Media coverage is not a given

NewspaperRoll_optI have the opportunity to review many business plans and one thing that always causes me some concern is that every business owner believes that they can generate a significant amount of marketing exposure by getting media coverage.

They pepper it throughout their plan because to them, it feels free and easy to get.

I  hate to tell you, but media coverage is not a given.

My concern comes from how unrealistic business owners, non profit directors and business leaders are about the type and amount of media coverage they’re going to be able to garner.

Here’s the reality check most need:

  • Most of what is newsworthy to you, is not newsworthy to the rest of the world.
  • Most reporters/editors are bombarded with news releases – yours has to stand out to even catch their attention.
  • Blinding sending your release to everyone is a sure to annoy most of them and reduce the likelihood of receiving any coverage.
  • Good manners go a long way.

Let’s dig into each of those reality checks to see if we can identity some best practices that will increase your chances of getting the coverage you want.

It has to actually be newsworthy: Earning media coverage can be daunting. Journalists have a finite amount of space/time and they have to decide which stories are going to be of value to their audience.

As you consider pitching a story, ask yourself – how would the reporter sell this story to his editor? What benefit or value would the reporter’s audience get? What could make this story so compelling that someone would share it with someone else who hadn’t seen the news coverage?

If these questions have you stumped, odds are the story isn’t newsworthy and you shouldn’t risk damaging your credibility by pitching it.

You have 3 seconds to peak their interest: Reporters and editors get buried in pitch phone calls, emails, faxes and snail mail releases. They can’t possibly read all of them thoroughly. They’re going to read the headline and scan the release, so you need to write it with that in mind.

Your headline will make or break you. If it doesn’t grab the editor’s attention, you’re headed for the “thanks but no” pile in a hurry. Make sure your headline makes them want to read more and tells them exactly why this is something their audience needs to know about.

Don’t let your laziness or ignorance cost you coverage: Because of my blog, I get pitches from PR pros and business owners every day. I’m often embarrassed by their efforts. They clearly got my contact information from some list – but have no idea what I write about.

Before you hit send be sure you’re sending it to the right reporter and the right publication. Take the time to review the last few issues/shows and get to know the kind of content they routinely cover. Don’t embarrass yourself or irritate the reporter by waving your laziness under their nose.

Say please and thank you: Never forget the importance of having decent manners. Be helpful, be available and be grateful if they tell your story.

More important than just simple good manners – don’t be a pain. Don’t call them incessantly to see if they got your release or if they’re going to use it. Don’t get ticked when they tell you “thanks but not this time” or it will be the last time. And if you really want to earn their appreciation and trust – you might give them a story or two that don’t involve you or your clients.

Earning media coverage takes some time, some preparation and some forethought. But most of all – it requires you take an objective look at your “news” and only pitch it when it’s worth pitching.

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We have to earn our audience’s attention

Listen Vs. Ignore - Toggle SwitchWe have to earn our audience’s attention.  Let’s see how you’re doing at that.

If you own or run a business, I’d like to you take this little quiz.

  1. Would you ignore your business phone 30% of the time it rings?
  2. If a customer was standing in a crowd of your best customers and complaining loudly, would you ignore them?
  3. If you had the chance to have the attention of your best customers and your best prospects for about 3 minutes uninterrupted, would you talk incessantly about yourself?

I have to believe that all of you passed this quiz by answered “good golly no!” to all three questions. After all you hustle like crazy to capture the attention of your customers and potential customers, right? Only a fool would squander the opportunity once they earned it.

And yet…that is exactly what’s happening online every day.

  • 30% of customer questions and comments on Facebook, Twitter and company blogs go unanswered.
  • 71% of complaints on Twitter are ignored.
  • 89% of corporate blogs only talk about themselves, their products, promotions and awards.

No wonder so many business people say that they can’t measure any ROI on their social media efforts. If anything, their ROI should come up as a negative number!

