I’ve asked some of my favorite bloggers to guest blog and provide us with some of their favorite creative and affordable marketing tips.
In this post, Jay Morris takes a slightly different twist with advice on finding opportunities in adversity.
For most of my career as a public relations and marketing professional, I’ve worked for organizations with fairly small communications budgets. I’ve joked that if you can afford to give me a desk, a telephone and a computer, I can do my job. The truth is, some of the best PR and marketing is done on a shoestring.
Yes, sequestration, furloughs and the gloom of austerity have darkened our doors of late, and PR folks are once again dealing with tight budgets and cutbacks. But I ask you, when have PR and marketing departments ever been flush with money?
In good times and bad, the organizations I’ve worked for have tightened their belts, reorganized and right-sized in ways that have severely impacted PR and marketing. If you want to last in this business, you truly have to be a survivor. You have to be a PR ninja, a marketing guerrilla. You have to think strategically while executing nimbly.
So here are some lessons learned from the austerity trenches:
Let go of what isn’t working or worth doing. In the 1980s, I worked for a large D.C. trade association. We were told that $1 million had to be cut from the operating budget, a lot of money back then. But in hindsight, it wasn’t enough to force us to rethink our business model or make meaningful changes. Instead, we became contortionists in our attempt to maintain member services at a reduced cost. For example, a four-page, weekly newsletter I edited and mailed to 25,000 members was “cut” by going to eight pages every two weeks. Sure, we saved a bundle of money by chopping our mailings in half, but no thought was given to the threshold question of whether we needed to continue the newsletter, much less double its issue size.
About a decade later, I was at different trade association that was suffering from a precipitous decline in membership. The axe fell again, but this time it was severe and painful. Most of my colleagues in the PR department were let go. Only two of us survived. But in building a new department from the ashes of the old one, a funny thing happened: We scrapped what wasn’t working and only focused on the essentials. We had “permission” from management and our stakeholders to reinvent public relations, albeit at a reduced level. Some of our best work came out of this period.
Jim Collins has said for years that businesses need to simplify and concentrate on what they do best. Great business leaders know when to eliminate those things that aren’t working. Sometimes those decisions are painful, but they almost always result in greater success than sticking with the status quo. Collins wrote an article for USA Today a few years ago about his annual “stop doing” list. It’s a great read and will get you thinking about what you need to really focus on in your life and career.
Leverage the resources you have. One of the organizations I worked for was a federation of about 1,000 state and local associations. In creating a nationwide network of media relations and community outreach volunteers, we were able to accomplish much more than we ever could have done on our own—and at a fraction of the cost. Collaborative thinking, strong volunteer leadership and a unified purpose helped us forge cooperative alliances with our state and local affiliates.
We developed training materials, held workshops and provided numerous “best-practice” examples of good public relations. We also recognized outstanding PR and community service initiatives through a national awards program. The training and recognition ensured that our volunteers were singing from the same songbook. In fact, we wrote the songbook, so in that way we shaped the message all across the country!
Out of adversity comes opportunity. It’s a hard truth to accept, but setbacks can become crucibles for positive change and growth. Anything that disrupts your routine, forces you to reexamine your goals or makes you change course can be a good thing in the end. Early in my career, I was reorganized out of the PR department I loved and into the government relations department. At the time I was upset and fought the change. As it turns out, I had the opportunity to work for one of the best bosses I’ve ever had. In my new role, I learned the ways of Washington, spent time on Capitol Hill, wrote testimony and issue papers, and spoke to reporters about legislative and regulatory concerns. It was a great training ground for my later job as a public affairs director.
Believe in yourself. It often seems that everyone in an organization is a PR pro—except you. Accountants, attorneys, lobbyists and IT people are accorded expert status, but the lowly PR guy gets no respect. Everyone tells him how to do his job or fails to tell him what he needs to know to do his job. Once, when I was working day and night to execute a name and logo change for an organization, the head of IT came by to see me and sketched on a piece of scrap paper the logo that he felt was the perfect solution for us. While well intentioned, his visit reminded me that outsiders tend to view our work as easy or superfluous. This mentality, unfortunately, puts PR budgets and staff at higher risk for cuts. Some of this goes with the territory, but some of it can be prevented by believing in yourself and your capabilities, doing your homework and demonstrating that PR and marketing can make important contributions to the bottom line.
The one distinct advantage that PR and marketing people have (or should have) over everyone else is their creativity, their willingness to think outside the box. That’s huge, and it’s our saving grace when the meat cleaver of budget cuts falls unevenly or austerity comes knocking at our door.
Jay Morris is president of Jay Morris Communications LLC, an independent marketing and PR firm in Alexandria, Va. He blogs at wayward journey.com and tweets at @JayMorCom. He also serves on the boards of PRSA-NCC and the Independent Public Relations Alliance.
The PRSSA chapter of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia is hosting a Communication Career Fair. Companies, associations and government agencies are invited to participate, at no cost. Tables, signage and refreshments will be provided by the Communication Department.
