Few industries are seeing positive sales increases during the pandemic, yet they wonder why should they advertise. If you manufacture sanitizing solutions, paper towels, and gloves or provide the services of selling essential products, then you probably are not interested in building your brand. Few businesses such as Amazon, Walmart (who has re-developed their online business), grocery and food delivery services are also enjoying this hey-day of sales, and so are RV dealerships and RV campgrounds. This will all change in 2021.  Businesses like restaurants, car dealerships, beauty salons, retail stores, and small businesses, should maintain their branding or it can be disastrous for them next year.

Branding and name recognition are going to be key for business survival.

What are you doing to prepare for the next several months and next year?

Have you written or updated your business plan to meet today’s marketing needs? If not, let’s discuss some reasons and solutions for you to consider.

Various states are updating their pandemic requirements to adjust our lifestyle activities. Fortunately for the RV industry, it is having a surge of sales and RV rentals that it hasn’t seen in over a decade. But soon their consumer-buying spree will peak. Your business may not be experiencing this activity, that’s why you need to be proactive.

Having a positive brand is critical to continue a business and to grow. It’s important to let your potential (and existing) customers know you are there for them.

You need to be developing a marketing strategy plan for the next several months so that you don’t miss future sales.

Knowing how to reach your customers and keep your name in front of them can be achieved by implementing different marketing strategies. We are talking about other marketing strategies that extend beyond social media platforms.

First, consider traditional advertising in various local publications (print and online). Many potential customers are working from home and they have more time to read about local news, events, etc. This can be an inexpensive campaign to keep your brand alive. Be creative with your ads. Don’t oversell. Take this a step further and look at different industries where your products and services can reach new potential customers.

Another suggestion is community events. Almost every city will have a program for locals to enjoy. Even if it’s an online event, consider being a sponsor. In lieu of money, you could provide your services or products for the event, or have a display.

Charities. This is an overlooked opportunity. When your business is involved with a charity, you are recognized as a business of caring and helping others. This will have a strong impact and create a memorable, positive name. The charity can be local, regional or national. It doesn’t always require a lot of money to participate. Be open-minded.

Publicity is often thought of as writing and submitting press releases to the media. Releases are only one form of communicating with reporters. It helps them learn more about your business. Publicity is more than that. Begin by establishing a relationship with local media/reporters. Invite them to your business when you are celebrating an anniversary, expanding your services, or honoring an employee, etc. Definitely notify them when you are partnering with a charity, etc. Create a Press Kit that can be sent to reporters, and post it on your website. Update the kit regularly.

Articles. Write an article about your business. Most businesses have a unique story about how they started or interesting facts about the founders. Submit that to reporters for their consideration. Sometimes this will spark an interest for reporters to follow up to do a story about you.

Remember, keep an open mind and look for opportunities. We are living in a new era of how we communicate; doing business as usual is old school.

If you need help or want to learn how to be proactive with your marketing, reach out to a professional for support. It could be the best investment to keep your business ahead of the competition. For a FREE 1-hour consultation and analysis of your marketing plan, call George Carson.

Publicity is not generic

If you received a birthday gift from someone that said "to whom it may concern", or Occupant", you would probably dismiss the gift and be rather upset with the sender.

Well, if that were true, why would you send a publicity release, or a press kit and address a reporter in an email with a generic "subject" title? The best way to have press releases, or pitching a story viewed is to personalize it to the reporter, or publisher. Yes, this takes more time but the rewards to get published are greater.

Your public relations campaign should appear more personalized to the recipient. This means more than the name of the reporter or editor or publisher’s name on the envelope, or email address. Just as you would send a gift and personalize a note on the card, why not do the same to that media contact? If you have to ask why, then you obliviously are not getting the message I am making.

All industries are hit with hundreds of pubic relations agencies sending out thousands of releases every day. To make you stand out, use a personalized cover letter (do this even when sending it as an email), include good photos that tell or describe what the release is about, and make the press release, or story be informative, not a sales pitch.

These are just a few tips for any public relations person to follow. If you are a pr client, then make sure the people who implement your publicity campaign use these tips wisely.

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What to do to make it right with the media

Editorial is "priceless". That’s what we are told in the publicity industry.

But how do you get publicity for clients, or for yourself. You need to understand what the media want and what they don’t want.

Too many times, eager pr people are trying to sell their idea and forget to put in perspective what their job really is.

It is to make the reporter, publisher, or editor’s job easier by supplying compelling information about a product or service that their readers will enjoy (benefit from).

One of the things to do is attend your industry’s trade shows. If you can only afford to attend one, or two, select the ones that will make the most impact.

Then do your homework. Just like knowing the buyers of that industry, you should know the media. Know about each publication that interests you, making sure these are the right fit for your company.

Then put together a press kit. The kit should contain a fact sheet, a bio on key personnel, and several releases. If possible, include a company brochure or a product brochure. Don’t put a catalog in the kit. Too much sales information will only get your press kit tossed out!

Assemble information that can be worthwhile to a reporter. Such as industry trends, statistics on your product and how it compares to competitors, new technology, techniques and useful advice. Whenever possible attach a letter, or fact sheet from the CEO, or president of the company describing the outlook of your industry…not your company’s outlook, but the industry.

If you schedule it correctly, invite several press in your booth, or at designated room to hold a small press conference. Make sure you have something worthy to say, or it will haunt you forever.

Also, never assume the reporters know about you, or your industry. I don’t mean that you bring the level of conversation to a 3rd grade. But if the media is diverse in your market, give them some credit, but don’t make them feel foolish by using a lot of abbreviated terms that only you or the "in" people of the industry use.

Last point. The reporter you talk to today just might be that publisher or editor tomorrow at a major publication. So treat all the media with high respect and it will pay off.

