marjorie wallens 

How to Get Media Coverage


cliparti1_megaphone-clipart_04If you are a small business and looking for the best way to grow your business while considering various options such as advertising versus public relations, you might consider the advantages of PR.  As a former journalist I have been on the receiving end of many a
pitch and know what makes an editor or reporter take notice. So here are my first hand recommendations.
Media Coverage & PR is cost effective
Public Relations can be a lot cheaper than paid advertising and an article in the media, can lead to an immediate increase in sales and make your company seem more established than you are.
When a story about your product or service appears in the media, it is perceived differently than if you advertised. That’s because the reader views the article as a third party testimonial written and endorsed by an objective journalist, not a company trying to sell something. So the ‘unpaid coverage’ or ‘earned media’ means a great deal more and carries a lot more credibility to the reader or consumer than a paid ad.
Best way to make PR work for you—Tell a compelling story.
The best way to get noticed through PR is to create a compelling story or story line, that identifies what makes your product or service unique or what need it fulfills that will resonate with the editor or writer. There is no substitute for a good story. There are lots of products and services in the marketplace that may be similar. You need to consider how to bring something new or different enough to the attention of the reader. So look for a problem you solve, a story about the creation of the product that is unique, does your service or product link to a recent activity or story in the news that might provide something an editor can ‘peg’ the story too.
Connect with the media. And the right source
Today, you can directly connect more easily to the media using social media by following reporters that cover your field. Send them a direct message about your story. Read what they’ve previously written. Ensure to target a reporter that is knowledgeable about your area. Nothing irks a reporter more than sending a pitch that isn’t relevant to their beat. You can also position yourself as the go to media expert or specialist in your field. Reporters are always looking for spokespersons with expertise to use as subject experts to quote in stories or provide background information.
Create a well- crafted pitch
Keep your pitch simple and to the point remembering to tie you story back to what makes your product or service different or how it fulfills a need. Back it up with two to three facts to support your opening pitch. Don’t pitch your company, pitch your story! Reporters and editors do not give free publicity to your company. It happens when a story about your product or service that speaks to their readers. For structure, look at how a typical newspaper story is constructed. The headline tells the key message of the story, if there is a second headline or sub head it usually provides a fact to back up the headline. Then the body of the story fills in the details. That’s how you want to structure your media pitch.

Keep it short –two to three paragraphs. Who, what, where, when and why!

A lesson in differentiating your brand from an unlikely Masai village in Tanzania

I recently traveled to Tanzania with a not for profit organization focused on improving the lives of Tanzanian communities by fundraising and building classrooms and other educational infrastructure in the Northeastern part of Tanzania near the Serengeti.  

One of the projects involves the fostering of a bead collective run by Masai women who make elaborate native necklaces and intricate bead works that are then sold to tourists as part of Thomson Safari ‘s regular visit to the collective.

What I was looking for was not only bead work representative of my time in Tanzania and the Masai, but something a bit different I could bring back to friends and family.

On long tables displayed much like a North American flea market, the pieces that stood out were the small beaded baskets that were different from similar baskets.   One had a teacup handle on the side, another had an acorn shaped handle on the lid of the basket and still another had a rather abstract collection of spiky beads ringing the outside of the basket. Imperceptible to the ordinary shopper but to me they stood out as examples of wanting to differentiate their products in a crowded marketplace, when the prices were all the same; hoping to sell more than their counterparts.   Maybe I’m exaggerating one bead workers motive, but as a marketer, it resonated.

A bit of product innovation through a slight change in design, made all the difference and I bought them.

 The same goes for differentiating your brand in a crowded marketplace.  You may offer the same product or service and sales support but what can you deliver that is value added that transcends the similarities. Is it a variation in design? Or the added value in providing useful information that makes your customer’s job easier?  It might just be the little things that make a big difference.


Why Social Media for professionals is no longer an add on

I was recently asked to give a talk to a professional group about social media. They were undecided about whether to incorporate social media into their marketing mix and if it was a good use of their time and resources. While all had LinkedIn accounts most did not know how make the most of it and other social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. Well, it’s no longer a question of whether it’s worth it, but what is it worth not to have a social media presence for your company.
Consider this:

Millions of consumers & professionals regularly frequent social media sites to make buying decisions.
People are buying products and services, investigating companies, retaining vendor partners or hiring new employees.
The sheer volume of eyeballs with commercial intent cannot be ignored.
Social media networks offer an entirely new way to reach and influence buyers. And is simply no longer an add on.