Time: 9:00am -1:00pm
Date: March 21, 2013
Location: Johnson Center, Dewberry Hall
Interview prospective employees, discuss internships, and connect with GMU students interested in PR and marketing careers.
To reserve a table and obtain parking information please email Rasheeda Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia is actively recruiting employers for internships for their students. They are wonderful to work with. Learn more here: http://www.longwood.edu/career/22366.htm
Longwood is hosting a Spring Job and Internship Fair on February 19.
Whichever you work with, remember, pay your interns, even if they are earning academic credit. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the law.
- Longwood University’s College of Business and Economics Announces Maintaining Prestigious AACSB Business Accreditation (prweb.com)
This 1 minute video shares public relations tips and describes the PR services offered by Fletcher Prince http://www.FletcherPrince.com. Fletcher Prince was listed among the Washington, DC area’s top 25 public relations firms by Washington Business Journal in 2012.
At the beginning of this year, I was thinking about how I enjoyed many of the networking events I attended, but I felt frustrated at not being able to have more extended conversations with the fascinating professionals I met. I was also starting to “meet” people through social media — through the Fletcher Prince Twitter profile, blog, and Facebook Page — but I hadn’t met many of these new friends in person.
That’s when I decided to experiment with having monthly networking lunches, keeping the group size small (10 or under) so we could really connect. David and I organized events in DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. We used Eventbrite for registration and promotion, and we were happy with it. It’s also free, if your event is free. A terrific, organizing and social tool.
I think the experiment was a big success. We didn’t charge for the lunches; everyone just paid their own way. For the most part, we selected restaurants where lunch would cost $15 or less. Sometimes the turnout was low because some people didn’t show, but every lunch felt like a winner because that just gave us more of a chance to share and talk. And the company, conversations and food were always excellent! Thanks to everyone who shared lunch with David and me this year.
Here’s where we went -
- February – Mardi Gras lunch at RT’s Restaurant in Alexandria, VA (Creole/Cajun)
- March – Cherry Blossom lunch at Teaism in Washington, DC (Japanese)
- April – Lunch at Jaleo in Bethesda, MD (Spanish)
- May – Lunch at Pilin Thai in Falls Church, VA (Thai)
- June – Lunch at Spice Xing in Rockville, MD (Indian)
- July – Lunch at La Madeleine in Alexandria, VA (French)
- August – Lunch at Silver Diner in Falls Church, VA (American diner)
- September – Lunch at Whitlow’s on Wilson in Arlington, VA (American pub)
- October and November lunches were cancelled because of illness
- December – Holiday lunch at Clyde’s in Chevy Chase, MD (American)
Today, we are having the last lunch of 2012, at noon, at Clyde’s in Chevy Chase, Maryland. It’s “officially” sold out but we’ll make room for you if you show up.
We sponsor all kinds of events, from free seminars to mini golf tournaments, to get-together lunches and parties. Like us on Facebook to keep tabs on what we’ll be doing in 2013!
A Weber-Shandwick AE just pitched me a story for my blog for her agency’s major, global client (cell phone holiday promo).
Trouble is, I write for eight blogs, and I co-moderate a few more. So, which one is she targeting? I have an idea which one would be best, but does she?
I guess I ought to feel flattered for being pitched at all — but wherever she got my name, one thing is clear: she has never looked at my blog. Any of them.
Does this inspire me to write about her client? It does not. If I had been pitched with manners, I would have surely done it. As it is, I am not lacking for content for that particular blog, so if she can’t go to the trouble to customize her pitch, why should I expend the effort to benefit her and her client? After all, bloggers have egos; me more than most!
So now might be a good time to mention a few tips for pitching bloggers. You’d think these would be obvious — but evidently AEs at one of the most successful PR agencies in the WORLD don’t know these basics — so, a quick review.
Introduce yourself. Who are you, Miss Lady? I don’t know you! Just tell me who you are and what you do in the beginning of your pitch. An email signature is not enough. I am far more likely to help you if I feel I know who you are, and why you are writing to me. This impersonal stuff is a real turn-off.
Customize your email pitch. You should at least mention the title of my blog in your pitch. Come on! And it was a little too obvious you just cut-and-paste the text of your email, as the “Dear Mary” opening was in smaller and different style font from the body copy. Puh-leeze. That isn’t even trying. At least make it look like it’s customized to me! Otherwise, don’t even bother pasting my name.
Demonstrate that you have read at least one post on the blog. Is that too much to ask? After all, you want me to write one story. You should at least read one story. I think that’s fair. To successfully pitch a blogger, you should familiarize yourself with the kinds of stories he or she writes about, their audience, etc. When you don’t bother at all, you make me feel unimportant.
Convince the blogger this is a good idea, in other words: PITCH. For this story and this particular blog, this would have been a piece of cake. You could have even called me. Make it easy for me to write about your story. This happened to be an EXCELLENT fit for my blog, but it was pitched all wrong and the release was worse.
