#FocusFriday – Foolish Friday Edition

It’s April Fool’s Day. I have written a few blogs on April Fool’s Day and here is my in the context of #FocusFriday.abraham-lincoln-quotes-it-is-better-to-remain-silent-3

There are plenty of quotes about being a fool or looking foolish. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “A fool and his money are soon parted.” – Thomas Tusser an English poet and famer
  • “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” – Chinese Proverb
  • “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln

In a day and era when personal branding and personal marketing have become so important can we afford to look foolish? Will looking foolish hurt your brand or is being foolish sometimes worth the risk?

henry_ford_quoteNobody wants to look like a fool. If you do, people laugh, they call you out and they certainly remember it. A reputation as a fool is something that no one wants or strives for. However, to truly succeed we need to try, fail and learn.  Sometimes you may look or sound foolish. Can you recover?  In my view if the effort was well intended and if you had a goal in mind the answer is yes. Why can’t you recover? 2ae8593ca4e95aa4bb15be5b28a63382Trying and failing is essential; the recovery process may be long and it may come with pain and remorse. There is a road to redemption if the effort was well intended to begin with.

quote-i-didn-t-like-the-idea-of-being-foolish-but-i-learned-pretty-soon-that-it-was-essential-daniel-day-lewis-17-43-30Here is what some great business leaders of past and present have said about looking like a fool or being foolish:

  • “Too many men are afraid of being fools.” – Henry Ford
  • “Who’s the more foolish: the fool, or the fool who follows him?” – Alec Guiness (as Obi Wan Kenobi)
  • “Dare to wear the foolish clown face.” – Frank Sinatra
  • “I learned pretty soon that it was essential to fail and be foolish.” – Daniel Day-Lewis, only three-time winner of the Academy Award for Best Actor
  • “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” – Steve Jobs

To achieve significant success and to stand out there is a possibility or likelihood of looking foolish. However, without risk there may be no reward. If you believe in what you are doing and are willing to take the risk of looking foolish, you may be rewarded opportunity and success. For many the experience alone is worth the journey.

steve-jobs-quotes-wallpaper-stay-hungry-stay-foolish-3Today there is a greater risk if your endeavors become a fool’s errand. Videos and all sorts of images when posted are seen by people all over the world. If you post something foolish, remember it will remain online for years, reverberating and potentially damaging your personal brand or career indefinitely.

  • “A fool is the one who fails to think about the ramifications of their actions and how they will reverberate and echo throughout his or her career.” – Bill Corbett, Jr.

The intent of my #FocusFriday blogs is to have people thinking about their actions. It is important to plan and act deliberately. Focus on what you are doing and how you are doing it.

Take the time to focus on what actions you will take and how this will impact our success and your career. Consider how each deliberate act will impact our plan and how you approach goals. Will this action impact your brand or your reputation?

Certainly plans and action can go awry and be misinterpreted. This is to be expected, the likelihood of them happening will be reduced by taking a slower and thoughtful approach before the action is taken.

Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.

  • Napoleon Hill, author of “Think and Grow Rich” – “I believe that those who don’t think, practice and plan run the highest risk of looking foolish in the worst way possible.  Those who think, plan and execute, may fail or miss the mark, however they will not look like the fool or be the fool. They will learn, grow and advance. The fool is the one who does not learn from these lesson or mistakes. His is destiny for fail and continue to look foolish.”

For more quotes on foolishness check out this story in Entrepreneur by Bill Murphy.

Focus Friday is all about being more effective and successful in business and life activities. Focusing will allow you to save time and achieve goals in both your personal and in your professional life.

Have questions, need a resource? Contact me at wjcorbett@corbettpr.com.

Need to start creating a personal marketing plan?  Email the code PMP2016 to me at info@growyourpersonalbrand.com and I will send you a list of questions to ask yourself to get started.

Looking for some help setting up your LinkedIn plan? Visit www.growyourpersonalbrand.com

Join our groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.

wjcorbett@corbettpr.com

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

#FocusFriday – Focus on Video Today for Your Brand and Business

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Who would have thought that billions of hours of video content would be uploaded to YouTube and other online sites each month? The growth of video is astonishing and will continue to grow in the years to come. With mobile technology and smart phones, we have a powerful tool in our hands which you must use for marketing and growing your personal brand. Why is using video so critical now? How can you get started?

