Beware of the Groundhog: Groundhog Day Lessons

Punxatawny PhilAs public relations officials, we are constantly on the lookout for media opportunities for clients; some even call them “PR stunts.”   February 2, aka “Groundhog Day,” is one that is often used by politicians.  Everyone wants an end to winter so why not?  The politician will get the photo op and even if the hog sees his shadow, it’s still a win right?  Well, ask New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio. In 2014, when doing the Groundhog Day event, he dropped Staten Island Chuck. Not a good move. Instead of seeing a shadow, Chuck saw stars. And unfortunately, did not recover. (See links below)

What do we take away from this? First, make sure when you do a special event or media event you are well prepared. Walk through what you have to do. Talk about contingencies and if you are not comfortable with picking up a groundhog, don’t do it. The negative press that will be short term and long term can be problematic.

From a marketing perspective, Groundhog Day is cute and there are certainly campaigns and social media comments that can be used to attract some attention.  Groundhog Day is Feb. 2. This year it falls on the first Tuesday of February. Groundhog Day can be a day to actually get your marketing on track. If you have stumbled and have failed with your marketing New Years resolutions, get started again and set your goals for February. You have six weeks till spring (despite what Punxsutawney Phil, Staten Island Chuck and Malverne Mel say).Groundhog

Need some inspiration and a laugh? Watch Groundhog Day with Bill Murray and directed by the late Harold Ramis.  The marketing and life lesson here? Just ask Einstein and his famous quote on the definition of insanity: continuing to do the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Bill Murray’s character in the movie – Phil Conners – is stuck in a day that he is forced to relive over and over and over again.  Unbeknownst to him, he is changing what he is doing every day. He may not know why at first, but eventually figures out that he has to change who he is to get the girl. After potentially living the same day over and over for years, he makes the changes and he wakes up on February 3. In marketing we have to adapt and change our messages until they resonate with target audiences. Look at what works and what does not. Make the changes and keep track.  Learn from Phil Conners and take Einstein’s advice.

http://nypost.com/2014/09/25/groundhog-dropped-by-de-blasio-died-of-internal-injuries/

http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2014/09/25/staten-island-zoo-may-stop-allowing-mayors-to-handle-groundhogs/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107048/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-phil/post-football-depression-_b_1251109.html

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

How to be a Local Business Rock Star

Rock StarWouldn’t it be awesome if you walked into a business networking event and everyone knew who you were and what you did even if they have never met you in person before? Would having them know you help you to start a conversation and attract attention? Being able to quickly connect with people, talk with them about who you are and to find out who they are is an avenue for building relationships. This critical first step in relationship building takes place at business networking events in the market here on Long Island and in business communities across the nation every day.

So how do you become a local business rock star?

Understand your brand and brand message

rockstar[1]Examine who you are and what you stand for. Understand your brand and your message. You need to clearly define your brand, what you stand for and what you are passionate about. This will enable you to craft your elevator speech and your online message. You will be ready to create your LinkedIn and other social media profiles for people to review and quickly grasp what you stand for. Remember your message should not be about you, it should be about what you can do for others and how you can work with them to overcome a challenge or achieve a goal.

Content

Who you are is presented in the content that you produce. Your blog, videos, speeches, social media posts or a book allow you to present your point of view and expertise.   This content positions you as an expert and by presenting your views in an informative and passionate way you will generate a buzz. Remember that the content has to be interesting and applicable to your audience.

Know your audience

In the context of being a local business rock star, we know the audience will be local businesses. You may need to identify the types of businesspeople or professionals that you want to meet within the marketplace. By narrowing your focus, you can convey quality content to them. If, for example, you are a financial services professional it is likely that accountants are a good referral source for you. Getting in front of this audience regularly is important. Start by searching for groups in LinkedIn. There are business and accounting groups with members who fit your criteria as referral partners. Become active in these groups and share your content and ask questions. From a local business perspective, go to LinkedIn and search for business-focused groups in your geographic area. On Long Island, for example, there are over 100 business-focused groups. Some are of general interest while others cater to niche industries or interests. Join the best groups that fit your audience and become active.

