Want More PR? Show Them You’re an Expert!

Recently, I gave myself another try with what is probably the most effective PR service for business owners and Freelancers,  Help A Reporter Out . I originally signed up with HARO about five years ago, but quickly discontinued when I felt overwhelmed by the thrice-daily emails that arrived Monday – Friday to inform subscribers of 20 or so potential opportunities to be interviewed. The drill is, as soon as a topic that you can speak to with authority appears, you click the link to the reporter’s HARO request for an expert and attempt to sell him/her on your ability to provide quotable information.

You will compete with numerous contenders.  But if you keep at it, the odds are that you’ll eventually speak with a reporter and get your quote.  Mentions and appearances in newspapers, magazines, widely read blogs, podcasts, or television shows is effective marketing and branding.  Include the link to your quote or interview on all of your social media platforms and download the full text (not just the link, which can be taken down) in your press kit. 

A press kit is your brand’s portfolio of verbal, audio and visual demonstrations of your credibility.  A well-stocked press kit provides third-party verification of your stature and expertise.  Whenever you reach out to the press, send a link to your press kit (remember to include your bio and photo).  If you take a booth at a trade show, bring along hard copies of your press kit.  When courting an especially desirable client, send a link to your press kit for his/her review, as a confidence builder.

When approaching journalists at HARO as they seek insights from trustworthy experts to add credibility to an article they have in development, or if you send out press releases to inform your local media of some newsworthy achievement in your business or professional life (perhaps you’ve just signed an especially prestigious client?), it’s essential that you present yourself as an authority in your industry whose story will interest the readers of the publications that you pursue.  Review your PR-worthy attributes and make sure that they’re up to snuff:

Experience and track record

Longevity in business is considered a sign of success, experience and credibility.  If your client list includes one or more high-profile clients, that enhances your presumed expertise.  If you author a blog or newsletter that has 5000 or more subscribers, that is another strong selling point that often persuades reporters to interview or quote you.

In fact, reporters will hope to attract many of those followers to his/her article when you provide the link to the item in which you are quoted.  Freelancers who’ve built up big online followings are always attractive media sources.

If you can produce links to articles in which you’ve previously been quoted or interviewed, that evidences the approval of fellow journalists and you will be well-positioned to receive more media mentions.

Enviable sales revenues

Are you a million dollar consultant (or close to it)? That’s an attention-getting descriptive  and it ensures journalists of your business acumen and therefore, credibility.  Journalists will be delighted to interview you.

Impressive credentials

If you’ve earned the scholarly degree of Ph.D, M.D., Pharm.D or Esq. in your chosen field, you will quite readily be able to present yourself as an expert.  Alternatively,  if you’ve earned one or more respected certifications in your field, you may advertise yourself as an expert in that field.

If you own (or share) a patent for a product or process that you’ve invented or co-invented, you may as well claim that you are an expert in your industry and you can do the same if you teach a subject related to your industry at the university level, especially if you teach at an Ivy League or other large institution.

Your book

If you’ve authored a book, whether an industry “how-to” or the story of how you overcame business or personal struggles to launch and sustain a successful enterprise, that will be a brilliant marketing tactic that will convince reporters of your authority.  Additionally, you can use your book to obtain speaking engagements and even teaching appointments.  Plan to self-publish and expect to pay about $5000 for editing, proofing, book text lay-out, cover design, printing and professional photography.

Awards received

If you’ve received a business award from a chamber of commerce, that is a noteworthy honor.  A service award from a Rotary Club, while it is an organization composed of business executives who perform volunteer service, is nevertheless highly regarded in the business world.  Awards and prizes that you’ve earned from national or local organizations will stand you in good stead as well.  Note all official recognition that you’ve received in your bio and curriculum vitae.

Judge awards

Five or six years ago, I was invited to become a judge in the Women in Business category for the Stevie Awards, an organization that recognizes achievement in the entrepreneurial, corporate and not-for-profit sectors in organizations around the world.  I hope to be invited to judge this year’s competition as well.  If you are a member of a business or professional group that presents awards, ask to join the awards committee.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Powerful gossip columnist Louella Parsons (l) with bandleader – actor – producer Desi Arnaz and his wife, actress Lucille Ball at the 1956 Golden Globe Awards in Los Angeles

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Become A Media Darling

Positioning oneself as a trustworthy expert is paramount and ongoing for B2B professional service providers.  Everything we can do to establish credibility and stand out in a crowded marketplace can add to billable hours, our reason for being. “The media,” meaning television, radio, magazines, newspapers, industry journals, podcasts and blogs, help us spread the word about our expertise to a wide audience.