The purpose of my #FocusFriday series is to provoke thought and encourage people to take control of their personal marketing and business. Focus on the important time saving, business development, marketing and fun aspects of business. Yes, business activities should not be painful every minute of the day. Hard work is necessary and to be successful you have to hustle, try new approaches and focus on finding what works.

If you are not embracing video now for your brand and for marketing, it’s time to start. Here are the reasons why:

  1. More and more people (consumers and prospects) prefer video content. It’s quick, easy to watch on a mobile device and does not take much time.
  2. Besides meeting in person, video is the best way to convey your personal brand message to those you with whom want to build relationships and business. For some it may even be the best approach; a well-crafted, practiced and perfected video message can convey an exceptional and memorable message.
  3. Producing a video forces an individual to focus on their message, delivery, value proposition and differentiators. Knowing your message and differentiators and being and able to clearly convey it will allow you to more quickly educate prospects and your audiences about who you are, what you do and why you do it.
  4. Without video you are not being competitive, you are actually at a competitive disadvantage without having video as part of your marketing. Your bigger, smarter and more marketing savvy competitors are using video and have been leveraging its power for some time. If you don’t have a video strategy, you are at least two years behind your competition and they are pulling ahead fast and your falling farther behind.
  5. There are many types of video: TV News interviews, video podcasts, corporate videos, videos of speaking presentations, webinars, video conferences, live streaming video (Facebook, Periscope, MereKat, LiveStream, Google Hangouts and others) and how to and educational videos and TV and online commercials. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Blogs and other social media platforms have video elements. These are all conduits for reaching your audiences and building relationships and growing your brand and business.

For many, the thought of doing a personal brand video is a scary proposition; they simply don’t know where to start. This is a legitimate fear and challenge. The process of creating a quality video and regular video content takes a commitment of time, energy and you need to be confident in your ability. Confidence and the ability to present and communicate on video must be developed.

Where should you start?

Start by thinking about your customers, prospects, referral sources as well as allies and enemies. Who are they? What do they need to know about you? For some this may boil down to a simple elevator speech or pitch, for others it may be more complex. Remember, the video content that you are creating is for your audience and not for you. You must have a clear and understandable message, project this message properly, look the part, use the right body language and come across as genuine.

Starting to get complicated, right? Well it is complicated. It’s easy to set up a camera, lights and microphone. You can buy expensive equipment or even hire a professional video production crew. However, without understanding the message you want to deliver to your audiences, it could be a colossal waste of time, energy and money. The end product could make you look worse.

Let’s take a step back and discuss preparing. Over the past 25 years I have trained and prepared hundreds of people for news media interviews, many for local and national TV appearances. There is no greater pressure to perform than being asked to do live television. A live TV appearance can make or break a career, and we know the value of news media coverage is unmatched in its value for marketing. Why do I bring up live TV appearances? The process of preparing for live TV, or even a recorded TV interview, is the same that you must follow when preparing to make a video. The pressure may not be as intense and you may have a few shots at making your points, however, failure to think about your audience, message and the reason for the video will limit your success or even the ability to present effectively.

Once you craft your message, it is time to start practicing. Practicing for video goes beyond just memorizing or rereading a speech or talking points. For those seeking to be exceptional on camera, preparation will require an understanding of presentation and communication skills. How do to you acquire these skills? It takes a commitment to focus on yourself and your abilities. Studying, training with professionals, reading and learning are required. The best students we have worked with and trained are those who embrace this adventure. The investment of the time, energy and effort pay off in a product that is more than the powerful videos and TV interviews that are created. Individuals become better communicators of their personal brand message. They are more confident when speaking, networking and interacting directly with clients and staff.

Make the commitment today to get your video marketing program moving forward. Craft your message and get the training and coaching you need to present effectively.

Click here for a check list of 15 points to follow when developing your personal marketing video program.

Focus Friday is all about being more effective and successful in business and life activities. Focusing will allow you to save time and achieve goals in both your personal and in your professional life.

Have questions, need a resource? Contact me at wjcorbett@corbettpr.com.

Need to start creating a personal marketing plan?  Email the code PMP2016 to me at info@growyourpersonalbrand.com and I will send you a list of questions to ask yourself to get started.

Looking for some help setting up your LinkedIn plan? Visit www.growyourpersonalbrand.com

Join our groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.

wjcorbett@corbettpr.com

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

Personal Brand Actions to Take in 2016 – Start Today

hourglass 2016.jpgStrategies and Predictions

I recently wrote a blog about taking action steps to achieve goals. As we end 2015, let’s look at some specific action steps you can take to Grow Your Personal Brand in 2016, achieve your goals and attain long term success.