Too many businesses believe that social media networks are simply places they need to put a placeholder in. Like a flag that says, “Look, we exist here too” and then go to some autopilot shout into the abyss mentality. The core idea behind Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ or any of the other networks out there is connection.

Real, human connection.

It’s why people share photos, stories of their day and get fired up about politics, religion and what their kid’s school is up to. And into that very personal and very meaningful conversation – most brands just blunder in and shout that they are having a sale.

Ugh.

Businesses spend thousands (and some millions) of dollars putting on elaborate dog and pony shows, with the hopes of capturing someone’s attention for a millisecond. So the assumption would be that they would actually value the attention, once they’d earned it.

But the truth is, most businesses think of social media as the newest necessary evil. They can’t get out of their own way enough to see the potential in it or that they need to approach it with humanity for it to work.

So what would that humanity look like?

Real interactions: When someone talks to you, it’s polite to reply in a reasonable amount of time. If you can’t monitor and react to a social media stream – don’t be there. Every social media tool out there has a way for you to be notified if you’ve actually started or were mentioned in a conversation.

Conversation, not monologue: No one enjoys being talked at. Your goal should be to spark conversation, not spit out rhetoric. Conversations are started when we care about the other person and ask questions, offer helpful information and listen to what they need from us.

Consistency: Just like all of our other relationships – we grow connections partially because of frequent exposures. You can’t get to know someone very well if you only communicate once or twice a year. It’s better to be fewer places but be in the places you’ve chosen more often. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

Having a heart: If you don’t actually care – then don’t be there. If you genuinely care about your customers and what’s going on with them, then show that by asking questions, reaching out and being very human.

You can create an amazing referral source and client base with your online presence or you can alienate those who already have you on their radar screen. All it takes is a little humanity to make it work.

 

 

 

 

 

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Building a great brand means going the extra mile

My Briggs & Riley bag

My Briggs & Riley bag

Want a great brand? Building a great brand means going the extra mile. Let me give you an example.

I travel a lot so I decided it was time to invest in a suitcase that could take the beating that 100+ flights a year dishes out without having to be replaced every year.  So after doing more research than a suitcase purchase should require, I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a Briggs & Riley suitcase.

Keep in mind, I’m usually a run to Target and buy a bag kind of guy.  So this was a big money decision for me.

I made the investment because the bag is guaranteed for life.  Here’s how they talk about their guarantee:

If your Briggs & Riley bag is ever broken or damaged, even if it was caused by an airline, we will repair it free of charge – Simple as that! Here’s how the Briggs & Riley Simple as that® guarantee works:

A. Simple bag repairs – you can send or bring your bag to a local Authorized Repair Center. No repair number is needed. Please note that you are responsible for any freight charges incurred when shipping your bag to an authorized repair center.

B. Badly damaged bags – we recommend sending them directly to Briggs & Riley at one of our Official Company Repair Centers.

Our ‘Simple as That®’ guarantee will cover the repair of all functional aspects of your Briggs & Riley bag for life.

In my mind, that meant:

  • It would last a really, really long time before anything broke, ripped or didn’t work
  • It would be easy to get it fixed, if I ever had to
  • These people really care about their customers

I love the bag.  It’s easy to pack an entire week’s worth of stuff into, if I need to.  Shirts and sports coats travel well and come out pretty wrinkle free.  So I’m happy.

photo[2]_optFast forward to 10 months after the purchase.  The bag has a rip in it.

So I go to the B&R website and complete a form.  It’s relatively painless (who knew a suitcase could have a serial number?) and I submit it.  Unfortunately, because there were no authorized repair centers in my area, I had to send my bag back to Briggs & Riley.

The email telling me this gave me all the information I needed but didn’t express any sentiment or apology for the fact that I was going to be inconvenienced.

I had to take the bag to a UPS store because really — who has a box big enough for a large suitcase laying around.  By the time I bought the box and paid for the shipping, it was close to $100.  Lovely.

photo_optThen, I waited.  And waited.  I didn’t hear anything from Briggs & Riley.  It had been a few weeks and I was just about to reach out to them via their website when voila, my repaired suitcase arrived with this card that outlines what got fixed.  And that’s it.