Persuading media gatekeepers—editors and producers—to invite you to give a quote or become a featured player in a magazine or newspaper article, become a guest on a podcast, television, or radio broadcast, or write an article for a journal is not easy.  Many of your peers are vying to do the same.

Therefore, you must find ways to separate yourself from the pack and showcase your potential appeal and relevance to audiences.  Below are a few ways to make that happen. When reaching out to journalists, editors or producers, I suggest that you call first. Learn the name of the appropriate editor for your business category before contacting a magazine or newspaper.  Read a half dozen or so of his/her items and find out what s/he has written before you try to pitch your story.  If the response is positive, only then will you send your one-sheet bio and photo.

HARO

Help A Reporter Out will send to your inbox a boatload of emails every week, but you could obtain a few requests for quotes in exchange for the inconvenience.  HARO gives Freelancers and other independent business owners real opportunities to build  credibility through media exposure.  One will also learn how to build relationships with print and online media gatekeepers. You can eventually claim the title of expert and have the article clippings to prove it.

Social media and content marketing

If you’ve got 5,000 or more social media followers on at least one platform, or an impressive number of newsletter followers or blog subscribers, media outlets will pay attention.  Present your stats to the media gatekeeper when you get him/her on the phone and remember to include that info on the one-sheet bio that you’ll send, along with your photo, to media outlets.  Those with large social media and online followings know that your big following can boost their viewers/readers/listeners and that translates into additional advertising dollars.  It is a pathway to the short list of potential interview candidates.

Write a book

The barrier to enter the realm of book authors has dropped precipitously with the rise of self-publishing and cheaper printing costs.  Investigate self-publishing houses both local and national.  Find a topic and title that will grab your business’s target market and you’re on your way to becoming an author.

No matter what anyone tells you, hire an independent content editor to ensure the continuity and flow of your story and also hire a copy editor or proofreader to eliminate grammatical and spelling errors.  Your book is part of your brand, so it must represent you well.  You will be judged. A ball park budget for a 150 page book could be about $5000.  Write it off as a business expense, since your book is marketing collateral.

Make lots of money

If at least once in the past five years your business has grossed $1,000,000 (or close to it), then go ahead a lay claim to the fact that you’ve built a million-dollar business.  OK, so maybe you’ve grossed only half of that and it’s too much of a stretch to put yourself into the million dollar category.  But if indisputably you’ve created a very lucrative business, then speak up.  Media outlets will want you to tell their readers/viewers/listeners how you did it and how they can do it, too.

And the winner is…

Formal recognition of your success as an independent business professional is very powerful.  Nominate yourself for a chamber of commerce award, neighborhood business association, professional association, or any other business award that is presented somewhere.  If you win even third prize, then spread the word by adding the photo of you accepting the award to your preferred social media platforms and send a press release and photo to the business editor of local newspapers.  Add this information also to your one-sheet.

Judge a business award

About five or six years ago, I was invited to judge The Stevie Awards/ Women in Business category.  That I’m qualified to judge the expertise of my peers has impressed a couple of decision-makers.  There are many business awards being doled out.  Join a professional association and get yourself on the awards committee.  Add the judging duty to your LinkedIn page and media one-sheet.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: In 1955 Dr. Joyce Brothers, pictured with Boxing Commissioner Eddie Egan (her big question was about boxing), became the only female grand prize winner on “The $64,000 Question” (1955-1958). Brothers parlayed the win into a long and lucrative television career, which began in 1958 with a show on which she dispensed advice. She went on to take guest roles in dozens of TV shows and appearances on talk shows.

The Content of Content Marketing

Content Marketing continues to have a life of its own, riding a wave of non-stop hype. But what are all that text and all those images floating through space really worth to your business? I edit two newsletters,  one short and sweet,  the other several pages long and filled with lots of text and photos. One newsletter I assemble myself by reaching out to obtain snippets of relevant and timely new information and an image or two each month.  The second I solely edit and what a laborious process it is to slog through all that dense text!  Can you guess which entity generates the most revenue and profit?