Use Video and Give

People are drawn to others who give. Individuals who offer quality written content or video that will help people grow their business or become more successful attract attention and shares. Video is essential to becoming a rock star. People want video, people prefer video and video is the best way to present your personal message. When you are in front of the camera you can speak directly to your audience. This is where your knowledge can shine, people will get to know you and they will see and hear what you stand for. Let your personality and passion come out and people will remember you and what you do. It is essential to first get your personal brand message on video and then follow up with the helpful content. Your personal brand video should not be a hard sell; tell people who you are and what you stand for, followed by how you can help them.

Presenting a memorable image

To be a local business rock star you need to present a memorable image. Rock stars have a “look” or style that defines them. On the local level we don’t have to go to this extreme. Create a professional look and style of your own and be consistent with this style in the real world and online. You must have a professional headshot on LinkedIn, the image can vary on other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter since they are less formal social environments. The photos and images you use online are important in the process of becoming a rock star and memorable person. Having a quality image on LinkedIn is smart because only one in seven people will even look at your profile if you don’t have an image. If no one is looking at you, you will not become a rock star. Your image will be right next to your posts, on your profile pages of LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Your image should also be part of your printed marketing materials and newsletters.

Media coverage

Paparazzi.

Paparazzi.

The paparazzi follows rock stars and the media loves to cover them. When you establish yourself as a local business leader and expert, the media will want to interview you. How do you get the media interested in you? Start by saying hello and commenting on articles that reporters write on subjects of interest to you or your customers. Follow members of the media on social media and when you have an idea send them an email. Check out my blog on getting media coverage for more details and strategies. (Speaking For Your Brand)

When you are interviewed by the media, your stardom and credibility increases. More people will see you and they will become more aware of you and your brand. Remember to share this content on all of your social streams and directly with people to make sure the largest audience sees this important content. Don’t just do it once; share this content periodically, especially if you get a TV or video interview.

Charity involvement

Doing good is good for your brand and others will notice. Involvement with community groups, charities and not-for-profits gives you the opportunity to show that you care and are an active supporter in your community. Share your involvement with others in person and online. Your active support of charities will positively reinforce your reputation with people. Do something out of the box for charity and make sure to record it on video or with images. Fight for Charity as a volunteer boxer, take the ice bucket challenge or the polar bear plunge, take part in walks, marathons and other activities all of which are opportunities to tell your stories to reveal who you are and what you are passionate about.  I am an active member of the board of the Marty Lyons Foundation. mention this whenever I do speaking engagements and share my interest and support of the foundation actively online.

Here is one quick example: on Long Island we host an event every year called the Long Island Fight for Charity. This is an event where local businesspeople train and then get in the ring and box. The event has over 1,000 attendees and is a memorable once in a lifetime experience for a boxer. The volunteer boxers use social media, media coverage and events to market themselves. The result? These men and women become local business rock stars. They attract attention, their businesses get attention and reap opportunities for success.

What is the key to becoming a local rock star? It is to simply keep presenting yourself and your brand message to your audiences. Be different and show what you care about in terms of business, personally and charity. Give them the content that they want and need and leverage the power of social media. Be active in locally focused business groups online and harness the power of the media to spread your message. Don’t let anyone tell you can’t be a rock star.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy 

Make the Truth Be Your Friend

Witness 1

It is not uncommon for critics and others to call PR professionals spin doctors or manipulators of perception. The fact is that we seek to present clients in a favorable way and position them as leaders and experts. Many PR professionals and my team take our role seriously and ethically. In order to effectively promote a company or individual, the effort must be solidly founded in truth.  Companies, individuals, marketers and hopefully politicians who lie will be caught and called out for it.   Communications professionals and marketers must accept responsibility as Picture1well.  Today consumers may not always expect great customer service, but they do expect honesty.