So let’s review.

  • Briggs & Riley makes expensive and well crafted bags
  • They guarantee the bag for life and will repair the bag for free
  • They make it simple to get the bag repaired
  • They honored their promise — fixed my bag and sent it back to me

So they follow all the best business practices.  They make a quality product and charge a premium for it. They back their product with a rock solid guarantee and then they honored that guarantee.

They did it all right. And yet….they screwed it up at every turn.  They had so many opportunities to build a bond and their brand and they whizzed by every one of them.

When someone pays a ridiculous amount of money for something you sell — they want to be reassured that they made a good call.  they want to be your fan.  Let me say that again — they want to be your fan.  But you have to extend the invitation and make the effort.

If I was the Director of Marketing for Briggs & Riley, here’s what I would do different:

  1. When someone buys one of our bags and registers it (with the serial # etc) I would send them a hand signed thank you note from the CEO/President, welcoming them into the B&R family and inviting them to join our customer exclusive club
  2. Our club would offer travel tips for the seasoned road warrior, packing tips etc.
  3. Every holiday season, we’d send a small gift (like B&R luggage tags) to the members of our club.
  4. If someone came to our website to report a damaged bag, we’d have them fill out the form but the email confirmation/reply would outline what they should expect, in terms of time frame etc.  It would also offer a sincere apology that they have to be inconvenienced by not having their bag.
  5. We’d have a suitcase loaner program.  No one spends that kind of money on a suitcase unless they travel a lot.  We’d offer to ship them a clean, used bag to use while theirs is in our shop.  All they’d have to do is pay to ship it back.  (I doubt very many people would accept this offer…but the gesture matters)
  6. When their bag arrived at our repair center, we’d notify them that it had arrived and give them an estimated date for the return of their bag.
  7. Sometime during the repair timeframe, we’d send them a funny video about their bag recovering from its surgery and as soon as it was released…it was headed back home.
  8. In the box with the returned bag, we’d send them a thank you note from the repair team, thanking them for their confidence in Briggs & Riley and apologizing again for the hassle.
  9. In 30 days after the bag was returned — they’d get a letter from us, asking if the bag is now performing to Briggs & Riley standards.

Most of those ideas wouldn’t cost very much money.  But each one would get one step closer to creating a brand zealot — someone who raves about their bag and convinces other people to buy one too.

Building a brand doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It’s about doing what’s right and then asking yourself — what else could we or should we do? And then doing it.  That’s how you create a love affair with your customers.

Don’t rest on your great product. In today’s hyper competitive world, you have to do a lot better than that.

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Marketing is getting the details right

Marketing is getting the details right.  And its always the simple things that companies mess up.  Lt me give you an example.

As you may know, I travel quite a bit. I’m a big believer in maximizing my travel by being a loyal brand consumer…which gains me status, points and makes my travel life easier and more convenient. I try to only fly United and whenever I can, I stay in a Marriott hotel.

That affords me sort of an insider’s view of both of these businesses but still interacting with them as one of their frequent consumers.

We’ve talked before about the value of seeing your business through your consumer’s eyes and I had an ah ha moment while staying in Nashville this past week.

Because I stay in a lot of hotels, I notice card keys. I’m fascinating at how different hotels use those card keys as marketing tools. Some sell it as advertising space to the local pizza joint while others use it as a brand platform, putting a beautiful visual on the card. I equate the quality of the hotel to the beauty of the card. When I stay at a Comfort Inn or Fairfield Inn — I get pizza coupons. When I stay at a Westin — their cards are a work of art they’re so beautiful.

platinumcardWhenever I check into a Marriott, I get a card that looks like this. The word elite indicates that I am a member of their Marriott Rewards program and have achieved their highest status level — platinum. As you can see, the card is pretty bland but it clearly is the platinum color…to signify my member rank.

