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Somehow. Some Way. It Ain’t Over.

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Man, who knew this season would be more painful than last season? And who knew that after all the craziness, we would still be in it with just a handful of games to go?

I’m guessing me and this guy, Terry Francona.

We all knew Detroit was going to give us a run for our money. And, of course, after 29 years, Kansas City is finally making a serious run at the postseason. And anyone who knows anything about baseball can tell you that these two teams are absolutely loaded compared to the Indians roster.

Still, here we are. After last night, the Tribe finished the regular season with the advantage over the Kansas City Royals (yeah, Kevin, we beat them more times than they beat us). But they are ahead of theTribe in the standings. And even though they couldn’t take down the division, they are three games ahead of the Tribe for the Wild Card Game.

But you know what?  The season ain’t over yet. And no one is calling it quits. There are only three games to go, and the Tribe has to win them all, while the Royals need to lose all four of their games. So what I am saying is, “There’s a chance.”

83 down, 3 to go… we won’t make it to 90, but we can still make the post season.

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ExeQnAtion has Moved!

It’s taken a while, but we’ve finally launched our new website and are now hosting our blogs at www.sweeneypr.com.

It’s a timely occurrence as we celebrate our 25th anniversary throughout 2011. If your hunger for marketing and public relations knowledge persists (as ours does) we encourage you to go directly to our blogs… and offer your comments and criticisms at will:

Simple Steps for Increasing Social Media Followers

We recently started using social media to help achieve our marketing goals. Can you please provide some easy tips for increasing followers on our Facebook page, Twitter page and blog.

By Jennifer Manocchio

If I had to give one good piece of advice when it comes to increasing social media followers, it would be content, content and more content. The most effective way to increase followers is to ensure you are providing compelling and useful content to your audience.

Once you feel your content is where it needs to be, there are many strategies you can implement to increase followers. The ideas below are focused on quick and simple strategies that don’t require you to be a technology whiz.

Facebook Strategies

Link your other social media sites – Twitter account, blog, LinkedIn account and video channel – to your Facebook fan page.

Include your Facebook (Twitter and blog ) address on all email signatures, literature, advertising, news releases, conference presentations, business cards, etc.

Distribute literature/fliers/promotional products at retail locations, trade shows/conferences with your Facebook (Twitter and blog) address.

Include a call to action to join your Facebook fan page on all email communication. Tell recipients about your fan page and encourage them to join. Provide them with a description of the page and an incentive (e.g., free white paper, free promotional item, contest) to join.

Integrate a “Facebook comment feature” into your web site. As users comment on items, that activity is pushed out into their stream (profile wall and their friends’ News Feeds), which creates valuable viral visibility for your fan page. For information on adding the comment box to your FBML page/app, see these pages: http://developers.facebook.com/search?q=Fb:comments_%28XFBML%29.

Facebook videos now include a feature that lets you become a fan of a Facebook Page while watching the video. The power of this feature cannot be understated as a video which includes a call to action, is much more valuable than a video by itself. If you want to drive new fans to your Facebook Page, this feature combined with high quality content is priceless. At the end of each video, prompt the viewer to become a fan and explain to them how to mouse over the top of the video.

Twitter Strategies

Link your other social media sites – Facebook page, blog, LinkedIn account and video channel – to your Twitter account.

Start using hashtags in your tweets, preceding key words for conferences, events, products, people, etc. This will enable people to find your tweets on this topic when searching Twitter.

Retweet interesting posts on Twitter so that others are more likely to do that for you. Having other people retweet your posts is a great way to promote your Twitter page.

The easiest way to get followers is to actually follow others. You can use twitter search (and tags) to find people with similar interests. You can also keep following your followers’ followers and friends. Usually people that you follow will actually follow you back. This works instantly if you want to build followers in a matter of days. (WARNING: Beware of a twitter ban if you follow way too many in a matter of hours.)

Truly follow the top twitter users and watch what they tweet. Pay attention to the type of content they send out and how they address their audiences.

Reply to/get involved in #hash tag memes. search.twitter.com lists the hot ‘trending topics. Look for the #hash topics and jump in on the conversation (see #2 for links to #hash instructions).

Track your results. TwitterCounter will show you how many new users you’re adding per day and Qwitter will email you when someone unfollows you after a tweet.

Blog Strategies

Link your other social media sites – Facebook page, Twitter account , LinkedIn account and video channel – to your blog site.

Content plays a major role in getting blog readers. Your content must be interesting, informative, focus, and helpful. It must also be frequent or at least predictably regular.

