Reacting to a Negative or Inaccurate Media Story

I spent almost an hour with a major market newspaper reporter on the phone. I gave her what I felt was great information and even provided additional sources to contact. When the article was actually published, the headline was very controversial and our company got virtually no coverage. What was included about our company I felt was showing us in a bad light. What can I do?

By Jennifer Manocchio

First, before answering the question, it is important to note most reporters do not write their own headlines. A different editor is tasked with writing headlines for the story. Sometimes this can create a disconnect, which is likely what you experienced. Therefore, do not come down too hard on the reporter for the controversial headline.

Secondly, just because a reporter speaks with you for a substantial amount of time does not mean you are guaranteed ink. Reporters, including online and print, are looking for short and succinct quotes that help tell their story. So the more you offer in terms of usable material, the more likely you will be included in the story. Also, the reporter could have included quotes from you, but they were removed by his or her editor.

The good news is there are a few actions you can take that could result in additional, positive coverage for your company.

1. Write a letter to the editor. Writing a letter to the editor allows you to clearly state your point about the article in your own words. If the topic or story is controversial enough, you have a pretty good opportunity of getting your letter to the editor published.

However, do not attack the reporter or the publication directly. This will not help your brand image and usually will not be printed. Rather explain constructively why you disagree with the story using solid points.

2. Contact the reporter and explain why you disagree with the story. Again, provide beneficial and concrete feedback. If you have enough good information to share with the reporter, he or she just might write a follow-up story.

The bottom line is feel free to share your feedback with the publication and reporter, but do it in a professional way that does not burn bridges.

Need support with publicity and media relations? Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.

Landing Media Coverage When You Have No News

How do you achieve media coverage when you have no news to share?

By Jennifer Manocchio

Certainly launching a new product or service easily lends itself to contacting the media; however, you do not need to have “news” to get media coverage. Furthermore, you can continue to get media coverage on products and services that are not “new”.

For discussion purpose, let’s say your goal is to increase awareness for a product you launched years ago because it is not meeting sales goals. You cannot send a press release to the media because it is not “new”, unless of course you enhanced the product. What you can do is create a media pitch that includes a reference to your product.

You’ll need to be careful with this approach because if you simply write an advertisement, the media is not going to be interested. Rather, you need to provide valuable information the media sees as useful for its readers.

For example, if your product makes cleaning the kitchen easier, create tips on easy clean up after holiday cooking. But avoid focusing all the tips on your company or products so it doesn’t read like an ad. Also, be sure to attribute those tips to a company spokesperson or expert.

Another approach is to tie your product into timely events or news. For example, is your product perfect for holiday gift guides? Is it useful for people traveling during the holiday season? Does it help consumers achieve health and fitness goals that are common New Year’s resolutions? The more timely and less “evergreen” your pitch is the more likely your product will achieve media coverage sooner rather than later.

The bottom line is don’t stop conducting publicity and media relations just because you have no news. Be creative and consistent. Achieving media coverage helps build brands and increase brand awareness, but this requires more than one big media push a year.

Need help conducting publicity and media relations? Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.

Evaluating Magazines for Print Advertising

We are developing a media plan for 2011 and are evaluating trade magazines to advertise in. How important is it that magazines have a BPA or ABC audited circulation?

By Jennifer Manocchio

Many trade publications are audited by BPA or ABC and many are not. Auditing verifies the publication’s circulation and confirms the titles of the people reading the magazine. If publications are not audited, it simply means they did not want to pay a third party to verify the circulation.

There are two major auditing companies – Business Publications Audit of Circulations (BPA) and Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC). Since audits are expensive, publications that conduct audits want to make that information easily available. You will usually find the audited statement in the media kit. If you cannot locate the BPA or ABC statement in the media kit or online, ask the sales representative if the publication is audited.

If a publication is not audited, you should not immediately disregard it. Audits are not the only aspect you should consider when purchasing advertising. Look to see if the publication is free or requires a subscription. Magazines with a subscription tend to be seen as more credible to a reader.

Also, research what competitors are advertising in the publication. If major industry players are advertising, then they likely see the publication as valuable. Pay attention to the quality of the editorial coverage. Look for articles that are well-written and not blatant advertisements. Most readers will recognize poor writing and biased reporting, which reduces the credibility of the magazine in the readers’ eyes.

Additionally, consider if the publication is for a professional society. If so, that publication will likely have a captive audience that respects the publication.

The only time we would recommend an audited publication over an un-audited publication is if all things were created equal (subscription required, good editorial coverage and competitors were advertising in the publication), and you had to chose between the two.

The bottom line is use the audits as a tool to confirm circulation numbers and reader’s titles, but don’t let it be the end all be all to your decision making when developing media plans.

Advertising in 2011 and need support developing your media plan and creating print and online advertisements? Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.

Avoid Common Email Marketing Pitfalls

We are starting an email marketing campaign.  What are the common pitfalls we should be aware of prior to beginning our campaign?