Why, the owners of the short newsletter that gives splashes of fresh info every month plus one or two new pictures, of course.  Those organization leaders do not bury themselves in the labor and expense of high-maintenance content marketing.  They are instead pursuing clients and making money. They are not merely busy; they are productive. They know their role as business owners.

If you can build and maintain a good stable of clients without a web presence, by golly I say you should do it. Truth be told,  most of the most successful business owners and Freelance consultants that I know have no website and no social media.  Instead, they are known and trusted by clients and referral sources.  They are going to the bank and not to their keyboards or video cameras to crank out “content”.

Enter the experts

The short answer is,  if you’ve done something successfully a number of times,  you can claim the title.  However, there is also the axiom “Those who can do and those who can’t, teach.” My client who has enlisted my services for the production of the monthly weighty tome hasn’t had a client in something like five years (I’m serous). She swans around speaking on panels, moderating panels, writing articles for a couple of journals that don’t pay (I edit those as well) and overall being a very busy girl. But I’m not sure how she pays her mortgage. Trust fund?

Noise makers

Everybody with access to a keyboard or a camera is doing some level of content marketing,  even if it’s only for themselves and their Twitter friends. Everybody’s pulling out a cell phone to snap pictures of something—the first snowfall,  the first crocuses and at the Boston waterfront a couple of weeks ago, when the air temperature was minus 10 and the Atlantic Ocean was about 40 degrees,  the fog that was rising from the water as a result of the 50 degree temperature difference (it was quite a sight). all those photos become content posted to social media.  It’s all noise that competes with what Freelance consultants and other business owners are aiming to do,  that is,  get the attention of potential clients and referral sources.

Branding is not personal

Supermodels and a certain group of raven-haired sisters (and their mother) in southern California seem to have done very well with the personal branding concept,  but that doesn’t hold for the rest of us.  Unless you were lucky enough to have held a job that allowed you to publicly build a reputation amongst prospective clients,  or you descend from a prestigious family,  the differences that you (and I) point out to clients are only differences and not distinctive competitive advantages.  We are the same, only different.

Strategic, original, relevant, concise

If you have the time and inclination to delve into the content marketing fray,  be strategic about the process, most of all. Have a clear and defendable purpose.  My purpose for producing this blog since June 2009  has been to

1.demonstrate that I have good business judgment

2. demonstrate my writing skills

I’ve referred prospective clients to the link for this blog and the strategy has been successful.  I’ve gotten at least three clients,  including a (modest) book editing assignment,  my first. Editing two newsletters also helped me to snare that gig.

Further,  read about business topics in places like The Financial Times,  The New York Times, Business Week,  Inc. Magazine,  the Harvard Business Review and other credible sources. Those can become your inspiration,  along with your owned lived experience,  to generate original content.  Do not bother to try and pass off groupings of links to articles as your blog or newsletter content.  Do not insult people.

Finally,  whatever your topic, two and a half pages of text, or 1000 words, has got to be your max. When writing this blog,  I start thinking about creating a two-part post if I surpass 800 words. Attention spans are not what they used to be in this noise-filled arena of experts.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So You Want To Write A Book?

I was talking with a friend a couple of weeks ago and learned that she is in the process of writing her fourth book. She’s not a great writer and she addresses only one topic but she self-publishes, which guarantees that her books will always be available as long as she has the money to bring them to the page and she even sells a few, mostly to people who know her and likewise have an interest in that topic. I laughed and said that I would never write a book. And yet…..

For business owners, business executives and of course Freelance consultants, writing a business book is good business. A business book is a the ultimate self-marketing tool and it conveys much respect. If you’re looking to wear the crown of credibility, write a book. If your book addresses its topic cogently and is reasonably well-written, you can dine out on the self-promotional benefits for the rest of your life.

Business authors recommend that you treat your book like a new venture launch. A business book has the potential to broaden your audience, raise your stature and notoriety, help to get you quoted as an expert in business-themed articles, get you invited to give interviews and host webinars and best of all, generate leads that bring in more business. You probably assume that writing a book is a tremendous and all-consuming process and I’m told that is correct. However, business owners and executives only need to write one book and their reputations will be set.

Be prepared to work enormously hard to research, outline and write your book. If you have money consider hiring a ghost writer, who will interview you and put your insights and anecdotes on paper. Be prepared to spend several thousand dollars to self-publish, because unless you have a national or very strong local reputation, no publishing house will sign you.