Make time, don’t waste time.

First, stop talking about not having enough time. Recognize that your time is valuable and you need to focus on what you need to get done. If you want be successful you may have to get up early, stay up late and work more. Do you know that billionaires typically get up three hours before the “work day” starts? Set your priorities and create real deadlines. Block off the time you need each day to move closer to your goals.

As part of time saving, examine social media activities. Are you getting the ROI (return on investment) or ROE (return on effort)? If the answer is “no” or “I don’t know,” then it is time to re-evaluate these activities. For most small business people and solo entrepreneurs your time is very valuable; Tweeting, Facebooking and posting images to Instagram is probably not the best use of your time. If it is not generating income or leads, delegate it or stop doing it. Focus on what works in terms of business development and sales.

Focus

archery[1].jpgWe live in a world where distractions are killing our productivity and sucking away our time. One way to save your valuable and precious time is to learn how to remove distractions. Distractions hurt us in many ways more than just stopping us from doing what we need to do – they make us lose focus and concentration. It takes 10 to 25 minutes to get back into our productivity zone again. What’s the solution?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Put your cell phone in another room or turn it off (I personally need to have it in another room or I am tempted to check it every 5 minutes). Do whatever you can to get it out of your view and reach. I know you are afraid to go without your smartphone. What do I do? I go into settings and forward my calls to my office. My staff answers or it goes to voice mail. Give staff, colleagues, clients and friends the message that you can only be interrupted in the case of a real emergency.
  2. Remove distracting sounds. Sounds break up your flow and concentration. No surprise, this is a natural response to danger. What can you do? Try noise cancelling headphones or ear plugs. For some people it requires moving to another room and closing the door or even going to another building.  Create a distraction proof environment.
  3. Turn off all message notifications from social media, texts or email. This is hard to do, we want to be connected but these messages distract and even if you can avoid looking, you know you really want to. Your scheduled time should be sacred and this means email and other digital messages should not distract you.   Emails and texts can wait an hour or two.

Create that Plan

I always ask my LinkedIn or personal branding students if they have a plan for marketing with LinkedIn or a personal marketing plan. Only 5 percent have a plan. For this year make the commitment – not resolution – to create a plan. You need to have a road map and a plan to get to where you want to go. You may be successful without a plan but think about how much more successful you could be with one. I believe the average sales person, business owner or entrepreneur will be 20 to 50 percent or more effective and successful if they simply created a plan and modified this plan every quarter and annually. From a personal perspective, I have a plan with goals and multiple action steps. I regularly achieve goals when I have a plan, when I don’t those goals take longer or are never achieved. The plan is critical for achieving goals, staying focused and saving time.

Create Your Video(s)

If you don’t have a video for your brand today you’re falling farther and farther behind your competitors. This statement is true not matter what industry you are in. Why? In the mobile age people (a.k.a. customers and prospects) don’t have time and they want video content. If you are not providing it and a competitor is, guess what?  The competitor is winning the battle for attention. The other more long term problem with not having video content is the fact that you are falling behind in the content war. By not creating content and getting comfortable communicating it on video you do not appear to be up-to-date and ready for the challenges of the digital age. Communications is an art and a skill, it requires practice. While anyone can fire up a camera or smart phone and shoot a Periscope video or post a video to YouTube, it takes practice to learn how to speak and present a quality message on video.

If you don’t have a video you are not conveying your brand message to contacts, prospects and referral sources. These are the people who create your brand and reputation. Without your personal content to guide them, perceptions will be inaccurate, they will not know what you stand for and they certainly will be less likely to hire you or recommend you to others.

Two predictions about video in 2016

  1. Video on LinkedIn will be much more important and likely will be positioned higher in profiles. Making/having a personal video not only will be needed on LinkedIn, but required for optimal success. Those who are ahead here will dominate for at least a year.
  2. Live streaming video from Periscope, Facebook and others will become much more widely used. If you are not doing this you’re going to get beaten by competitors, lose market share and you will not project the right image to those seeking you or your services.

Be Consistent with your persona marketing and messages

Your message and personal brand must also be consistent in the real world and online. Make sure all of your profiles, images and videos are consistent with your current personal brand and what you are passionate about. Confusion in the marketplace is not something you want when people are looking at you and considering you for a referral, recommendation or to hire you.