When developing a PR strategy it is critical that you identify what your vision is and what your messages will be. What will your brand stand for? This may not be an easy question to answer right away, but it must be based in truth. It takes some thought and discussion. What a business brand stands for or what an individual’s personal brand is must be stated upfront and for it to resonate, it must be honest and truthful. Including lies in a brand story will cause problems and when business Picture2owners or those who are there to defend them do not have facts and truth as their friends, the challenge may be insurmountable. When brands and individuals are caught lying, it destroys trust and trust is the currency of success.

Some embrace the “fake it till you make it” philosophy or approach. This is a dangerous path to pursue and could destroy a growing brand or even one that is established. Reputation is based on truth. Look at examples such as Brian Williams of NBC News, disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner and professional cyclist Lance Armstrong. Each was caught lying and look what happened to their brands.

Invest in the truth and it will grant you significant rewards.

Weiner

Make truth your friend and you will have no regrets.

Revisited 2015 – July 4th Independence Day – Lessons from the Founding Fathers for Social Media and Personal Branding

I wrote this blog 5 years ago it is still relevant today.  However, the world has changed.  Today Americans have more ways to market and communicate.  With smartphone technology in our hands we have enormous power to broadcast our messages and engage with others. I call smartphones, PMD’s Personal marketing Devices they can also be seen as your own personal broadcast center. (More on this in a future blog)

The technology we have however is not being leveraged effectively by small business people.  Many don’t see the opportunity because they are overwhelmed with time pressures and lack of understanding of the power that they have. Understanding marketing and why and how it must be done is also a challenge.

It’s time for small business people from across America to take charge of their destiny and bring their brands and messages to target audiences.   Failure to utilize the marketing tools that are available (for free) today will see many smart and capable people struggle to succeed in the new economy and within the new marketing paradigm.

As we look back at the lessons of our Founding Fathers below, consider what they would do today.  I believe that they would be regularly leveraging social media, blogs and video to get their message to the masses. They would engage in conversations and share their vision for the future.  They would be making connections, building relationships and beating their competition.

The pursuit of happiness lies in our hands both literally and figuratively.  Use marketing technology today as a vehicle for achieving success and your American dream.

First Published 5 Years Ago 

Today we celebrate Independence Day, July 4.   Beyond the fireworks and BBQs, we all should think about the great nation that we have the pleasure to be part of, and the many people who gave up their lives to give us the freedoms we enjoy.

Exactly 234 years ago, a group of brave, brilliant and industrious individuals met in a steamy Philadelphia room and agreed to do something that had never been done before—start a revolution.  The risks were great; the price that was paid was high in terms of lives lost, lives destroyed and money, but in the end the reward was unmatched in human history.  The American Revolution gave us a country where freedom is sacred.

Today despite a challenging economy we have the freedom to express ourselves and pursue our business as well as our personal dreams.  For many the dream is being an entrepreneur or a small business owner or simply pursuing a career in a chosen profession or industry.  Having this choice is an integral part of our national character and a driver of the entrepreneurial spirit.  While entrepreneurs and small businesses are under attack from many directions, the American entrepreneurial spirit lives on.

The information age has brought with it new media vehicles which are allowing individuals to voice their opinions, develop creative ideas and start new businesses.  Like the minutemen of Lexington and Concord, individuals can stand up, and take control of their own destinies like never before.  Like the “shot heard around world” that started the American Revolution a simple Facebook post or Tweet can literally be seen around the world just in seconds.

Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Adams, Hancock and the other Founding Fathers all understood the importance of individuality and expression.  They were passionate individuals with a mission, and the creativity and drive to achieve their goal – a free and independent nation.

While the Founding Fathers did not have social media vehicles and platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Youtube, Flickr and Foursquare I am sure that they would have taken advantage of them as mediums for communicating with contacts, public, friends and others interested in “the cause.”  Social networking and marketing did not exist, but these individuals knew the importance of publicity, having a personal brand, word of mouth marketing, networking, effective writing, publishing and public speaking. Do these skills and approaches sound familiar?  These techniques and others are the same that individuals need to capitalize on today to build their own personal brands, the foundation for a success in life, in business and in any community.