Further more buyers have gone from being passive.e.g. receiving email and direct mail to becoming informed participants in the selection process. This means traditional marketing efforts alone will no longer work even in the professional services area.Buyers are doing on line research to see what others think of your services and company. Social media also enables your prospects to quickly and independently conduct due diligence on your company and validate that your company is a good fit .  While Social media is another layer of the communications and influencer process, it does not replace your marketing efforts.

 Here are a few simple rules

1. You have to be in it to win it.
2. Research and understand your audience’s behavior.
3. Get a feel for your competitive landscape.
4. Listen before you speak.

5. Engage people with what they’re interested in
  —It’s not about you; it’s about them (and they know it)
6. Don’t be fake.
7. Have fun!


Communication Matters

Trademarks: Making your mark helps set your company apart from the competition

In today’s competitive marketplace businesses may want to consider trade marking their products or services as a way to distinguish their business from their competition.

According to Wikipedia, a trade mark, is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business, organization or other legal entity to identify products or services to consumers and indicates the trademark originates from a unique source.  It is also used to distinguish products or services from those of other entities.
I recently explored this concept with two of my clients. One I suggested applying for a trademark to protect a process related to a training approach.  The other, a phrase that can be used to distinguish the way the company promotes its services as a specialist. In both cases, a trademark will give the company an added advantage –it can be used in promotional materials and prevent competitors from using the symbol, phrase or work and most importantly set the company apart for its competitors.

According to lawyer, Michelle Wassenaar, an international Trademark and Intellectual Property lawyer at Johnston Wassenaar, “It can be very effective to register a trade-mark since it gives the owner the exclusive right to use the trade-mark across Canada.”

A trademark is typically a name, word, phrase, logo or symbol or a combination.  It may be designated by the following symbols:

The process starts with researching whether the trademark is registered; if it’s not then an application is made for a registered trademark.  “ When a company makes application for a registered trade mark (or simply decides that they have a common law trade-mark), they can use the symbol ™ “ says Michelle Wassenaar “ and when an application is registered, which typically takes about 2 years, then the ® symbol can be applied. “

Rewards & Recognition Celebrate Successes! Employee Recognition Programs can boost employee productivity by 15-25%

Letters of praise, commemorative plaques, the branded coffee mug – may not appear to be of value to employees, but when it comes time to clean up or de-clutter our offices or homes, these items are generally among the treasures we salvage. It’s a fact that we all value and need recognition for a job well done.

So powerful are employee recognition programs that a planned consistent program can actually boost employee productivity by between 15-25 per cent.

Just as interesting, studies indicate that companies with a strong internal communications focus increase morale, employee retention, productivity and profits. Just think, then, how powerful a planned consistent and well-communicated recognition program can be. Communications plays a significant role in all three key elements in building a recognition program- monetary and non-monetary reward, openly praising employees and communicating and celebrating successes.

Imagine if your birthday wasn’t acknowledged by your closest friends or not celebrated. It’s the same with employee rewards and recognition.

A job well done must be openly praised and recognized in a timely way to have impact. Off-site meetings are excellent venues to share successes and recognition. So are staff meetings, emails, a personal letter of thank you from the CEO along with recognition in an employee newsletter, a special parking space designated for the ‘employee of the month’ and of course that plaque presented in a public forum are all visible non-monetary ways to recognize employee contributions. Some awards, such as a citizenship award for example, may warrant mention in the local community newspaper.

Middle market companies may overlook rewards and recognition as a significant part of employee communications. However, while large companies have entire departments devoted to employee communications, some middle market companies may overlook the importance of communicating effectively with employees when it comes to sharing the company vision, or latest strategy.

This is also common with employee rewards and recognition programs. When reviewing various tactics used by a mid-sized company to show recognition, the CEO expressed frustration that the employees took the programs for granted and accepted them as part of their due, when the real reason was that the company programs were ad hoc and had not been packaged or communicated as part of an overall planned and consistent program.

Involve employees in the development of the program.

If you want your employees to share in the excitement of your company and become motivated, involve employees from the programs inception and include representatives from all employee groups on a planning team. If your program is up and running, involve employees in reviewing your process, that way employees not only provide feedback and insight into the development of a program, but become goodwill ambassadors of the program relaying company messages back to the workplace. Brand your recognition programs.

One newly merged national company that wanted to encourage a new entrepreneurial approach among its store managers, created an Academy Awards type celebration evening and awards program. It used a catchy and meaningful name for the awards not only for the awards, but also to characterize its top performers. Now the branded name has become synonymous with excellence and the employees as leaders. A prominent location on the main floor of the head office also displays the award trophies and names of the winners.

So when planning your recognition program, keep in mind that even long after that letter or plaque from the boss or team leader has been misplaced, the memory of where and how that message of praise was celebrated and recognized will be strong.