To succeed in marketing and in business you must present your messages and content regularly to your audience. Make the commitment this year to be consistent with your marketing. Regularly create and post videos, write your own blogs, post on on social media, attend events, send email newsletters and content and execute your marketing plan. Examine what works and don’t be afraid to change. Remember that for your personal brand to resonate with audiences you must have a consistent message that is delivered often. Consistency and frequency build and maintain trust, a critical component to personal brand growth and business success.

Have a great 2016 and make the commitment today to Grow Your Personal Brand.

Visit www.growyourpersonalbrand.com to learn more about personal branding training programs, events and more.

wjcorbett@corbettpr.com

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

Costumes, Characters and Fun: Halloween Personal Branding Lessons

Americans will spend an estimated $6.9 billion on Halloween in 2015, with $74 being the average amount spent per household on spooky decorations, candy, costumes and more for All Hallows Eve. There are the enthusiasts who take time to plan and are willing to spend more of their hard-earned money on props and over-the-top costumes, while the procrastinators are forced to pick over whatever is left at the pop-up party stores.

When thinking about Halloween you need to be creative, whether your costumed as a ghoul or beautiful princess, you want to attract attention. To have fun at a Halloween party and create a buzz you can’t just walk into a party with a hat on your head saying that you are some character- you need to put in time, thought and effort into your Halloween ‘look ‘ in order to stand out.  Sound familiar? These are the same strategies that apply when you want to grow and build your personal brand.

halloween-kidsHere are tips and strategies that you can use when crafting your Halloween costume that also apply to your own personal branding efforts:

  1. Planning – is necessary if you want to wear a really great costume on Halloween – a store bought costume is OK, but the best costume for you will result from your imagination, time and effort.  This is true as well when creating a really great Brand; it requires imagination along with time and effort. Your objective is to get the attention of your audience and to enhance brand recognition.
  2. Attract attention – a quality costume is one that stands out from the crowd and turns heads. How many scary clowns, zombies and generic vampires have you seen at a party or trick or treating? An attention getting costume will bring greater rewards and help to build relationships.
  3. Be creative – think about your costume; do you want to be one of the 20 pirates at a party?  Let your imagination shine and think about how you can express yourself.  Create your own costume or embellish one bought from the store.  Different is always better, the same goes with your personal branding.  Focus on your differentiators whenever possible.
  4. Be memorable and different – I have seen many memorable costumes over the years. By far the most memorable one was one I saw on my way to a Halloween party on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the late 90’s.  While on our way to the party, we saw a man in costume turn a corner about a half block away from us. He was dressed in a huge Transformers costume made out of painted cardboard boxes that looked completely authentic, as realistic and detailed as the CGI beings from the Michael Bay films. The back of the costume had fins, didn’t look very comfortable, and the guy inside might have had lifts on.  It was painted and decorated perfectly, down to the smallest details. Even more surprising, there were about 20 people following him with cameras; an Autobot Pied Piper. It was a rolling event the closer he got to us. Suddenly he approached and everyone waiting to get into the party (30 or 40 people) started to applaud for what seemed like minutes. This is the classic example of creating a buzz and being remarkable.  This guy did something so unique and special and almost so perfect he attracted amazing attention.  Long before social media, people “followed” him – he created his own parade and people applauded him (“Liking” him) and commented in the street about how awesome he was. Cheers and shouts, applause and whistles fill the street.  It was a memorable happening.  It shows that with planning, creativity, commitment and a great idea amazing attention can be garnered.
  5. Be committed – Go all in with your costume; if you are going to do it, do it right and go all the way – here’s a modern day example of my story above about a costume that took 1,600 man-hours to build.
  6. Be clear – Ever see somebody in a costume but you don’t know what they are trying to be?  Be clear in what you do when you brand yourself.  You should never get the question “What do you do?” after somebody has read your blog, follows you online, has seen you speak or watched you in a video. They should know exactly what you do, why you do it and what you’re passionate about.
  7. Have fun and act the part. Part of dressing up for Halloween is the freedom to be something different and play a role. Understand your characters, do some research, know some facts and have some fun. Live the character for the day or for the party and this interaction will allow you to have more fun; allow those you are with to enjoy your personality. Your career should be fun, embrace your brand and live it with passion.
  8. Be appropriate – Have the right costume for the right event. If the party is for adults you know how to dress; if it is a kiddie party you will not want to be too grotesque or too sexy. The same is true for networking and when you’re in the business world. Dress appropriately for all occasions. Use your look to your advantage and make it part of your brand. I have discussed this in other blogs but take the time to think about your look and how it helps you to convey who you are, what you do and why people should work with you and trust you. Inappropriate activities such as hard selling or getting involved in controversial issues will drive people away vs attracting people with whom you want to work.
Group of children dressed up in costumes for Halloween