Comment on relevant topics on other blogs with your own, distinctive view. You will get traffic from the other blog sites to visit your site.

Routinely visit select industry message boards and make quality posts that cover the same/related topics and put a link in your signature.

Bookmark posts in Digg and Stumble Upon among others.

Posting Deceptive Product Reviews Online

I saw competitive product reviews posted online and I’m fairly confident it was the competitor posting and not a real consumer. Are there any regulations against this type of activity?

By Jennifer Manocchio

There most certainly are FTC guidelines for this type of deceptive activity.

Late last year, the FTC updated its guidelines for how advertisers/marketers need to avoid deceptive advertising (including online), and the FTC is cracking down on offenders. According to the principles of truth in advertising, the director of the FTC’s division of advertising practices, said in a statement “Advertisers should not pass themselves off as ordinary consumers touting a product, and endorsers should make it clear when they have financial connections to sellers.”

These guidelines not only include posting deceptive product reviews, but also bloggers not disclosing if they were paid to post the review or were provided a free product sample. See the post “The Impact FTC Guidelines Have on Blogger Relations” for more information on complying with the FTC when it comes to blogs and bloggers.

If you suspect your competitors are partaking in this activity, send the posts to the FTC to investigate.

This is also a good opportunity to take a look at your internal protocol for responding to blogs, message boards, media stories, tweets, etc. about your company and its products or services. As a best practice, if you are responding on behalf of your company to an online review or comment, clearly disclose your connection with the company. This will not only give you credibility with your target audiences, it will ensure you are following government guidelines.

5 Steps to Landing Spring Cleaning Media Coverage

When should cleaning product manufacturers begin pitching magazines to achieve spring cleaning media coverage, and what is the best approach?

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By Jennifer Manocchio

Now is the time (July/August/September) to plan your approach and begin pitching long-lead media (home magazines, women’s magazines, parent’s magazines, green magazines, etc.)!  Most long-lead media work anywhere from 4-6 months in advance; so beginning to plan now ensures you don’t miss an opportunity for your product to be considered.

Here are five steps to ensure you don’t miss an opportunity and better yet, your product gets in the mix for consideration.

Step 1:  Review/update your media list

If you haven’t been keeping your media list up to date, take time to double check and ensure your key media outlet contacts are up to date.  With magazines closing and staff changes taking place daily this is a necessary step.  Otherwise, all your hard work developing pitches will fall on deaf ears.

Step 2:  Determine your “hook”

If you have a new product launch that coincides with spring, then certainly use that as your lead.  However, if you don’t have a new product to pitch, you can still pitch existing products that the media outlet hasn’t yet covered, which can be just as successful.

Also, rather than just touting a new or existing product, focus on a hook that media can create an entire story around. Consider the magazine’s target audience and what would be of most interest.  For example, for parenting publications provide tips on how to “speed clean” while still getting the job done or how to involve children in spring cleaning.

Step 3:  Follow up, follow up and follow up

No matter how you send media your pitch – email, snail mail or fax (yes… faxes still exist) – you need to conduct follow up for a few reasons.  First, it is possible media did not see your pitch or that it got caught in a spam filter.  Secondly, you’ll want to learn what the media outlet’s focus is for spring cleaning so you can respond accordingly.

Don’t get discouraged if you get the media contact’s voicemail.  On average it takes seven calls to a media contact to get them on the phone.  So don’t consider your job done when you leave a voicemail.  Continue to call back until you get a contact on the phone, but don’t continue to leave voicemail messages or you’ll have one upset media contact.

Also, when you do get a media contact on the phone avoid the #1 pitching mistake; don’t ask the media contact if they received your pitch.  Rather, engage him/her in a conversation on their publication’s spring cleaning focus and determine how your products/company can best support that focus.

Step 4:  Distribute product samples upon request

If media are interested in sampling your product, they will let you know.

We highly advise against distributing unsolicited samples to media because it is a waste of time and money.  And sometimes media contacts will even send product back to you if they didn’t request it.

Step 5:  Follow up again

If media requests a product sample, definitely follow up with him/her again to ensure it was received.  Also, get a sense for when they plan to test it (if they haven’t already), and ask if it is okay if you call back around that time frame to learn about the results.

As you can see, securing spring cleaning media coverage (or any coverage for that matter) is a process and takes time to do it right.  Assuming your product has good efficacy, these tips will help you approach the media effectively and bring you one step closer to seeing your product appear in the publication.