Finally, brace yourself for low sales and expect to buy dozens of copies of the book yourself. Give signed copies to good friends, family members and clients. Here are a few items that will help you evaluate the decision to become an author:

Subject Your biggest challenge may be choosing the subject. Content matters and one is advised to have something relevant to say to potential readers. Moreover, you are advised to choose a subject that you enjoy and will not mind speaking about ad nauseum, because you must promote the book and its topic and when you use the book as a way to get speaking engagements, the topic will be the center of your talk. There are two basic subject options:

  • A creation story, an inspirational memoir that tells how you either overcame adversity or bounced along on good fortune and quick wit and used your competitive advantages to launch and sustain a successful enterprise. The first is sincere and compelling, the second ought to be humorous and fun.
  • A how-to book shares your special expertise and shows readers how they can become better marketers, sales people, customer relations managers, public speakers, business financial managers, Freelance consultants — you get the idea.

Publish Expect to self-publish your book. Hire an experienced copy editor, so that you won’t embarrass yourself with grammatical or continuity errors. Most self-publishing houses will offer these services at an additional cost. Hire a graphic artist to design the cover and a professional photographer and make-up artist to ensure that you look wonderful on the (front, back or inside) cover.

Promote Even if you manage to persuade a traditional publisher to accept your book proposal, do not expect the company to promote your book. You must develop a proactive marketing plan that will get your book noticed and validated as worthwhile. Consider hiring a public relations specialist to help with book promotion, if you have the budget. Create a website and/or a Facebook page for your book as well as a podcast that features you speaking about the book (maybe in an interview format). You or your PR specialist will approach the local cable access station and inquire about you appearing on a program that includes segments about local business people; ditto for radio stations (think Sunday morning radio); and local newspapers and magazines to interview you about your business and the book.

It is not an easy task but if you decide to move forward with the concept, becoming an author will emerge as one of the most significant achievements of your life. The book will become your ultimate business card and will give readers an impressive introduction to you and the enterprise that you created and lead. Publishing a book is an event known to bring prestige and momentum to your business and brand.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Master Moderator: Run A Panel Like A Pro

Speaking opportunities are a time-tested way to position oneself as an expert. Speaking engagements are often gateways to connecting with prospective clients, strategic partners and referral sources. Being showcased as the keynote speaker is the most coveted role at the conference, but an invitation to join a panel is highly desirable as well. Should you be asked to moderate, you may work with the conference organizer to select the panel speakers.

When considering speakers, remember that the goal of every panel discussion is to bring together three to five smart and witty people to have a dynamic discussion about an intriguing topic. A group of highly regarded, yet boring, experts will not do. The best panel discussions are lively. The moderator and speakers will enlighten and entertain the audience and draw them into the discussion with questions and comments.

Panel preparation Invite experts who communicate well and have the ability to engage the audience. Research the panelists and their work and let that guide questions that you will ask, in addition to questions on any big developments that the audience will want addressed (like the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act if health care is the topic).

Experienced moderators suggest that you send panelists a group email that lists three questions that you will pose and ask them to suggest other issues/questions that they feel should be addressed as well. At the conference, introduce the panelists to one another and suggest that all of you sit together while whatever meal is served or as the keynote speaker is on, so that everyone can get somewhat acquainted before the panel goes on.

Panel discussion objectives At the start of the panel, thank the audience for attending and introduce yourself. State the title and purpose of the discussion. Three sentences should be sufficient to describe why the topic is relevant to the audience and the community (professional peers or the public).

Introduce the panelists The moderator always introduces the panelist and the introduction should be brief and to the point, letting the audience know why they’ve been invited to discuss the subject. Smart panelists will give you their own introduction for you to read.

Layer the questions A-List moderators know that there is a sequence to follow when posing questions to the panel. The opening question is the “view from 30,000 feet”, an overview that allows panelists to give their perspectives of the big picture regarding the topic. The next couple of questions become more specific, boots on the ground. Once everyone is warmed up, throw in a curve ball with a tough question.

You the moderator are looking to elicit from the panelists concrete examples, war stories, amusing anecdotes, the outrageous truth and provocative or controversial opinions. It’s OK for panelists to pose a question to another, as well. Panelists may ask questions that are sharper and more provocative than those you’ve prepared and the answers may be more candid.