A Ggoup of children dressed up in costumes for Halloween

Halloween is a great season and one that allows for us to be creative and have fun. Growing your brand must be fun and you must be creative.  Have a plan for your brand and examine all of the factors that play a part in who you are, what you do, why you do it and why others should trust and work with you.

wjcorbett@corbettpr.com

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

The Subway PR Crisis, What Should Franchisees Do?

A Subway franchise owner.

A Subway franchise owner.

Another Reason why Personal Branding Matters

I have written about the Subway Jarod Fogle spokesperson scandal and crisis PR recently. I understand what the management, marketing team and PR firm for Subway is doing this week. It has been a roller-coaster and certainly a challenge for them; this is truly a nightmare for a corporation. While I have discussed spokespeople before in blogs, I am not going to focus on the spokespeople for this blog. I have a different take and a marketing strategy that most franchises should take, both on how to market as well as how to weather a crisis.

Let me start by saying that I like Subway and give them great credit for building a brand and empowering so many entrepreneurs.  I have been to Subway shops many times and have been treated well.  Through Subway, many people around the word are experiencing the American dream of business ownership. They provide for their families, they create jobs as well as economic activity. They provide food at a reasonable cost and for the most part are a positive influence in communities; but, I feel quite sorry these days for the average Subway franchise owner. They have no control over who the corporate management chooses to use as a spokesperson and have little control, if any, over national marketing programs. However, there is no doubt that they do benefit from national marketing and branding efforts. The branding is part of the overall rationale behind franchising in the first place. I have worked with a number of franchises and understand the model from the franchisee as well as the franchisor perspective.

I hope that the marketing team at Subway is thinking about its franchise owners and local operators. The franchise was founded in Connecticut in 1974 and today has close to 70,000 units in over 100 countries. Interestingly the company does not own any units.

The damage of the current controversy will impact store sales, some more than others. Negative publicity for any reason will have an impact.  Most consumers also know that the crisis is not the individual franchisee’s fault, but it is their problem. Negative perceptions will hurt them.

If I was on the Subway marketing team, I would focus my attention on the franchisees and provide them with support, tools and a long term strategy for localized marketing which should include a personal branding and marketing plan for franchise owners. Subway shops are no different than any other local business. They are part of communities and rely on people for business. Franchises like Subway, unlike most other small businesses (restaurants in particular), have owners out front. What I mean by this is that in my market, Long Island, New York, it is not uncommon for you to walk into a diner, Italian restaurant or even a sushi place and be greeted warmly by an owner, chef or hostess. Many of the most successful local restaurants have owners who get to know their patrons, interact with them and treat them special. They make customers feel like family and this builds loyalty. This works with chefs and hostesses as well but not as effectively when you have an owner interacting directly with the customers. The key is the relationship. This relationship-focused approach is something that franchises, and in this case, Subway, need to embrace. When customers know the owners, they have a relationship with them, can compliment them or provide feedback. Even negative feedback is important for businesses and the owner is the best person to deliver it to.

A Subway franchise location.

A Subway franchise location.

Recognizing that franchises do not have this type of structure, for the most part, is a challenge but it can be turned into an advantage if done properly. Like me, many people like Subway, but they don’t know the owner. If they did, when a crisis hits, having a relationship will help the franchisee weather the storm. People will come back because they know the owner and like them. This personal connection is invaluable but must be cultivated. Here are a few personal branding strategies for franchise owners:

  1. Be present: Franchise models are designed so that owners don’t have to be there. While is true, this does not mean that they should not be there. Owners should spend time at their operations, greet people and speak with them.
  2. Be active in the community: Some Subway shops provide food, support and other items for charity or local groups. Owners need to be part of this and part of the engagement with community members.
  3. Local press: There is no reason that good work cannot be touted in the media. Owners, who have interesting stories to tell, should tell them and be available to the local media for stories. However, in the case of Jarod Fogle or crisis situations from corporate, it is best to not to get involved. All media inquiries should be forward to the regional or corporate office. However, local positive business stories or franchise stories are certainly fair game.
  4. Social media: Subway has a large and active social media presence and this helps local owners and operators with branding and promotions. However, local operators should also have a presence online and be part of the online/local online community. Social media should be used to allow the community to get to know who the owner is, what they stand for and what they are passionate about. Again, this is another way to make connections and build valuable relationships that matter when crisis situations occur.
  5. Join local organizations and business groups: This is simple marketing 101. Owners need to be out at groups and remain. Business people need to buy lunch. Do you think that they would frequent Subway shops more often if they know the owner? I do.
  6. Speak: People are interested in big brands and business owners. The branding of Subway or any international brand will open doors. Owners should create presentations for local groups and present the lessons learned as a Subway/business owner.
  7. Educate: Schools and camps are looking for activities for students. They also want to give them life lessons. I remember going to a Roy Rogers as a child. I still remember how they made the burgers and the fact that they placed a little butter on the hamburger buns. This is a memory that has stuck with me for over 40 years.
  8. Have a personal marketing plan: The steps outlined here are part of a personal marketing plan. The owner of a Subway or any franchise should have a personal marketing plan that will allow them to become better known in their community. With the right approach and commitment to the effort, a franchise owner can become a local rock star. We know rock stars attract attention and interest. Interest will lead to customers and will also blossom into relationships. These activities create good will. Through good will and relationships is an insurance policy in the event that a crisis should one day occur.

The Subway Jarod Fogle controversy presents an opportunity for all franchise owners to look at their marketing and their reputations in their communities. Franchisees leverage their brands to grow their businesses and this is an advantage in many ways. Branding and frequent messages builds awareness and a modest level of trust. However, personal relationships and direct interaction with customers build stronger trust and loyalty and can mean the difference in weathering a given crisis.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

Simple Marketing Strategies for Accountants and Accounting Firms to Beat their Competition

Accountant.

Accountant.

Over the past 25 years I have worked with and networked with many accountants and accounting firms. My team and I have secured media coverage and built personal brands for professionals. We have developed websites with firms as well as LinkedIn and other online strategies for individuals.

The field of accounting is more competitive than ever. Most accountants generate new business via referrals. Although accountants possess special expertise in what they do and are able to build trusting relationships with clients, they struggle with marketing effectively for new sources of business. For many accountants projecting their expertise and their unique value is challenging. A few years ago I gave a presentation on personal marketing to a group of 100 accountants on Long Island. When I asked who in the room has a personal marketing plan, only five raised their hands, and when I asked if their firm has a marketing plan, only about 15 raised their hands.

This response rate is slightly below the average that I see when speaking with small business owners or managers.

Accountants are in a unique position to market themselves and their firms because of the special relationships they have with clients and other professionals. Based on the work that my team at Corbett Public Relations has done with accountants, we wanted to share some strategies that work and will make your firm stand out. While these recommendations are geared toward accountants, they can also be applied by other professionals and businesses.

Video

Create a video about the firm discussing not only what the firm does, but specialties, giving examples of how the firm has assisted clients to be more successful or overcome challenges. Videos should feature the firm’s accountants relating who they are, why they do what they do and how they help clients. Stay away from listing services and explaining in details about accounting practices. People will not remember descriptions of services but they will remember stories and examples. Tell stories which will resonate with prospects, clients and referral sources.

Accountants, like all businesspeople, must be completely prepared and comfortable before going on camera. Practice and, if necessary, contact a firm like Corbett Public Relations to secure the training and professional advice needed to project a powerful message. Accountants who want to have the competitive advantage will have to invest the time and some money on training. Production is important, but how you appear on camera and your message is much more important.

Why video? Savvy business owners, young business executives and growth focused referral sources are looking for partners who they can build relationships with. They want to watch videos and they want to work with professionals who understand how to market effectively online and on mobile devices today.

Firms and individuals will struggle to get the attention of startups, growth focused companies, tech companies and businesses that have been passed to younger family members if they don’t understand how to use video to market.

Personal Marketing Plan

Every accountant and/or partner needs to have their own personal marketing plan.  The marketing plan will establish goals, clarity marketing messages and identify what online sites or tools will be used, such as LinkedIn. Additionally, every accountant must have a fully completed LinkedIn profile. This includes having a quality image/headshot, videos, a profile written in the first person and messaging telling people who you are and why you do what you do.