Did Franklin and Madison have a Blog?  Not exactly, however they did have a printing press.  They were able to create a buzz using well written content, printed books, flyers and newspapers. Papers and printed materials were circulated in pubs and homes across the 13 colonies and beyond.  People held discussion sessions and analyzed the information they were provided.  They debated and came up with their own comments and then shared materials with others who they thought would be sympathetic to their dreams of an independent democratic nation.

Today’s social media and personal branding gurus like Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee)Dan Dchawbel (@DanSchawbel),  Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki), Peter Shankman (@skydiver), Seth Godin and others are taking similar approaches as the Founding Fathers.  The Founding Fathers published articles and spoke to small and large groups to educate, motivate and inspire individuals to become part of a movement that included the individual but also was much larger than any single person.

Let’s look at some of our Founding Fathers and how they relate to personal branding and communications.  There is much we that can learn from them and ways we can apply these lessons to social media marketing and personal branding efforts today.

George Washington – Founding Father and First President of the United States of America.  Washington is also

known for his leadership abilities, speaking skills, political savvy and ability to stand out in crowd.  Although he did not sign the Declaration of Independence his leadership of the Continental Army made him a front runner to lead the country after the war.

During the Revolutionary War era it took weeks or months to get information or important messages out to thousands of people, or just one letter from one colony to another.  Hand written copies of the Declaration of Independence were circulated by hand around the 13 Colonies and read in front of groups gathered in pubs and in front of churches and other community buildings.

Today we can disseminate messages and blog articles in seconds using social media sites and digital communications.  The speed of distribution may have changed but the goals of communicating ideas messages and attracting attention remain the same.

We can learn from George Washington an important lesson, humility.  When offered the opportunity to become king of the new nation, he turned it down.  He also turned down the opportunity to run for a third term as president; instead he retired.  In today’s world full of online and off line self promoters and overexposed celebrities seeking the lime light, humility is a trait that seems to be in short supply.  We could all benefit from more people following Washington’s example of humility and grace.

Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, agonized for weeks to find the right language and consulted with other Founding Fathers to craft this historic document.   We learn from this example that writing passionately and choosing the right words is important.  On Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other writing quality has certainly suffered. Today it remains true that quality writing and compelling content will attract followers, and poor and uninteresting content will drive them away.

In our fast paced mobile technology society we are constantly on the move. A telling example of this is that on average there are more than 3,000 Tweets being placed every second.  Jefferson’s quote: No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing,” is apropos for today.  Many people are always “doing,” (communicating).  However, how much doing is actually wasting time? How much time is being spent on social media marketing with no measured results? Social media marketing programs must be planned and have goals. Without goals or a plan, the “doing” is nothing more than wasting time.

John Hancock – We know the name and we know the signature, he was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence and did so in large and bold script.   John Hancock knew the importance of standing out, making a statement and doing something different.  My favorite quote from Hancock is: “The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and to influence their actions.” This statement is especially true today. To be successful in business relationships and trust need to be built.  To influence people to act, purchase products or services, information and proof of abilities need to be conveyed to the target audience.  Be bold, but also have objectives and consider how relationships are being forged.

Benjamin Franklin – Frequently clients ask what should be said or what information should be put out on social media streams?  This quote from Benjamin Franklin answers the question perfectly: Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.”

Benjamin Franklin was truly an original and individual who understood celebrity and personal branding.  His exploits, scientific experiments and inventions as well as his larger than life personality made him a celebrity in France before he arrived to solicit their support for the “cause.”

We have much to learn from Franklin but for now, his grasp on being relevant and authentic can be our take away.  If something interesting or newsworthy is done write about it, don’t just write something for the sake or writing something.

John Quincy Adams – Are you a leader or do you aspire to be one in business, politics or in another field? If your answer is yes then this quote from John Quincy Adams is most appropriate:If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” To be a leader you need to be relevant and interesting.  Self-promotion and self-serving actions will not attract the right attention or inspire others.  Remember that being successful is not what inspires; what motivates and inspires others are the stories and examples of overcoming challenges and hardships to become successful.