Jennifer Manocchio

Email marketing is a very cost effective and measurable marketing strategy that can immediately boost web site traffic and sales. According to the DMA, email marketing generates an ROI of $43 for every dollar spent, but you must avoid the common email marketing pitfalls to achieve that type of return.

There are three major challenges to email marketing that must be met in order to achieve a desired level of success:

1. Getting your email into your audience’s inbox
2. Getting the recipient to open your email
3. Getting the recipient to act on your email

In the process of overcoming each of these challenges, you must be aware of potential hazards… and avoid the inevitable pitfalls.

Purchasing Email Lists: Because of spam laws, most reputable sources – including magazines and trade associations – do not sell their lists; instead, they “rent” them. This is a common arrangement in which you produce your own emails and submit them to the list owner for distribution from its server. You will never actually see the names on the list, but you will be able to track open rates and click through rates.

Of course, you can also buy a list, but we suggest extreme caution. There is no way to know for certain how a purchased list was generated and whether or not the people on the list voluntarily opted-in. Yet, you are liable for potentially spamming the contacts on that list. And should email recipients mark the email as spam – or worse, call and complain – your IT department will spend hours getting your IP address off black lists. Also, the email distribution service you are using (e.g., iContact, Constant Contact, JangoMail) will freeze distributions.

The ideal approach is to build your own email list internally. You can do this in many ways. For example, develop a sign-up form on your web site, create advertising campaign landing pages, gather contact information at trade shows, hold contests and add an opt-in for email communication in your checkout process.

In the meantime, “rent” lists from reputable sources. Ensure they are quality lists and that the supplier is following the CAN-SPAM Act. Ask the supplier how the list is developed, if all the recipients have opted-in, how often the list is updated and how often the list receives email messages. Also, ask if it is possible to test the list with a small group of contacts before committing to renting the entire list. This will help you gauge the expected response rate.
Distributing From Your Company Email: Unless you know virtually everyone on your email list (e.g. outside sales reps, customers, associates) and the list is fairly small, do not use your own company’s email system to distribute emails. If recipients start marking the email as spam or call and complain, your IT department will spend hours – if not days – getting your IP address off black lists.

Instead, invest in a professional email distribution service. There are many reputable email distribution companies to choose from depending on your needs and budgets. If you are looking for a simple, easy to use system there are many affordable options like Constant Contact, iContact and JangoMail.

Junk Mail: Depending on each recipient’s email settings, there are numerous reasons an email message can appear in a junk mail folder. The first one is the subject line. Don’t use all capital letters and avoid characters like explanation points. You can use “free” in the subject line, just ensure it isn’t the first word, in all caps or followed by explanation points.

A second and very common mistake is designing the email as one big image. Spam filters look for a balance of text and images. If you have too many images and not enough text, your message can end up in the junk folder.

To be sure your email hasn’t crossed over into the junk category, run it through a spam test. Most of the email distribution services have a program available that will evaluate your email. If not, there are a few free programs available online, including ContentChecker by Lyris that will score your emails.

Erratic Frequency: There is a fine line between “just enough” and “too much” email. Once you find the perfect balance for your target audiences – whether it is once a week or once a month – maintain a consistent delivery schedule.

Subject Line: Write enticing subject lines that will get your recipients to open the email. The right few words can make the difference between your email getting opened or trashed. Provocative can be good, but do not include a subject line that is misleading. You will lose credibility with the recipient and risk being reported as spam.

Link Errors: Double and triple check your emails prior to hitting “send”. A broken link can equal a loss in potential conversions.

Call to Action: Every email communication needs to include a very clear call to action. If it doesn’t exist or it is buried too far in the email, you will lose out on potential conversions. People tend to scan emails; you need to ensure your call to action is clear and prominent.

Link to the Right Page: Unless you are driving recipients to specific content on the home page, avoid sending them there at all. Instead direct recipients to a page that coincides with the email. This does not mean you have to create a new landing page. For example, if you are promoting a product, send them to that product information page. However, if it is within your budget, create a page that is specific to the email content; this will help increase the conversion rate.

Want to start or need support with your email marketing campaign?  Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688 to discuss how we can increase your ROI.

10 Ways to Increase Online Video Views

We recently shot short educational videos on a hot topic in our industry. How can we utilize these videos online?

By Jennifer Manocchio

Online video is a great marketing tool and has many benefits from search engine optimization to brand building and increasing sales. However, “if you build it they will come” isn’t necessarily true for online video. You need to drive traffic to the video in order to achieve results.

Assuming your video has good, relevant content, following are 10 ways to increase traffic to your video online.