A personal or firm marketing plan is the road map for success. It will establish a process for communicating with prospects. The development of the plan also allows the firm to create ideal client profiles. Gathering this information is essential for marketing. With this information in hand materials can be created and the process of communicating with prospects and referral sources can begin. Without a plan and process there is no way to track success. We know that accountants are ROI focused and want to use their time efficiently and effectively. This is why there must be a mechanism for judging success.

The unique relationships that accountants have with clients create wonderful opportunities to gather stories about the challenges business owners face. Every challenge and solution is an opportunity for an accountant to tell a story and highlight a success. While the names of clients can’t be revealed the discussion of the types of issues and problems can be the foundation for blog posts or long form posts on social media sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Accountants should not be fooled to think that social media will not help them. Success stories and stories of interesting challenges will attract attention and demonstrate capabilities and knowledge. Since most accountants are not taking advantage of this approach those who do will stand out. Combined with video, the firm will attract attention when they are active online.

Accountants can also provide a wide variety of helpful information for business growth and management and this expertise can be leveraged to get media coverage through PR. Accountants can then use media coverage to build the firm’s brand and their individual reputations as experts and advocates for clients and businesses.

Every marketing plan must have a budget and schedule. Marketing requires resources and energy. This means spending money and putting in time. With a marketing schedule, calendar and goals a program can be implemented. The elements of the program and its goals will dictate how much time will be needed and how much money will need to be spent. Funds spent on marketing should be looked at as an investment and not as an expense.

The growth in the number of young professionals, advances in technology and new marketing strategies will make it much more challenging for small accounting firms with older partners to survive and compete. To compete and keep current clients individuals and firms must adopt proactive marketing approaches and embrace digital media and video as part of their marketing plans.

Networking

Accountants must have a system for approaching networking events and for following up with the people they meet. Accountants, particularly solo practitioners and those from small firms network but do not do it effectively or efficiently. This is a challenge that accountants and most businesspeople face.

A good system starts with creating a process for following up with people that are encountered at events. Without this there is no reason to go to a networking event in the first place. Determine the criteria to use to classifying contacts and how you will follow up with them. For example, after you get their business card mark on it P–Prospect, R–Referral Source, M–Marketing prospect or N–not sure. Add these people to the database. Based on the person’s classification, a follow up procedure should be established.

There are plenty of places to go to network. Every networking event should be viewed as “work.” Set goals and remember the purpose of networking, which is to meet people and build relationships. Networking groups are costly, not in terms of the membership fees but in time spent. Determine how much you need to benefit financially each year as a member of a networking group and focus on achieving your goal. If this goal is not met at the end of the second year, then you may not be in the right group or your approach is not working. After assessing your activities either re-commit or move on. It may be wise to stop networking and look to other forms of marketing. Remember, networking and relationships building must include one-on-one meetings which occur after or between events.

Accountants are in the unique position of having the trust of clients and this is the reason why other professionals and businesses want to build relationships with them. It is also why it is easier for accountants to get meetings or introductions. Leverage your knowledge, contacts and skills to market and build relationships. Keep in mind what it is that prospects need and expect. Today, they expect accountants and firms to have video content, quality websites and a social media presence. Accountants must use their skills knowledge and status of the most trusted advisor to market and attract the attention of prospects and referral sources.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

Are Lifeguards Watching Out for Your Brand?

A lifeguard watching over a pool.

A lifeguard watching over a pool.

Tragically, Long Island beaches have experienced a number of rip currents this summer that have led to drownings. Rip currents drag swimmers out into deep water. Swimmers then drown as they become exhausted fighting to swim back to shore. Even non-swimmers can get swept away by a rip current when standing in shallow water. Rip currents, rip tides and undertows are powerful forces of the sea that are difficult for even the most experienced swimmers to contend with. To escape the rip, the person must swim parallel to shore and NEVER swim against the current.

Unfortunately, swimmers panic and tire out in a short period of time and/or they may not know what to do in this type of situation. As a former lifeguard, I know the challenges and pressures a lifeguard faces when watching water conditions.  Lifeguards use their eagle eyes to look out for the safety of swimmers. I never was a lifeguard at an ocean beach – only at pools and lakes – but I had to come to the aid of close to 50 swimmers in just two summers.

