner “cubicle” knowing the names of the employee by heart. I mean, if you’re there all the time, that’s what will happen.

These are the stories of triumph. Overcoming the criticism from those thinking Why don’t you just get a job? and the others that spot the weirdo in the corner day after day.

It was never my intention to make this my narrative but that is the direction I seem to be going. Both of the meetings that I had today ended with propositions. That’s very exciting! But when I look at my work environment, I realize I might need a new locale. There is nothing wrong with my home but being there is simply distracting. It’s a little hard to be a PR rep when I need to be a mom, daughter and sister first.

As much as I would like to begin my relocation tomorrow, I will be going to a conference about marketing to the government with one of the ladies from today. Again, quite exciting.

Maybe I should figure out a more original introduction to my memoir than “I spent my days in a Starbucks” but until I can figure something else out, that’s what it’ll have to be.

Exciting events and fear

I feel like things are falling into place. I have opened an account to save for office space and many other things that I will need, I am planning a few campaigns for the event planning company that I work for, you know stuff to fill my book with, and I have two meetings tomorrow that I hope will turn into clients. Doesn’t it all sound so progressive? I feel like it does anyway but there are times when I think about all that has to be done in order to run a successful business and I am somewhat discouraged. Still, I have business to attend to so there is no time for that.

The first meeting is with a woman I met who has begun making energy bars to sustain herself during her exercises. She’s offered samples to people she has met during her activities and they are a real hit. When we met, she offered me a positon with her assisting in production of her product and also to show her artwork to galleries so that they could exhibit her photography, which is very beautiful by the way. Her talent is nothing short of amazing. I am looking forward to this meeting.

Next, I will be having a phone meeting with a YouTube personality who is looking to establish her brand and market herself appropriately. This one is kind of interesting because when watching her videos and looking at her website, there are so many things that she can do, it’s almost hard to point to one thing and say that is who she is and that is the audience that I will target. Still, it needs to be done. I feel that after she has one personality in the spotlight, she can begin slipping her other talents in little by little.

All of this sounds fine and dandy but like I said before, there are the occasional twinges of fear. My mother and I were talking the other day and I expressed that I like to put my best foot forward at all times and try not to do anything that will embarass myself. For instance, this blog is actually a leap for me. Under normal circumstances, I would not be blogging about an endeavour for fear of public failure but I did it. I started a blog letting anyone who reads it know that I want to open my own public relations firm. Mom told me one simple thing: Do it while you’re afraid.

She’s right. If I never took this first step, I would not still be considering this career path. It’s scary and it’s exciting and I’m all in. Can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow but tonight is preparation: researching the energy snack market and trying to nail down a niche.

Fun stuff.

Know the basics

A great reminder from Frause:

One of the most important tools in public relations is the press or news release. This important document is structured in such a way that allows a public relations or communications professional to send off an announcement to the media and a reporter or editor can quickly scan the document, much like a news article, for needed information.

There are several key components to writing a news release, and there are some great examples in the Frause newsroom.

  1. Headline: This should be the sentence, written in an active voice with as few prepositions as possible, which catches the reader’s attention and briefly states what the main announcement is: think of who, what, where, how, when, and why.
  2. Byline: Sometimes optional, and much like in a news story when used, the byline is another attention-grabbing sentence that gives more detail and elaborates on the headline.
  3. Dateline: In AP Style, which is the standard style for writing news releases in much of the United States, the dateline consists of the city and state or country, depending on what AP Style dictates, followed by the date. This is essential to the news release and cannot be left out.
  4. The announcement: Written in the traditional inverted pyramid, the release should be brief but contain all the vital facts presented in a clear, concise, easy-to-read format much like how news stories are written. Often there is a paragraph with a quote from a spokesperson.
  5. Boiler plate: This is basic information about the company or organization that goes after the end of the news release. A company may put out multiple news releases but will use the same boiler plate.
  6. Contact information: There should be a media contact with a name, phone number and email address so that media with questions can contact this person.

Besides the basic components, there are some other important considerations, including language use, links and photos, and how strategically to write the release to make it interesting. Some professionals are even arguing now against the use of inverted pyramid style, which was invented for the telegraph, and for a return to more feature-style writing. There are some great tips on PR Newswire for the press release template and optimizing press release content. Just remember that format, accuracy and proofreading are imperative.

Olivia says, “I am very much a fan of feature-style writing.”

The Audience Rules…and that’s that!

All good stories are tailored to an audience. Know your audience. Write for them and only them.

Read at Frause:

Social media and traditional public relations really aren’t all that different. Yet many organizations still struggle quite a bit in navigating the landscape. Sure, there is plenty to keep track of with seemingly constant technology challenges and ever-changing platforms. But in my mind, there is one difference between public relations and social media that is more important than all the rest. The editor.

To get straight to the point, the biggest missed opportunity for organizations in utilizing social media is they don’t put themselves in the shoes of an editor.

PR professionals have traditionally played the role of ambassador between clients and the media. Every media outlet has its own specific audience and the journalist’s goal is to meet the needs of that audience as best as possible. For example, Wired Magazine knows exactly what its audience wants and does an amazing job of creating content to match. The result is a well-read, powerful and influential magazine (and one I know several of our clients would kill to be featured in).