Blogs need visuals. You MUST make a photo available — and ideally, also a YouTube video. I don’t write a single blog post without a photo. This particular story linked to a press release with no images at all — and it’s an image-rich story. I could have used an image of the company logo, an image of the cell phone, and an image of the proposed activity, and included a YouTube video demo, as well. With these assets, I would have done all that. This pitch would have been a slam-dunk. Include images and YouTube video links in a multi-media release. It would have been well within the PR budget for this kind of client.
Say thank you. You don’t have to “thank me in advance” because you don’t know if I’m going to write about this or not. But you could close your email with thanks for considering it. Or reading your email. It would be an extra line but it might have closed the deal for you.
In a nutshell, effort counts, and courtesy goes a long way.
How have you successfully pitched bloggers? What are your tips?
- Pitching Bloggers vs. ‘Traditional’ Media: Four Things You Should Know (prnewsonline.com)
- 5 ways to fix a failed pitch to a blogger (prdaily.com)
- What Bloggers Are Saying About Your PR Pitch (distilled.net)
- Sharpen Your Blogger Relations Skills: How to Reach the 77% of Internet Users in the Blogosphere (crttbuzzbin.com)
- Modifying the Rules of PR to Reach Bloggers (contentmarketinginstitute.com)
- Tuesday Tips: Make Your Blogger Relationships Work Harder (crenshawcomm.com)
Saturday, December 1: Have you organized your December editorial calendar? The 12th month of the year is a fantastic time to connect with your clients and engage with your followers.
Sunday, December 2: The weekend is primetime for Facebook Page updates. Upload your seasonal Facebook Page timeline cover today. Try a different look each week! Holiday versions of corporate logos are fun, too. Ask Fletcher Prince to design these assets for you.
Monday, December 3: Time to mail holiday cards to clients and supporters. If you are having a special holiday invent, mail invitations now, too. Fletcher Prince can design your company holiday cards for you.
Tuesday, December 4: Today is National Cookie Day. Can you create a cookie with your logo? Try it — and post the photo!
At 5 p.m., the Capitol Christmas Tree will be lit by Speaker of the House John Boehner. Follow @USCapitol on Twitter.
Thursday, December 6: President Obama and the First Lady light the National Christmas Tree today at 5 p.m.
Friday, December 7: Inspired by all these Washington, DC Christmas trees? Have a tree decorating party in your office today!
Saturday, December 8: Wish your followers a Happy Hanukkah! Tonight, Hanukkah begins and is celebrated through December 16.
Sunday, December 9: The lighting of the National Menorah takes place tonight in Washington, DC.
Monday, December 10: What does your company do for good in the community? Publicize a story about your community involvement or support of a local nonprofit organization via your blog, or even an online press release. Send a short note and photos to your local newspaper. Fletcher Prince can help you with public relations efforts.
If you haven’t yet started a company goodwill effort, the holiday season is a good time to start! Consider a food drive in your office to benefit SOME (So Others Might Eat). You can follow them on Twitter @SOME_DC
Wednesday, December 12: Today is National Poinsettia Day. Why not gift your clients with pointsettias to show your appreciation? Or offer them to followers as an online give-away.
Saturday, December 15: People will be tweeting about Santarchy today! Join in the fun by posting photos of your employees in Santa hats.
Monday, December 17: Today is a good day to upload your company’s previously recorded holiday greeting video to YouTube, and send it to clients and customers via email to your permission-based contact list. Post it on your Facebook Page, Pinterest account, Twitter profile, and Google+ account to wish your supporters happy holidays. Fletcher Prince can record your holiday video.
Monday, December 24: Today is Christmas Eve. The North American Aerospace Defense Command tracks his progress each year. Follow on Twitter through @NoradSanta.
Tuesday, December 25: Merry Christmas!
Thursday, December 27: Time to look back at the old year as you get ready to ring in the new! Discuss with your staff what marketing tactics worked well and what should be continued in 2013. What were your most popular blog posts? Which of your videos got the most views? Talk to Fletcher Prince about developing an actionable marketing plan for 2013.
Friday, December 28: After Christmas is a great time to blog your company annual report. Chronicle the achievements of the past year.
Sunday, December 30: Most people are in New Year’s resolutions mode. Ask your Facebook Page followers about their resolutions for the new year, throwing in your industry-specific suggestions.
Monday, December 31: Today is New Year’s Eve. Be sure to wish your clients and supporters a Happy New Year, and offer them plenty of helpful suggestions for success in 2013. This is also a good time for brave thought-leaders to make their industry 2013 predictions.
Congratulations to all of you for a successful year, and thanks for reading our blog posts and supporting Fletcher Prince. Happy New Year!
- Marketing Idea: Create a Holiday Greeting Video (with video examples) (fletcher-prince.com)
- Tips for recording a great holiday greeting video on YouTube (fletcher-prince.com)
- Grab these holiday greeting video and design deals (fletcher-prince.com)
- 5 Tips For Writing Great Holiday Cards (inspiration.vistaprint.com)
- Grab these holiday greeting video and design deals (fletcher-prince.com)
- 5 Tips For Writing Great Holiday Cards (inspiration.vistaprint.com)