Jumping into the ocean when lifeguards are not on duty is a risk, one that no one should ever take. The same is true for your brand.  When you open your business and jump into marketing and promotion, once you put just one foot into the water you are exposed to threats and risks to your business, which could consist of angry customer reviews or comments on social media, negative word of mouth comments about your business or a product or a poor review in the media.

There are many ways a brand or business can get in trouble. Some problems are completely out of the control of the business owner or management: a fire, an unwarranted lawsuit, theft by an employee, an extended power outage or a computer virus. Any of these can cause a major disruption in business and will quickly have a negative impact on a brand.

Every business must have a crisis plan in place for the day when something unexpected happens. The crisis plan, like an insurance policy, will provide you with a process for reacting to the problem at hand. The plan is only part of your response. You also need a “lifeguard,” somebody who can help keep you away from danger and step in when something bad happens. In fact, you need more than one lifeguard to make up an effective support team.

Your professional business team.

Your professional business team.

Your business lifeguard team must be comprised of the following professionals:

Reputation Monitor 

We live in the digital age and social media is a key part of marketing and branding. A crisis for any business can start online or in the cyber world. Negative reviews, comments and articles can damage a brand or business. Failure to know that your brand is under attack is unacceptable. It’s imperative that you or your team monitor your brand online. If you don’t have the time or lack experience, have your digital marketing firm monitor and report to you regularly about your online reputation. They should also have a plan ready should your brand come under attack online or in the real world.

We regularly monitor online news, social media sites and websites to make sure that nothing negative is being said about our clients’ companies, their products, their services, their staff, or owners/management. Online reputations must be monitored and if there is a need to address an issue, it must be done in the right way. Negative reviews, comments or even videos can damage a company’s ability to attract and keep business.

Crisis Communication Expert / Public Relations – Media Relations Expert 

If a crisis situation impacts customers, business or a community, it is likely to become of interest to the media. Negative press can lead to loss of business, clients questioning their relationship with you and damage to your brand (personal or business). Having a communications plan and a crisis communications expert available to you is important. At Corbett Public Relations we work with clients on Long Island and across the nation to establish a procedure to follow during a crisis. We see ourselves as professionals who are promoters and protectors of brands. Reacting to a crisis situation in the media takes thought and consideration. Every incident is different and those with decades of experience, such as the individuals on my team, know how to manage communications in all kinds of situations. At a minimum the owner of a business should consult with a firm and have a plan for managing a crisis and know who to call if the situation escalates. Would you know what to do if the media calls or shows up with cameras at your office? If you don’t, you need a plan today and the help of a crisis communications expert.

Attorneys

Your attorneys protect you before, during and after an incident. Make sure to consult with them and discuss potential risks and know how to get in touch with them during nights and weekends should a crisis situation occur. Discuss your concerns with your attorneys so you know that they are prepared to handle the types of situations that could possible occur. Attorneys have different types of practices so make sure your attorney is experienced in handling crisis situations.

Accountant/CPA

Crisis situations can come from many directions. Bankruptcy, fraud, ID theft, tax issues and other financial issues require the assistance of accountants. Your accountant should act proactively to warn you about issues and potential problems that could occur from their perspective. Your accountants will also be part of your team to provide reports and financial information should you need to defend your business and brand in court or with authorities.

Insurance Professionals

Everyone and every business has insurance. In addition to knowing the coverage that your policies provide, it is critical that you also know and trust your insurance agent and local broker. These are the people who will fight for you if and when a crisis occurs.

Depending on the company that the policy is purchased from and the kind of policy, there are many details that you will need to know. Having a good relationship with your broker will help. We saw this play out on Long Island after Super Storm Sandy in 2012. Thousands of people and businesses were impacted by flooding and extended power outages. Local insurance professionals played an important part in helping clients submit property claims and get the funds they needed to rebuild and survive. Insurance companies will also assign attorneys to defend clients following incidents. Remember to look at this part of your policy to get an understanding of how it works and get the name of the firm that could potentially be defending you.

Often crisis situations occur without warning. Trying to manage them as they happen is a challenge. Take the time in advance to create a plan, put together a list of the critical actions that need to be taken and be sure that you have all necessary contact information at your fingertips. Keep copies of your plan at the office, at your home and in a place that is accessible online at all times.

Lifeguards are on duty to protect as well as to jump-in to save a swimmer in an emergency. Every business needs to have a team of “lifeguards” watching out for the management and the brand. The swimmer (the business owner or management) must also know what to do in case of a crisis and certainly never take risks when the lifeguards are not on duty.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

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