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Know your prospect and know the media

How many times do you or other companies you know ask their sales people to make cold calls. Or tell them it’s a numbers game. The more calls you make, the more chances you have in getting a sale.

This is a bad method to doing business. Because the reality is that you loose more prospects and probably don’t get past your 5 seconds of intro before the person on the other end hangs up on you. Also, you are wasting a lot of hours making calls that may never buy from you.

This can be compared to publicity. It isn’t a numbers game in sending out a flood of press releases to media that are not interested in your product or service. Be selective. Know your media. Contact the reporter, the publisher and send them a press kit with a cover letter. You can do this as an email if the publication you are contacting accepts this form of communication.

By choosing a limited number of cold calls that you have identified, you should know about that prospects company, the products they are already buying (from you or a competitor), know what they need then make your call. And that call should start off with a question. Asking them to help you with a problem. Make it relate to their situation and your product or service.

This may not be exactly the way to make a call to the media. But think about it, you call them not knowing anything about the publication, or you haven’t done your homework to see if your product or service will be a featured subject a few issues from now, or maybe it already has been written about.

Contacting the media is not a numbers game, nor should your sales department think it is either.

Target marketing is the best solution and that applies to your publicity as well.

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I have been explaining about the need to have a campaign ready when you are going to "meet the press". This means you should have already prepared several press releases, a company newsletter, a media kit and a media list for your specific market.

When we discussed the media kit, too often companies feel it can be costly and only print about 50 kits (if even that many) thinking that only 20 or 25 reporters exist in their industry. The problem is that you will need more kits because reporters move around and many times you will be asked to send a second kit to a different reporter at that same publication.

So what’s the solution? How about creating an Online Media Kit! This doesn’t mean you completely ignore the tangible, printed press kits. It just reduces the amount of printed copies that you would have mailed out, and allows you to distribute the printed kits at trade shows, or press conferences.

An online media kit can be an excellent tool for reporters and other press to access information about your company. Plus, you can easily update the kit without the fear of "printing" too many.

I want to again point out that pitching a story takes time and careful planning. Don’t make yourself hidden to the media, but also keep in mind they do not like constant calls that have no substance either.
Choose three or four of the reporters from your list that you feel can benefit your company. Stay in touch with them to develop a good relationship. Don’t send them gifts; just provide honest and real information about what your company is doing.

Remember the release or story you sent to an editor about four weeks ago, well, they called and want more information, and a press kit. By now you’re wondering what to send. Stop for a minute. Now continue to read my tip for today. I’ll make this easy for you and explain how to prepare a press kit.

First, a press kit is good to have because it helps an editor or reporter know about your company, the key people, and the primary products or services you offer. Some publicity firms try to make these become a work of art. They like to submit them at the annual PRSA awards banquet. Well, that’s good for them, but it may not get the attention of the media.

A press kit includes a folder. It doesn’t have to be a simple store bought folder, but it shouldn’t be a unique die cut folded cover that is very difficult to re-close when opened.

The folder should have your company logo on it, maybe in color, if your budget allows. Inside is where all the good stuff about your company. One page is called the “Fact Sheet”. This is a quick summary sheet that reporters will save as a reference for your company. It will have all the contact information, a short one or two sentence of your core business and your target market. Sometimes you can include things like sales projections and list the latest products introduced for the year.

A series of sheets should follow. Create one page for each key personnel, such as the CEO, COO, VP’s, Sales/Marketing, etc. When you can, include a photo of these people, it adds a human element to your press kit. On the other side of the folder, I forgot to mention that it is best to have a two-sided pocket folder, will be recent press releases and any published articles about the company. If you have any literature about new items or services, include them in the kit.

Your company press kit should be updated frequently. Use them at trade shows in the pressroom and to send to the media. A press kit can give your company a positive image in the market. Now when the media calls, you can ask if they would like a press kit. It’s that simple. One more thing, while they are on the phone, ask them for their media kit.

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If you are following the publicity tips from yesterday, then you are ready to develop the press release, or story.

The headline you create for these should grab the attention of the editor, but not mislead them. Keep it short, to 12 words or less. Sometimes you might need to include a sub-head to help further make your point about the uniqueness of your product or service.

The format should also be easy to read. For example, if the release has urgency, put the words “for immediate release” on it. Have the contact information for the writer to call if he or she needs more information, at the top right side of the first page.

All body text should be double-spaced. Don’t type in all caps; this is annoying and difficult to read. Don’t use a lot of bold type either. Whenever possible have quotes from a senior level person of the company, or a third party who is endorsing the product.

It is best to have the release or story presented on company letterhead; this adds credibility to your presentation. For press releases, keep it to a maximum of two pages. Unless you are providing a chart or other visual aid. Articles and stories should be limited to 5 – 8 pages with support materials like photos, graphs, or charts. Always include any references to support your claims of the products uniqueness.

In all, keep the information you write factual, not sales copy. If you reviewed your media list, consider re-writing some of the body copy, or modifying the titles to fit the publication’s target audience. Send those re-written pieces to specific publications. For example, if your product has two market applications, the “consumer” editor will want to see something that is directed to their readers. Unlike a trade publication, they would want to see a product that not only fits a consumer demand, but shows retailers how it can increase sales.

Preparing your release or story like I mentioned will get you further into an editor’s or writer’s hand than someone who types a wordy letter and includes a “sales pitch style” release with dinner tickets to get their attention.

Now you’re ready to mail these out, right? Yes, go ahead. When a reporter calls and asks for additional information or a media kit what will you send them? You don’t know? You don’t have a press kit? For those who need to know what to say, and how to prepare a press kit, watch tomorrow’s article. I’ll explain that process.

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