Seems sort of dull, doesn’t it? It hardly says high end hotel to me. But this hotel is Gaylord‘s Grand Opry — a very high end hotel. By accident, they made me a “regular” key card too.

fancycardLook at how beautiful it is. (I was in their Magnolia wing) But Marriott assumes that the bland but “prestigious” card is what their most frequent customers would prefer.

I have often thought — “I wonder why Marriott has such ugly key cards compared to other higher end hotel chains” Turns out — they don’t. They just give the ugly cards to their best customers.

Here’s my ah ha moment — how often do we assume that we know what our best customers want? I’m sure Marriott thinks they’re stroking my ego by giving me the special platinum key card. But I assumed everyone got the ugly cards and I didn’t even notice that it was geared towards their elite members.

In my daughter’s college town, there are no Marriott properties so I just stay at either a Comfort Inn or something like that. Even their keys are more interesting than Marriott’s and every time I check in I think, “why can’t Marriott do better keys than these guys?”

Now I know. They do. They just don’t give them to their most frequent customers.

Is this a big deal? Absolutely not. But — that’s what marketing is. It’s the details. Most businesses get the big stuff right so how you differentiate yourself is in how well you handle the details. In my opinion, Marriott missed the boat on this one. Later this week I’ll show you a hotel that didn’t miss a single opportunity to build and highlight their brand.

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Why isn’t marketing’s version of storytelling working?

Storytelling, storytelling, and more storytelling.

Seems like every marketing book, blog (including mine if you’ve been reading this week’s posts) and study is talking about how we should be using storytelling as a marketing technique.

I couldn’t agree more.  Unfortunately, I think most attempts fall short.

Earlier this week — I made the point that A) It seems that despite all the hype — we’re doing less real storytelling today and B) storytelling is hardly a new tactic.

Marketers clearly believe that storytelling is a critical component of their marketing efforts.  As you can see (click here to see a larger version of the chart above) by the chart above, according to a 2012 B2B Content Marketing Trends survey conducted for Holger Schulze for Optify, 81% of respondents listed engaging and compelling storytelling as one of the three most important aspects of content marketing.

So — no argument that marketing’s version of storytelling is critical to a business’ communications success. The question is — why are so many companies doing it badly and not experiencing the results they want?

The stories don’t evoke an emotion: There’s not a memorable story around that isn’t seeded in emotions.  For some businesses, especially those in the B2B sector, it’s hard to imagine what emotions their products or services might trigger.  That’s because the marketers are staying at the features level of sales, not delving into the benefits that lie beneath.

It might be as simple as your prospect is afraid if they make a bad decision, it will cost them their job.  Or it could be that what you sell is helping your clients fulfill their reason for existing — which to them is very emotionally motivated.  If you dig deep enough, you’ll find the emotions behind your stories.  Be sure you expose those in your storytelling so that your audience can relate to and empathize with the people in the tale.

The stories don’t use data to lend credibility: As we discussed in my post about the Revolutionary War book — what made those stories so dramatic and grabbing was he facts that were dotted throughout.

As the folks at the Content Marketing Institute points out in this blog post — data can be used in a variety of ways to tell your story.  Think visual data like an infographic or let the data suggest a new angle or insight for both you and your audience.

The story doesn’t take us on a journey: In marketing’s version of storytelling, we often take shortcuts to get to the big reveal.  But in doing that, we rob the audience of the arc of the story. Every story is, in essence, a journey that chronicles the the problem, the fight to solve the problem and how things are better once the challenge is resolved.

But a great story lets the journey also help the audience see the motivations, frustrations and worries of the characters while they try to face the problem. The outcomes are also wrapped in more than just the tangible results.  When the story is rich with details – we also learn more about the intangible results and ultimate value of delivering the right solution.