Keep the energy flowing and resist the predictability of going down the line of panelists every time, to allow each to answer your question. If the first three give a similar answer, give another question to the next two, transitioning by saying “The question seems to be answered…” as you pose another to the next panelist(s).

The wrap-up question don’t bother to ask for a closing thought, that’s been done all too often. Instead, ask panelists what they think might be an important trend that we’ll be talking about next year at this time, or to make some counterintuitive out-of-the-box prediction about what the industry will look like in five years.

Audience questions To the best of your ability, allow 5 – 7 minutes for audience questions. Following the audience questions, give a brief closing wrap-up and thank the audience for their attendance and participation.

End on time The panel discussion will likely be 45 – 60 minutes long and it is the responsibility of the moderator to facilitate an engaging and informative discussion that makes the panelists (and you) look good by posing questions that will quickly get the relevant information onto the table and make the audience value the experience. Make the organizer happy by staying on schedule. Ask the organizer for 10 minute and 5 minute warning signs.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Be A Rock Star Panelist

Being invited to speak on a panel is a golden opportunity, a wonderful way to demonstrate your expertise and ability to think on your feet. Being on a panel is an excellent marketing technique and it can also be fun. There is an art to it though and if you want to be invited to participate a second time, make sure that you look good the first time.

1.   Know the subject

You’ve been invited to join the panel to share your deep knowledge and experience and/or your intriguing and compelling perspectives regarding the subject matter. You are there to inform and enlighten the audience. Do not disappoint. If you do not possess the expertise, then you must decline the invitation, regardless of how wonderful the opportunity is.

2.   Control your introduction

One week before your appearance, confirm details with the program organizer and send a three sentence bio that should be forwarded to the panel moderator. As a precaution, print out a copy and hand it to the moderator before taking your seat.

3.   Speak up and speak clearly

Veteran speakers say that the optimal distance between your lips and the microphone is one inch. Lean in (but don’t hunch over) and speak clearly.

4.   Entertain and inform

As with a program keynote speaker, a panelist is there not only to inform, but also entertain. A bored audience tunes out. Witty sound-bytes work wonders. Sprinkling in a few makes you look smart and you will be remembered by those in the audience.

5.   Tell the outrageous truth

Prepare yourself for a tough, possibly embarrassing, question form the moderator. Fear not, because this is a good thing. You will then have the opportunity to be gutsy and funny, and show the audience that you are a straight shooter. Tell the outrageous truth, especially when it’s obvious. If the question is that scary, plead the fifth amendment and let the audience laugh with you.

6.   KISS—Keep it short and simple

Real experts know how to boil complex issues down to their essence and give answers and explanations that can be readily understood by non-experts. Avoid tossing around technical jargon and you’ll look like the smartest person in the room and win the admiration of the audience.

7.   Answer the question that you want to answer

Unless you feel that you must take the fifth, answer the question that was asked, but do not hesitate to take the discussion in a direction that lets you express your unique perspective, or demonstrate your expertise and experience. Give your answer and segue with “… but the real issue is…”

8.   Face the audience and not the moderator

It is tempting to face the person who asks the questions, but be mindful that s/he is not the audience, but the vehicle for posing questions that tease out information that audience members are presumed to want.

9.   Never look bored.

Active listening will help with this one. Looking engaged while another panelist is droning on, or resisting the reflexive action of making a face if someone says something that you find inaccurate or ridiculous, is perhaps the hardest part of being a panelist.

10. Listen to the other panelists

Being able to refer to something said by another panelist adds to the value of the information shared. If you want to politely refute a previous panelist, or add more information to a point that has been made (“…I think the real issue is…”), you’ll need to listen carefully. Jotting down a couple of notes is a good idea as well, to help you remember what was said and/or formulate your rebuttal.

11. Never agree with the other panelists (much)

Moderators frequently put the same question to every panelist, so that different perspectives on the question can be brought forth. The last speaker often will have nothing to add. Rather than stating that you agree with the previous panelists, with a smile, say “I believe the question has been answered…”

12. Know the other panelists

The organizer should tell you who else is on the panel. Internet search and find out their area of expertise and what they may have written or said about the subject. You do not want any surprises and honestly, you want information that will help you look smarter.

Thanks for reading,

Kim