Overcome fear to tell your story

All businesses need to create a presence so that customers know that they are there. Whether this is through marketing and advertising or from word-of-mouth recommendations, awareness is essential for getting work.

I find that many people are still wary of trying out many of the marketing tools that are available to them. In my role as a business writer for a local newspaper, I often receive phone calls starting with a business owner saying gingerly “I don’t know if you’ll be interested in this . . . ” and then going on to tell a cracker of a story. Of course, the opposite of this is the business owner who sends in press releases regularly with ‘news’ that is only of interest to them. I believe many businesses have good stories to tell and need the confidence to tell them.

While an effective PR consultant can help, businesses without a budget can . . . and do . . . achieve media exposure through their own efforts. With thought and planning, a clear idea of what you want to achieve and a focus on what you will and what you won’t talk about, public relations can be a very cost effective tool.

This applies not only to PR but also to blogging, social media and more. Perhaps you see your competitors getting exposure and feel that you offer a better service than they do, but how will people find that out? Often a voice can tell us that “no one wants to hear about that”, but it’s probably that we’re afraid of standing up and telling our story, a bit like the fear of public speaking.

I’m often encouraging people to talk about their businesses because so many are fascinating and deserve wider exposure. With social media, colleagues and associates can help to share your stories and support you.

There really are many opportunities to tell your stories and people who want to hear them.

Robert Zarywacz is a copywriter and journalist who has written thousands of magazine and newspaper articles. He also researches and writes press releases, case studies and newsletters for clients as well as managing social media and PR campaigns at z2z.com. Robert is the business writer for the North Devon Journal, chairman of COMBEbusiness and courtesy consultant for the National Campaign for Courtesy. Follow @robertz on Twitter.

Use the phone to save hours of travel

Yesterday I could have arranged to travel to three face-to-face interviews for articles I am writing. The travel alone would have taken 3.5 hours. This morning I’ve just finished a 20-minute telephone interview that would have required a further 1.5-hour journey. Now when there are deadlines to meet, I just can’t spare that time.

I agree that face-to-face meetings can be valuable and enjoyable; I always enjoy guided tours of businesses I write about. Sometimes it is necessary to get a really thorough understanding through a visit, but this isn’t always the case. It’s like the TV news reporter standing outside 10 Downing Street on a dark, cold, rainy night relaying the news that nothing has happened back to the studio presenter who is probably more informed on the topic: they add nothing, but expend a lot of energy being there.

I’ve been conducting telephone interviews and doing research by email for many years. When working at British Airways, I used to compile a weekly report based on telexed information from cities around the world. Often it was all I had to go on.

Now I know that some people are wary of talking on the phone, even though nearly everyone working has a mobile these days. I was lucky enough to have excellent telephone training when I worked at British Airways, so I’ve always been comfortable talking to anyone remotely.

Sometimes when I suggest a telephone interview, people sound reticent. I like to give them some advance warning to get their thoughts together. When we come to do the interview, what is important is to make the subject feel comfortable, to ask questions that draw information out of them, to listen to their answers and build on these to ask further questions. Before they know it, they are talking away enthusiastically and telling an interesting story: just what I need for an article.

I can’t understand why some people don’t use the phone more but insist on travelling to meetings. I complete most of my work through remote collaboration. In fact, we never meet 90% of our clients, but still develop long-lasting relationships with them.

I am sure that many businesses and other organisations could improve efficiency and save time through better use of phone, internet and other communications technology, especially when transport costs are soaring.

Is there still a need for face-to-face meetings? Yes, and there always will be, but I think a lot more could be accomplished remotely.

What do you think?

Posted via email from z2zine

Fresh is the marketing key to followers

There’s nothing new. There’s nothing original.

If social media and micro-blogging are blessings, the curse they bring is of endlessly recycled mediocre ramblings. With the need to feed search engines and provide a continuous supply of articles and content, today’s marketing challenge is how to remain interesting, useful, relevant or entertaining when the option to unfollow, switch off or ignore is so easy to choose.

When every business is scratching around for something original to say, the only realistic option is to relax and find another approach. Most media content – from adverts on television to gags used by comedians – is not new, but to be successful it has to appear fresh. Simply repeating the same unchanged story again and again, as many are doing, is an instant turn-off. It’s like meeting someone at a party who always tells the same joke, which wasn’t that funny the first time round: someone we try to avoid.

Give three people the same speech to read and each one will deliver it differently. Some will read woodenly and make the audience sleepy, others will be mildly interesting, while a few will project the words with the energy and emotion to hold the audience spellbound. That’s what we have to aim for: spectacular delivery.

Technology, tools and content are important, but it’s the manner of delivery that bind them to work together successfully. I’m sure that occasionally the new and original can be found, but much of what we say and read is based on or inspired by what exists already. We can choose to discard it in boredom, trot it out again flatly without enthusiasm or use our creativity to refresh it and relaunch it in a format that enables successful communication.

How do we do that?

By using our personality and creativity to add relevance and interest. What are our customers interested in? What will they find attractive? What will they take notice of? Strip away unnecessary words and details, adapt the story to our clients, our sector, the current climate. Use the tone of voice, language, cultural references with which people identify. The result will be the same story but fresh, relevant, targeted and useful: with more chance of people listening, following and taking notice.

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