The story doesn’t include a next step/call to action: Here’s where most marketers really miss the boat.  A well crafted story draws the audience in, helps them connect with the main character and feel their common pain.  As the story evolves, the prospect is pulling for the character — because in reality, the character bears a striking resemblance to them.  They experience the ups and downs within the story and as the story delivers the happy ending — the prospective customer is thinking and feeling relief and a desire to share in that sort of outcome.

So marketing’s version of storytelling is all too often, a big tease.  You led them right to the edge — get them hungry for what you’re selling but don’t give them a clear and defined next step.  Ask yourself — what do I want them to do next and be sure you make it easy and quick to take that next action.

If you don’t include this as a part of your storytelling — the whole point of telling the story in the first place is wasted.  You aren’t a court jester earning your supper.  You’re trying to help someone decide whether or not you hold the answer to their problem. Once you demonstrate that you are the right choice — be sure you give them a chance to tell you so.

What do you think? Can you tweak the way you’re telling your company’s story so that it drives leads and sales?

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Have we lost the art of storytelling in marketing?

As the buzz about content marketing, social media and all things digital continues to rise, one of the catch phrases that gets a lot of attention is storytelling in marketing.  We afford it incredible lip service but do we actually practice it?

As we give way to our USA Today sound byte style of sharing information, are we losing the emotional tug of telling a great story?  Even in our case studies where we’re trying to help the prospects see themselves in relation to someone we’ve already helped  – are we too focused on the facts and too willing to sacrifice that emotional tug?

I worry that we are so focused on making sure we communicate the facts that we don’t trust your audience enough to find them if they’re wrapped in the emotion of the brand. The danger of that is that buying is an emotional response.  We buy based on our emotions and justify the purchase with the facts offered. But we very rarely buy on facts alone. So it we don’t offer up both sides of the equation — we leave our prospects wanting and our cash registers empty. Storytelling in marketing isn’t just to entertain or be memorable.  It is to drive brand loyalty and increased sales.

What made me ponder this on a Sunday morning is a local phenomenon that put the spotlight on the potency of storytelling for me. A Dunkin’ Donuts opened up in my community (we may be one of the few cities in the country that didn’t already have one) and the line on opening day was literally around the block.  Seriously — who stands in line for an hour for a donut?

Well, they did. And when I thought about the brand…I too had a very warm reaction to it. When I hear “Dunkin’ Donuts” my mind immediately goes back to the wonderful story driven TV spots they did back in the early 80s.

They used a character (Fred the Baker) to tell the audience why Dunkin’ Donuts were better — fresher, more variety and certainly made with more love.  I still crack up when I think of Fred in his dress, covering up his mustache, trying to get some competitive intelligence.

That’s great storytelling.  I not only learn that Dunkin’ Donuts bakes their donuts all day so they’re always fresh, but I learn about the variety (5 kinds of jelly donuts) and their commitment to quality. And it was funny to boot.

On the flip side of the emotional scale, there are few brands that tug at the heartstrings with their TV spots like Hallmark and Folgers.  Very different products but the same link to family and special times.  Check out these spots and see how you react to both the story and the brand.

 

If you look at the dates on these spots — you’ll see that they’re all more than 20 years old.   I’m hard pressed to think of a company today that takes the time to tell the same sort of story (Budweiser may be the exception) today — in any media.

So here are some questions I’m pondering and wonder what you think:

  • Has this sort of storytelling become passé?
  • Are their any brands out there today who do this sort of storytelling in any media?
  • Does social media and content marketing really lend itself to good storytelling?
  • Do we need to go “old school” to really work storytelling into our marketing efforts?
  • Are we equating storytelling to factual case studies rather than emotionally triggering customer stories?
  • Is there a current brand that is really using storytelling to create an emotional connection with their audience?
  • How can we better marry the digital marketing tools with the age old art of telling compelling stories?

Storytelling in marketing is hardly new. But it’s as effective today as it was when David Ogilvy and the other patriarchs of our field wove their compelling tales. The question is — how good are we at marrying the old and the new?

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