The role of PR folks is to take our clients’ messages and shape them into appealing, topical, and timely stories and news. Then we tailor those messages for the journalist and his/her specific audience. When we do our jobs well, the idea sells and our clients’ messages make it into the media and in front of the readers they want to influence.

The challenge with social media is that organizations control their own Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogging pages. Who is the gatekeeper with independent power to shoot down story ideas or edit articles to make them a better fit for the audience? I think you know where I’m going with all of this. Not surprisingly, lots of folks miss this step or do a poor job of it.

Want another way to think about all of this?

Your Facebook page doesn’t belong to you. Neither does your blog or any of your other social media properties. They belong to your audience. And if you are not giving your audience what they want or need, they won’t pay attention to you. However, figuring out what they want and need is a completely different subject. A good starting point is realizing that pushing every boring morsel of information about your company’s product or service is not a great idea.

Just remember: it isn’t all about you or your organization. The sooner you start thinking about the needs of your audience instead of the needs of your own marketing department, the better off you will be.

What Not to Do: 4 Things PR Pros Should Never Say to a Journalist, and Vice Versa

Found on PR News Online:

Sometimes it’s good to go back to basics in the School of Media Relations. I am reminded of this after receiving a dozen emails this week and a few phone calls from PR professionals that were (to put it nicely) off target.  Having been on both sides of the business, media and PR, I know  the relationship between the two is an important one. Even in this social media age when it’s seemingly easy to bypass the media and go straight to the customer, we know the value and saving graces of a good public relations professional.  And the mistakes go both ways.  So, below (and tinged with some sarcasm for effect) are some playbook rules for both PR pros and journalists. Please add to the list, as I know there’s more to say here:

 4 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Journalist:

1. Did you get my email about [so and so] joining the company?

** I might have, I might not have. But if I’m interested I’ll let you know.

2. I was wondering if you got the press release [on our new product]…

** If you sent it to me, I got it and if I’m interested…(see #1)

3. Can I see the story before it runs?

** Um, no. We are journalists.

4. You might not be the right person for this pitch, but…

** Then find the right person!

 

And…..

4 Things a Journalist Shouldn’t Say to a PR Pro:

1. Leave me alone, I’ll get back to you if I’m interested.

** That’s just rude and unprofessional.

2. Put me in touch with your CEO and maybe I’ll write the story.

** Threats get you nowhere (legally).

3. I would prefer it if you were not present during the interview.

** There’s nothing wrong with PR being in the room (or on phone) during a call.

4. Thanks for being such a great flack.

** It’s the last word that irks. The first six are good.

The majority of journalists and PR pros understand the rules and don’t break them.  It’s the Rule Breakers we need to worry about for the good of both professions. So, what  No-No’s would you add to these lists?

What not to do: No, they don’t need stories

I feel that the best way to learn how to do something is by contrast. With that, I present What Not To Do. This blurb was found at Annoying PR:

The Story Teller

To PR folks looking to send story ideas: no thanks. We’ll come up with our own stories, thank you very much. Adding “story idea” to the subject line of an email is a quick way to get it sent to the trash bin.

Please, update strategically

More great advice brought to you by PR Daily:

What were you doing yesterday?

Tweeting and updating your company’s or client’s Facebook page, I hope.

On Twitter and Facebook, Tuesday is the best day of the week for engagement, according to a new report from Yesmail. Unfortunately, the brands in the study most often tweeted and updated their Facebook pages on days when engagement among followers was at its lowest.

Are you making the same mistake?

Yesmail, a company that makes email-marketing software, tracked and analyzed the Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and email campaigns of leading retail brands during the first quarter of this year. The brands studied include Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, H&M, J. Crew, and Ann Taylor. (You can download the study here.)

The study examined the campaigns—which is a generic term for tweets, Facebook updates, and YouTube videos—and compared the days and times when brands are most frequently using these platforms against engagement rates among consumers.

Engagement in this study refers to Facebook “likes” and comments, retweets on Twitter, and views, comments, and ratings (likes and dislikes) on YouTube.

The study emphasizes that it’s important for companies to test the success of the times and days on which they communicate on social media, but that retail brands will see the most engagement from tweets and Facebook updates on Tuesdays. Meanwhile, YouTube videos garner the most views, comments, and ratings on Mondays.

Jason Warnock, vice president of market intelligence and measurement at Yesmail, said the findings apply across industries, not simply to retail.

“We’ve looked across other verticals, and we’re seeing the same things,” Warnock told PR Daily. “Marketers should pay attention to what their competitors are doing on these channels and what consumers want from these campaigns.”

Facebook

Although Facebook updates get the most engagement on Tuesdays, brands posted the majority of their content to the social network on Fridays. As a result, the deluge of Friday updates had created what Warnock calls “messaging madness.”

“Too much happens on Friday,” he said.

The second-busiest day among brands on Facebook was Wednesday, followed by Thursday and Tuesday. The least busy days were Saturday and Sunday.