There is much we can learn from studying our Founding Fathers.  From humility to creating relevant content their lessons can be applied to many facets of business and life today.

Every day of the year we should celebrate the precious gift of freedom we have been given.  We continue to enjoy this freedom because of the sacrifices of those who came before us and those who fight for us today in foreign lands and on other fronts.  We can honor them by embracing the American entrepreneurial spirit and following the examples set by our Founding Fathers.

All comments welcome, Happy 4th of July.

Lazy days of Summer (Not for me!) – My 31-day Blog-a-thon

vacation-from-work[1]With summer here, we always hear about the lazy days of summer. Long weekends, days off, vacation and more daylight with which to have fun. All true, but summer is not a time to be lazy if you are seeking to grow your business.

Click Hwrhu-HRAA-logoere to listen to me on Tim Healy’s Profit Express Radio Show talking about not being lazy this summer and blogging. 

Over the past several years, having done dozens of speaking engagements and marketing training programs, business people need to keep their marketing efforts going all year round. If you don’t, your competition will take advantage of the opportunity and pounce.

Over the next 31 days, my goal is to blog daily, be more active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest. I will also be doing YouTube videos focusing on topics that I have been interviewed about by the media and have presented on at seminars over the past year.working hammock

My mission is to provide valuable, interesting and fun content that will give readers ideas and strategies for growing their business. I am committed to making those who are part of my community more effective marketers, personal branders and relationship builders in the real world and online.

So where do we start? Tomorrow’s blog with be one that I have not published on this site. It discusses the importance of having a plan for your personal brand.  If you don’t have a personal marketing plan you will struggle to achieve success .   Can you five percent, 10 percent, 20 percent, 50 percent or even more successful?  Read tomorrow’s blog – “It’s Time for your Personal Marketing Plan.”

Ok 30 days to go.  Please comment, follow and share.

Hiring a Public Relations Firm for Media Relations: What Businesses Need to Know and Expect

By Bill Corbett, Jr.

Corbett Public Relations, Inc. 

Media coverage is a key element of many businesses’ marketing efforts and mix.  News coverage is invaluable in projecting a message to a large audience for branding and reputation-building purposes.  Securing media coverage requires time and an investment of resources.  The results generated by a PR firm must support branding, assist in building relationships and provide high-value marketing assets which will assist with sales and business development.  There also must be a strategy for using media relations assets to achieve business goals and objectives.

Many business owners and their teams lack the knowledge and the contacts to successfully launch PR and media relations efforts.  They do, however, recognize the importance and tremendous value, including SEO value, of media coverage.  For this reason, many business owners need to hire a PR firm.  Hiring a PR firm does, however, come with a cost.  Therefore decision makers need to be able to make informed choices in this area.  Before hiring a PR firm, it is important to understand what should be expected from a firm in terms of service and results.  It is also essential to recognize what type of commitment the client must make to ensure success.  Below are the important points to consider when hiring a PR firm.

Corbett Public Relations client David Antar, President of A+ Technology and Security Systems being interviewed by FiOS1 and Newsday at a forum on school security.

Corbett Public Relations client David Antar, President of A+ Technology and Security Systems being interviewed by FiOS1 and Newsday at a forum on school security.

Watch Out for Promises.  Media relations is an important marketing and business growth function   Working in media relations is challenging and requires creativity and the commitment of significant time.  There are many exceptional professionals in the media relations field, but as in any business sector, there are those who do not maintain high or ethical standards.  Media relations is a process and securing media coverage takes work.  Beware of any PR “professional” who promises or guarantees coverage.  Seek to work with those who can articulate messages, product information and competitive advantage and who will commit to spending the necessary time to develop and bring ideas to the media.  If they promise or guarantee coverage, start looking at other firms.

Like and Trust the PR Firm Team.  Business owners and marketing team members must feel relaxed speaking and interacting with PR firm staff.  Being comfortable with the team is essential because confidential information, proprietary strategies as well as personal business and financial information are often discussed.  Only individuals that can be trusted should be chosen for this important relationship.