Need help securing media and blog coverage for your cleaning products?  Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.

Responding to Negative Blog Reviews

Our product was recently reviewed by a blogger and received less than favorable reviews.  Should we respond to this blogger?  If so, what should the approach be?

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By Jennifer Manocchio

In almost every case we would advise contacting the blogger, especially if you feel they did not apply or use the product correctly.  Consider this an extension of customer service.

The only time we would not advise contacting the blogger is if you feel he or she was being very unrealistic.  There are just some people who are very irrational and no matter what you say or do, it will only cause more negative coverage.  You will need to use your best judgment as to whether it is better to let sleeping dogs lie.

If you do decide to contact the blogger, there are two approaches you can take.  You can either respond to the blogger directly if you have an email address or through a contact page, or post a response directly on the blog.

The approach once again depends on the content of the blog post.  If you are concerned he or she did not apply or use the product correctly, contact the blogger by email as to not embarrass him or her.  This could result in another product review with more favorable coverage.

If posting a comment will allow you to educate the marketplace without embarrassing the blogger, then post a response directly on the blog.  For example, if the product has a unique smell because it is made from environmentally friendly materials, post a response explaining why the blogger experienced this odor.

When commenting on a blog post publicly, be transparent and share with the blogger and the blog readers your name and title.

Whichever approach you choose, remember not to attack the bloggers with questions like “Why did you dislike my product?”, which can cause a blogger to get defensive and potentially lead to more negative posts.

Instead, approach the blogger in a way that lets him or her know you are sympathetic and you want to help get to the root of the problem.  Try something like, “We read in your post that our XYZ Stainless Steel Polish left streaks on your refrigerator.  We are sorry you had a bad experience and were hoping to ask a few questions about your testing process that will help us identify why the problem occurred.”

Often, responding to a blogger’s negative opinion can open a two-way dialogue that can lead to improvements in your product or marketing strategy assuming other consumers have mentioned similar issues and this is not an isolated incident.

Want to achieve blog reviews and drive quality web site traffic for a new or existing product?  Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.

Announcing Product Improvements

I recently made some enhancements to an existing product.  Is this something the media would be interested in?

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By Kayleigh Fitch, guest blogger

The media will be interested in updated products if the enhancements benefit the end user or the environment.  For example, if your paper towels can now clean up even more dirt and liquid than before, it is certainly worthwhile to let the media know and even offer a sample for testing purposes.  Or if your new chip bag is now 100% biodegradable the media will take note.

However, if you simply updated a manufacturing process or material that does not affect the product’s performance, benefit the end user or benefit the environment, the media will not be interested.  As always, use your best judgment when sending “news” to media.  If you send too many news release or pitches that the media does not consider “newsworthy”, you risk losing credibility with the media and your email being marked as spam.

If you do decide to move forward with announcing the product enhancement to media, here are a few tips to help increase media and blog coverage.

1.  Consider how your improved product may be applicable to new markets and consequently new categories of media. For example, creating a child-sized version of your product creates an opportunity to target parenting magazines.

2.  Take advantage of seasonal or timely events coinciding with your re-launch that can enhance the relevance of the product. Introducing a stickier double sided tape, for example, will likely be more interesting to media planning their holiday issues because of the direct tie-in to gift-wrapping and decorations.

3.  Reconnect with reporters and media outlets that have previously written about your product. Particularly if they have written positively about your product in the past, these media will likely have an interest in reporting on its improvements.

Has a journalist or blogger written a poor review of your old product?  Now is the perfect opportunity to show firsthand how you have addressed their concerns by offering the opportunity to test the improved version.  This strategy can be very effective with bloggers who appreciate the give and take of a two-way conversation and genuinely appreciate when a company actively addresses their opinions.

4.  Don’t settle for missed opportunity. If you didn’t promote the old product to media, that doesn’t mean you cannot promote the enhanced product to media.  Rather than focus on only new enhancements, you can promote all the features and benefits of your product to generate media and blog awareness and interest. There is ample opportunity to secure media coverage for an existing quality product.

5. Do your research beforehand. Find out what media’s needs are first, and then find a way to tailor your message to their interests. For example, some monthly magazines run a section each month on their favorite products for a certain room or category.  So a tile cleaner with new green benefits can be applicable for a green cleaning, kitchen cleaning or even a bathroom cleaning feature.

Need help re-launching a product?  Contact me at kayleigh@sweeneypr.com or 440.333.0001 ext. 105.