• Post the video on video sharing sites and your website. Ensure the video is optimized so it has the potential to start appearing in search results. Inc. magazine has a good article about optimizing video. You can find it here: http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/05/search-engine-optimization-for-video.html
• If you can determine a news angle for your video, develop a news release about the video or a news release where the video can support the content (e.g. product instructions, product performance tips) and distribute the release and video through news distribution channels like Business Wire or PR Newswire. If the video is non-promotional, send the news release with the video link to your media list and encourage media to use the video.
• Post the video on your blog. If you have multiple videos, post one video per week.
• Post the video on your Facebook page. If you have multiple videos, post one video per week.
• Post a link on Twitter to your Facbook page, blog, website or YouTube Channel promoting the video. Again, post one per week if you have multiple videos.
• Incorporate the video into current or new email marketing campaigns (promotional emails, e-newsletters, etc.).
• Share the video with your sales force and all employees.
• Share the video with bloggers.
• If the video content correlates with speaking engagements, use it to promote speaking opportunities. If you receive the attendee list for a trade show or conference, you can email a link of a video to increase attendance at the presentation.
• If the video content correlates with sales or educational presentations, include the video in the presentations and provide a website address where the audience can find more relevant videos.

Have video and want to promote it or would like to start using video as a marketing strategy? Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.

What to Send Bloggers

I have coordinated with a blogger who would like to test and review my product. What should I include in the package when I ship a sample?

By Kayleigh Fitch

Before committing to sending a free sample to a blogger, ensure the blogger reaches a target audience that will be beneficial to promoting your product. Check out our blog post Bloggers Going Bonkers for Product Samples to help you determine if the blog is a good fit.

Once you decide to move forward with the product review, following are the items you should include in the package along with your product sample.

1. Personal Letter – Address the blogger by name and thank them for his/her interest in your product. Restate your agreement, including the agreed upon deadline for posting the review, and provide contact information where the blogger can reach you with questions. Most importantly, include a friendly reminder that the blogger is required to disclose your product was provided for free in their review.  This is mandated by the new FTC guidelines. Ultimately, you are legally responsible for ensuring the blogger makes a disclosure. Read our post on The Impact of FTC Guidelines Have on Blogger Relations for more details.

2. Instructions – Regardless of how simple it may seem to use your product, do not leave anything open for interpretation. Include a separate document that details how to use your product along with extra tips and hints for achieving the best results.

3. Product Information – Provide a list of features and benefits your product provides that will alert the blogger on what results to look for during the testing process and will help communicate key messages to readers.

4. Testing Tools – Your product may require additional equipment in order for the blogger to properly test it and achieve maximum results. Make the testing process easy by including everything he/she will need within reason. For example, include a high quality cloth or sponge to test cleaning products or a paintbrush to test varnish.

5. Photos/Video – Be sure to provide or guide the blogger to a place on your website where he/she can download photos and videos. Bloggers love including product photos and/or videos. Encourage them to shoot their own video or take their own photos. Before and after shots/video can be very powerful.

6. Bubble Wrap – Okay this one may seem silly, but it would provide a poor impression if a blogger were to open your package only to find a damaged product inside. Don’t sabotage the review before the blogger even gets the product; take the time to pack your product carefully.

Need help implementing a blogger campaign? Contact me at kayleigh at sweeneypr dot com or 440.333.0001 ext. 105.

Choosing the Right Marketing/Public Relations Agency

We are looking for a new public relations agency in 2011.  What should we consider when conducting the search?

By Jim Sweeney

At the end of the day, every organization wants the same thing from its agency: results. Of course every agency will tell you they deliver results.

So what are the tangibles and intangibles that assure you are working with a product marketing and public relations firm that will deliver the results you want?

1. Experience, which also equals endurance. To last more than a few years in the highly competitive world of agency marketing, you need to consistently deliver results. But what type of experience do you look for? Simply put, the type that is most relevant for your organization.

Does the agency have experience in your industry? Does it possess relevant market experience? Does it know your customers and retailers and vendors and third-party influentials? Does it have experience developing and implementing the types of strategies and tactics you need to succeed – both traditional and digital? Can it offer proof – show you case studies and work samples and offer testimonials and references? Is the agency willing to work with you and other agencies – setting aside egos and profit motives?

Experience isn’t everything, but it definitely matters.

2. Edge, which also equals X-factor. Every agency likely possesses some magic formula – a unique brand skill – that sets it apart from its competitors. Not hyperbole or idioms or acronyms, but real, tangible skills. What’s the edge you are looking for, and does the agency you are talking to possess it?

Does the agency possess unique knowledge of your industry that goes way beyond general industry experience? Does the agency have a reputation for working fast or hard or both? Does the agency have a special ability to find and process information that gives your organization an edge? Does the agency have mad creative skills and/or exceptional strategic planning skills?

Can they offer offline and online services and integrate them to complement each other?

Assuming the agencies you like have the right experience, their unique edge should help you to identify frontrunners.

3. Tenacity, which also equals persistence. Marketing is not for the meek of heart. Does the agency possess the desire and ability and willingness to fight the good fight until it is over? At the first sign of a problem, do they identify alternate solutions or look for the back door?

Does the agency go the extra mile… regardless of whether it is requested? Does the agency push through the standard resistance in order to achieve the desired goals? Do they routinely monitor and measure and analyze results and make necessary adjustments? Does the agency take pride in its work and results – do they own it – before you even review and assess it?

Remember, winners never quit.