Research the Track Record of the PR Firm and its Professionals.  Find out how long the firm has been in business, as well as what kind of relationships they have with target media outlets.  Ask to see print and video clips of clients in the news.  Also request testimonials from satisfied clients as these are a good source of feedback about the company and its team members.  Look for a firm that is well established and has a solid track record of success.  Search for their clients online and see how media coverage is supporting SEO and their brand.

Accessibility is Very Important.  A firm that is available any day and any time is ideal.  A client needs to know that their chosen PR firm can be reached if they need them, whether it is for positive communication with the media or if there is a crisis situation that requires immediate attention.  Today’s 24-hour news cycle and social media require constant and unwavering vigilance.  If a PR firm takes a 9-to-5 approach, look elsewhere.

Firm Proactivity is Key.  Quality PR firms are always monitoring the media, trends and events that can lead to positive coverage and interviews.  Taking a proactive approach demonstrates the firm’s desire to be an active partner and this will provide the greatest return on investment (ROI).  Make sure to select a firm that is proactive and not one that will only communicate when ideas for media coverage are presented to them.  PR firms should have a process for regularly generating ideas to pitch to the media and clients must agree to be involved.

Keep in Mind PR Firm Expertise and Creativity.  When choosing a PR firm, ask if the firm will come up with media pitches on their own or if it is a team effort.  Media relations professionals understand the media and should be able to quickly develop pitches based on the information provided.  Ask if the firm has any experience in specific industries or subject areas.  Sometimes it is helpful to have a firm that focuses in a niche or specific industry, while other times firms with a broad reach can serve a client better.  Also consider conflicts, if the firm represents more than one business in a sector this could be a problem or possibly a synergy.

Relationships and Approaches Matter.  Ask the firm about their relationships with members of the media.  Do they have contacts with the right media outlets?  If they don’t have contacts, ask how they work to get media coverage with new outlets.

Ask Who Will be Working on the Account.  A number of firms have developed bad reputations for putting inexperienced staff members or even interns in charge of new or small accounts.  Before engaging a PR firm, make sure to find out who will be working on the account and their expertise and industry knowledge.  Do not let the principal of a PR firm disappear after the engagement is signed.  Make sure that the team is experienced and monitor who is doing the work regularly.

Corbett Public Relations client Marty Lyons of the Marty Lyons Foundations was interviewed by FiOS1's Jessica Fragoso for the

Marty Lyons of the Marty Lyons Foundation was interviewed by FiOS1’s Jessica Fragoso for the “Heroes On Our Island,” segment.

Ask About Sales Support and Leveraging Coverage.  The public relations and  media coverage that a business secures becomes a valuable marketing asset that can be used for years.  PR firms should provide strategies, approaches and support for the sales and business development team members of their clients.  The PR firm needs to use its media relations assets to help secure meetings, build relationships with prospects, start conversations and fill social media streams.  When selecting a PR firm, ask how they intend to help amplify the media coverage with social media and how they will help put coverage in front of decision makers, prospects and referral sources.

PR Firm Members Must Be Team Players.  Ask about the firm’s interest and ability to work with other members of the marketing team.  Media coverage is an important part of marketing and the PR firm must be engaged in the process.  Firms should recognize the value of media coverage from a social media perspective and explain how it will help with SEO.  PR team members should be part of the marketing strategy and relevant planning sessions.

Return on Investment and Reporting.  Ask what the fees will be up front as well as how they are to be paid.  Often firms require a monthly fee or retainer, while other firms will work on projects or for hourly rates.  Before hiring a PR firm, set the budget and determine how the firm’s service and PR goals can be achieved within these financial boundaries.  Public relations should be looked at as a long-term investment in a brand, product or business.

Retaining a PR firm is a decision that requires research and consideration.  Speak with people who work with media relations professionals and do research before beginning the search process.  Create a budget and select a PR firm that will secure diverse and quality media coverage.  The efforts of PR firm should support brand building, attract business and support sales team efforts.  Recognize also that PR efforts require time to work and it may take several months before results can be observed.  Consider PR firm engagements of six months or more when setting goals and budgets.

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