This chart shows how often brands updated Facebook on specific days, as well as the level of engagement they garnered:

Updates between 10 p.m. and midnight Eastern Time were “an engagement gold mine,” according to the study. The likely reason, the study noted, is because many of these brands are popular with college students, who are often awake and online during these hours. For the most part, brands in this study were not taking advantage of this time slot.

Meanwhile, 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. ET was the least-engaging time on Facebook.

The most common time to update Facebook among the brands studied was from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET.

In terms of frequency, the five most-engaging brands studied—Ann Taylor, Limited, Ralph Lauren, Eddie Bauer, and Banana Republic—posted Facebook updates 20 to 32 times per month. The five least-engaging brands averaged 54 updates per month.

The most-engaging content included pictures and videos. Sharing links in status updates is seeing declining rates of engagement, the study noted.

Twitter

On Twitter, meanwhile, the days when brands saw the most retweets were Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (with little difference among them), yet 20 percent of tweets are sent on Fridays, which is the least-engaging day, according to the study.

Most tweets were sent during regular working hours, even though the most-engaging time is during early morning hours, from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. ET, and 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. ET.

The five most-engaging brands tweeted 45 to 70 times per month, whereas the five least-engaging brands averaged 95 to 115 tweets per month, according to the study.

YouTube

Posting a video to YouTube on Monday will garner the most engagement, according to the study. Tuesday is the second-most-engaging day for YouTube videos. Similar to Facebook and Twitter, most videos are uploaded on Fridays and Thursdays. Few videos go live on YouTube on Saturday, even though the study shows strong engagement occurs that day.

As for time of day, 68 percent of YouTube videos were uploaded from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET, whereas—and this is surprising—the 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. ET time slot saw the most engagement. From 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. ET is the second-most-engaging time for YouTube videos in this study.

A key finding for brands on YouTube is that the length of a video is pivotal.

According the study, 33 percent of the top-performing YouTube videos were less than 30 seconds long; 28 percent ran 60 to 90 seconds; 17 percent were 120 to 180 seconds long; 11 percent lasted longer than 180 seconds; fewer than 10 percent ran 90 to 120 seconds.

Across all three platforms, email campaigns can help boost engagement, according to the study.

(Image via)

Building for Budding Success

While this was not about the practice of public relations as a job but for the promotion of one’s company, it was still happily read at She Takes on the World:

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

As business owners, we know that publicity is worth its weight in gold because it is a more credible form of marketing in contrast to advertising. Since publicity isn’t paid for directly by the company or person and advertising space is, PR specialists can’t control the size of a write up the way advertisers can.

When your product, service, name, or company is in ink or featured on TV or the radio, it can generate great attention, which is why billions of dollars are spent using PR firms every year.

Follow these steps to create a strong list of media contacts to get the attention you deserve:

  • When targeting different publications, sending out mass email pitches and press releases is a no-no because it is considered “PR spamming.” Each pitch sent out needs to be tailored to meet the audience of the publication.
  • Email pitches and press releases should have subject lines relevant to the pitch because you want to make sure the email gets opened. The pitch or press release is one of the most cost efficient ways to generating publicity when you have a targeted media list. Keep it short and concise. Don’t use flowery language unless completely necessary. Media professionals want news; not to read the greatest piece of literature since Tolstoy.
  • Make sure press releases follow the correct format.
  • Contact one reporter/journalist at a time. In your pitch, reference an article the journalist/reporter wrote. Recently, I was putting a publicity campaign for one of my new products. I sent out four pitches to four different publications and landed three feature story interviews.
  • Make your media contact’s job easier by telling them how your company can help their audience or why your company is relevant to a certain trend. If the contact doesn’t use it right away, they may call on you in the future, when a certain trend becomes popular.
  • Ask clients how your product or service has helped them. Ask for testimonials. Incorporate case studies and testimonials. This will make your release more believable and newsworthy.
  • Never send a pitch or press release as an attachment, unless the journalist or reporter asks for it. Send all text in a plain text email.
  • Make sure you follow up in a timely manner.
  • If possible, address the editor by his or her first and last name

Remember, journalists find many of their stories from regular people and businesses, so it is your job to pitch them accordingly. Just don’t make your news self-serving.

Garrulous, I am.

(Property of Shutterstock)

“I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”

Blaise Pascal

They say that empty barrels make the most noise. When fighting an intense bout of writer’s block, many us find out just how empty we really are. Have you ever thought about how hard it is to say what you really mean suscinctly?

Often times, to figure out what is truly important in a pitch, a press release or any kind of writing really, sometimes, you have to burn through the dross to get to the real point. Writing takes time and dedication.

As children we are all taught the 5 Ws and an H: Who, Where, What, Why, When and How, as we get older and begin to fluff papers, exam answers and reports, somewhere we lose these basic, yet important rules in order to fill space. I know that I have. Something so elementary is actually quite important to the writing process, especially for the aspiring PR rep. It’s ok to embrace it without feeling childish.

If it takes writing a book and then stripping it down to the basics until I can do this instinctively, then it’s just what I’ll have to do. Take the time.